Registering a Limited Liability Company (LLC) in the state of Maine can help you protect your money, save on taxes, and build a business that generates long-term wealth.
“Starting an LLC in Maine is worth it because it protects your personal assets,” says Rachel Michaelov, CEO of Empire Tax Professionals, a tax advisory service credentialed to work with business owners in all 50 states. “An LLC offers protection and separation, and [it] helps you gain credibility with consumers when they see you have an official business.” Michaelov emphasizes that having an LLC allows you to deduct expenses such as advertising, marketing, telephone, Internet, and professional services.
The formation of a Maine limited liability company is unique in that all Maine business forms need to be mailed in or delivered in person to the Secretary of State’s office in Augusta. Unlike other states, you cannot register an LLC online. If you’ve been thinking about making your Maine-based business or side hustle official, you can register your Maine-based business yourself, hire a CPA and/or lawyer to help you along the way, or use a guided tool like LegalZoom to help you track your progress.
We asked both accounting experts and Maine-based business owners what to keep in mind when registering for an LLC in the Pine Tree State. Here’s how to start an LLC in Maine – and what you should do now to get your paperwork in order.
Step 1: Choose a Name for Your LLC and See If It’s Available
To form a Maine LLC, it’s necessary to register with the Secretary of State. You’ll have to fill out the required forms, pay fees, and meet all requirements regarding business name and formation guidelines.
To start this process, you’ll first need to select a name for your LLC. You can check the availability of a name by searching the Maine Secretary of State’s business name database.
Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing a business name in Maine:
- An LLC name must contain: “limited liability company”, “limited company,” or the abbreviation “L.L.C.,” “LLC,” “L.C.,” or “LC.” Or, in the case of a low-profit limited liability company, “L3C” or l3c.”
- The LLC’s name must be distinguishable from the names of other business entities already on file with the Maine Secretary of State.
- The LLC name must comply with Maine’s naming rules.
- The LLC name must exclude obscene language or promotions of abusive or unlawful activity.
- The business name must not use any references to a government agency (e.g., State Department, Treasury, FBI, etc.).
- The business name may not include words or abbreviations that make it sound like it’s another kind of entity, like “corp” or “limited partnership.”
- Certain restricted words—such as bank, lawyer, attorney, or credit union—may require additional documentation, especially if you want to incorporate as a professional LLC.
You may reserve a name for up to 120 days by filing an Application for Reservation of Name (MLLC-1) with the Secretary of State. The reservation must be filed by mail, and the filing fee is $20.
You don’t have to use your LLC’s official legal name registered in your Certificate of Formation when you do business. Small business owners can use an assumed name, also called a fictitious business name, “doing business as” (DBA), or trade name. To do so in Maine, you must register your assumed name with the Maine Secretary of State. LLC owners can register by postal mail and file a Statement of Intention to transact business under an Assumed or Fictitious Name (Form MLLC-5). The filing fee is $125.
One thing to consider when choosing your LLC name is the availability of that name as a URL for a possible website. You can check if the URL is available and think about the goals of your side hustle or business. You may wish to sell products or services online in the future.
Step 2: Choose and Designate a Registered Agent
LLCs in Maine are required to have a registered agent for service of process. The registered agent can be an individual or business entity that receives and handles legal paperwork on the LLC’s behalf, also known as a registered agent service. Consider using a registered agent service if you don’t want to maintain a physical storefront.
The requirements for a registered agent in Maine are as follows:
- The registered agent must have a physical Maine address—no PO boxes or virtual offices are allowed for LLCs in the state of Maine.
- If you’re going to use a third-party service as your Maine registered agent, they have to be a business entity authorized to do business in the pine tree state.
- They must be available to accept all legal correspondence from Maine’s Division of Corporation on behalf of your LLC.
- They must maintain regular business hours (9 am to 5 pm).
“One of the most common struggles I see in working with clients is confusion and frustration regarding the registered agent,” says CPA Alexis Krystinais, the founder of Pink Moon Financial, LLC, a Maine-based financial services company that works with entrepreneurs. “The registered agent is where and who will receive the mail.”
In the state of Maine, you can be your own registered agent, but it means your name, address, and other private information will go on the public record. And you’ll have to keep regular, nine-to-five business hours at your registered address. Weigh these two factors carefully when choosing your registered agent strategy.
Step 3: Prepare and File a Certificate of Formation
To form your Maine LLC, you’ll need to complete Maine’s Certificate of Formation form. You’ll also need to attach a “Customer Contact Cover Letter” to your Certificate of Formation. These forms ask for basic contact information for the LLC.
When both forms are completed, you’ll mail them in or hand-deliver them to Maine’s Secretary of State — you cannot fill these forms out online.
To prepare your Certificate of Formation, you’ll need:
- The LLC’s name.
