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How to Start an LLC in Rhode Island

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

How to Start an LLC in Rhode Island

Here are the steps you need to take to start a limited liability company (LLC) in Rhode Island:

  • Choose a name for your Rhode Island LLC: Your business name must be unique and contain the words Limited Liability Company or the abbreviation L.L.C. or LLC. You can use the Rhode Island Business Entity Search to check the availability of your desired business name.
  • Choose a registered agent: In Rhode Island, you can be your own registered agent for your LLC, or it can be another member of the LLC, an outside individual, or a qualified business service.
  • Determine your management structure: There are two basic types of LLC: member-managed and manager-managed LLCs.
  • File Articles of Organization with the Rhode Island Secretary of State.
  • Create an operating agreement: We have prepared two operating agreement templates for your use. One is for single-member LLCs, and the other is for multi-member LLCs.
  • Apply for business licenses in Rhode Island.
  • Obtain an EIN: Apply for an EIN with the IRS assistance tool.

To form your LLC, we recommend using a professional online Rhode Island LLC formation service. This ensures accuracy, compliance, and convenience by streamlining the process, avoiding mistakes, and providing ongoing support.

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How much does it cost to start an LLC in Rhode Island?

RequirementCost/Fee
Articles of Organization$150
Certified Copy – Articles of Organization$10 plus $.15 per page
Certificate of Good Standing$22
Name Reservation$50
Registered Agent Service$50 – $300
Operating Agreement$0 – $2500
Annual Report$50
Annual Tax/Fee$400
Business Licenses and Renewalsvaries – check with state and local government

Should you find video content more appealing, we’ve provided a comprehensive visual tutorial on creating an LLC in Rhode Island.

Continue reading to find a detailed guide on how to start an LLC in Rhode Island.

Step 1: Choose a Name for Your Rhode Island LLC

Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.

Once you have a few potential names, check the Rhode Island secretary of state website to confirm they are available to register.

Next, enter the desired business name and choose the search parameters such as the type of search and search option.

Review the search results, which will display a list of entities matching your search criteria. Click on the entity name to access its information page.

On the entity information page, you’ll find detailed information on file with the Secretary of State, including filings and the option to request a certificate.

Alternatively, you can search by Rhode Island SOS identification number or filing number for quicker access to specific entity details. Additionally, you can search by individual/agent, business address, or business purpose using the respective search forms on the SOS website. Once you’ve entered the relevant information, review the search results and click on the entity name to access detailed business information.

If you find the name during your search, you’ll need to go back to the drawing board and choose a different name.

Rhode Island Business Entity Search

You should also confirm that the name you want to register conforms to Rhode Island’s regulations on business names.

In Rhode Island, your LLC name must include the phrase “limited liability company,” or one of its abbreviations (LLC or L.L.C.), and it cannot include words that could confuse your Rhode Island LLC with any government agency.

Your business name also cannot include words like bank, insurance, university, (or any similar names) without approval from certain state authorities.

Additionally, your business name must be distinguishable from all other business names in the state.

It’s also a good idea to check for nationally trademarked names, to ward off any potential problems later if your business expands, and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Consider these additional suggestions when choosing a name for your Rhode Island LLC.

Once you’ve found a name that clears these hurdles, go ahead and reserve the name with this Name Reservation Request form on the Rhode Island secretary of state website. 

Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent

In Rhode Island, your LLC needs to have a registered agent. A registered agent is a person or business authorized to accept legal, tax, and financial documents on behalf of your business, and communicate with the state on relevant matters. 

The purpose of a registered agent is to ensure compliance with state laws and make sure official documents are handled in a timely manner. Having one person or entity to handle important documents helps to ensure nothing is missed, helping avoid potential potholes.

In Rhode Island, you can be your own registered agent for your LLC, or it can be another member of the LLC. An individual who is not a member or a professional agency can also serve as the registered agent for your LLC. Another business entity can also be a registered agent. 

In Rhode Island, the requirements to be a registered agent are:

  • Must be 18 years or older
  • Have a physical address in the state 
  • Be personally available during normal business hours 
  • If the agent is a business entity, it’s registered to operate in the state

Here’s how to appoint a Rhode Island registered agent for your Rhode Island LLC.

