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What is a Registered Agent?

Registered Agent

A registered agent, also known as a statutory agent or process agent, can be thought of as the official contact for a business’s company and compliance obligations.  A registered agent is designated to receive all official legal and tax papers for your business, from reminders of returns due to Service of Process notices if your business is being sued.

Registered Agent

 When to have a registered agent?

Most states require you to register your business for trade, whether it’s a partnership, an LLC, or a corporation.  They also require you to have a physical address in that state where they can serve notices during business hours.  This holds if you are forming a new company or registering an existing company to trade in another state (known as foreign qualification).

You might not have physical premises in every state you trade in, and that’s when you definitely require a registered agent. However, even if you do have physical premises, consider a third-party as your registered agent.  You can’t be at your premises all the time, and you also probably don’t want to be served notices in front of your staff or customers.

Who can be a registered agent?

A registered agent can be any individual (including the business owner), or a business approved by the state, and must:

  • Have a physical address in the state of incorporation or qualification.
  • Be available at that address during standard business hours.
  • Agree to make that address publicly accessible via the company’s formation or qualification records, which are a matter of public record.

Most commonly, registered agents are CPAs, attorneys, or corporate directors.  Small business owners are generally advised not to act as their own registered agents unless they are fully conversant with the rules governing registered agents and legislative changes.

Many services offer businesses a single interface with their head office while having physical offices in multiple states.  So, you don’t have to deal with multiple agents if you trade in different states.

What can you expect from a registered agent?

A competent and professional registered agent will receipt and promptly forward all notices to maintain good standing with all state and federal bodies.  Many registered agency businesses will offer additional services, such as:

  • compliance requirements and deadline reminders
  • document storage
  • filing services
  • status updates

Failure to appoint a registered agent could result in penalties in the form of fines, or inability to access state courts and enter into legal contracts.  When selecting a registered agent, seek references from existing customers and fully understand the costs involved for each service you contract.

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