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How to Register a Business in Illinois – Expert Guide for 2024

How to Register Your Business In illinois
(Last Updated On: January 4, 2024)

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Excited to Launch a Business in the Land of Lincoln? Embarking on a business journey in Illinois can be an exhilarating and rewarding experience, but navigating the process of registering your business might feel like maneuvering through a bustling metropolis. With numerous steps and crucial decisions to consider, it’s understandable that many entrepreneurs may feel a bit lost. However, fear not, as Illinois business registration is not as intricate as it may appear.

In this blog post, consider us your seasoned guide, leading you through the process step-by-step and offering tips and resources to ensure a seamless journey. Whether you’re establishing a new business or registering an existing one, this guide will assist you in navigating Illinois’ business landscape in seven simple steps, fostering confidence and ease throughout the process.

If the process still appears daunting, no need to worry! We’ve compiled a list of top-notch business registration services, such as ZenBusiness, ready to navigate the streets and simplify the process for you.

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How to Register Your Business in Illinois in 7 Simple Steps

Get your Illinois-based business off the ground by following these seven steps to register your business:

Step 1: Choose Your Business Structure in Illinois

The perfect business structure for your venture depends on the nature of your business and your growth plans. Illinois offers a variety of incorporated and unincorporated business structures to choose from. Let’s examine each of these options and how they function in the Prairie State.

Note that you’ll need to register your business with the Illinois Secretary of State if you opt for a structure that requires incorporation, such as the following:

Sole Proprietorship

In Illinois, a sole proprietorship is the simplest business structure, where the owner and the business are legally considered the same entity. This means the owner is personally responsible for the business’s debts and liabilities. It’s easy to set up and has minimal legal and administrative requirements. In Illinois, you don’t need to register your sole proprietorship with the state, but you may need to obtain local permits or licenses.

General Partnership

A general partnership is a business owned by two or more people who share in the profits and losses. Each partner is personally liable for the business’s debts and legal obligations. In Illinois, you don’t need to register a general partnership with the state, but you may need to file a “Certificate of Assumed Name” (DBA) in the county where your business is located.

Limited Partnership (LP)

A limited partnership in Illinois consists of one or more general partners who manage the business and have unlimited personal liability and one or more limited partners who provide capital but have limited liability. To create an LP in Illinois, you must file a “Certificate of Limited Partnership” with the Illinois Secretary of State.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC is a flexible business structure that combines the liability protection of a corporation with the tax benefits and simplicity of a partnership. In Illinois, you must file “Articles of Organization” with the Illinois Secretary of State and create an Operating Agreement to outline the company’s management and ownership structure.

Here’s how to start an LLC.

Corporation

A corporation is a legal entity separate from its owners (shareholders) that offers limited liability protection. There are two types of corporations in Illinois:

  • C-corporations
  • S-corporations

To create a corporation in Illinois, you must file “Articles of Incorporation” with the Illinois Secretary of State. Corporations require more formalities, such as creating bylaws, issuing stock, and holding regular board and shareholder meetings.

Choose the business structure in Illinois that best suits your needs based on liability protection, taxation, and management requirements. Consult with a legal or business professional if you need assistance in making this decision.

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Step 2: Select a Unique Business Name

When creating a business in Illinois, selecting a unique business name is an important step. Here are the naming options and guidelines in Illinois:

In Illinois, businesses must register a legal entity name with the Illinois Secretary of State’s office. The name must be distinguishable from any other registered business name in Illinois and must include a proper identifier that indicates the type of business entity, such as LLC, Corporation, or Limited Partnership.

You can search for available business names through the Illinois Secretary of State’s website or their Business Entity Search tool.

Trademark

A trademark in Illinois is a form of intellectual property that protects a business name or logo at a national level. To safeguard a name or logo, it’s crucial to conduct a trademark search in the USPTO database to ensure it’s not already registered.

Obtaining a trademark provides nationwide protection and prevents others from using the same or similar name or logo for similar goods or services. However, registering a trademark does not automatically grant the right to use the name or logo in all circumstances.

Doing Business As (DBA)

Illinois businesses can also register a Doing Business As (DBA) name to operate under a different name than the legal entity name. A DBA name is also known as an Assumed Name or Fictitious Business Name.

To register a DBA name in Illinois, you must file an Assumed Name Certificate with the county clerk’s office in the county where your business is located. The DBA name must be distinguishable from any other registered business name in Illinois.

