Do I Need a Registered Agent?

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When you register your business, you are required to have a registered agent.  A registered agent is a person or entity that is formally designated to receive service of process and official mail on behalf of your business.  The requirement comes from the idea of due process: if someone wants to sue your business, you’re entitled to notice of that lawsuit so that you can respond to it.  Having a registered agent is aimed at ensuring that you receive proper notification in such circumstances.  In a more day-to-day context, your registered agent receives notices from state regulatory agencies about required state filings and deadlines.

You can either hire a commercial registered agent or a non-commercial registered agent – like yourself.  I’ve encountered many business owners who have registered their business entity with the help of an online service and aren’t aware that they can serve as their own registered agent instead of paying a company to serve as their registered agent.  While cost may be one factor to consider when deciding whether to hire a commercial registered agent, there are certainly others to consider as well:

  • Privacy. If you are serving as your business’s registered agent, you may need to use your personal home address as the official address, which – when registered – is publicly available.  If you’d rather keep your home address private, a commercial registered agent may be a better choice.
  • No Set Location or Business Hours. A registered agent should be available during normal business hours to receive notices and service of process.  If you have an online business (and want to keep your home address private) or work irregular hours, you may need to hire a commercial registered agent who can be reached at a physical location during typical business hours.
  • Multiple Locations. If your business is registered in more than one jurisdiction/state and you are required to have a registered agent in each, you may not be able to serve as the registered agent in a state where you (as an individual) are not located.  In this case, you may be required to hire a commercial registered agent to be the registered agent in those jurisdictions.
  • Paperwork. Regardless of whether your business is registered in one or multiple states, you may not want to have to deal with receiving paperwork and would rather someone else keep track of notices and reminders of filing deadlines.  If that’s the case, it may be worth it to you to pay a commercial registered agent.

Many small business owners who are keen on saving money opt to serve as their business’s registered agent.  If you are in that boat, have normal business hours at a regular location, are registered and operate only in your home state/jurisdiction, and aren’t concerned about keeping your address private, this is an option for you.

In DC, business owners can serve as the registered agent for their own businesses, so long as they are located within DC.  State laws vary, so if you are outside DC, check the applicable rules in your state.

If you are wondering who your business’s registered agent is and don’t have your original or most recent registration paperwork handy, most jurisdictions have a publicly searchable online business entity database.  You can search online for your entity record and check to see who is listed as the registered agent.

Serving as your business’s registered agents can save you anywhere from $50 to a few hundred dollars per year, depending on the commercial agent you are using.  Even if you don’t serve as the business’s registered agent, you can also search around for a cheaper registered agent service – there are many out there.

If you have questions about registered agents, want assistance with changing your registered agent, or wish to engagement me for registered agent services for an annual flat fee, please contact me here.

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