Pittsburgh, PA

You can’t wait to start your business. If only you could skip all the “Legal stuff”.


How to start your LLC in Pittsburgh, PA

STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE by Michael Bradley Updated: January 3, 2023
Name your LLC
Appoint a Registered Agent
15 days
File Pennsylvania Certificate of Formation
Draft an Operating Agreement
Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number)

Why form an LLC in Pittsburgh, PA?

Once known as The Smoky City, Pittsburgh has turned away from its industrial roots. It now has a diverse economy and offers an exceptional quality of life. The affordable prices attract a strong workforce and many businesses. Growing industries include healthcare, finance, and cutting-edge technology.

The reasons to start a business in Pittsburgh are plentiful. If you’re ready to join the booming economy, turn your dreams into reality by creating a legal entity. After reading this, you’ll have everything you need to form an LLC in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

We’ll cover:

  • Five easy-to-follow steps to form a Pittsburgh LLC
  • Licenses, permits, and local resources to help launch your new business
  • Extra considerations after forming a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania LLC

LLC Formation Process in a Nutshell

1. Name your LLC

How to name a Pennsylvania LLC? It’s time to get creative because the first step to forming an LLC is selecting the right name. Advertising strategies play a primary role. But there are certain legal guidelines to follow as well.

Title 15, section 204 has guidelines for LLC names. It must contain one of the following words or an abbreviated version:

  • Company
  • Limited
  • Limited Liability Company

On top of that, section 202 provides some restrictions for Pennsylvania LLC names. There are two key components to this section.

First, your LLC name must be unique and distinguishable from other businesses. To verify this, search the Business Records provided by the State. Avoid names identical to other businesses, as well as closely related ones.

Second, there are many terms to avoid using unless you have the authorization to do so. These include highly-regulated industries such as financial, legal, and medical services. You also don’t want to use words indicating you are part of a government organization.

Having a difficult time generating an LLC name? Pennsylvania law allows businesses to use doing-business-as or DBA names. For example, “Pittsburgh Computing LLC” could operate under “Pittsburgh Network Specialists.”

It’s also worth reviewing the available domain names (URLs). Even if you aren’t interested in creating a website, getting the rights to matching domain names is a wise step.


2. Appoint a Registered Agent

How do you appoint a registered agent? All Pennsylvania LLCs must have a registered office under Title 15, section 8825. Many states call this a registered agent.

The registered office is the contact information used for important documents. These include things like tax and legal communications. A key role is receiving legal service of process. This means if your LLC gets sued, the legal paperwork goes to the registered agent.

You can name yourself as the registered agent. Many business owners choose to hire a registered agent service instead.

There are some benefits to appointing yourself, such as:

  • It’s cheap: Avoid the extra expense of hiring someone else to serve you.
  • It’s simple: You have to update only one address.
  • It’s reliable: Important documents come to you.

There are also many disadvantages to appointing yourself, including:

  • No privacy: The Department of State publishes the address online. It is public information.
  • Junk mail/spam: The address will likely receive junk mail. You’ll have to identify the important documents from the piles of advertisements.
  • No breaks: Registered agents don’t get time off. They need to be available during business hours.
  • Business interruptions: You could get served with a lawsuit in front of customers. This can damage your reputation and hurt opportunities.
  • It’s your fault if you miss something: If you make a mistake or miss a vital document, there is no one to blame but yourself.

Hiring a registered agent service can help reduce the potential for these harms. It also keeps your address confidential. They’re generally quite affordable, costing around $100-$150 per year. If you hire an attorney to perform this role, they can charge up to $500 per year.

If you choose to start your LLC by using a business formation company, they often include a registered agent service in their packages. Feel free to take a look at our registered agent recommendations article for more information.

$0 - $100

3. File Pennsylvania Certificate of Formation

How to file the Pennsylvania Certificate of Formation? Naming your LLC and deciding on the registered agent are big steps in the right direction. But filing the Certificate of Formation is the most exciting part of the process.

Filing the Certificate of Formation transforms your idea into a legal company. Title 15, section 8821 lists the legal requirements.

Filing this essential document can be intimidating. Some people think attorneys must handle it. In reality, the Certificate of Formation only requires basic information. Most people are capable of tackling this on their own.

Pennsylvania provides an excellent fillable form to simplify the process. It includes these components:

  • The LLC’s name;
  • Registered office contact information; and
  • The names of people forming the LLC.

Be prepared to pay a $125 filing fee. You’ll also need to wait for the State to approve your application before the LLC exists. Pennsylvania recommends you allow 15 days as processing time.

You can pay for expedited services, which you must submit in person. The options are as follows:

  • One-hour service: $1,000 fee and the office must receive it before 4:00 p.m.
  • Three-hour service: $300 fee and the office must receive it before 2:00 p.m.
  • Same-day service: $100 fee and the office must receive it before 10:00 a.m.

You’ll also need to file the docketing statement for new entities. This short form lists primary contacts, business activities, and tax-related information.

To save time and avoid the hassle of LLC filings, all seasoned entrepreneurs use LLC formation services. For recommendations, check out our article on the best LLC services.

