How to Start an LLC in North Dakota

Written by: Kevelyn Rodriguez

Last updated:

North Dakota 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 North Dakota 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 business structure.

North Dakota LLC

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

  1. Name Your North Dakota LLC
  2. Pick a North Dakota Registered Agent
  3. Submit Your LLC’s Articles of Organization
  4. Create a North Dakota 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.

Alternatively, you can use a trusted LLC formation service for a small fee. We’ve negotiated a tailored discount for our readers, bringing the total cost of formation to just $29 (excluding state fees).

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Step 1: Name Your North Dakota 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 North Dakota, all LLC names need to abide by the following statutory guidelines in order to be accepted by the Secretary of State:

  • Language and Characters: Your LLC’s name must use letters or characters from the English language as outlined in the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) table
  • Required Suffixes: Your LLC’s name must include a legal suffix that indicates its business structure. Acceptable suffixes are “limited liability company,” “L.L.C.,” “LLC,” or variations such as “Ltd. Liability Co.,” “Limited Liability Co.,” and “Ltd. Liability Company.”
  • Restricted Words: Your LLC’s name must not include certain words — such as “bank,” “banker,” “banking,” “trust,” “trust company,” — unless you have obtained written approval from the North Dakota Department of Financial Institutions
  • Uniqueness: Your LLC’s name must be unique. If the business name you propose is already reserved or registered, you will need to either modify the name or obtain a signed Consent to Use Business Name form from the current holder ($10 fee)

You can determine if your desired LLC name is available by using the Secretary of State’s FirstStop Portal Business Search tool.

Keep in mind that while choosing an LLC name itself incurs no cost, there are two potential fees associated with the overall process that you may need to pay.

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 a Reserved Name Application with the North Dakota Secretary of State ($10 fee). This will keep anyone from being able to take the name you plan to use for 12 months.

If you need any longer than this, you’ll have to renew the reservation and pay an additional $10 filing fee.

Register a DBA Name

Another potential cost associated with naming your LLC is a “doing business as” (or DBA) name — known as a trade name in North Dakota. 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.

To register a DBA for your LLC, you will need to file a Trade Name Registration with the Secretary of State’s office and pay a fee of $25.

Once registered, your LLC’s DBA name will remain valid for a period of five years. You will not need to keep track of the expiration date, as the state will send you a reminder around 60 to 90 days before your registration is due to expire.

Note: Before finalizing your DBA name, you should use this Trademark Search tool that’s provided by the North Dakota Secretary of State to ensure that no other business in North Dakota has the same or a deceptively similar DBA name.

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.

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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.

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 will need to satisfy the following requirements:

  • Have a physical address in North Dakota; a P.O. Box is not allowed
  • Be available at the registered office during normal business hours in order to receive service of process
  • Have given you explicit approval before being appointed (as either a commercial or a noncommercial registered agent)

Keep in mind that under North Dakota law, serving as a registered agent does not make an individual liable for the actions of the business they represent in any way.

It should also be noted that even though a business may not serve as its own registered agent, an individual from within the business (i.e., yourself) can do so provided that they reside in North Dakota.

This is generally not recommended as you’re much more likely to suffer fines and penalties due to non-compliance than if you just hire a professional service.

You’ll also lose any anonymity your LLC would have given you since your name, address, and contact information will be publicly available.

Get a Free Registered Agent Service

If you’re ready to get started, you can form your LLC with Northwest Registered Agent and get a free registered agent service for your first year (normally costs $125).

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Note: To have a look at some of our other top recommendations, you can also check out our Best Registered Agent Service of 2024 guide.

Step 3: Submit Your LLC’s Articles of Organization

In North Dakota, the Articles of Organization is the filing document that you’ll need to submit with the Secretary of State in order to officially register your LLC.

This can be submitted through the Secretary of State’s FirstStop portal; the filing fee is $135, regardless of whether you are registering as a domestic or as a foreign LLC.

It should be noted that documents submitted to the Secretary of State’s office are typically processed within a few business days, although this timeframe can vary depending on the current workload of the SOS.

Step 4: Create a North Dakota 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 North Dakota, 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 North Dakota 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 North Dakota LLC

In order to keep operating legally in the state of North Dakota, your LLC will need to keep up with its annual obligations — which we’ve discussed in greater detail below.

Submit an Annual Report

Each year, your LLC will be required to file an Annual Report in order to maintain its good standing with the state.

This report is due every year by November 15 and can be submitted through the FirstStop Online Filing System that’s offered by the Secretary of State’s office. A $50 filing fee will need to be paid.

Keep in mind that if you haven’t filed your Annual Report until six months after the official due date, your LLC could face administrative dissolution.

Note: It should be noted that if you file more than 60 days after the November 15 deadline, you will incur a $100 late penalty fee.

North Dakota vs Other States

When comparing the costs of forming an LLC in North Dakota to those in other states, it’s clear that the state’s fees sit comfortably within the national average — not too high, but not exceptionally low either.

Regardless, however, you should keep in mind that the ideal location for establishing your LLC should be the state in which you’ll be operating from.

This is because this simplifies the management of your business’s legal requirements — such as taxation, licensing, and annual filings — and reduces the complexities associated with compliance (since dealing with a single state’s regulations will be more straightforward and affordable than navigating the rules of multiple states).

Ready to Form Your LLC? Use our trusted LLC formation partner for a small fee. We’ve negotiated a tailored discount for our readers, bringing the total cost of formation to just $29 (excluding state fees).

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North Dakota Secretary of State Contact Information

Mailing Address:

State of North Dakota
Secretary of State
600 E Boulevard Avenue Dept 108
Bismarck ND 58505-0500
Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Contact Information:
Phone: (701) 328-3662

How to Start an LLC in North Dakota FAQ

How much does it cost to start an LLC in North Dakota?

To start an LLC in North Dakota, you will need to pay a filing fee of $135 for submitting your LLC’s Articles of Organization.

If you choose to purchase a registered agent service or LLC formation service, you’ll likely end up spending a couple hundred additional dollars.

For a more detailed breakdown, you can check out our North Dakota LLC Cost guide.

How do I file an LLC in North Dakota myself?

To file an LLC in North Dakota by yourself, you’ll need to submit the Articles of Organization through the Secretary of State’s FirstStop portal.

For all other steps, you can have a look at our state-specific How To Start An LLC article.

How long does it take for an LLC to be approved in ND?

The approval time for an LLC in North Dakota is (generally speaking) a few business days, as the Secretary of State’s office tends to process documents fairly quickly.

Having said that, this timeframe can vary depending on the volume of filings at the time and the specifics of your submission (i.e., if errors are made, etc.).

For more information on this topic, you can check out our How to Start an LLC in North Dakota guide.

Do I have to pay taxes on an LLC in North Dakota?

Yes you do.

LLCs are taxed as pass-through entities by default, meaning that your LLC’s revenue will “pass through” to yourself, who will then pay federal income and self-employment taxes.

You may also be subjected to taxes at a state and local level, depending on your business’s specificities.

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