Guide: Start a Business in Iowa | Step Three:

Register My Business in Iowa

When choosing the type of legal structure for your business, you'll need to consider factors such as how you will pay your taxes and how much personal liability exposure you will risk. In Iowa, just like in most states, there are many options to choose from. Some examples include but are not limited to, sole proprietorships, domestic and foreign limited liability companies, partnerships, and nonprofits. 

If you want to start a sole proprietorship in Iowa, you will register with your county recorder's office. If you want to register as another type of business entity (example: Domestic LLC), you will register with the Iowa Secretary of State's office. If you aren't sure what kind of entity you want to file as, or are curious what the differences are, the Iowa Small Business Development Center has put together this informative document that discusses the differences in detail. 

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

Domestic and Foreign Limited Liability Companies both register with the Iowa Secretary of State's office. It costs $50 to file your application if you are a domestic (Iowa company) and $100 if you are foreign (non Iowa company). This type of entity has different protections as it relates to debts/liabilities made by the members of the LLC, and may affect how you report income / losses on your taxes. Before filing as an LLC, make sure you speak with a tax professional or legal professional as they can provide you with more in depth answers than we can provide here. We did, however, create a few blogs that describe entities such as LLCs, Sole Proprietorships, S Corps and C Corps in other ways than this page. These blogs should help you understand the topic more, and have more targeted questions to ask a tax or legal professional. IASourceLink CANNOT tell you what kind of business entity you should file as. Please note that if you do ask, we will not respond.

Regardless of the entity you file at the state level, you will have to file a Biennial Report every other year to keep the business registered and in good standing with the state. Make sure to mark your calendars in advance so you don't forget. Failure to file this form could result in the state revoking your registration. You can learn more about LLC's on the IRS website.

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Sole Proprietorship

According to the Small Business Administration, a sole proprietorship is an unincorporated business that is run by one individual who has no distinction between the business and the owner. So, what does this mean? It means that the business owner is entitled to all profits and is responsible for all of the business's debts, losses and liabilities. Essentially whatever profit you make will be added to your personal annual income, and any debt or liabilities you take on are directly tied to you and not the business (because you are the business).

To register your business as a sole proprietorship, you will need to file what's called a Trade Name Form with your county recorder's office. This typically costs around $7 to file and should remain in effect until either you file to end the business or the recorder's office revokes your filed form. To save you some time, we have found the recorder's website for every Iowa county and have listed them out inside of our chatbot, Sprout, found in the bottom right corner of your screen. Feel free to open up Sprout, answer our quick three question survey, and follow the onscreen instructions to find your county recorder’s contact information.

Survey > Register My Business > Sole Proprietorship > Select Your County Name 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have questions about setting up your online store? You should consider checking out our Resource Navigator. It houses the contact information of 400 of our most helpful partners from across the state who provide free to low-cost assistance to Iowa entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Q: Do I have to have “LLC” included in my business name if I am creating an LLC?

A: YES. You must include LLC as a part of your name when filing for your LLC. However, if you don’t want LLC or Corp in your name when interacting with the public, you would need to file a fictitious name resolution.

Q: How do I know if a company is already using the name I want to use?

A: The Secretary of State has a searchable database of listed corporations within the state.

Q: What is a trade name?

A: A trade name filing must be made by any person (sole proprietorship) or partnership engaged in business under a name different from their own true surname. A trade name essentially informs the public "who" they are doing business with but registering does not create any proprietary rights in the name. Corporations or limited liability companies organized in this state or authorized to do business in this state do not file for a trade name. All other trade names are filed with the county recorder in the county where the business is located.

Q: How do I know if I am conducting business within Iowa?

A: When a business organization transacts business beyond the borders of its original state of organization, it may find itself subject to the laws and regulations of the state in which it is transacting business. Before transacting business in Iowa, a foreign business organization must determine if authority from the Secretary of State is required. Transacting business in Iowa is not defined by the Iowa Code. Instead, each situation is assessed on a case-by-case basis. If you are unsure as to whether you should obtain authority from the Secretary of State, you should contact your legal counsel for advice. 


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NOTICE: The information included on this website is to be used only as a guide. It is not intended to cover all provisions of the law or every taxpayer's specific circumstances.


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