By following these naming options and guidelines, you can register a unique business name in Illinois that meets the state’s requirements and protects your brand identity.

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Step 3: Consider Taxes and Other Costs in Illinois

Illinois LLCs are required to pay various taxes, including state income taxes, sales taxes, and payroll taxes. The amount of tax that an LLC will owe will depend on its income, the products or services it sells, and the number of employees it has.

Illinois LLCs are taxed as pass-through entities, which means that the income and losses of the LLC are passed through to the individual members of the LLC. This means that the members of the LLC will be responsible for paying income taxes on their share of the LLC’s income, even if the income isn’t actually distributed to them.

Here are some additional details about the taxes that Illinois LLCs are required to pay:

  • State income tax: Illinois LLCs are required to pay state income tax on their net income. The state income tax rate in Illinois is 4.95%
  • Sales tax: Illinois LLCs are required to collect sales tax on the sale of goods and services within the state. The sales tax rate in Illinois is 6.25%, but local governments may also impose additional sales taxes
  • Payroll tax: Illinois LLCs are required to pay payroll taxes on the wages of their employees. The payroll tax rate in Illinois is 7.65%, which is split between the employer and the employee

If you’re forming an LLC in Illinois, it’s important to be aware of the taxes that you will be required to pay. You should consult with an accountant or tax advisor to determine the specific taxes that will apply to your LLC.

ZenBusiness provides a range of services aimed at assisting entrepreneurs in setting up their businesses. These include filing necessary documents with the Secretary of State, acquiring an Employer Identification Number (EIN), and drafting an operating agreement. Additionally, ZenBusiness offers continuous compliance aid to ensure businesses maintain a favorable status with the state.

Step 4: Register and Acquire Licenses and Permits in Illinois

To start your business in Illinois, you need to apply for licenses and permits. Here are the key steps:

Tax Registration: If you plan to sell goods in Illinois, you must register with the Department of Revenue (DOR) to collect sales tax. If you have employees, you also need to register with the DOR for employer withholding taxes. You can register online through the MyTax Illinois website or use the paper application Form REG-1, Illinois Business Registration Application.

EIN (Employer Identification Number): If your business has employees or is taxed separately, you should obtain a federal EIN from the IRS. It may also be required by banks to open a business account or by other companies for payment processing. You can apply for an EIN online through the IRS website, and there is no fee for filing.

Regulatory Licenses and Permits: Depending on your business activities, you may need specific licenses and permits related to health and safety, environmental compliance, building and construction, or industry-specific requirements. These licenses are typically issued by different state agencies. Visit the Registration, Licenses, & Permits section on the official Illinois government website (illinois.gov) for more details. Additionally, check the websites of cities or counties where you’ll operate your business for local licensing requirements.

Professional and Occupational Licenses: Certain professions and occupations are regulated by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). The IDFPR website provides information on the specific professions regulated by their respective state regulatory boards. If your business falls under a regulated profession, you may need to obtain a professional or occupational license from the relevant board.

Ensure to follow the guidelines provided by the respective agencies and boards when applying for licenses and permits.

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Step 5: Open a Bank Account For Your Business in Illinois

Once you have your EIN, you can open a business bank account in Illinois.

Illinois laws require LLPs, LLCs, and corporations to open a business bank account. In contrast, sole proprietors and unincorporated partnerships are not obligated to separate their personal and business finances.

To open a business account in Illinois, simply visit a local bank and complete the required documentation. It’s recommended to explore the rates and perks provided by different banks before selecting one.

Even if operating as a sole proprietor or unincorporated partnership in Illinois, it’s wise to maintain a distinct company bank account for better financial management. This approach will prove beneficial if you decide to incorporate your business later.

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Step 6: Defend Your Intellectual Property in Illinois

In Illinois, depending on the nature of the company you’re establishing, it may be essential to protect valuable intellectual property (IP).

For instance, most businesses want to prevent their name and logo from being copied and exploited by other entities. Depending on whether your business sells goods or provides a service, it’s crucial to secure your product designs or the creative works (e.g., writing, designs, or music) you produce.

There are several ways to protect your IP in Illinois, and it’s beneficial to initiate these applications promptly to prevent unauthorized usage.

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Trademark

In Illinois, a trademark is a distinctive word, phrase, symbol, or design that sets apart a product or service from similar offerings in the market.

