Skip to content

How to Form an LLC in South Carolina

How to Form an LLC in South Carolina
(Last Updated On: April 22, 2024)

Our content is reader-supported. We may earn a commission if you make a purchase through one of our links.


Embarking on the journey to establish a Limited Liability Company (LLC) in South Carolina demands a meticulous understanding of the regulatory landscape and procedural intricacies. To initiate this process seamlessly, prospective entrepreneurs must navigate the state’s legal requirements, adhere to filing protocols, and strategically structure their LLCs. 

From selecting a suitable business name to drafting a comprehensive operating agreement, each step plays a pivotal role in ensuring compliance and establishing a solid foundation for the business. 

This guide aims to provide a comprehensive roadmap, empowering individuals with the knowledge and resources necessary to navigate the complexities of initiating an LLC in South Carolina.

>> Get Started With ZenBusiness >>

Setting Up an LLC in South Carolina: Basic Steps

1. Naming Your South Carolina LLC Company

If you’ve chosen the LLC structure for your business, the next step is to select a suitable name for your new venture. However, this process is more intricate than merely brainstorming creative ideas. 

To begin, perform a thorough South Carolina LLC search to check if the names you prefer are already in use by authorized businesses in the state. If they’re, you’ll need to consider alternative options.

Furthermore, a name will be rejected if it closely resembles an existing one. To be considered distinguishable, names must be easily differentiable at a glance for consumers. For instance, if you plan to establish “Johnny Bravo’s Gym and Hair Salon” and there’s already a gym named “Johnny Bravo’s Gym” in South Carolina, your preferred name may be rejected due to its similarity to a protected designation.

Once you identify an available name, append one of the following LLC designations to it:

  • Limited Liability Company
  • Ltd. Liability Company
  • Limited Liability Co.
  • Ltd. Liability Co.
  • L.L.C. or LLC
  • L.C. or LC

The state mandates incorporating one of these formal designations into the name of every operating LLC.

After finalizing an available name and adding the chosen designation, consider reserving it for up to 120 days. This allows time for a nationwide trademark search to ensure no intellectual property conflicts arise later. Once the name clears the trademark search, proceed to trademark it, safeguarding your company’s intellectual property rights to prevent competitors from leveraging your brand.

Bonus Tip: If you prefer not to use the formal name in branding, you can register a “doing business as” (DBA) name, also known as a trade name. This is typically a less formal version of the legal name. For example, Coca-Cola is often marketed as Coke.

In South Carolina, DBAs cannot be registered with the secretary of state. Instead, ensure the DBA doesn’t conflict with existing names and promptly trademark it.

>> Choose Your South Carolina LLC Name With ZenBusiness >>

2. Choose a Designated Representative

Before initiating the formal registration of your business with the South Carolina Secretary of State, you must designate a representative for your enterprise. This selected representative, commonly known as a registered agent or agent for service of process, will be responsible for receiving government documents and legal paperwork on behalf of the LLC.

Your registered agent can be an adult resident of South Carolina or a company authorized to conduct business in the state. Regardless of the choice, the designated agent must maintain a physical street address within the state and be readily available to receive official correspondence during standard business hours. 

While you or another LLC member can serve as the registered agent, the business itself cannot act as its own agent.

>> Choose Your Registered Agent With ZenBusiness Today >>

3. Submit Articles of Organization

In South Carolina, the formation of an LLC involves the submission of Articles of Organization to the South Carolina Secretary of State.

These Articles must include the following details:

  • Name and designation of the LLC
  • Principal office address of the LLC
  • Name and address of the registered agent
  • Indication of whether the LLC is member-managed or manager-managed (if the latter, include managers’ names and addresses)
  • The effective date of the Articles (if different from the filing date)
  • Declaration of whether the LLC is perpetual or has a specific term end date
  • Name and address of one or more LLC organizers, along with their signatures

Filing can be done online or by mail, with a filing fee of $110 payable by check for mail submissions or credit card for online filings.

Registration for Foreign LLCs

If an LLC, originally formed in a state other than South Carolina, plans to conduct business in the state, it must register with the South Carolina Secretary of State. The process involves the following steps:

  • Adhere to South Carolina’s LLC naming restrictions and verify name availability through the Secretary of State Business Name Search.
  • Appoint a registered agent in South Carolina.
  • Submit an Application for a Certificate of Authority to Transact Business to the South Carolina Secretary of State via postal mail (online filing isn’t available). The filing fee is $110.

Include either a Certificate of Good Standing or Certificate of Existence from the LLC’s home state, dated no more than 30 days prior to the application.

>> File Your Articles of Organization With ZenBusiness Now >>

4. Obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Regardless of whether you plan to employ individuals for the day-to-day operations of your South Carolina LLC, obtaining a federal employer identification number (EIN) is a crucial step.

Despite its name suggesting a focus on employee hiring, the EIN serves broader purposes for LLCs, akin to how individuals use Social Security numbers (SSNs). Similar to SSNs, each EIN is unique to the business entity that applies to it.

