This guide explains how to start an LLC in Montana step by step and covers all related costs and fees.
Montana — the “Treasure State” — has a rich mining history and huge natural resource deposits. It’s also home to top-class natural attractions: the Glacier National Park, the Great Falls on the Missouri River, and Beaver Creek Park. You might not know that Montana is also a treasure trove of business opportunities.
From hospitality venues to digital business services, there are many business ideas you can pursue in this state for a low cost and with limited competition.
Ready to open your own LLC in Montana?
Table of contents
- Step 1: Pick a name for your LLC
- Step 2: Select a registered agent
- Step 3: File the LLC Articles of Organization and receive a Certificate of Existence
- Step 4: Create an LLC operating agreement
- Step 5: Get an Employer Identification Number from the IRS
- Costs to set up an LLC in Montana
- Next Steps
Step 1: Pick a name for your LLC
Every business needs a fine brand name. It should be short, memorable, and indicative of what you do. LLCs, however, will also need to meet several Montana naming requirements.
The legal name you choose must:
- Contain the words “limited liability company” or “limited company” or one of the abbreviations — “L.L.C.,” “LLC,” “LC,” or “L.C.” You may abbreviate “limited” as “ltd.” and “company” as “co.”
- Be distinguishable from the names used by other domestic or foreign LLCs, corporations, nonprofits, or limited partnerships.
- Not imply that the LLC is a business structure other than a limited liability company.
If you want to use restricted words like “attorney,” “bank,” or “university,” you may be asked to provide extra licensure paperwork. Once you have several options, verify their availability in the business name database from the Montana Secretary of State (SOS).
If your Montana LLC name is available, go a step further and register a domain name to secure it ahead of time and prevent others from acquiring it.
If you’re not ready to file company formation documents yet, you can reserve your business name to prevent other companies from scooping it up. In Montana, you can file a name reservation form online. The filing fee is $10. Your name reservation will be valid for 120 days.
You might struggle to come up with a brandable business name. But don’t worry about that. You can always file for an alternative name — a trade name, aka “doing business as” (DBA) name.
A DBA establishes an association between your official business LLC registration and the new brand name.
For example, you’ve launched a pet service business and named it Pat’s Pet Sitting LLC. Later, you’ve decided to expand your operations and offer grooming services or sell pet supplies. Your initial name no longer represents your business well. That’s when registering a trade name makes sense. You could add a DBA to your LLC and legally operate as “Pat’s Pets.” You can register a DBA with the Montana SOS online. The state fee is $20.
Step 2: Select a registered agent
You’re required to list a Montana registered agent for your LLC.
A registered agent acts as a point of contact for your business. They receive service of process, important legal documents, and official correspondence on your business’s behalf. An individual or business entity can act as a registered agent, provided they meet the following requirements:
- Be over 18 years old and reside in Montana
- Have a physical street address (not a P.O. Box)
- For legal entities: be authorized to do business in the state
Legally, you (personally) can serve as your own Montana registered agent. Many single-member LLCs and some multi-member LLCs opt to do so. However, you must be present at the office during regular business hours and meet all the above requirements. Your business (or another business) cannot serve as a registered agent. It must be an individual.
For most businesses, using a commercial registered agent makes more sense. The provider can handle state filings and other administrative paperwork instead of you. Plus, you have the freedom to leave the office or take time off. Commercial registered agent services in Montana charge $50-$250 per year.
Step 3: File the Montana LLC Articles of Organization and receive a Certificate of Existence
You have a business name and selected a registered agent. The next step is to register your Montana LLC with the state.
To form an LLC, you must complete and file an Articles of Organization form online with the following details:
- LLC name and mailing address
- Registered agent’s name and address
- Management structure
- Names and addresses of all members or managers
- Date and signature of the person filling out the paperwork
The state fee is $35 for approving your LLC’s Articles of Organization.
If you are already incorporated in another state and want to do business in Montana, you’ll need to register as a foreign LLC.
Foreign LLCs must file a “Certificate of Authority of Foreign Limited Liability Corporation” online with the Montana SOS and a current certificate of good standing/existence from the domestic state. The filing fee is $70.
Montana's average LLC registration processing time is 7-10 business days.
If you need your LLC formed faster, expedited processing is available at an extra cost:
- 24-hour priority handling: $20
- 1-hour expedited handling: $100
Once your LLC has been processed and approved by the state of Montana, be sure to request a Certificate of Existence. This will cost $5 but will save you a lot of time as you start a business bank account, procure financing for projects, etc.
Step 4: Create an LLC operating agreement
Multi-member LLCs should consider creating an operating agreement.
This legal document acts as a “guidebook” for running the company, managing operations, making decisions, and distributing profit.
Montana state law doesn’t require LLCs to have an operating agreement, but they strongly encourage you to have this document.
The agreement shows that:
- Members’ assets and debts are separate from the LLC’s finances and legal liabilities.
- Disagreements and conflicts can be prevented and resolved without invoking Montana law.
- New investors or members have a clear picture of how the business operates.
You can draft your operating agreement with the help of an attorney or use a customizable online.
Step 5: Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number) from the IRS
Once you are done with the state formalities, switch to the federal level.
All multi-member LLCs must apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN). An EIN works like a Social Security Number (SSN) for the business that identifies it and lets you file federal taxes and pay your workers.
Single-member LLCs without employees don’t need to apply for EIN immediately. You request a new EIN online, by mail, or fax from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Registering for an EIN is free.
Costs to set up an LLC in Montana
Starting an LLC in Montana is reasonably priced compared to other options. The minimum expense to establish a Montana LLC is just $35. This fee is paid to the state upon registering your LLC in Montana. However, if you are a foreign LLC, the minimum fee increases to $70.
There is a possibility of incurring extra optional expenses, such as a commercial registered agent service (approximately $100/year) or registering a trade name ($20). Depending on the nature of your business, you may also be required to obtain a specific occupational or business license.
After registering your LLC, creating an operating agreement, and receiving your EIN, you might want to take a break! However, there are additional tasks you should consider completing. The first is to create a business bank account. Unlike sole proprietorships, LLCs (even single-member ones) are not allowed to use a personal account for business finances. That’s one of the key requirements for retaining personal liability protection. Consider opening a business bank account once all your formation documents are approved.
Another step is registering with the Montana Department of Revenue and the Department of Labor & Industry to fulfill various state tax obligations. If you have property, payroll, or employees in Montana, register with the Montana Department of Revenue to submit business tax returns and withhold state taxes from employees’ payroll.
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