Register a Business


Register a Business

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Do I need a business license?

In Iowa, there IS NOT a general business license. Our team wrote a helpful blog that provides a helpful example to better explain this, but in short, business licensing and business registration are two different things. 

What is business registration?

Business registration is essentially informing the state or your county recorder that you are conducting business under a certain name (not your own) and will fall under a specified legal structure. The legal structure you choose has a lot to do with your overall tax strategy and personal liability exposure you’re willing to 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.

When do I need to register my business?

If you are conducting business with a name other than your true name (first/last), you will need to register your business. For example, your name is John Doe and you operate a sole proprietorship as John Doe’s Voiceover Service, you won’t have to register. If you want to operate your business under the name of “My Voiceover Services”, you likely will need to register your business. Where you register is directly related to what kind of entity you are forming.

How do I register my business?

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 form, 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.


Iowa Small Business Development Centers LogoSBDC Quick Tip: While the process of registering your business is fairly easy, it’s important to understand the benefits and limitations of your chosen entity.  Consider seeking the guidance of an attorney!


What is a Limited Liability Company (LLC)?

Limited Liability Companies are defined as a business structure where the owners are referred to as “members”, and receive the protection of a corporation plus the ability to pass through business profits and losses to their personal income tax return. LLCs differ from sole proprietorships (as an example), in that the LLC ensures there is reduced personal liability if in the case that your business faces legal issues in the future.

How to form an LLC

To form a Domestic LLC in Iowa (company is based in Iowa), you would need to file what’s called a Certificate of Organization using the Secretary of State’s Fast Track Filing system. The application costs $50 if you are a domestic company, and $100 if you are a foreign company (outside of Iowa). 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.

If you’d like to learn more about some of the most common business registrations in Iowa, check out these blogs we wrote discussing LLCs, Sole Proprietorships, S Corps and C Corps. These blogs should help you understand the topic more, and help you 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 redirect you to legal counsel.

Form an Iowa LLC Step-by-Step Guide

Do you want to form your own LLC? We have written a step-by-step guide and want to share it with you for free! Enter your information below and the steps will be sent to your email in only a few minutes!

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.

Biennial Reports

If you form a business entity 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. Check out this article to learn how to electronically file your Biennial Report through Fast Track Filing and some information to include that you should keep in mind.

Operating Agreement

An Operating Agreement is a document used to outline an LLC’s (and other corporations and nonprofits) financial and functional decisions including rules, regulations and provisions. It also outlines the members of the corporation and their roles and responsibilities. Operating Agreements are NOT REQUIRED to operate an LLC in Iowa, and are not filed with the Secretary of State. This document is for you and your partner(s) to keep and refer to if issues arise or some sort of restructuring occurs in the future. IASourceLink suggests every partner or member of the business should have a copy of your Operating Agreement, as well as your business’s attorney(s).

Beneficial Ownership Information Reporting

Beginning on January 1, 2024, many companies in the United States will have to report information about their beneficial owners, i.e., the individuals who ultimately own or control the company. They will have to report the information to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). FinCEN is a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. This requirement is not limited to only LLC registrants. IASourceLink and its affiliates highly suggest you speak with a tax and/or legal professional to assist you with navigating this new law. Our team cannot provide you with guidance regarding this requirement, however, we can definitely help you find someone who can help.

How to register as a 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 under $10 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 within our Resource Navigator.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have questions about writing your business plan? You should consider checking out our Resource Navigator. It houses the contact information of 400 of our most helpful partners from across the state, like the Small Business Development Centers, who provide no-cost confidential assistance to Iowa entrepreneurs and small business owners.

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.

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 which costs $5. Keep in mind that you can operate multiple concepts or trade names under one LLC.

Typically it will take 4-6 weeks to receive official paper documents of your registration. If you file online using the Fast Track Filing system (as an LLC for example), you may receive confirmation via email within a few business days. If you are registering as a Sole Proprietor, you likely will receive formal documents or confirmation of your registration from your county recorder the same day you register.

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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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