How to Start an LLC in Tennessee

Written by Nikki Winston – CPA, updated on

Step 1: Come up with a name for your LLC

The Tennessee Secretary of State requires LLC business names to:

  • Include the words ‘Limited Liability Company' or ‘LLC' (or their abbreviations, L.C. or LLC.) at the end of its name.
  • Not contain any words prohibited by Tennessee law.
  • Not be deceptively similar to another Tennessee existing business entity's name.

Business owners can use the name search tool to check if their intended name is available. If that’s the case, you can also opt in to reserve a business name for 120 days. It costs $15 to do so.

The Tennessee name reservation form can be completed online, by mail, or in person at the Tennessee Secretary of State's office in Nashville.

Also, you may choose to register an assumed name (doing business as “DBA” name) on top of your LLC name. It makes sense if you plan to operate several types of brands or just want to brand your business under a name different from your legal one.

The cost of DBA in Tennessee is $15 per name.

A name reservation ensures that another business isn’t using your intended business name
A name reservation ensures that another business isn’t using your intended business name. Source: Tennessee Secretary of State.

Step 2: Appoint a registered agent

All Tennessee LLCs need to appoint a registered agent as part of the company incorporation process.

The good news is that you can pick anyone to serve as your registered agent, and it doesn't necessarily have to be someone affiliated with your LLC.

Whether you name a corporation or an individual as your registered agent, you’ll need to list their physical street address (not a P.O. box) on the company formation documents. Most LLC owners designate either an employee or a trusted third party to act as their registered agent.

Tennessee business owners must appoint a registered agent when filing LLC formation documents
Tennessee business owners must appoint a registered agent when filing LLC formation documents. Source: Tennessee Secretary of State.

Alternatively, you may want to hire a registered agent service in TN instead. Registered agents charge fees, but they also offer other statutory compliance assistance like annual registration renewals and business document processing. Using a professional service also ensures your registered agent is available during business hours to receive service of process on your LLC’s behalf.

Step 3: File for articles of organization & obtain certificate of Registration with Tennessee Secretary of State

The official step to forming an LLC is to file Form SS-4720, the Articles of Organization for a Limited Liability Company, with the Tennessee Secretary of State (SOS).

Tennessee has a peculiar fee structure where articles of organization cost has a base fee of $300 + an extra $50 for each LLC member:

  • Minimum fee is $300 for single-member LLC.
  • Maximum fee is capped at $3,000.

This cost structure applies to both domestic and foreign LLCs.

The registration form can be filed online or mailed with the fees to:

The Tennessee Secretary of State
Business Services Division
312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue | Snodgrass Tower, 3rd Floor
Nashville, TN 37243

After registering your LLC, request a certification of LLC registration from the state of Tennessee. Submit Form SS-4232 and $20 to the state in order to receive the Certificate of Formation.”

Step 4: Prepare an LLC operating agreement

While Tennessee doesn’t require an operating agreement as part of the company formation process, it's still important to have one because it defines how your LLC will operate.

An operating agreement legally specifies your LLC’s management structure, members’ duties and responsibilities, capital investment and profit distribution provisions, and any other operational tidbits you may want to include. Having an operating agreement can protect you from future disagreements among members.

Multi-member LLCs benefit the most from having an operating agreement. Single-member LLCs need not worry about an operating agreement until you decide to scale your business and bring in another member on board.

Step 5: Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number) from the IRS

LLC members can apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) on the IRS website. The EIN is a 9-digit number that uniquely identifies your business structure for federal tax purposes. It’s similar to an individual’s social security number.

An EIN is primarily required for multi-member LLCs or single-member LLCs with payroll-based employees. You can skip on this step as a solo small business owner.

Once the application is complete, you can immediately use the EIN to register with state tax authorities, apply for business credit, or add employees to your payroll.

IRS EIN online form
Online EIN application for LLCs. Source: IRS.

Costs to set up an LLC in Tennessee

Setting up an LLC in Tennessee is more expensive than in many other states due to the $300 (minimum) registration fee. Additional costs that a business owner could incur in Tennessee include name registration fees ($15), fictitious name registration fees ($15), annual franchise and excise taxes, and the option of hiring a registered agent (approximately $100/year). While there are several positives to starting your business in Tennessee, the high start-up costs are not among them.

Last Steps

One of the next steps is to open a business bank account for your LLC. Business owners must separate business transactions from personal finances. Failure to do so can lead to legal consequences and loss of good standing with the state.

Doing business in Tennessee means that you’re bound to pay different types of local state taxes such as: Business tax, Gross receipts tax, Annual franchise tax, Excise tax, and Sales tax. Every LLC earning over $3,000 annually from the state of Tennessee has to register and pay the business tax. Business tax is managed by the state and paid annually, on the 15th of the 4th month after your fiscal year ends. You can learn more about your business tax obligations from a series of manuals published by the Tennessee Department of Revenue.


LLC Formation Service

LLC Formation: $39 + state fees
Turnaround Time:
Help & Support:
Customer Satisfaction:
Ease of use:

Best LLC Service 2023

  • Formed 1,000,000+ LLCs
  • $39 formation includes registered agent service
  • Fast formation & same day filing
  • Exceptional customer reviews
Last updated: Jul 2024
Nikki Winston, CPA

Article by:

Nikki Winston


Nikki Winston is a CPA who enjoys writing about accounting, tax, personal finance, and career advice. Catch Nikki on Twitter @NikkWinstonCPA.

Small business tips straight to your inbox

Already running a small business? Get free tips to your inbox.

We respect your privacy. We're GDPR compliant.