Many LLCs choose a member who is highly involved in the business to be the registered agent, although a registered agent service saves you time and ensures compliance.

Advantages of a Registered Agent Service 

Benefits of the registered agent services

A registered agent service is a professional service that will handle official correspondence and documents for your business. Registered agents ensure that all official correspondence is handled on time and keep copies of documents for you. They also keep track of deadlines and send reminders of things you need to file, such as tax forms and annual reports.

A registered agent service will help keep you in compliance with the law and save you time by keeping track of key documents and filing deadlines. This also frees you up to focus on growing your business. The agency will also offer support if problems or questions come up.

Using an agency enables you to have flexible hours. If you’re your own registered agent, you must be personally available from 8 AM to 5 PM at your registered agent address. If you use an agency, they are available during those hours so that you don’t have to be.

Step 3: Determine Your Management Structure

An LLC offers its owner or owners considerable flexibility in terms of management. You can choose your management and operational structure. 

LLC owners are known as members. In a member-managed LLC, the members run the business. In a manager-managed LLC, non-members are hired to oversee and run the business. 

In a member-managed LLC, members are involved in day-to-day operations. Most LLCs are member-managed because the majority are small businesses that cannot afford to hire a management team. 

Many LLC owners prefer to have a member-managed structure because they want to be in control of decision-making and directly involved in operations. Unlike corporations, most LLCs do not have boards of directors to oversee the management. This means that whoever manages the company is in control of all decisions. 

In Rhode Island you must specify in your articles of organization whether your LLC will be member-managed or manager-managed.

In a manager-managed LLC, non-members are hired as managers. Some members still may be managers alongside the non-member managers, or none of the members can be managers. In this structure, any members who are not managers are passive investors and have no role in the operations of the company. 

This structure works best when some or all of the owners want that passive ownership, or if there are a large number of members – too many to all effectively manage the LLC. Another reason to choose a manager-managed structure is when members simply don’t have management skills. Having a great business idea and the capital to start a company does not necessarily mean that someone can run a company. In such cases, hiring professional managers can give the company a better chance of success.

Step 4: File Articles of Organization with the Rhode Island Secretary of State

To make your LLC official, you’ll need to file Articles of Organization with the state. This is the legal document that officially creates your LLC as a legal entity in Rhode Island. The Articles of Organization include information about your LLC, such as its address, owners, management structure, and registered agent information. 

To file this formal legal document, go to the website of the secretary of state and fill out the form. Here are the steps that you need to take to file your Rhode Island Articles of Organization.

The fee is $150, and you should receive confirmation in 1 to 2 business days if you file online. If you file by mail, it can take 7 to 10 days.

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Step 5: Create an Operating Agreement

An operating agreement is not required in Rhode Island but is highly recommended. It is not filed with the state, but instead kept in your LLC’s records and used to resolve disputes, even in court. 

We offer a free LLC Operating Agreement template for both single member and multi member LLC.

An LLC operating agreement is an important legal document that details who owns the business and provides essential information pertaining to member duties. An LLC operating agreement establishes the financial relationship between members and the basics of the working relationships between those members and the managers who oversee daily operations. 

It’s advisable to hire an attorney to ensure your operating agreement is thorough and legally binding. 

The operating agreement should clearly define:

  • The percentage of each member’s interests in the LLC
  • How profits and losses will be allocated to each member
  • Each member’s rights and responsibilities
  • The management structure and management roles of members
  • The voting rights of each member
  • Rules for meetings and voting
  • What happens when a member sells their interest, becomes disabled, or dies

If the LLC has a board of directors, the operating agreement will also include the role and responsibilities of the board members and how they are compensated. 

An LLC operating agreement provides legal and financial recourse for a number of situations. If conflicts arise between LLC owners pertaining to any of the above issues, the operating agreement will provide clarity and guidance. 

Though Rhode Island has default rules on the books that address some of the potential challenges that might arise between LLC members, the LLC operating agreement has the potential to override such presumptions. 

Step 6: Apply for Business Licenses

Business Licenses and Permits

In Rhode Island, forming an LLC doesn’t require a business license, but you’ll need to follow Rhode Island state procedures, as you may need local, state, or federal permits depending on your type of business. Fees for these vary, but most costs are minimal.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific permits. Refer to the SBA guide for federal licenses and permits to determine if your business activities are regulated by a federal agency.

