The BizFilings blog covering business tips and trends.
The Registered Agent: The Most Important Person You Have Not Met
Published on Dec 12, 2012
When incorporating a business or registering a company, the registered agent is required by the state to receive documents on your behalf.
If you don’t know what a registered agent is, how do you know if you need one? You’re not alone if you’re scratching your head right now. Many—maybe even most—new business owners haven’t heard of or thought about a registered agent. But a registered agent can be critical to keep your business in good standing, so it’s time for introductions.
Most simply, a registered agent is a person or business that receives important legal and tax documents on behalf of a business. These documents include important mail sent by the state (such as annual reports or statements), forms or documents sent by the department of taxation, and Service of Process (sometimes called Notice of Litigation), which initiates a lawsuit. When incorporating a business or registering an existing company to transact business in any state (a process called foreign qualification), the state of incorporation or qualification requires you to have a registered agent.
But before you write your name in the blank space, keep in mind that states have certain requirements about who can be a registered agent. Registered agents must:
have a physical address within the state of incorporation
be available at that address during normal business hours
Post office boxes and private rented mailboxes are not allowed. Also, a registered agent’s address is a matter of public record. If a state does not require a company’s legal address on formation or qualification documents, the registered agent’s address is the only address on file with the state for that company.
Small businesses may want to consider how they operate. If the business is a side business or if they keep odd hours—something not atypical for online business owners, early-stage entrepreneurs or individuals who own multiple businesses—they could encounter problems if they are not available to receive important mail or documents.
Generally, businesses should look for a stable, reliable registered agent to ensure that they don’t encounter any interruptions or incur any costs due to unreliable access or delayed delivery of mail or other communications.