- The date the Certificate of Formation should become effective.
- Whether or not the LLC is a low-profit LLC (formed to accomplish charitable or educational purposes).
- Whether the LLC is a professional LLC (this is if members will perform professional services that require credentials, such as a therapist or a lawyer).
- The name and address of the LLC’s registered agent.
- The signature of the registered agent.
- The articles, which must be filed by mail and cannot be filed online.
- A filing fee of $175.
The Secretary of State will process your filing, which typically takes around 5 to 10 business days (or up to 15 business days in the event of delays and federal holidays). However, Maine’s Department of State website currently says procession times are backlogged 25 to 30 business days.
You can pay an extra $50 for 24-hour service or $100 for the state to process your Maine LLC certificate on the spot (if current staffing allows). You can submit your certificate of formation by mail or in person at:
Secretary of State
Division of Corporations, UCC, and Commissions
101 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-010
“I decided to hire outside professionals to help file my Maine LLCs,” says Craig Handley, a Maine-based business owner and founder of SocialClose, a social media management company. “The mail-in and deliver-in-person processes were a little confusing, and sales and marketing are more of my focus in my businesses. I had a lawyer and accountant file my LLC paperwork.”
Step 4: Create an Operating Agreement
The state of Maine legally requires LLCs to have an operating agreement. According to state law, operating agreements define how your LLC runs and “may be in writing or oral.” You could adopt an operating agreement by talking it out, but our experts say it’s important your LLC has an operating agreement in writing.
An oral agreement won’t hold up in court if members of the LLC have legal disputes. Without a written operating agreement, your LLC will be required to operate according to Maine’s default LLC statutes. You don’t have to file your operating agreement with the state, but you are required to have one to maintain an LLC in Maine.
Step 5: Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
Once your Maine LLC has been filed and approved, you can register for a nine-digit Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the IRS.
An EIN is like a social security number for your business. You can use this number to open a business bank account, get a business credit card, manage payroll, and file federal taxes. Your EIN serves as your federal tax identification number.
Our experts recommend keeping personal, and business expenses separate to ensure personal asset protection outside your business structure.
Step 6: Register with the Maine Revenue Services and Department of Labor
If you have employees, you must register for Maine State Income Tax Withholding by completing the Application for Tax Registration. If you don’t have employees, you still have to register when you sell taxable goods or services. The issued state ID lets you report all applicable state taxes.
“Despite the requirements, forming an LLC in Maine was pretty quick and simple. The forms themselves were very straightforward,” says Lanette Pottle, a Maine-based business coach and consultant.
How Much Does It Cost to Start an LLC in Maine?
The filing fee to start an LLC in Maine is $175. If you’re using a service like LegalZoom, remember to also factor in the cost of that filing service.
There are some optional fees:
- The fee for an LLC name reservation for 12 months is $20.
- To file a Statement of Intention to transact business under an Assumed or Fictitious Name (Form MLLC-5), there is a $125 filing fee.
- You can pay an extra $50 for 24-hour expedited service to make your LLC official in Maine and an additional $100 for the state to process your filing on the spot (if current staffing allows).
- To obtain certified document copies, there is a $5 fee.
- To obtain a Maine certificate of good standing, go through the Secretary of State, and the fee is $30.
Maine-based LLCs must file an Annual Report by June 1st. Unlike other business forms, your Annual Report can be submitted online, and the fee is $85.
Is It Worth Starting an LLC in Maine?
As soon as your side hustle or business makes money, you should consider registering an LLC in Maine. The structure of an LLC helps protect your assets, lowers your tax burden with the Internal Revenue Service, and creates the opportunity to build more than a one-person business.
“The main thing to think about is your goals,” says Krystinais. “To have an LLC, you’ll need a separate bank account and not mingle your personal and business expenses. Also, keep in mind the costs to maintain the LLC.”
How Long Does It Take to Form an LLC in Maine?
In Maine, you have to either mail in your LLC forms or deliver them in person. Either option adds time.
Maine’s typical processing times are 2 to 3 weeks, but the Bureau of Corporations website currently says there’s a backlog. The estimated processing time is 25 to 30 business days.
You can typically pay an extra $50 for 24-hour service or an additional $100 for the state to process your filing on the spot (if current staffing allows). Due to the backlog, expedited corporate filing may not be available for review until the following business day.
Do You Need an EIN to Start an LLC?
You don’t need an EIN to start an LLC in Maine, but you’ll want to get one as soon as your LLC is approved so that you can open financial accounts, obtain a business credit card, and register with the Maine Revenue Services and Department of Labor. Registering an EIN with the IRS is free.
Starting an LLC in Maine may feel intimidating with not having the ability to file online, but doing so will make your side hustle or business official and more profitable. Take some time to go through this guide and get the official documentation you need. You can be well positioned to build a business that creates financial independence.