You can start and run a US LLC from anywhere worldwide for a ridiculously low cost because you can do all the necessary activities yourself. This is not a clickbait title.
This article will guide you in starting your own US LLC for as little money as possible. We will delve into:
- How to hire a registered agent (this is the only service you need to pay)
- How to prepare your incorporation documents
- How to submit your articles of organization to the Secretary of State (and pay the state fee)
- How to get an EIN for free
- How to open a bank account remotely for free and link it with Stripe
- How to run your accounting for free
- How to prepare your tax returns and submit them to the IRS
- How to submit your annual report to the Secretary of State (this is the only state fee you need to pay)
Now you may be wondering: “Wait, doesn’t Neubase run administrative work for foreign-owned US LLCs for a fee? Why do you tell us how to do your work for almost free?
We do this because we want to work with entrepreneurs who want peace of mind in running their companies. Our clients want to ensure that everything goes smoothly in terms of compliance. That’s where we shine.
If our subscription fee is too much for you and you want to try for less, you are not our ideal client. If you understand US LLCs enough to ensure your compliance yourself, you are not our ideal client either. And, this article is for you.
You will notice that you may slip in many places, and that’s the harsh reality when you take care of your compliance yourself. However, we will point out all the slippery slopes in this article to warn you about the costly legal mistakes you may make.
Now we will get into the nitty-gritty of incorporating a US LLC almost for free for foreign owners. And, you know how much we love Wyoming.
How to Hire a Wyoming Registered Agent for $25 a Year
You must hire a registered agent for your business. You need to put their name in the Articles of Organization to receive the mail on your behalf.
Click here for the cheapest Wyoming registered agent we are aware of (NOT an affiliate link). Their service costs only $25 a year.
Keep in mind that for this price you’ll get only the right to include their names on your incorporation documents. They won’t register your company unless you pay additional fees.
That’s how registered agents’ offices work. They charge a small fee to get you in, and then upsell other services.
Remember to choose only a registered agent service here because you’ll do all the work yourself.
If you google this, you’ll notice that some services offer you free incorporation plus state fees. That sounds cheap until you see their prices from the second year onwards. These services try to lure you into their user base and sell you more expensive services once you have incorporated the company.
We want to run the company for as cheap as possible, so we will avoid them.
How to File for Incorporation of Your Wyoming LLC
You have a registered agent, so now you can register your company.
Click on this link to start.
Now click on the Start button. Once you click it, you have 30 minutes to finish the incorporation (it will take less than that).
On the next page, choose Limited Liability Company (Domestic) in the drop-down menu. Then choose None as the additional designation.
Finally, check the checkbox at the bottom and click Next.
On the next page, you’ll choose your name.
Make sure to check out the name lookup to ensure that you have not chosen a name that is in use already. If you have such a name, your filing will be refused and you’ll lose the state fees you’ve paid for the incorporation.
Add LLC at the end of the name.
Click Next and you’ll choose the effective date of the LLC. Leave it blank and click Next if you want your LLC to be effective the same day.
On the next page add the details about your registered agents. Write the details in the fields, click Search and you’ll get a list of names to choose from. Choose yours and the rest of the fields will fill automatically.
Then check the checkbox at the bottom of the page and click Next.
Next, you have to choose your company address and mailing address. You’ll use your registered agent address, so include the one they’ll provide to you.
On the next page, you’ll add details about the organizers of the LLC, which means your details.
If you are two or more co-founders, add the details of all of you.
The next page is about additional articles, but you don’t need those. Simply click next.
The following page is an overview of all the information you have provided. You need to confirm it. Click next, and then on the following page check all the checkboxes and add your details for signing.
These details will be published in the public records. You can choose someone else to file for you to keep your privacy, but if you take the do-it-yourself route, there is no LLC member privacy.
On the last page, you need to pay the state fee for incorporation. It costs $100 (plus $2 for paying online). There is no way around the state fees. We know you are a scrappy entrepreneur, but this one must be paid.
Once you pay it, you can download your articles of organization on the next page.
You’ll need these articles to open a bank account. You’ll also need an Operating Agreement for the bank, even if you are a single founder.
The operating agreement is the contract between founders about how they’ll operate the LLC, who will have how much of the company, how to distribute the profits, and so on. If you are two or more, it is recommendable to have one signed.
LLC University has a free operating agreement template that you can use (make a copy here).
Keep the Articles of Organization and the Operating Agreement for opening a bank account.
Before heading to the bank, you need to obtain an EIN.
How to Get an EIN for Your US LLC for Free
The IRS does not charge fees to obtain an EIN. It may cost money only if you hire someone else to get it for you.
