This post is for information only. You are responsible for reviewing and using this information appropriately. This content doesn’t contain and isn’t meant to provide legal, tax, or business advice. Requirements are updated frequently, and you should make sure to do your own research and reach out to professional legal, tax, and business advisers, as needed. Businesses outside of Maine will have different steps and requirements. To sell products using the Shopify platform, you must comply with the laws of the jurisdiction of your business and your customers, the Shopify Terms of Service, the Shopify Acceptable Use Policy, and any other applicable policies.
Maine can be an exciting place to launch and run a small business. There’s a bustling retail scene and thriving tourist industries up and down New England’s longest coastline. The state offers a number of financial benefits, including a microenterprise assistance program and state financial incentives to encourage new businesses. Aspiring small business owners in Maine can choose to structure their business in many ways. Among them is the limited liability company (LLC), which is perhaps the most versatile option. This guide will walk you through the essential steps of setting one up.
How to start an LLC in Maine
- Name your Maine limited liability company (LLC)
- Create a business plan
- Get a federal employer identification number (EIN)
- Choose a registered agent in Maine
- File for your Maine LLC Certificate of Formation
- Obtain business licenses and permits
- Understand Maine tax requirements
- Prepare an LLC operating agreement
- Examine business insurance options in Maine
- Understand financial considerations
- Market your LLC
What is an LLC?
A limited liability company, or LLC, is one of the most common business-entity types available for business owners in the United States (more than 35% of all businesses in the country are LLCs). One of the benefits of opting for this entity type are the legal protections it provides. Owners of LLCs, known as “members,” are not held financially responsible for the LLC’s business debts. Members are also insulated from most legal claims made against the LLC.
Is an LLC right for you?
The LLC isn’t the only business structure available to business owners in Maine. To figure out if the format is right for you and your business goals, consider the following:
- Do you have personal assets in need of protection? Forming an LLC in Maine can shield most or all of your personal assets from creditors or litigants in the event your business declares bankruptcy or is sued.
- Are you looking to limit your tax liability? LLCs are generally considered “pass-through” entities—meaning they are subject to a single round of taxation on members’ income (which incurs a personal income tax), as opposed to so-called “double taxation” (a corporate and income tax) that corporations incur. This means, by default, LLCs do not pay corporate taxes.
1. Name your Maine limited liability company (LLC)
Choosing a name for your LLC is one of the first crucial decisions you’ll make as a small business owner in Maine. It’s the key to building quality brand recognition. Your LLC name must communicate the business’s function and mission in a way that’s memorable and unique. There are specific Maine LLC naming guidelines:
- Your Maine LLC’s name must contain the words “limited liability company” or “limited company,” or an abbreviation thereof (“L.L.C.,” “L.C.,” “LLC,” or “LC”). The words “limited” and “company” may also be abbreviated as “Ltd.,” and “Co.,” respectively.
- The name must be distinguishable from any other company registered with the Maine Secretary of State’s office.
- The name may not have any obscene language, inappropriately promote “abuse of unlawful activity,” or falsely suggest an association with a public institution.
2. Create a business plan
Writing a business plan is an important step toward establishing any business, LLCs in Maine included. It can help you figure out your startup costs, projected profits, and capacity for overhead. Business plans can also help investors evaluate the viability of your business before funding it. A workable business plan includes your LLC’s name and a brief description of what you sell—a product, service, or perhaps both. It can also include a market analysis, an organizational structure outline, target customer profiles, and marketing, logistic, and financial plans.
3. Get a federal employer identification number (EIN)
A federal employer identification number (EIN) is a tax identification number. It’s a nine-digit number assigned to businesses by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to track tax obligations. It’s a lot like a Social Security number, but for your LLC. You’ll need one to register your LLC with state authorities in Maine. You can obtain one online through the IRS website, free of charge.
4. Choose a registered agent in Maine
The State of Maine requires you to appoint a registered agent for your LLC. A registered agent is an individual or business entity that is authorized to accept legal correspondence and official documents on your LLC’s behalf. You can appoint a member or employee of your LLC, or a third-party individual or service.
If you opt to appoint an individual, he or she must be a resident of Maine, and must be willing to include his or her name and local street address in the public records of your LLC. He or she must be available at the address listed during regular business hours. If you choose to appoint a service, it must have a physical address in the State of Maine and, as with individuals, be available to accept legal documents during regular business hours.
5. File for your Maine LLC Certificate of Formation
To formally establish your LLC in the State of Maine, you must file for a Certificate of Formation with the Secretary of State’s office. A satisfactory Certificate of Formation application will contain:
- Your LLC business name
- The date your LLC is effective
- Whether the LLC is a “low-profit LLC” (generally formed for charitable purposes) or a “professional LLC” (where the members offer a high-competency professional service, like accounting or legal advice)
- The name and address of your registered agent
- A signature of one or more of the members
In Maine, your application for a Certificate of Formation must be filed by mail, along with a filing fee of $175.
6. Obtain business licenses and permits
Maine does not require a general statewide business license. However, you may need to obtain certain licenses and/or permits depending on where your LLC is located and what kind of business it is engaged in. Local authorities, like the City of Portland or the City of Bangor, for example, require that you obtain a local business license. Businesses that are food service establishments, day cares, or retail businesses also require specialized permits.
