Maine is home to endless pine tree forests and thousands of miles of beautiful coastline.
If you want to start a business in Maine, consider forming a limited liability company (LLC). Starting an LLC in Maine is a great way to create liability protection and show the world you mean business.
This step-by-step guide walks you through everything you need to start an LLC in Maine.
Table of Contents
- Step 1: Name Your LLC
- Step 2: Select a registered agent
- Step 3: File the Maine LLC Articles of Organization and Obtain a Certificate of LLC Registration
- Step 4: Create an LLC operating agreement
- Step 5: Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number) from the IRS
- Costs to Set Up an LLC in Maine
- Last Steps
Step 1: Name Your LLC
Choosing a business name for your Maine LLC is a great place to focus on first.
You may have some ideas floating around. Before selecting one, you need to make sure it meets Maine’s naming guidelines.
Every Maine LLC name must:
- Be unique and different from other registered businesses
- Contain Limited Liability Company, Limited Company, or a similar abbreviation
- Not contain words for other business types, such as Limited Partnership or Corporation
- Exclude obscene language and unlawful activities
- Avoid references to government agencies
You can only use terms related to regulated industries if authorized to do so. This includes industries like banking, law, or medicine.
Once you have some ideas, check the Maine business name database to see if it’s available. You want to use a name that won’t cause confusion with existing businesses.
Making a name reservation
Once you verify the selected name availability, you can reserve it for up to 120 days.
This gives you time to prepare formation documents without rushing. Maine name reservations can’t be renewed after the initial 120 days.
You’ll file an Application for Reservation of Name by mail. A $20 filing fee applies.
If you want, you can do business under a name different from the LLC’s legal name. This is often known as a trade name or doing-business-as (DBA) name. Maine calls it an assumed or fictitious name.
For example, the company “Kate’s Wedding Gowns LLC” could operate under “Best Wedding Gowns in Maine.”
To use one, register the name with the Maine Secretary of State as one of these two options:
- Assumed name: Maine LLCs using another name to operate. The filing fee is $125.
- Fictitious name: Foreign LLCs that need to use a different name to operate in Maine because another Maine entity uses its legal name. The filing fee is $40.
To register a fictitious or assumed name, file a Statement of Intention to Transact Business Under an Assumed or Fictitious Name (MLLC-5) form.
Step 2: Select a registered agent
One essential role for every LLC is deciding who will serve as the registered agent. This is the main point of contact that receives things like tax documents and legal notices.
The registered agent can be an individual or business entity. The requirements generally include:
- At least 18 years old
- Maine resident or a business entity authorized to operate in Maine
- Have a Maine address (not a virtual office or P.O. Box)
- Keep regular business hours
You can be your own registered agent to keep costs down. This comes with several downsides, such as:
- Your contact information is public
- You’ll have to sort through junk mail without missing critical notices
- You must keep regular business hours to receive legal documents
- If you make a mistake or miss a notice, no one is there to help
You can avoid these problems and focus on other matters by hiring a registered agent service.
This way, you’re protected from potentially awkward situations like being served a lawsuit in front of clients. Plus, a professional agent keeps your business in good standing with the state while freeing up your time.
Registered agent services typically cost around $50 to $200 per year.
Step 3: File the Maine LLC Articles of Organization and Obtain a Certificate of LLC Registration
If you’re looking for the step that turns your idea into a real business, this is it. Submitting the Articles of Organization is what forms your Maine LLC.
Here is how to file your Articles of Organization:
- Download a Maine Certificate of Formation (MLLC-6) form
- Fill out the form with the entity name, entity type, registered agent’s name and office address, and the filing date
- File the completed form with the Maine SOS by mail
- Pay a filing cost of $175
To form an LLC in Maine, you must submit the form through the mail. There’s no online option.
The SOS will process your filing. It typically takes around 5-10 business days. But it can be up to 15 business days in the event of delays and holidays.
If you need your LLC formed faster, expedited processing is available at an additional fee. Once received, the SOS will complete:
- 24-hour processing: $50
- Immediate same-day processing: $100
After the SOS approves your LLC, request a Certificate of LLC registration. Keep this with your LLC’s records. It may be needed for things like banking or finance purposes. The cost is $30.
Step 4: Create an LLC operating agreement
An operating agreement is a legal document that establishes your LLC's rules. It ensures all members are on the same page, providing predictable outcomes and preventing disputes.
Operating agreements can help to protect your interests and make sure that your business operates as you intend. Rather than be blindsided by business partners, the agreement lays out how to handle many situations.
Maine legally requires single-member and multi-member LLCs to have an operating agreement. Although it can be oral, a written agreement is much better. It holds more value in court and avoids conflicting beliefs.
An operating agreement includes things like:
- Member investments and contributions
- Profit, loss, and distribution allocations
- Decision-making powers, voting rights, and management duties
- How to transfer membership interest
- Dissolution of the LLC
You don’t need to file your LLC’s operating agreement with Maine. It’s an internal contract between members. Make sure it’s filed safely with other important company documents.
You can create an operating agreement using a template. Or have a corporate attorney draw one up for your business.
Step 5: Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number) from the IRS
Congratulations! You’ve formed your LLC. Now it’s time to think about taxes.
Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It’s like a Social Security number for businesses. The IRS uses them to track tax information.
Any LLC with multiple members or any employees must get an EIN.
Some single-member LLCs without employees don’t need to get an EIN. They can use a personal Social Security number. But it’s best practice to get one anyway as some banks require them to open a business account. Plus, it’s easy and free.
To obtain an EIN for your Maine LLC, complete and submit your application on the IRS website. The IRS will issue your EIN in minutes.
Costs to Set Up an LLC in Maine
The minimum cost to start an LLC in Maine is $175. This is the filing fee for the Articles of Organization and cannot be avoided.
Other optional costs to form a Maine LLC include:
- Name reservation: $20
- Assumed name registration: $125
- Fictitious name for a foreign LLC: $40
- Registered agent service: $50 to $200 per year
- Expedited processing: $50 to $100
- Operating agreement: $0 to $1,000 or more
- GRAND TOTAL: $175 to $1,620
After creating your Maine LLC, there are a few more items worth knocking out right away. These help to set your business up for success.
Business bank account
The most critical is to open a separate bank account for your company.
Mixing personal and business funds can lead to legal problems. If your LLC gets sued, it could lose its ability to protect your personal assets.
A business bank account also helps with tax and accounting purposes.
Some banks offer business accounts with no monthly fees, as long as you meet certain minimums. Others usually charge $25 or less per month.
Maine tax registration
If you have employees, you’ll need to register for Maine State Income Tax Withholding by completing and filing an Application for Tax Registration.
You also may need to register if you sell taxable goods or services. The issued state ID lets you report all applicable state taxes.
Licenses and permits
Local authorities may have other licenses and permits for your LLC.
You may also consider getting certain insurance policies. Workers’ compensation insurance can be essential. General liability coverage may step in to save the day in many different situations.
Connecting with other business leaders can be invaluable. They’ll share secrets to success and help you rise above challenges. The Maine SBDC offers no-cost consulting. The Maine Chamber of Commerce serves as the voice of the business community.
It’s time to transform your business idea into a thriving enterprise. Start by checking the Maine SOS business listings to see if your name is available. Then keep checking off the items in this guide.
Before you know it, you’ll be greeting your first customers as the owner of a new Maine LLC.
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