How to Start an LLC in Hawaii

Written by: Mary Gerardine

Last updated:

Hawaii LLC is one of the most simple, cost-effective, and quick business structures to form. Even so, navigating the formation process can seem daunting without clear guidance and an actionable plan.

In this How to Start an LLC in Hawaii guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know to form your LLC, from the steps you’ll need to take to get started to maintaining your structure.

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Hawaii LLC

In order to form an LLC in Hawaii, you’ll need to complete the following steps:

  1. Name Your Hawaii LLC
  2. Pick a Hawaii Registered Agent
  3. Submit the Articles of Organization
  4. Create a Hawaii LLC Operating Agreement
  5. Get an EIN
  6. File Your BOI Report

In the sections below, we’ve broken down each of these steps in more detail.

Step 1: Name Your Hawaii LLC

The first thing you’ll need to do before getting started is picking the right name for your LLC. This is important because your business’s name will need to represent your brand accurately, as well as be as memorable as possible.

In Hawaii, all LLC names need to abide by the following statutory guidelines in order to be accepted by the Secretary of State:

  • Cannot be deemed to be “substantially identical” to any other name that’s already registered in Hawaii. For the purposes of determining this a number of rules apply, the most common of which include:
    • Variations in the spelling of two names that are pronounced the same will not be sufficient to make them unique (e.g., “Knight Time, LLC” or “Night Time, LLC”)
    • Changes in business entity terms between two otherwise identical terms will not make your name unique (e.g., “Fish House, LLC” and “Fish House, Corp”)
    • If a new name only changes an existing name by adding the following elements, the two are considered identical:
      • The letter “n” or “-n-” used to mean “and.” (e.g., “Happy Time” and “Happy-n-Time”)
      • Adding “a,” “an,” “and,” “the,” “of,” “in,” “at,” “on,” “to,” or “for.”
      • Using Hawaiian words equivalent to the above, such as “da,” “ka,” “ke,” “na,” or “la.”
    • Certain specific terms or phrases are prohibited from being included in the names of Hawaii LLCs according to both state and federal laws, including those related to:
      • Banking: This includes terms such as “financial institution”, “bank”, “credit union”, or “savings association”, among others
      • The Olympics: This includes words such as words “Olympic”, “Olympiad”, or “Citius Altius Fortius”, as well as the use of the official Olympic symbol
      • The Postal Service: This includes terms such as “Postal Service” or “Post Office”
      • Accounting: This includes terms such as “certified public accountant”, “public accountant”, or one of their abbreviations (e.g., “CPA” or “PA”), unless the individual is appropriately licensed
    • All proposed LLC names must be filed in good faith and without the intent of defrauding or confusing the public (e.g., the name “Sunshine Tours Investment” for a tourism agency)
    • Names cannot imply or state a connection between your business and a governmental agency, except where specific permission has been granted (e.g., the name “Federal Tax Solutions”)

    For a more detailed look at the different regulations governing which names are considered acceptable in Hawaii, be sure to check out the state’s Naming Guidelines.

    Keep in mind that even though picking an LLC name in itself has no cost, there are certain fees that can be associated with the overall process.

    Reserve an LLC Name

    If you’re not yet ready to launch your business and still need a little more time, you can choose to reserve your desired LLC name for later by submitting an Application for Reservation of Name to the Secretary of State by mail, or online through Hawaii Business Express.

    It costs $10 to submit this request, which will keep anyone from being able to take the name you plan to use for 120 days.

    Note: Before spending money on reserving a name, we encourage you to ensure your desired name is actually available first by doing a business entity search through Hawaii Business Express.

    Register a Trade Name

    Another potential cost associated with naming your LLC is registering a trade name — which is also referred to as a “doing business as” (or DBA) name. This is essentially a nickname that you can choose to register for your business to operate under — particularly if you’re not content with your LLC’s legal name.

    Registering a trade name can be done by filing an Application for Registration of Trade Name with the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs and paying a $50 fee.

    Make sure to check the trade name you want to use for your Hawaii LLC isn’t already registered by checking phone directories and the Department of Taxation website.

    Note: Trade names in Hawaii are only valid for five years before they need to be renewed.

    Buy a Domain Name

    Finally, you’ll want to focus on securing a good domain name (which is your website’s URL address) for your business. For this, try to focus on choosing one that’s easy for customers to remember, relevant to your business, and accurately reflects your brand.

    After confirming the domain name you want to use is actually available, you can purchase it through a trusted registrar.

