How to Incorporate in North Carolina (April 2024 Update)

Meow Technologies, Inc.

Meow Technologies, Inc.

North Carolina has earned a reputation as one of the best states in the country to start and operate a business. With business-friendly regulations, low corporate taxes, easy access to capital, and a skilled workforce, it’s no wonder entrepreneurs and startups are flocking to North Carolina to incorporate.

If you’re considering forming a corporation for your company in the Tar Heel State, you’ve made a smart choice. This comprehensive guide breaks down everything you need to know to legally establish your business in North Carolina.

Why North Carolina is a Top State for Business

There are many reasons North Carolina has a booming business economy:

Low Corporate Taxes

At just 3%, North Carolina has the lowest corporate tax rate in the country. This can translate to huge savings especially as your company grows.

Right-to-Work State

Under North Carolina’s labor laws, joining a labor union cannot be made a condition of employment. This gives both workers and corporations more flexibility.

Incentives for Business

The state offers competitive, performance-based economic incentive programs to qualifying industries including aerospace, aviation, biotechnology, and information technology among others.

Access to Capital

Entrepreneurial support programs and business competitions provide access to seed funding and angel investors to help get your new venture off the ground. Several top universities also foster innovative startups.

Talented Workforce

With strong university degree programs available in business, tech, healthcare, engineering and other critical areas, businesses can readily fill jobs with skilled talent.

Low Cost of Living

The cost of living in North Carolina’s metro areas is well below the national average while still offering an exceptional quality of life. This helps companies large and small maximize their budgets.

Steps to Incorporate in North Carolina

Now that you understand why so many businesses are eager to plant roots in North Carolina, let’s explore how to establish your corporation with the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office.

1. Choose a Business Name

Your first step will be brainstorming an official name for your company and checking that it’s available for use in North Carolina:

  • Come up with several name options that are unique, easy to remember, and accurately convey your business brand.
  • Check availability by searching the online database provided by the North Carolina Secretary of State. Verify that your desired names don’t conflict with any existing business names.
  • Register an available name you select by reserving it with the Secretary of State. Although optional, this prevents anyone else from using your name if you wait to complete the filing process.

Make sure your corporate name includes a required business structure signifier at the end such as Corporation, Incorporated, Company, or Corporation. Appropriate abbreviations like Corp. and Inc. also comply with state business name rules.

2. Designate a Registered Agent

Nearly all states require designating a registered agent on record to accept official documents and communications on behalf of your corporation when formally incorporating.

North Carolina requires naming a registered agent who has an in-state street address. Using a third-party provider can help you avoid listing your personal address in the public corporate records. It also prevents important legal notices or tax documents from being delivered to your business’s front door.

3. File Articles of Incorporation

The key document you must complete to legally form your corporation with the North Carolina Secretary of State is known as the Articles of Incorporation. You’ll need to include:

  • Your corporation's name including the required suffix
  • Principal office address
  • Mailing address
  • Name and addresses of all incorporators
  • Name and address of your registered agent
  • Primary purpose or mission
  • Total number of company shares authorized
  • Signature of an incorporator

The standard state filing cost for articles of incorporation is $125 which is due at the time of submission. Expedited review options are available for time-sensitive filings costing $100 or $200 additionally.

4. Create Corporate Bylaws

While not mandatory, crafting your corporation’s bylaws is highly recommended. These establish comprehensive rules for your company’s structure and governance to pre-empt any future issues. They will detail:

  • Process for appointing directors
  • Frequency of shareholder and board meetings
  • Policies for adopting resolutions
  • Quorum requirements
  • Officer positions and key responsibilities

Bylaws allow co-owners and senior management to understand their roles. Having these governance policies decided upfront also prevents potentially ugly disputes down the line as your company scales.

5. Appoint Directors

Initially the first company directors will need to be appointed by the incorporator. Then at the first official shareholder meeting, directors should be elected according to the process outlined in the corporate bylaws.

Directors elected to your corporation’s board make high-level decisions and bear the responsibility to act in the company’s best interest. They steer overall strategy as well as appoint and oversee officers.

6. Document Organizational Meeting

Before commencing normal business operations, your corporation must host an organizational meeting. During this pivotal first meeting the board:

  • Formally adopts the corporate bylaws
  • Appoints officers to manage daily business activities
  • Approves issuing shares to founder(s) in exchange assets invested
  • Sets fiscal year dates
  • Authorizes a corporate bank account to be opened

Minutes from this meeting establishing these foundation items are stored as important organization records that document your corporation’s inception.

7. Issue Stock Certificates (Optional)

When shareholders make capital contributions to the company, many corporations issue certificates as tangible proof of equity ownership. Printing impressive looking stock certificates remains optional but a nice goodwill gesture.

To raise additional funds from outside investors in exchange for shares of company ownership, corporations can sell stock. Just make sure to consult experienced legal counsel to ensure you comply with federal securities regulations if you seek private equity financing.

8. Seek Business Licenses

While North Carolina doesn’t require a general state business license, many permits and regulatory licenses could still apply to your particular industry:

  • Register for state tax IDs to collect and pay sales tax
  • If hiring employees, apply for unemployment insurance
  • Obtain county/city professional licenses
  • Seek industry-specific permits and regulatory approvals

Fortunately online tools like the Small Business Administration’s License Finder make it easier to determine which licenses might apply to your corporation based on location and business activities.

9. Obtain an EIN

An employer identification number (EIN) serves like a Social Security Number does for individuals, allowing your business to pay state taxes and hire employees.

