Starting an LLC in Iowa is not for the faint of heart. Maintaining one isn’t, either. There’s a bunch of annual requirements: annual taxes, business licenses to renew, and of course, annual reports. A lot of the annual requirements can be pretty complicated, too.
Annual reports can be pretty complicated…but only if you don’t know what to expect. That’s what we’re here for. In this guide, we’ll cover all the essentials to annual reports in Iowa: LLC filing fees, where to file, due dates, and if you want, where to go to get help filing. By the end, the annual report won’t feel so daunting anymore.
What is an annual report?
An annual report is a lot like an annual newsletter for your LLC—except you only send it to one place: the state government. Each year, the state needs updated information about your business. And this isn’t a requirement that’s unique to Iowa. In fact, nearly every state requires some form of annual (or similar timeline) update.
That said, the newsletter analogy falls short because you don’t need to tell the state what you did each month. You don’t even have to tell them the highs and lows of your year. And thankfully, you don’t have to write it out as a letter. All you’ll have to do is fill out the requested information.
Here’s a quick glance at the information Iowa will require from you:
- Legal name of the business
- Name of your registered agent
- Address of your registered office (usually your agent’s place of business)
- Address of the principal office for the business
- Signature of individual who’s authorized to fill the form
Sound overwhelming? Don’t panic. It’s actually a lot easier than you might think! In the rest of this guide, we’ll cover all the essentials to annual reporting—including a DIY approach and how to get help if you’d rather not file on your own.
Where do I start?
When the time rolls around to file your report, your gut might tell you to head to the Secretary of State’s Business Services page. And in that case, your gut would be right! More specifically, you’ll head to the FastTrack Filing page. There, you’ll log into the state’s website, fill out the required information, and you’ll be good to go. Don’t have an account? Iowa does let you file without an account, too.
If you’d rather file by mail, you’ll still need to head to the website so you can download a pdf of the form. Then you’ll fill it out and mail the report to the Secretary of State.
When you visit the website, you might notice that the Secretary of State doesn’t list any entries for “annual report.” Instead, you’ll find links for Biennial Reports. Don’t let that throw you off; they’re the same concept. Iowa just calls it the Biennial Report because, well, they don’t technically have an annual report. We’ll explain more later. Throughout the rest of the report, we’ll usually call it the biennial report.
The biennial report isn’t extremely difficult to fill out, honestly. But if you’re extremely busy (and who isn’t these days?), the report can seem overwhelming—it’s yet another thing you have to do. That said, you can hire an Iowa LLC Service to handle the work for you. Not only will these services actually form your business for you (if you need it), but they’ll also help you handle annual requirements like the annual report.
How much does Iowa’s Biennial Report cost?
Some states have a pretty hefty price tag of several hundred dollars for their annual report. Other states charge more reasonable fees of less than $100. Iowa falls on the more conservative side of filing fees. But there’s a catch: just how much you’ll pay depends on how you choose to file. For example, if you file by mail, you’ll pay $60. But online filings pay just $45. In a way, that’s the state’s way of encouraging people to file online through FastTrack. Processing those documents is much easier, but they do keep mail-in filings for those who prefer that method.
How you file will also affect how you pay. If you pay online, you can use a credit or debit card. If you file by mail, you can pay by check, money order, or card (provided you use a Credit Card Authorization form).
When is the Biennial Report due?
In most states, the annual report is due, well, annually. In other states, entrepreneurs often refer to it as an annual report even though it’s due every other year. And as the name “biennial” implies, it’s due every other year, not every year.
More specifically, Iowa requires all LLCs to file their biennial report by April 1st. You can file anytime between January 1st and April 1st, though, so if it’s more convenient to file a little earlier, you can. For example, some LLCs choose to file the report while they’re sending their tax documents to their accountant.
What happens if you don’t file your annual report?
Sometimes annual check-ins are a pain, right? And we get it: with some things, like annual physicals, dental cleanings, and eye appointments are tempting to skip. Usually, there isn’t a big penalty if you skip them for a year or two (aside from a minor scolding from your doctor).
However, that isn’t the case with annual reports. You should never skip filing your annual report, and you should always do it on time. For one thing, filing on time ensures that you don’t spend any more than you have to.
More importantly, though, failing to file your annual report can hurt your business in the long-term. Iowa doesn’t charge any late fees for delinquent reports. However, there is a much bigger consequence. For one thing, you won’t be able to get a Certificate of Good Standing. That’s necessary for several key business transactions. More importantly, the state could administratively dissolve your business.
Long story short, the state will shut down your business by force. If that happens, don’t panic; you can get reinstated. But it’s a hassle to do so, and it’s a hassle that’s very easy to avoid. Just file your report on time each year, and you’ll save yourself a lot of time and money.
Maintaining an Iowa LLC is no laughing matter, and the annual report is without a doubt one of the most important annual filings. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be too complicated. Hopefully this guide has helped take out some of the guesswork. And don’t forget: an LLC Service can make things even easier.