What is a registered agent?
A registered agent is an individual or business entity who accepts tax and legal documents on your company’s behalf. Lawsuits must be served in person in many states, therefore hiring the right registered agent would make the business process clearer and more orderly.
Outsiders will know who to deliver papers to if your registered agent’s name and address are publicly available. And you can rest assured that any legal notices issued to your company will be handled by a single point of contact.
Most states require you to have a registered agent for your LLC. If they meet the state’s criteria, the agent can be a professional service, yourself, or a colleague.
Who needs a registered agent?
A registered agent, also known as a statutory agent or resident agent in some states, is required for any business that is registered with the state.
Businesses of the following types must appoint one:
- Limited liability companies
- Limited partnerships
- Limited liability partnerships
- Limited liability limited partnerships (not recognized in every state)
If you have one of these business types, you will be asked to name your registered agent when you incorporate or register your business. On your articles of incorporation or articles of organization, you should be able to designate your registered agent.
Because general partnerships and sole proprietorships are not registered with the state, they do not need to designate one. Of course, all businesses must comply with business tax obligations and respond to legal documents on time. However, for sole proprietorships and general partnerships, the government does not keep registered agent information on file.
What does a registered agent do?
Registered agents assist in ensuring that businesses receive the due process guarantees enshrined in the Constitution. Due process includes the legal right to be officially notified of a lawsuit or other legal matter filed against you or your company. Registered agents are the recipients of this notification, and they are responsible for informing the business entity of the proceedings against it.
Whether the legal documents are for an individual or a business entity, anyone serving the process must usually do so in person. Serving notice against a business usually entails going to an office and presenting the document to the registered agent, but this can happen wherever the registered agent has indicated that they will be during the workweek. Registered agents must be open for business—that is, accepting service of process—during business hours, which are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.
When the registered agent receives legal documents, they will send them to the business via email. Registered agents are expected to notify the business immediately of any new documents they receive.
If the initial email is not acknowledged, the registered agent should send additional emails or make a phone call. In some cases, such as when someone at the company needs to sign a document, it will be mailed as well.
Some registered agents offer additional services, such as document filing or notifying businesses of upcoming events, such as franchise tax filing deadlines.
The agent’s role may appear straightforward, but lawsuits, subpoenas, and notices frequently have strict deadlines. Missed deadlines can have legal and financial ramifications. As a result, it’s critical to have a responsible agent who can be relied on to relay information quickly.
Documents that a registered agent (also known as a “resident agent” or “statutory agent”) will receive on your behalf include:
- Correspondence between the federal and state governments
- Tax notices from the IRS and local tax authorities
- Subpoenas for information
- Summons to appear in court
- Wage garnishment notices when you are ordered to withhold a portion of your employee’s pay and send it directly to a person or organization to whom the employee owes money.
- Notifications of corporate filings
- Important paperwork will be delivered to your registered agent’s physical address (not a post office box) in the state where you conduct business.
Who can be a registered agent?
Most states allow an individual or a company that is at least 18 years old and a resident of the state to act as a registered agent for a business. Although an LLC or corporation cannot legally act as its own registered agent, many states allow an employee or an owner to do so.
The location of a registered agent is sometimes referred to as a “registered office,” and it must have office hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, at the address specified in your Articles of Incorporation or Organization. If your corporation or LLC has physical operations in other states, you must usually designate a registered agent in each of those states.