For legal protection, trademarks must be registered through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The registration process typically takes four to six months. Once registered, the trademark is protected across the United States, and legal action can be taken against those who use it without permission.

Illinois businesses can protect their trademarks by registering them with the USPTO. This practice not only protects their brand and reputation but also offers legal recourse against unauthorized trademark usage.

In Illinois, copyright law protects original works of authorship such as literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This includes software, written content, web content, films, sound recordings, images, and other forms of creative expression.

In Illinois, copyright protection is automatically granted to you as the creator of a new work. As the owner of the exclusive rights to distribute, reproduce, create derivative works, and sell intellectual property, you have the legal authority to control your work’s usage.

However, you may choose to register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office for added legal protection and evidence of ownership. Registering your copyright in Illinois helps safeguard your work against infringement and provides a means to enforce your rights in court if necessary.

Patent

If you invent a new product or piece of machinery in Illinois, it’s essential to patent it. A patent grants the holder exclusive rights over an item and stops others from making, selling, or importing the patented item for a specified period.

The patent process is intricate and may take up to five years to complete, so it’s advisable to begin early if you have a unique invention to protect. Patent applications are submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

By protecting your intellectual property in Illinois, you can secure your brand, products, and creations, ensuring your business retains a competitive advantage and continues to expand.

File a Trademark with bizee

Step 7: Configure Your Payment Infrastructure in Illinois

In preparation for serving customers as soon as your Illinois-based business is registered, it’s vital to set up a reliable, user-friendly payment system.

Numerous payment processing services are available, offering simple integration with your website or point-of-sale (POS) system. Well-known options such as Square, Stripe, and PayPal provide flexibility and ease of setup, allowing you to customize your payment system to align with your business objectives.

These payment processors accept various payment methods, including credit and debit cards, ACH transfers, and digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay. By choosing a reputable payment processing service, you give your customers a secure platform to pay using their preferred methods, ensuring a hassle-free transaction experience for both parties.

In addition to configuring a payment processor, it’s important to establish sales tax compliance in Illinois. This involves obtaining an Illinois Sales and Use Tax Registration from the Illinois Department of Revenue, which enables you to collect sales tax on applicable goods and services.

Once your payment infrastructure is set up, your Illinois-based business will be ready to serve customers and generate revenue securely and effectively.

By adhering to these guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to establishing a legally compliant business in Illinois.

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Top 5 Business Registration Services for Illinois Entrepreneurs

Starting a business in Illinois involves choosing from various business registration services. These services offer diverse solutions to assist entrepreneurs and small business owners in establishing their businesses and adhering to state and federal regulations. Here are some of the most reliable business registration services available for Illinois entrepreneurs:

ZenBusiness

Zenbusiness logo

ZenBusiness is a well-known online business registration service specializing in business formation, registered agent services, annual report filing, and more. They offer affordable pricing and packages that include personalized support and resources to help businesses stay compliant and grow. Their user-friendly website and streamlined process make it easy for entrepreneurs to register their businesses in Illinois.

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Swyft Filings

Swyft Filings logo

Swyft Filings is a reputable LLC formation service that provides fast and straightforward business formation, including LLC formation, incorporation, and compliance. They offer personalized support and resources to help businesses navigate the formation process and stay compliant with state and federal regulations. Swyft Filings has a user-friendly website and affordable pricing that make the registration process easy for entrepreneurs.

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Tailor Brands

Tailor Brands is an online branding and design service that assists businesses in developing a polished and cohesive brand identity. They offer various branding packages, including logo design, business card design, and social media branding. Additionally, Tailor Brands provides a suite of design tools and resources for businesses to create and customize their branded assets. Although not a conventional business registration service, Tailor Brands can help businesses establish a professional brand image to attract customers.

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Northwest Registered Agent

Northwest Registered Agent is a respected online business registration service focusing on registered agent services, compliance management, and document filing. They have a solid reputation for quality and exceptional customer service, and they offer personalized support to help businesses remain compliant with state and federal regulations. Northwest Registered Agent provides an array of business formation services for LLCs, corporations, and nonprofits.

Get Started With Northwest Registered Agent

Bizee (Previously Incfile)

bizee is an online business registration service known for its quick and affordable business formation services. They offer various packages encompassing registered agent services, compliance management, and document filing. bizee user-friendly and streamlined platform simplifies the business registration process, and they provide ongoing support and resources to assist businesses in maintaining compliance and growth.

