The business formation process can be confusing, especially when you’re forming your first company.
First, you need to choose from numerous legal structures for your company, which will have different implications on how your company is taxed and how much liability protection you have as an individual. Plus, all of the paperwork required when forming a business can be quite stressful, and the smallest mistake can delay things or end up costing you a lot of money.
Therefore, when you’re starting a company, keeping things simple is key. The less complex the setup process is, the easier it will be for you to get going and focus on what matters most: growing your business! Fortunately, there are a few good companies that specialize in helping people form LLCs. Some of the best company formation platforms include ZenBusiness, Incfile, and doola.
In this article, we will go over each of these services, so that you can choose the one that makes the most sense for you, your budget, and your business.
The first thing to understand is that there are different types of business structures that you can use for your company. Your business structure will dictate how your company is taxed and how much liability protection you have as an individual. Here, we’ll look at two different business structures: Limited Liability Company (LLC) and C-Corporation.
A limited liability company (LLC) is a hybrid between a corporation and a partnership. It provides protection against personal assets and is generally considered a "flow-through" tax structure. That means income and expenses are "passed through" to the owners and reported on their individual tax returns. Business owners of the LLC are not taxed directly on company profits.
A C-corporation is a separate taxable business entity from its owners. Unlike an LLC, the owners of a corporation are taxed on the profits of the business. C-corporations are also required to distribute profits to shareholders as dividends. Corporations also have more stringent formation requirements, and they are much more expensive to form compared to LLCs.
For the purposes of this article, we will be looking exclusively at forming an LLC and we will not be going over C-Corp formation services. There are several companies that specialize in helping people form corporations, but that is beyond the scope of what we will be looking at in this guide. So, without further ado, let’s look at ZenBusiness, Incfile, and doola, and see what these companies are, what they offer, and how much they charge to help you form an LLC.
ZenBusiness has been around since 2015 and it is one of the most popular platforms for forming LLCs. The company also offers numerous other services to help entrepreneurs get their new businesses up and running. ZenBusiness also offers tax preparation and payment solution services.
ZenBusiness is a platform that specializes in the formation of companies. They help people take care of the paperwork involved with forming LLCs and Corporations. ZenBusiness also offers additional services to help founders take care of the legal aspects of forming a company.
The cost of forming an LLC with ZenBusiness really all depends on which forms you need to complete and which additional services you require.
For the purposes of this article, we are going to assume that you need everything including a registered agent, an EIN plus business documents, an operating agreement with bylaws, as well as state report filing.
So, with ZenBusiness, all of these formation packages will cost you approximately $770 + state fees, which differ according to the state you’re forming your company in.
These costs are broken down as follows:
As mentioned, ZenBusiness does offer a number of additional services which may be of interest to people who are forming a company. Some of these services include a business name search service, a business name registration service, a business website builder, a domain name registration service, business plan preparation, and payment and banking solutions.
Of course, each of these extra services comes at a cost. That said, some people prefer to get everything they need in one place, and for such people, ZenBusiness can be a convenient one-stop shop for everything you need to get your small business up and running. If you have the budget to afford ZenBusiness, and all of its extra services, then this may very well be an ideal solution for you.
Related reads: ZenBusiness vs LegalZoom: Which is best for LLCs?
Incfile is one of the oldest and most established platforms for forming an LLC or corporation. The company has been around since 2004 and has helped more than 250,000 businesses get registered and formed. They have a strong reputation for being a reliable service and are well respected in the business community.
Incfile is another platform that helps people form LLCs and Corporations. Like ZenBusiness, Incfile also offers additional services that may be of interest to founders and CEOs. You can think of the Incfile as a middleman between your company and the government. They help you with the paperwork to get your business up and running legally in the US.
Incfile is a great value, there’s no denying that. In fact, the basic service to register your LLC is completely free with Incfile, you only pay for the state fees associated with forming your company.
That said, basic filing service means just that: basic service. This does not include any of the other things you’ll need to form your LLC such as an operating agreement, an EIN, your business documents, your by-laws, or state report filing. If you want the full package as described above, then you’ll need to upgrade to one of Incfile’s paid packages which include the gold package and the platinum package.
The gold package is $199 and includes an EIN, an operating agreement (minus by-laws), and phone and email customer support, as well as a few other things. The platinum package is $299 and includes everything in the gold package as well as expedited processing and a domain name and business email address.
It’s worth noting that neither of these premium packages includes state report or annual report filing. However, Incfile does offer a free registered agent service for one year, when you sign up for a gold or platinum package, which is a great value, especially for non-US residents who require that service.
Incfile offers a ton of extra incorporation services that may be of interest to people who are looking to form an LLC or corporation.
Some of the extra services available from Incfile include the following:
As is the case with ZenBusiness, if you want to take advantage of these extra services then you will need to pay a premium. These services can come in very handy, especially if you are forming your first company and don’t want to deal with the hassle of completing all of these forms.
That said, you will need to include a decent chunk of your budget for these added services if you plan on getting them all through Incfile. This may very well be worth it for you, but if you’re on a tight budget, then there may be more cost-effective solutions available on the market.
doola prides itself on being a cost-effective way for US and non-US founders to start, manage, and grow their US-based LLCs.
With a 4.8/5 star rating on Trustpilot customer reviews, you can trust doola to get your LLC in good standing and provide fast turnaround times.
doola also includes a number of important services that are normally sold at an extra cost by ZenBusiness and Incfile, making doola a great value, especially for non-residents and people who are forming their first company.
doola is a user-friendly platform that specializes in helping people form an LLC and run the admin side of their business — like bookkeeping, taxes, and government filings. Unlike the other two platforms, doola focuses on forming your LLC quickly for founders around the globe. Because we deal primarily with forming LLCs, you can trust the team at doola to get things right and set up your LLC in accordance with state law.
As mentioned, Incfile is a great option if you already have all of your documents, and you don’t require any additional services. However, most people looking to form an LLC do require all of these documents and services.
doola charges $197 + state filing fees to form an LLC and get 1 year of Registered Agent service. On the surface, this sounds like the most expensive of the three options, but the thing is that doola offers all of the additional services for free. That means with doola you get your EIN plus business documents, your Operating Agreement with By-laws, state report filing, and a registered agent for one year, all for the one payment of $197 + state fees.
As such, with doola, you are saving a minimum of $102 plus the cost of the state report filing fees compared with Incfile, and you're saving more than $500 compared with ZenBusiness. Therefore, there can be no debate about it, doola is the hands-down winner when it comes to the cost of forming an LLC.
These services have an additional fee as they are optional packages you can choose from after you’ve already formed your LLC. However, considering how much money you are saving with doola compared to ZenBusiness or Incfile, you may be able to afford all of these services for the same price you would pay just for forming your LLC with ZenBusiness.
All of the platforms we’ve been looking at in this article are viable options with good processing times. Whether you’re a startup, service provider, or ecommerce store owner, all three of these platforms may be a good option. They can all help you set up your LLC and they all offer some additional services that may be of interest to you as a business founder.
To some extent, it really all depends on what extra features you’re looking for, but because this article is primarily about forming an LLC, we have to give the edge to doola.
Not only is doola the most cost-effective out of all the business formation services, but we also have world-class customer service and support. Many “extra” features and services are also included with doola, which means that the service is a tremendous value. This is especially true for non-residents because doola offers a registered agent service for free for the first year.
All things considered, forming an LLC can be a complicated and stressful process. If you make any errors when forming your LLC then you risk lengthy delays, rejections, or fines and penalties. As such, it’s almost always best to leave it to the pros. We hope this article helped you decide what the best LLC formation service is for you!