While there isn’t a universal business license required in Rhode Island, various other licenses or permits may be necessary depending on your LLC’s specific activities. For instance, if your LLC plans to sell goods or services subject to sales tax, or hire employees, it may need to register with the Rhode Island Division of Taxation for sales tax purposes.

If your LLC operates in a specific industry, you may also need to obtain permits from the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation or Rhode Island Department of Health.

Lastly, local county and city governments may also require local business licenses or permits. For this, you can contact your local county supervisor’s or mayor’s office to get more details.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties. If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

We recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

Here are the steps to follow when applying for business licenses in Rhode Island.

Step 7: Obtain an EIN

Your Rhode Island Employer Identification Number, or EIN, is like a social security number for your company, allowing the IRS to easily identify your business. It is also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number (FTIN), or sometimes for corporations it’s called a Tax Identification Number (TIN). 

An EIN is used to identify US businesses and contains information about the state the company is registered in. It also identifies the taxpayers who are required to file tax returns for the business. 

It is used by employers for filing taxes and is generally required for businesses when they open a business bank account. 

Here are the IRS requirements for obtaining an EIN:

All EIN applications (mail, fax, electronic) must disclose the name and Taxpayer Identification Number (SSN, ITIN, or EIN) of the true principal officer, general partner, grantor, owner or trustor. This individual or entity, which the IRS will call the ‘responsible party,’ controls, manages, or directs the applicant entity and the disposition of its funds and assets. Unless the applicant is a government entity, the responsible party must be an individual (i.e., a natural person), not an entity.

The application is free and can be found on the IRS website. The application is form SS-4, and it can be mailed to the IRS or submitted electronically. Once your information on the application has been validated, your EIN is assigned immediately. The EIN will never expire, and is never duplicated, even if you go out of business.

Next Steps

Opening a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

In Rhode Island, banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN, articles of organization, and other legal documents and open your new account. 

Getting Small Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.
types of business insurance

Decision on LLC Tax Status

LLCs are unique in terms of taxation as their owners have a choice about how the company will be taxed. By default, an LLC is taxed like a sole proprietorship if it has one member and a partnership if it has more than one member.

In both cases, business income “passes through” to the members, while profits and losses are reported on their individual tax returns. The LLC itself is not taxed, which simplifies the process for members. Also, losses and operating costs of the business can be deducted personally by the members. Taxes are paid at the personal tax rate of the members, although the owners may also have to pay self-employment taxes. 

Note that a multi-member LLC must also file form 1065 with the IRS, which is the U.S. Return of Partnership Income. Attached to this will be form K-1s for each member showing their share of the business income.

But LLCs owners can instead choose to be taxed as a corporation. To do so, the LLC must file a document, referred to as an election, with the IRS. The LLC must then decide if it wishes to be taxed as an S corporation or a C corporation.

C-Corp status means profits are taxed at the current rate for corporations (21% as of early 2022), which is significantly lower than the typical individual taxpayer rate. But keep in mind, C-Corp shareholders, which includes members, must also pay taxes on their distributions (but not self-employment taxes). Thus, the C-Corp is subject to what is sometimes referred to as double taxation. 

As with sole proprietorship and partnership status, S-Corp taxation considers the LLC a pass-through entity, which means income passes through the company and into the hands of the owners. At this point, taxes are applied at the same rate as those of individual taxpayers.

S-Corps use Form 1120S to file their taxes, which is used to report the income, losses, and dividends of shareholders. S-Corp shareholders do not pay self-employment taxes, which is the primary advantage of S-Corp status compared to sole proprietorship or partnership. 

Generally, S-Corp tax status is beneficial if the company is profitable enough to pay the owners a salary and at least $10,000 in annual distributions so the owners can be taxed as employees and not pay self-employment taxes. It costs more to run an S-Corp than an LLC due to additional bookkeeping and payroll expenses. Thus, the tax benefits should be more than the additional costs for an S-Corp status to make financial sense. 

LLC tax classification

File Annual Reports 

In Rhode Island, LLCs need to file a Rhode Island annual report to remain in good standing. The fee is $50 and the report is due by May 1st each year.

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How to Start an LLC in Rhode Island