While a separate state tax ID covers your sales and payroll tax obligations, the EIN uniquely identifies your business on federal tax documents.

Applying for an EIN is free through the IRS website. You can obtain an EIN instantly as a placeholder but should formally apply in the company’s legal name after approval of your incorporation papers.

10. Maintain Good Standing

Even once all your formation legalities are handled, your corporation must continually meet compliance requirements to remain authorized in North Carolina:

  • File an annual report and pay annual state fees
  • Report employee wages to fulfill unemployment insurance commitments
  • Pay all applicable North Carolina business taxes when due
  • Maintain comprehensive corporate records

Meow Technologies is a financial technology company, not a bank or FDIC-depository insured institution. Likewise, Meow Technologies is not an investment adviser and none of the information presented herein should be relied upon as financial advice or a recommendation to make any financial decision nor should it be considered to be tax or legal advice. The information is the opinion of Meow Technologies for educational purposes and may not be suitable for all companies. Products, like the one described herein, are offered through Meow Technologies and are not advisory services which are only offered through Meow Advisory, LLC.** The FDICs deposit insurance coverage only protects against the failure of an FDIC-insured bank.**

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Meow currently partners with three banking providers. Banking services are provided by Third Coast Bank SSB; Member FDIC, Grasshopper Bank, N.A; Member FDIC, and FirstBank, a Tennessee corporation; Member FDIC.

By opening a Maximum Checking account through Meow and if you choose to receive banking services provided by Grasshopper Bank, N.A, you deposit your funds into a deposit account at Grasshopper Bank, N.A. which sweeps those funds into deposit accounts across a network of Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”)-insured banks, for up to the current standard maximum deposit insurance amount (“SMDIA”) of $250,000 per eligible depositor, per destination institution, for each ownership capacity or category, subject to applicable terms and conditions, including Grasshopper's ICS Deposit Placement Agreement. Grasshopper Bank, N.A. uses a third-party vendor and agent to help administer this sweep process. Visit https://www.intrafi.com/network-banks/ for a list of the banks and savings associations with which we/Grasshopper, N.A. have a business relationship for the placement of deposits at destination institutions, and into which your deposits may be placed (subject to applicable terms with you, and any opt-outs by Grasshopper, N.A. or you). The current maximum deposit insurance amount for your funds is up to $125 million in FDIC insurance through the sweep network of Grasshopper Bank, N.A, subject to change at any time with notice from Meow and/or pursuant to applicable law. Terms and restrictions apply. Subject to applicable rate sheet. Interest rate on checking products quoted in Annual Percentage Yield (APY). Interest rates and yields are effective as per the date on the applicable rate sheet. See applicable terms and restrictions and refer to the applicable rate sheets for additional information.

By opening a Maximum Checking account through Meow and if you choose to receive banking services provided by Third Coast Bank SSB, you deposit your funds into a deposit account at Third Coast Bank SSB. If you also hold funds in a sweep program with Third Coast Bank SSB, Third Coast Bank SSB sweeps those funds into deposit accounts across a network of FDIC-insured banks, for up to the current SMDIA of $250,000 per eligible depositor, per receiving bank, for each ownership capacity or category, including any other balances you may hold at that receiving bank directly or indirectly through other intermediaries, including broker-dealers. Third Coast Bank SSB uses a third-party vendor and agent to help administer this sweep process. Visit Third Coast Bank SSB for a list of the banks and savings associations with which we/Third Coast Bank SSB have a business relationship for the placement of deposits at receiving banks, and into which your deposits may be placed (subject to applicable terms with you, and any opt-outs by Third Coast Bank or you). The current maximum deposit insurance amount for your funds is up to $50 Million in FDIC insurance through the sweep network of Third Coast Bank, subject to change at any time with notice from Meow and/or pursuant to applicable law. Terms and restrictions apply. Subject to applicable rate sheet. Interest rate on checking products quoted in Annual Percentage Yield (APY). Interest rates and yields are effective as per the date on the applicable rate sheet. See applicable terms and conditions and refer to the applicable rate sheet for additional information.

By opening a Maximum Checking account through Meow and if you choose to receive banking services provided by FirstBank, a Tennessee corporation, you deposit your funds into a deposit account at FirstBank, which sweeps those funds into deposit accounts across a network of FDIC-insured banks, for up to the current SMDIA of $250,000 per eligible depositor, per destination institution, for each ownership capacity or category, subject to applicable terms and conditions, including FirstBank's ICS Deposit Placement Agreement. FirstBank uses a third-party vendor and agent to help administer this sweep process. Visit IntraFi for a list of the banks and savings associations with which FirstBank has a business relationship for the placement of deposits at destination institutions, and into which your deposits may be placed (subject to applicable terms with you, and any opt-outs by FirstBank or you). The current maximum deposit insurance amount for your funds is up to $125 million in FDIC insurance through the sweep network of FirstBank, subject to change at any time with notice from Meow and/or pursuant to applicable law. Terms and restrictions apply. Subject to applicable rate sheet. Interest rate on checking products quoted in Annual Percentage Yield (APY). Interest rates and yields are effective as per the date on the applicable rate sheet. See applicable terms and restrictions and refer to the applicable rate sheet for additional information.

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FirstBank Funds Availability Notice

FirstBanks general policy is to allow you to withdraw funds deposited in your account on the first business day after the day we receive your deposit. Funds from electronic deposits will be available on the day we receive the deposit. In some cases, we may delay your ability to withdraw funds beyond the first business day. Then, the funds will generally be available by the SECOND business day after the day of deposit.