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By researching and comparing these business registration services, Illinois entrepreneurs can identify the best option for their unique needs, ensuring an efficient and effortless registration process.

Business Registration Laws in Illinois

Starting a business in Illinois requires compliance with state registration and licensing laws. Here are some key points to consider for an article on business registration laws in Illinois:

Obtain Necessary Business Licenses 

Depending on the nature and location of your business, you may require one or more business licenses. This could include state-level licenses as well as local permits from the city or county where your business is situated. The Illinois Department of Labor and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency typically issue employment and environmental licenses.

File Business Records

Business structures such as corporations and LLCs must file organizational documents with the Illinois Secretary of State (SOS). This includes documents like Articles of Incorporation for corporations and Articles of Organization for LLCs.

Professional Licensing

Certain professions and occupations require special licensing from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). You’ll need to check the requirements for your specific profession or occupation.

Register Trademarks or Service Marks

If your business has unique identifiers like a trademark or service mark, it’s important to register these with the state. This helps distinguish your business, service, or product from competitors.

Incorporating in Illinois

Incorporating your business in Illinois involves selecting a unique name (including certain corporate designations and avoiding restricted words), filing Articles of Incorporation with the SOS, obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for tax purposes, paying appropriate fees and taxes, registering with the Illinois Department of Revenue, and maintaining compliance with annual reporting requirements.

Registration With the Illinois Department of Revenue

Any business operating in Illinois must register with the Illinois Department of Revenue. This includes filing an Illinois Business Registration Application and receiving a certificate of registration.

It’s recommended to seek legal or professional advice to ensure full compliance with Illinois business laws.

Alternative Business Registration Methods in Illinois

In Illinois, there are several alternative business registration methods available for entrepreneurs who want to start a business. Here are a few options:

Online Business Registration

Illinois has an online registration system that allows entrepreneurs to register their businesses electronically. The process is quick and efficient, and it can be done from anywhere with an internet connection.

In-Person Registration

Entrepreneurs can also register their businesses in person at the Illinois Secretary of State’s office or at one of the state’s regional offices. This is a good option for those who prefer to do things face-to-face.

Expedited Filing

For an additional fee, entrepreneurs can expedite the processing of their business registration documents. This can be done either online or in person.

Incorporation Service 

Illinois also allows entrepreneurs to use incorporation services to help with the registration process. These services can provide assistance with filing the necessary paperwork and registering the business with the state.

Entrepreneurs can also seek legal assistance from an attorney who specializes in business law. This can be helpful for ensuring that all legal requirements are met and that the business is set up properly.

It’s important to note that regardless of the method chosen, entrepreneurs must follow all of the state’s business registration requirements to ensure that their businesses are properly registered and in compliance with all relevant laws and regulations.

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Benefits of Registering Your Business in Illinois

Registering your business in Illinois offers several benefits that can contribute to its growth and legal compliance. Here are some key advantages:

  • Legal Recognition: Registering your business in Illinois establishes its legal existence as a separate entity from its owners. This provides limited liability protection, separating personal and business assets and safeguarding owners’ personal finances.
  • Business Name Protection: Registering your business ensures that your chosen name is legally protected within the state. This prevents other businesses in Illinois from using the same or similar name, reducing confusion and protecting your brand identity.
  • Access to Courts: Registered businesses in Illinois have the ability to take legal action and access state courts in case of disputes, including breach of contracts, intellectual property infringements, or other legal matters.
  • Tax Advantages: Illinois offers various tax incentives and benefits to registered businesses. These may include tax credits, exemptions, deductions, and other programs aimed at reducing the tax burden for businesses operating within the state.
  • Credibility and Trust: Being a registered business in Illinois enhances your credibility and builds trust among customers, suppliers, and partners. Registration demonstrates your commitment to complying with state regulations and professionalism in conducting business.
  • Funding Opportunities: Registering your business opens doors to potential funding opportunities. Many lenders, investors, and grant programs require businesses to be registered before considering financial support. Registration can also improve your eligibility for government contracts and procurement opportunities.
  • Hiring Employees: Registering your business allows you to hire employees legally in compliance with state labor laws. It enables you to establish employee benefits, workers’ compensation, and unemployment insurance, fostering a stable work environment.
  • Permits and Licenses: Certain industries and activities require specific permits and licenses to operate legally. Registering your business in Illinois facilitates the application and acquisition of these necessary permits and licenses, ensuring compliance with state regulations.
  • Expansion and Foreign Markets: If you plan to expand your business beyond Illinois or engage in international trade, registration is typically a prerequisite. It allows you to operate in other states and facilitates compliance with federal regulations for exporting and importing goods.
  • Business Opportunities: Registering your business in Illinois grants access to a vibrant and diverse business community. It opens doors to networking events, business associations, and resources that can help you connect with other entrepreneurs, potential partners, and customers.