The IRS, banks, and entities interested in checking your company’s credit will utilize the EIN to confirm the corporate identity of your LLC. It’s essential to note that you cannot proceed with filing your South Carolina business tax application until the EIN is secured.

Insider Tip: Owners of single-member LLCs have the option to use their SSNs instead of EINs for all business purposes except for hiring employees. However, opting for an EIN for business purposes is advisable as it safeguards your SSN’s privacy and helps maintain a clear distinction between your company finances and personal finances.

>> Secure Your EIN With ZenBusiness >>

5. Create an LLC Operating Agreement

Although not legally required when establishing an LLC in South Carolina, crafting a comprehensive operating agreement is highly advisable for all new limited liability companies.

The operating agreement should:

  • Outline the LLC’s business structure
  • Define the individual responsibilities and obligations of LLC members
  • Specify how the LLC will be managed

When properly executed, the operating agreement serves as a legally binding contract between you and your fellow LLC members. Clearly defining key aspects of your LLC’s operation can prevent internal conflicts and legal disputes in the future. 

Since the operating agreement is a contractual document, it’s crucial to have a lawyer review its terms before signing to avoid potential complications arising from seemingly minor language choices.

An LLC without a well-defined operating agreement outlining member duties may encounter significant legal and operational challenges.

>> Draft Your LLC Operating Agreement With ZenBusiness Today >>

6. Submit Annual Report for South Carolina

For LLCs classified as either a C corporation or an S corporation, an initial report must be submitted within 60 days of the formation using Form CL-1. Subsequently, an annual report is required to be filed concurrently with the LLC’s state tax return each year.

In contrast, LLCs classified as disregarded entities or partnerships are exempt from the obligation to file an annual report.

>> Secure Your LLC Annual Report Now with ZenBusiness >>

Upon the registration of an LLC, members must actively address ongoing legal obligations throughout the company’s existence.

Complete Registration with the South Carolina Department of Revenue

Certain LLCs conducting business in South Carolina must register with the South Carolina Department of Revenue. This requirement applies to LLCs engaged in activities such as collecting sales tax on retail goods and services or those with permanent employees.

To register your LLC for state tax payments, utilize the South Carolina Business One Stop website for online registration.

Secure State and/or Local Business Licenses

Although there is no specific South Carolina state business license, certain LLCs operating within the state may need to obtain one or more state and/or local occupational licenses, permits, or certifications. This is particularly relevant if their business type is regulated or if the local government mandates such licensing.

For details on occupational licenses in the state, consult the South Carolina Business One Stop website. If you require further guidance on meeting local licensing requirements, reach out to a city clerk in your municipality.

>> Simplify Your Business License Needs With ZenBusiness Now >>

8. South Carolina LLC Tax Filing Obligations

Remaining informed about South Carolina LLC taxes is crucial. Depending on your business type, you may need to register for various tax categories:

Sales Tax

For those selling physical products, obtaining a seller’s permit through the South Carolina Department of Revenue website is typically necessary.

South Carolina’s base state sales tax is 6%, with counties authorized to add an additional local sales tax of up to 1%.

Employer Taxes

If your business involves hiring employees, registration for both the Unemployment Insurance Tax with the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce and Employee Withholding Tax with the Department of Revenue is required.

Income Tax

  • State: Individual income taxes in South Carolina vary from 0% to 6.5%, depending on your LLC’s income. State tax returns are due annually by April 18. For tax calculation or determining your tax bracket, refer to the South Carolina Department of Revenue website.
  • Federal: Reporting federal income tax obligations is necessary, utilizing either Form 1065 (multi-member LLC) or Form 1040 Schedule C (single-member LLC).

Hiring Employees in South Carolina

For compliant employment practices in your South Carolina LLC, adhere to these steps:

  • Verify new employees’ eligibility to work in the US
  • Report employees as “new hires” to the state
  • Provide workers’ compensation insurance for employees
  • Withhold employee taxes
  • Display workplace compliance posters visibly in your workspace

>> Simplify Your Tax Needs With ZenBusiness >>

9. Create an Accounting Plan

Maintaining thorough business records is crucial for informed decision-making regarding your company’s expenditures. Consider either investing in accounting software or establishing a collaborative relationship with a small business accountant.

While reliable accounting software is user-friendly and cost-effective for small operations, be mindful of its limitations before committing. It may not assist in crafting a tax strategy or financial goals for your LLC, nor can it provide personalized advice on achieving those objectives—something an accountant can offer. 

If you aim to maximize your business potential, opting for accounting services might be a more advantageous route than relying solely on software.

10. Secure a Business Insurance Policy

Protect your personal assets from seizure in the event of financial setbacks, such as lawsuits, fines, or debt, by structuring your company as an LLC. However, safeguard your business’s financial well-being in cases of criminal activity, natural disasters, or lawsuits by investing in comprehensive insurance coverage.