    Find a Domain Now

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    Step 2: Pick a Registered Agent

    The next step you’ll need to take toward forming your LLC is to pick a registered agent (RA).

    This is an individual or business entity that accepts legal correspondence on behalf of your business, such as service of process, notice of lawsuits, and official government communications; you’re required to continuously maintain one as long as your LLC is active.

    Your registered agent can be an individual or business entity, but will need to satisfy the following requirements according to HI Revised Stat. § 428-107:

    • If an individual, they must be a resident of the state of Hawaii
    • If a business entity, it must have been granted permission to conduct business in Hawaii
    • Must have a physical business address within the state

    If you plan to use a commercial registered agent for your Hawaii LLC, the party you nominate must fill out a Commercial Registered Agent Listing Statement using Form X-11 and then file it with the Business Registration Division alongside a submission fee of $100.

    Due to the more streamlined communication this listing statement creates between the Hawaii Secretary of State and the commercial registered agent, CRAs are generally better able to offer reliability and speed to their clients.

    Note: You can choose to act as your own registered agent if you’re looking to save money — though we don’t typically recommend this as you’re much more likely to suffer fines and penalties due to non-compliance than if you just hire a professional service.

    On top of this, you’ll lose any anonymity your LLC would have given you since your name, address, and contact information will be publicly available.

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    Step 3: Submit Your Articles of Organization

    In Hawaii, the Articles of Organization is the filing document that you’ll need to submit with the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs in order to officially register your LLC (this is also referred to as the Certificate of Formation in other states).

    It will cost the same amount to submit these formation documents ($51) regardless of whether you’re filing as a domestic or as a foreign entity. This total is made up of a $50 filing fee plus a $1 fee collected on behalf of the Hawaii State Archives.

    To complete your Articles of Organization, you’ll need to have the following information available:

    • Your LLC’s proposed name
    • The initial principal office and mailing addresses of your LLC
    • The name and address of your LLC’s organizer
    • The management structure of your LLC (e.g., member-managed or manager-managed)
    • The duration period of your LLC (if applicable)

    In the sections below, we’ve discussed the key ways in which you’ll be able to submit your Articles of Organization to the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

    Online Filings

    The quickest and easiest way to submit your LLC’s Articles of Organization is online through Hawaii Business Express.

    Mail Filings

    Alternatively, you can submit a paper application by downloading and filling out either Form LLC-1 (domestic entities) or Form FLLC-1 (foreign entities).

    After this, you’ll need to mail the completed form to the following address, along with a check/money order for the filing fee:

    Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
    Business Registration Division
    335 Merchant Street
    Mailing Address:
    P.O. Box 40, Honolulu, Hawaii 96810

    Fax Filings

    You’ll also be able to submit your Articles of Organization with the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs by faxing it to (808) 586-2733.

    E-Mail Filings

    Finally, you can submit your completed Articles of Organization by emailing it to breg-doci-filing@dcca.hawaii.gov.

    Note: If your entity filing is later rejected by the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, you may be able to obtain a refund for the $1 State Archive Fee — which is limited to permanent records.

    Step 4: Create a Hawaii LLC Operating Agreement

    Once this is completed, the next step you’ll need to take is to create an operating agreement.

    This is an internal document that clearly outlines the ownership and management structure of your company in order to reduce potential future conflict.

    While this document isn’t legally mandated in Hawaii, all LLCs are recommended to have one as it can help maintain both: smooth operations and your LLC’s corporate veil.

    A number of companies provide drafting services for operating agreements online, typically for a fee of around a few hundred dollars. However, it’s quite easy to sort this out by yourself if you want to save money, and you can even find a number of free templates online to help with this.

    Step 5: Get an EIN

    Even though it’s not a legal requirement (unless your LLC has employees or multiple members), all Hawaii LLCs should apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

    This is a free, nine-digit number used by the IRS to identify your business and keep track of its tax reporting — much like a Social Security Number (SSN) for individuals.

    You’ll need an EIN to be able to:

    • Hire employees
    • Open a business bank account
    • Apply for some business licenses/permits
    • Establish a line of credit

    On top of this, using an EIN instead of a Social Security Number (SSN) helps to protect your personal information and safeguard your anonymity as the business owner of your LLC.

    You can quickly apply for an EIN for your LLC online through the IRS website. You’re also able to submit a paper application using Form SS-4 either via fax to (855) 641-6935, or by mailing it to the following address:

    Internal Revenue Service
    Attn: EIN Operation
    Cincinnati, OH 45999

    Note: Don’t worry if you don’t already have an SSN, it’s not necessary to have one in order to apply for an EIN — instead, you can just leave Section 7b of the application blank and call the IRS on (267) 941-1099.