Remember that you don’t need to be a US citizen or to have SSN or ITIN to obtain an EIN. The EIN os for the company only.
To obtain it, you need to file an SS-4 form with the IRS.
Fill it out and sign it with Docusign (or another free electronic signature). The instructions for filling it out are on this link.
Then file it with the IRS in one of the following two ways:
- By postal mail to the following address:
Internal Revenue Service
Attn: EIN International Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999
- By fax (or efax service) on 304-707-9471
Obviously, filing the SS-4 over efax is the fastest way to get an EIN.
It is normal to wait 2-5 weeks to hear back from the IRS.
If you are impatient, after two weeks you can call them on the phone and ask for the EIN. There is usually a long waiting line on the phone (often over two hours wait), but once you get an operator on the phone you could give them details about the SS-4 and maybe they will give you the EIN right away over the phone.
Even if you get it like that, though, you still have to wait for the EIN letter, because it is the EIN letter that the banks require for opening an account with them.
And once, you have it, it is time to get a bank account and a Stripe account.
How to Open an Online Bank Account for Free and Link it with Stripe
There are a few banks that work with foreigners who run companies from abroad. Mercury is your best bet. It is free to open an account and most of the money transfers are free. They make money from each transfer, but not from you.
You’ll need to go through their Know-Your-Customers procedures, which include sending them a photo of your passport, a selfie, and other details. They will also want to see that you have a legit business, so a website and social media profiles will help.
They usually approve the accounts on the same day. You can also order a physical debit card to your home address.
Then, you can connect your Mercury account with Stripe.
Stripe has its own Know Your Customers procedures and you’ll have to go through it all over again.
There is one difference between Mercury and Stripe account signing up: Stripe requires a US phone number. If you want it for free, use the TextPlus app. It provides a free US phone number. You can buy credits to make calls later on.
Now you have a bank account and a Stripe account. Your business is fully operational.
How to Set Up Your Accounting for Free
Although bookkeeping and accounting are not obligatory by the law, you’ll need to have your books set straight for preparing the tax returns.
There are two ways to do your accounting for free:
- In Google Sheets, or
- Zoho Books.
You need some accounting knowledge to keep your books up-to-date. If you don’t have accounting knowledge there are resources online where you could learn if you have the time and energy to invest. That’s the only way to keep the costs of running your business extremely low.
How to Prepare Your Tax Returns and Submit Them to the IRS
We don’t know how to prepare tax returns. We have a professional do it for us because the IRS fines for wrongful tax returns and or returns submitted after the deadline is $25.000 for each violation (with letters: twenty-five thousand US dollars per violation).
This is why we have included IRS tax returns in our Neubase Managed package.
But, you want to save money, so you want to prepare them yourself.
If you run a single-member LLC, you need to file:
The deadline for filing the tax returns is in March or April every year for the taxes of the previous calendar year.
Even though you likely won’t pay any taxes in the US, you must file the tax returns properly to avoid the $25.000 penalties.
How to Submit Your LLC Annual Report
In Wyoming, you need to submit your annual report every year before the first day of the month when your LLC was incorporated.
If your LLC was incorporated on 12 May 2023, you must file the annual report by 1 May every following year. If your LLC was incorporated on 29 July 2023, you must file the annual report by 1 July every following year. You get the idea.
If you are late with the annual report, your company will become inactive. You can reactivate in the next two years for a fee. If you fail to reactivate it in the following two years, it will be closed by the state.
You can submit the annual report yourself on this link.
Click on File or Print Your Annual Report Now.
On the next page, submit your filing number. You’ll find it in the header of your Articles of Organization (this is not the EIN).
On the following pages you will be asked for your basic business details and to pay the annual state fee, which is $60 (plus $2 for online payment fees).
To sum it up, you need to pay:
- In the first year – a $102 incorporation state fee and a $25 yearly subscription for a registered agent, which is $127 in total, and
- From the second year and onwards – a $62 annual state fee and a $25 yearly subscription for a registered agent, which is $87 in total costs for keeping your business alive.
That’s the cheapest you could get by.
It is cheaper than our $590 yearly subscription fee, but it brings risks for:
- Having your incorporation submission refused due to an unavailable name or wrongfully filled-out business details
- Late annual report, which may deactivate your company
- Wrongful tax returns, which may lead to $25.000 fines by the IRS
If you want to avoid the risks and have peace of mind while running your global business, we can help. Schedule a 30-minute free consultation where you can ask anything you want to know about US companies and we will answer you. The consultation does not mean an obligation to hire us.