Don’t risk losing everything you’ve worked hard to build due to a lack of insurance. Consult with an insurance specialist who specializes in various types of small business insurance to explore your coverage options. Your future self is likely to appreciate this proactive step.

>> Explore Comprehensive Business Insurance With ZenBusiness in South Carolina >>

11. Implement an Effective Marketing Strategy

Without a successful marketing strategy, potential customers may remain unaware of your business offerings and how to contact you. If you’re uncertain about initiating effective marketing in South Carolina, consider reaching out to the state’s Chamber of Commerce or a local business mentor, often available at no cost.

Regardless of your chosen marketing approach, ensure you have a strong domain name, a user-friendly website, and a social media presence. Even small, local businesses benefit from a robust online presence, as the internet has largely replaced the need for phone books. When consumers seek to connect with your company, even if they reside nearby, they’re likely to go online for contact information.

>> Market Your South Carolina LLC With ZenBusiness >>

Ways to Create an LLC: South Carolina Options

Before delving into the steps for formation, it’s crucial to identify the most fitting method for establishing your Limited Liability Company in South Carolina.


For budget-conscious entrepreneurs, the DIY option may be the best choice. Abundant information in this guide and on the South Carolina Secretary of State’s website allows for independent completion of the process, particularly for straightforward LLCs.

Using an LLC Formation Service

Entrepreneurs in South Carolina, especially those pressed for time, can opt for online LLC services that specialize in handling necessary documentation. Despite a modest cost, these services often justify their value by offering guaranteed acceptance, assistance with EIN application, registered agent services, and help with drafting an operating agreement.

Customizable options provide flexibility to choose a service that aligns with specific needs.


You can leave the paperwork worries behind when partnering with ZenBusiness. This company provides an extensive range of LLC services, primarily dedicated to ensuring your business is established accurately, with the necessary paperwork completed and promptly submitted to the relevant state government department. 

While ZenBusiness does have service charges, customers often find it to be a worthwhile investment, delivering excellent value for their money.

>> Try Out ZenBusiness >>

Northwest Registered Agent

Navigating state-mandated paperwork can be perplexing for new business owners, but Northwest Registered Agent provides business services to assist in locating, accurately filling out, and submitting the required documents promptly to the government agency. Additional services, such as registered agent services, can be highly beneficial for new business proprietors.

>> Start Using Northwest Registered Agent >>


Incfile serves as a valuable resource for first-time business owners, guiding them in determining the type of business to establish. Beyond guidance, Incfile aids in document preparation and filing procedures, making concepts like a registered agent, articles of organization, and EIN more accessible. The company boasts a strong reputation and positive online reviews.

>> Try Incfile Now >>  

How to Start an LLC in South Carolina – FAQs

What Is an LLC?

A limited liability company combines the ease and flexibility of a partnership or sole proprietorship structure with the enhanced risk protection of a corporate setup. Similar to corporate shareholders, owners of an LLC, referred to as “members,” benefit from limited liability. This means that their personal liability is restricted to their invested capital and doesn’t extend to cover corporate losses or debts.

By default, LLC members pay taxes based on personal income, similar to the taxation structure of sole proprietorships or general partnerships—commonly known as a “pass-through” tax structure. An LLC can choose to be taxed as a C corporation (C-corp) or S corporation (S-corp) if it meets specific requirements. Many small business owners opt for LLCs due to their simplicity and flexibility.

What Is the Cost of Establishing an LLC in South Carolina?

Establishing a South Carolina LLC incurs a fee of $110, and foreign LLCs pay the same amount to obtain a certificate of authority to conduct business in South Carolina.

How Long Does It Take To Get Approval for an LLC in South Carolina?

Online filings are quicker than paper filings, with the potential for approval on the same day or the next business day.

Is There a Tax on LLCs in South Carolina?

South Carolina doesn’t impose a franchise tax on its businesses. Since LLCs are typically treated as “pass-through business entities,” they’re not subject to corporate tax unless they choose to be taxed as a C-corporation. LLC owners pay taxes on business profits as part of their personal income tax filings.

What Is the Duration of the LLC Registration Process?

The state estimates that the processing time for registration documents is only a few days. After submitting the articles of organization, the secretary of state’s office will review them. Once the officials approve the form, the existence of the LLC will be recognized at the state level. 

This allows the lawful opening of the LLC for business as soon as any other applicable licensing requirements are met.

Is There an Annual Fee for South Carolina LLCs?

Most South Carolina LLCs are not required to submit annual reports or pay annual fees. Only foreign LLCs authorized to conduct business in South Carolina must submit a modest annual fee along with an application for the renewal of that authorization.

>> Launch Your South Carolina LLC With ZenBusiness Now >>

About the author

Dr. Gabriel O'Neill, 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. O'Neill 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. Gabriel O'Neill, Esq., is a trusted authority dedicated to empowering businesses within the ever-evolving legal landscape.