Remember, it’s important to consult with a qualified attorney or professional familiar with Illinois business laws and regulations to ensure proper compliance and to fully understand the specific benefits and requirements related to your business type and industry.

Is Business Registration Required in Illinois? Find Out Here

Operating a business in Illinois requires registration with the state, as most businesses are subject to registration requirements. The nature of the business, the type of business entity, and other factors may influence the specific registration requirements. Some common types of registration include obtaining an Illinois Sales and Use Tax Permit, registering an Illinois LLC or corporation, and acquiring professional licenses or permits for certain industries. Failure to comply with these registration obligations may result in legal and financial penalties.

How to Register Your Business in Illinois – Frequently Asked Questions

What Do I Need to Register a Business in Illinois?

To start a business in Illinois, you need to pick a business name, determine the legal structure that fits your business, and file the required documentation with the Illinois Secretary of State. The specific requirements may vary depending on the type of business you plan to launch, but typically, you’re required to file Articles of Incorporation or Articles of Organization, designate a registered agent, and acquire the necessary licenses or permits.

How Much Does It Cost to Register a Company in Illinois?

The cost of registering a company in Illinois depends on the legal structure and filings necessary for the business. For a Limited Liability Company (LLC), the filing fee for Articles of Organization is $150, while the fee for Articles of Incorporation for a corporation is $150. Additional fees may apply for any required permits or licenses.

Can a Foreigner Start a Business in Illinois?

Foreign entrepreneurs are permitted to start a business in Illinois, provided they satisfy the requisite legal criteria. Foreign business owners may be required to secure the necessary visas or work permits and register their businesses with the appropriate state and federal agencies. Foreign entrepreneurs must understand the legal and regulatory framework governing business operations in Illinois, including tax and employment laws, among others.

Do I Need to Register My Online Business in Illinois?

If you’re operating an online business in Illinois, you must understand the state’s registration requirements. Depending on the type of business and online activities, registration may be mandatory. While sole proprietors and partnerships may not need to register, corporations and LLCs are likely to require registration. Additionally, you may need to obtain certain permits and licenses, such as a sales tax permit from the Illinois Department of Revenue.

Given the complexity of Illinois’s regulatory environment, it’s advisable to seek the guidance of a qualified attorney or accountant to ensure compliance with all relevant laws and regulations.

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Bottom Line on How to Register Your Business in Illinois

Ensuring compliance with Illinois state laws and regulations is essential, requiring the accurate registration of your business. By carefully following the necessary steps and fulfilling the requirements, you establish a solid foundation for your business.

Selecting an appropriate business name and legal structure that aligns with the Illinois Secretary of State’s regulations is crucial. Additionally, filing the required documentation and obtaining any necessary licenses and permits specific to your industry and location is a must. Utilizing a business registration service like ZenBusiness can streamline the process, ensuring efficiency and meeting all obligations.

Accurately registering your business in Illinois is a preventive measure against potential legal and financial challenges, laying the groundwork for future success.

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Read about how to register a business in any US state:

About the author

Dr. Alexander Sterling, Esq, a distinguished legal scholar with a business law degree and a Doctor of Juridical Science, is a leading expert in business registration and diverse business departments. Renowned for his academic excellence and practical insights, Dr. Sterling guides businesses through legal complexities, offering invaluable expertise in compliance, corporate governance, and registration processes.

As an accomplished author, his forthcoming book is anticipated to be a comprehensive guide for navigating the dynamic intersection of law and business, providing clarity and practical wisdom for entrepreneurs and legal professionals alike. With a commitment to legal excellence, Dr. Alexander Sterling, Esq, is a trusted authority dedicated to empowering businesses within the ever-evolving legal landscape.