How to Incorporate in Pennsylvania

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If you’re looking to incorporate in Pennsylvania, you’re in the right place. This guide will help you file formation documents, get tax identification numbers, and set up your company records.

Paperwork Cost Time
  • Form DSCB:15-1306: Articles of Incorporation - For Profit
  • Docketing Statement
  • Publishing
  • Bylaws
  • IRS Form SS-4: Obtain an EIN
  • Form 2553: S-Corp Election, if desired
  • PA-100: PA Enterprise Registration Form
  • Incorporation: $125
  • EIN: $0
  • PA-100: $0 + fees for needed licenses
  • Incorporation: ~5-10 business days.
  • EIN: Immediately online
  • PA-100: varies based on needed tax accounts/licenses
  1. Choose a corporate structure

    Incorporating means starting a corporation. If you want to form an LLC, please see "How to Form an LLC in Pennsylvania".

    Is your corporation for-profit or not-for-profit? If you are starting a nonprofit, please see "How to Start a Non-Profit Organization in Pennsylvania".

    C-Corp and S-Corp refer to taxation with the IRS, not to legal structures. Your corporation is taxed as a C-Corp unless you file an election to be taxed as an S-Corp (explained below).

  2. Check Name Availability

    The legal name of your corporation may not conflict with any other registered name. Check availability of your desired name by conducting a name search.

    Name Search: Pennsylvania Department of State - Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations
    Name Reservation: Optional
    Suffix Requirements:

    Must contain the word "corporation", "company", "incorporated", or "limited" or an abbreviation of any of these terms, the word "association", "fund", or "syndicate", or words or abbreviations of like import.  
    Pennsylvania Code Title 15 §203

  3. Appoint a Registered Agent

    Identify the corporation’s Pennsylvania registered agent. This individual or company receives notice of lawsuit and other legal service for the corporation.

  4. File Pennsylvania Articles of Incorporation

    File the articles of incorporation to create your corporation.

    Agency:Pennsylvania Department of State - Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations
    Form:

    Articles of Incorporation

    Filing Method:

    Mail or online.

    Agency Fee:

    $125

    Turnaround:

    ~5-10 business days.

    Law:

    19 Pa. Code c23

    Notes:
    • You need to file a PA docketing statement with your articles.
    • You may also need to attach to your articles any necessary copies of Form DSCB:17.2.3 (Consent to Appropriation of Name) or government approvals.
    • The $125 articles of incorporation fee is waived for veterans. Filers requesting a veteran/reservist-owned small business fee exemption should attach proof of the veteran’s or reservist’s status to the Articles of Incorporation form when submitted.
    Fact Checked:6/12/19
  5. Publish Incorporation

    Pennsylvania domestic corporations must publish filing of the articles of incorporation in two newspapers of general circulation, one of which must be a legal newspaper. Both publications must be in the county of your registered agent. We recommend publishing only after the articles of incorporation are approved, though you may also publish prior to filing.

    Agency Fee:~$200
    Law:19 Pa. Code §23.31
    Notes:
    • Beware of spending too little on publishing. You may not be including the required copy.
    • Obtain legal affidavits for your records.
    • It is better to wait until after your articles are approved to publish. That way you ensure your corporate name is approved.
    • To learn more, read PA publishing requirement.
  6. Establish Bylaws & Corporate Records

    Your corporation must keep correct and complete books and records.

    Every business corporation shall keep complete and accurate books and records of account, minutes of the proceedings of the incorporators, shareholders and directors and a share register giving the names and addresses of all shareholders and the number and class of shares held by each.
    15 Pa. Code §1508

    Your filed articles of incorporation are the first document for your corporate records. Your corporation will generate many other official records such as bylaws, meeting minutes, and your EIN.

    Office supplies intended for a corporation will help you stay organized and save time. Optionally, get a corporate record book, seal, and document templates.

    Draft bylaws (potentially using a template) which is the governing document for the corporation. The bylaws may contain any provisions for managing the business and regulating the affairs of the corporation not inconsistent with law or the articles (15 Pa. Code §1504). You will review and ratify the bylaws at your first board of directors meeting.

  7. Appoint Initial Directors

    The initial directors serve on the board until the annual meeting of shareholders (when directors are elected to the board). If the initial directors are not named in the articles of incorporation, they are appointed by the incorporator. The incorporator documents and signs this action for the corporate records.

  8. Hold Organizational Meeting

    Hold the organizational meeting of the incorporators or initial directors in compliance with 15 Pa. Code §1310. Keep minutes of this meeting.

    The following state laws apply unless overridden by the organizational documents, where permissible.

    Directors Officers
    • Number: One or more required.
    • Qualifications: Natural persons of full age.
    • Quorum: Majority of directors, unless bylaws fix a different number.
    • President, secretary, and treasurer required.
  9. Issue Stock Certificates

    The owners may be issued stock certificates to serve as proof of ownership in the corporation. Remember to hold the first annual meeting of the shareholders (the owners of the corporation) according to bylaws and keep minutes of this meeting.

    The following state laws apply unless overridden by the organizational documents, where permissible.

    Shareholders Annual Shareholder Meeting
    • Qualifications: N/A
    • Stock Certificate: Not required.
    • Voting Trusts Allowed: Yes.
    • Required: Yes.
    • Action by written consent: Allowed if by all shareholders entitled to vote on the action. Bylaws may provide if enough shareholders consent to equal the number required to take action by vote.
  10. Get a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)

    Your corporation must obtain an EIN regardless of whether it will hire employees.

    Submit to: Internal Revenue Service
    http://www.irs.gov/
    Form: IRS Form SS-4
    Guidance: IRS Pub 1635: Understanding Your EIN
    Filing Method: Mail, phone, fax, or apply online with the IRS
    Fee: $0
    Turnaround: Immediately online
    Notes: The IRS website is only available during certain hours. Print your EIN before closing your session.
  11. Get Pennsylvania State Tax Identification Numbers/Accounts

    Pennsylvania issues multiple tax IDs - one for each tax account number (box number). For example, if your business sells candy bars and has employees, you will have separate tax account numbers for sales tax and employer withholding tax.

    PA-100 Filing Service


    Agency:Pennsylvania Department of Revenue
    Form:PA-100: PA Enterprise Registration Form
    Filing Method:Mail or using Online Business Registration Interview (OBRI)
    Agency Fee:$0 + fees for needed licenses
    Notes:REV-558: Starting a Business in Pennsylvania - A Beginner's Guide
    Fact Checked:5/12/20
  12. Consider Electing S-Corp Taxation

    By default, your corporation is taxed as a C-Corporation. Some corporations, especially smaller ones, benefit from electing S-Corp tax treatment:

    • C-Corps suffer from double taxation: the corporation pays taxes on profits then members pay taxes on their distributions. If profits exceed $250,000 per owner, you provide employee benefits, or you will re-invest most of your profit in the business, you may benefit from the low tax rates on retained earnings under C-Corp treatment.
    • S-Corp treatment avoids double-taxation. It is generally the best choice for small businesses. To accomplish this, file Form 2553: S-Corp Election with the IRS.
  13. Obtain Business Licenses & Permits

    To run your business legally, you must obtain applicable licenses and permits. The easiest way to navigate the wide range of federal, state, and local requirements is to search by your business type and locality using the Small Business Administration Business License & Permit look-up tool.


    Pennsylvania Business License

    Not required



    General Business License licensure is not required on the State level in Pennsylvania.

    Pennsylvania does not have a general business license at the state level, but local licenses are often required.

    Registration Not Required

    Not required



  14. Ongoing Filings to Maintain Your Corporation

    You must file federal and state tax returns. You must also file:

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