    Step 6: File a BOI Report

    Starting January 2024, the vast majority of LLC owners will be required to file a Beneficial Ownership Information (BOI) Report with the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

    This is part of an initiative by the U.S. government to stop individuals and entities engaging in illegal or unethical activities from being able to conceal this using “opaque ownership structures”, like shell companies, to hide their true identities.

    Existing LLCs will be able to file this report anytime between January 1, 2024, and January 1, 2025, while new LLCs will have up to 90 days after the date they were initially formed to do so (30 days for LLCs formed after the start of 2025).

    Keep in mind that failure to file your LLC’s BOI report on time can result in exorbitantly high fines (i.e., $591 per day) or even jail time (up to two years).

    Note: Not every LLC owner is required to file a BOI report. For example, companies with more than 20 full-time employees, accounting firms, and banks are exempt. For a full list of filing exemptions, you can have a look at FinCEN’s website.

    How to Maintain Your Hawaii LLC

    In order to keep operating legally in the state of Hawaii, you’ll need to file an annual report with the Secretary of State each year.

    Don’t worry if you’re not sure how to complete this step, as we’ve detailed all the information you’ll need to know in the sections below.

    File an Annual Report

    In order to continue operating legally, your newly-formed Hawaii LLC will be required to periodically submit an annual report with the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) Business Registration Division.

    Bear in mind that the deadline by which your LLC must submit this report will vary depending on when it was initially formed. We’ve outlined these different due dates in the table below:

    Formation DateFiling Deadline
    January 1 to March 31March 31
    April 1 to June 30June 30
    July 1 to September 30September 30
    October 1 to December 31December 31

    The simplest and easiest way to file this annual report is online through the Hawaii Business Express portal. However, you’ll also be able to do so by printing out the Limited Liability Company Annual Report form and filing it with the Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs by mail.

    Note: Alongside your annual report you’ll also be expected to pay a processing fee of $15 each year.

    Hawaii vs Other States

    In terms of a location to form your business, Hawaii is a solid option that deserves some serious consideration.

    The first advantage of this state is its location — it’s in the ideal spot for businesses looking to branch out to Asia and other regions within the Pacific. On top of this, its timezone is also ideal to be able to conduct aspects of your business in both the US and Asia.

    Secondly, Hawaii is a great option for small businesses that are just starting out thanks to the state’s range of training programs and affordable formation filing fees ($51) and maintenance fees ($15) — particularly in comparison to other popular choices such as Texas and California.

    Regardless, keep in mind that the best state to form your LLC is almost always the state that you will be operating in; this is because otherwise you’ll likely be required to register as a foreign LLC in your home state, meaning that you’ll need to pay registration and maintenance fees twice.

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    Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Contact Information

    Mailing Address:

    Business Registration Division – Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
    335 Merchant St.
    P.O. Box 40|
    Honolulu, HI 96810

    Physical Address:

    335 Merchant St.
    Room 201
    Honolulu, HI 96813
    Monday through Friday, 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

    Contact Information:

    Email: breg@dcca.hawaii.gov
    Phone: (808) 586-2727

    How to Start an LLC in Hawaii FAQ

    How much does an LLC cost in Hawaii?

    You’ll need to pay a minimum cost of at least $51 (the filing fee for your Articles of Organization) in order to form a Hawaii LLC. However, you may also choose to pay for expedited processing or hire a registered agent or LLC formation service.

    We break down these costs in greater detail in our Hawaii LLC Cost guide.

    How are LLCs taxed in Hawaii?

    In Hawaii, LLCs are typically taxed as pass-through entities by default. This means that the LLC itself does not pay taxes, but its members pay income taxes.

    Having said that, all LLCs in the state are required to obtain a Hawaii tax ID number and pay Hawaii General Excise Tax.

    Keep in mind that LLCs can choose to be taxed as a corporation by filing an election with the IRS.

    How long does it take to get an LLC in Hawaii?

    The processing time for forming a limited liability company in Hawaii can vary. Standard processing usually takes between three and five business days. You can also request expedited processing for an additional $25, which is normally completed within 24 hours.

    You can find out more about this topic in our How to Start an LLC in Hawaii guide.

    Do I need an EIN for my LLC in Hawaii?

    Yes, a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) is generally required for your LLC in Hawaii. This is needed for a variety of purposes such as opening a business bank account, filing federal and state taxes, hiring employees, and taking on business debts.

    For more information, see our state-specific How to Start an LLC guide.

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