A primary reason to organize a business as a corporation or a limited liability company (LLC) is to protect the owners from personal liability for the debts of the business. Sometimes, however, a court may “pierce the corporate veil” of a business to hold the owners of the business personally liable for the company’s obligations.
In deciding whether to pierce the corporate veil, Indiana courts examine and weigh several factors, including whether the owners of the business have observed the required formalities for the particular form of organization. One of the reasons we generally favor LLCs for small businesses is that there are fewer required formalities for LLCs than for corporations, which in turn means that there is not only a lower administrative burden associated with LLCs, but also fewer opportunities for business owners to miss something. However, there are a few requirements, discussed below.
1. An Indiana LLC must have written articles of organization, and the articles must be filed with the Indiana Secretary of State .
There’s almost no need to mention this one because an LLC does not even exist until its articles of organization are filed with the Secretary of State, but for the sake of being complete . . .
The articles of organization must state:
- The name of the LLC, which must include “limited liability company,” “LLC,” or “L.L.C.”
- The name of the LLC’s registered agent and the address of its registered office (discussed in more detail below).
- Either that the LLC will last in perpetuity or the events upon which the LLC will be dissolved.
- Whether the LLC will be managed by its members or by managers. (Technically, the articles can remain silent on this point, in which case the LLC will be managed by its members, but the Secretary of State’s forms call for a statement one way or the other.)
2. An Indiana LLC must have a registered agent and a registered office within the State of Indiana.
The purpose of this requirement is to give people who sue the LLC a way to serve the complaints and summons. The registered office must be located within Indiana, and it must have a street address. A post office box is not sufficient. The registered agent must be an individual, a corporation, an LLC, or a non-profit corporation whose business address is the same as the registered office’s address.
The registered office and registered agent must be identified in the articles of incorporation and in the business entity reports (discussed below) filed every other year with the Indiana Secretary of State, but the requirement to have a registered office and registered agent applies all the time, not just when those filings are made. If the LLC’s registered agent resigns, the LLC must name a new one and file a notice with the Secretary of State within 60 days.
In addition, LLCs formed after July 1, 2014, are required to file the registered agent’s written consent to serve as registered agent or a representation that the registered agent has consented. That new requirement was established by Senate Bill 377, passed by the 2014 General Assembly and signed into law by the governor.
3. An Indiana LLC must keep its registered agent informed of the name, business address, and business telephone number of a natural person who is authorized to receive communications from the registered agent.
This is another new requirement contained in Senate Bill 377. It takes effect on July 1, 2014.
4. An Indiana LLC must maintain certain records at its principal place of business.
The required records are:
• A list of the names and addresses of current and former members and managers of the LCC.
• A copy of the articles of organization and all amendments.
• Copies of the LLC’s tax returns and financial statements for the three most recent years (or, if no tax returns or statements were prepared, copies of the information that was or should have been supplied to the members so they could file their tax returns).
• Copies of any written operating agreements and amendments, including those no longer in effect.
• A statement of all capital contributions made by all members.
• A statement of the events upon which members will be required to make additional capital contributions.
• The events, if any, upon which the LLC would be dissolved.
• Any other records required by the operating agreement.
[Note: Ind. Code 23-18-4-8(e) provides that the failure to keep the above records is NOT grounds for imposing personal liability on members for the obligations of the LLC. It’s more likely to become an issue in the event of a dispute among the members. Thanks to Josh Hollingsworth of Barnes & Thornburg for reminding me. MS:4/7/2014].
5. An Indiana LLC must file a business entity report with the Secretary of State every two years.
The report is due at the end of the month that contains an even-numbered anniversary of the filing of the articles of organization. Failure to file the report within 60 days of the due date is grounds for administrative dissolution of the LLC.
Businesses change over the years, and a limited liability company that was once in compliance with all legal requirements may drift out of compliance. An operating agreement that was once entirely appropriate may no longer be adequate. Is it time for a legal checkup of your LLC? If so, please contact us to schedule an initial consultation.