7. Understand Maine tax requirements
LLCs in Maine may be taxed as corporations, limited liability partnerships, or single-member LLCs—which are taxed much like a sole proprietorship. Your LLC will assume different tax obligations depending on the tax status you elect. Taxes you may be responsible for as an LLC member include:
- Personal income taxes. Regardless of how you form your LLC—as a pass-through tax entity or corporation—you and your business partners will pay taxes on income earned through the LLC at your personal-income levels. The personal income-tax rate in Maine ranges from 5.8% for income under $24,500 ($49,050 for joint filers), to 7.15% for income over $58,050 ($116,100 for joint filers).
- Corporate taxes. If you elect to form your LLC as a corporation, the business will be responsible for taxes on all profits generated before they’re distributed to shareholders. Then, distributions are taxed again at the shareholders’ income levels. In Maine, the corporate tax rate ranges from 3.5% for income up to $350,000 to 8.93% for income in excess of $3,500,000.
Every Maine LLC is also required to file an annual financial report (that might include a balance sheet, income statement, and/or statement of cash flows), and pay a filing fee of $85. Additionally, retail businesses will need to pay a 5.5% sales tax, which is typically paid monthly to Maine Revenue Services.
8. Prepare an LLC operating agreement
An LLC operating agreement is a legal document that outlines how your Maine LLC intends to conduct business. Though operating agreements are not required by state or federal law, it can provide a helpful outline for internal operations and accountability because it lays out who does what and when. An operating agreement typically includes:
- Your LLC’s name and primary address
- How long you plan to run the LLC (perhaps indefinitely)
- Information on the LLC’s registered agent
- Information about the Certificate of Formation (the document that formally establishes your business in Maine)
- The business’s purpose and mission statement
- An organizational chart listing members and their respective investments
- How profits and losses are divided between LLC owners
- The process for admitting new members and offboarding outgoing ones
- An overall management plan
- Various indemnification and liability provisions
9. Examine business insurance options in Maine
Unexpected losses can break a new business. While LLCs offer a degree of personal asset protection in the event of financial difficulties, you may still want to purchase insurance to protect your business and its property. Standard policies available in Maine include:
- Workers’ compensation. State law in Maine requires that all businesses with employees to purchase workers’ comp—an insurance package covering injuries or illnesses workers suffer on the job.
- General liability insurance. General liability insurance provides broad, general coverage for your business, shielding against legal actions that may result from accidents, injuries, or negligence connected to the business or occurring on company property.
- Commercial property insurance. Commercial property insurance covers some or all of the costs associated with repairing or replacing property lost or damaged during operations. It can cover costs associated with fire, weather damage, or theft.
- Professional liability insurance. Professional liability insurance protects businesses that dispense high-competency professional services, like those in the fields of law, accounting, or real estate. This insurance covers potential damages if you’re hit with a malpractice suit.
- Cyber liability insurance. Data breaches and ransomware can harm your customers and your business’s reputation. Cyber liability insurance may be helpful if you have to inform customers about an attack, compensate them, or pay for credit monitoring for affected customers.
The Small Business Administration maintains a list of forms of insurance your Maine LLC may need.
10. Understand financial considerations
Insurance is only one expense essential to the early stages of launching an LLC in Maine. Other expenses might include renting an office, storage, or retail space, commissioning a professionally designed website, or paying for advertising, equipment, or software. You may also want to hire one or more lawyers, accountants, or other professionals. Because these costs can add up, you may be interested in accessible funding options, like Shopify Capital, which lets you repay funding as a percent of your store’s daily sales, so payments flex with your business. Consider also opening a business bank account to handle cash flow and overhead.
11. Market your LLC
Once you’re up and running, it’s time to market your new business. The purpose of marketing is to reach potential customers and turn them into repeat customers. A good marketing plan for your Maine LLC might include elements including:
- Market research. Understanding your LLC’s target customer is critical to its success. You can accomplish this by researching things like competitor products or services, customer profiles, and/or the economic history of your LLC’s particular market niche.
- Advertising and promotion. You may create and place ads yourself or hire an advertising agency. Traditional paid advertising may seem old-fashioned, but it can be a highly effective way to gain your brand notice.
- Social media. Successful businesses today must maintain an online presence across social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and more. Consistently publishing content on these platforms that aligns with your brand identity can garner more visibility in Maine, and even around the world.
- Public relations. Developing strong relationships with the press in Maine and nationally could bring valuable organic attention to your business.
- Customer retention. A strategy to retain customers may leverage your marketing materials, digital tools, and social media presence to build genuine relationships with customers. Those things help to turn them into repeat customers and encourage them to introduce friends and family to your brand.
Starting an LLC in Maine FAQ
How much does it cost to form an LLC in Maine?
Starting an LLC in Maine costs, at a minimum, $175—a fee that covers the filing fee for your Certificate of Formation.
Do you need a registered agent for your LLC in Maine?
Yes, all LLCs in Maine must nominate a registered agent or registered agent service for service of process. Whether you appoint an individual (including employees) or a service, they must be available during normal business hours at an in-state address.
How do LLC state taxes work in Maine?
Unless your LLC elects to be taxed as a corporation, earnings are taxed once at the personal income level of LLC members.