15 days

4. Draft an Operating Agreement

Do I need an operating agreement for a Pennsylvania LLC? An operating agreement is not required under Pennsylvania State law. But it’s an excellent idea to create and execute one anyway.

An operating agreement is a contract between LLC members. It sets out the rules under which the LLC operates. These include the rights and responsibilities of the members.

Additionally, the operating agreement can cover any situation the LLC might encounter. It can lay out the duties of members and managers. It also provides methods for adding or removing members.

Owners customize operating agreements to meet their needs, such as:

  • They determine the rights and duties of LLC members. If one LLC member is responsible for running the business or managing the books, the operating agreement should say so.
  • They say whether the LLC has a member or non-member manager and what the manager has the right to do. Managers also have special duties to the company and its members. The operating agreement should state these.
  • They outline what the LLC is legally able to do. The operating agreement should also set down how the company is allowed to conduct its business from day to day.
  • They say how new members can join the company. They also have rules about how exiting members can leave.
  • They set down how and when profits are paid to members. They can also create different types of membership and payment schemes.
  • They say whether members or managers are in charge. They also say how to hire and fire managers.
  • They say how and under what circumstances the LLC should end. You might not want to dissolve your business now, but you might in the future. It’s best to think about it and plan before it becomes an issue.
  • They say how to change the rules. You may need to amend your operating agreement in the future. The operating agreement should set down the rules for making changes.

Protect yourself and your business by executing an operating agreement. This private contract can help to avoid many pitfalls down the road. LLC formation services provide operating agreement templates for as little as $50. The price is well worth it.


5. Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number)

Do I need an EIN? The IRS uses Employer Identification Numbers (EINs) to track tax information. They are like Social Security Numbers for businesses.

The IRS requires certain businesses to get an EIN. These include any of the following:

  • If the LLC has more than one member;
  • The LLC hires any employees; or
  • It follows C-corporation or S-corporation taxation.

Even if you don’t fall under one of these qualifications, getting an EIN is beneficial. For example, some states require having one for state tax purposes, and banks often require them to open a business bank account for your LLC.

The IRS has made the process easy through its online EIN application. It only takes about five minutes to complete and is entirely free of charge. It’s not worth hiring someone to do this unless it’s part of a wider LLC formation package.

Read More: How to get an Employer Identification Number in Pennsylvania


Cheapest way to start your LLC

Do it Yourself
Gain personal knowledge
Lower upfront cost
You're losing money when you consider how much time it takes
There's the risk of making a mistake
It's a headache
Potential price
Potential time
5+ days
Formation Service
Very easy to use
Affordable ($39 for an LLC)
Same-day filing
Highly reliable
Not ideal for complex LLCs
Potential price
Potential time
30 min
A lawyer can help you manage risk
Offers more customization when you need it
Costs more than any other method
Finding one takes time
Slower compared to formation services
Potential price
> $400
Potential time
5+ days

Licenses and Permits in Pittsburgh, PA

An important part of starting a business is getting licenses and permits. Coming from state or city-level authorities, many businesses need approval before starting up. Overlooking this step can result in disaster.


Pennsylvania does not offer a general business license. But specific business activities need to get professional licenses. Review the State’s guidelines to see if any apply to your business.


Besides the State’s needs, you must follow the local regulations. The City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County issue many licenses and permits.

All new businesses must register with the City of Pittsburgh. The City also offers a variety of business licenses, separated into three groups. These are contractors, trade, and business licenses.

The businesses licenses cover many specific activities, such as:

  • Mobile vehicle vendor,
  • Secondhand dealer, and
  • Tow services.

Some businesses also need to get special licenses and permits from Allegheny County. Things like food services, asbestos removal, and hotels fall into this category.

Verify you get what your business needs before launching. Reach out to the City and County officials for additional guidance. They can help you get started in no time.

Support for Small Businesses in Pittsburgh, PA

Connecting with the local business community can put you on the fast track to success. By leveraging the knowledge of seasoned business leaders, you’ll uncover valuable lessons. The time invested in reaching out for support is well worth it.

Here is a list of local organizations dedicated to helping businesses thrive:

Next Steps After you Register your LLC

Reaching this point means you have formed your Pittsburgh LLC. Relish the moment, but don’t let the momentum fade. These extra steps are worth taking care of immediately.

  • Register a Matching Domain

    Domain names (URLs) are now an integral part of many businesses. Even if you don’t want a website immediately, it’s worth getting the rights to domain names.

    If you don’t buy the name, domain squatters could beat you to the punch. They buy them to resell the URLs at a markup, forcing you to spend more cash when the time comes to start a website.

    Most domain names are affordable, costing about $20-$50 per year. The process is straightforward, and you can get it done in minutes. Take note of seasoned business owners and get the rights to matching domain names.

  • File for a DBA (Doing Business As)

    Some businesses choose an LLC name that doesn’t match what is on the front of their shop. Instead, they operate under a doing-business-as (DBA) name that provides flexibility. Pennsylvania calls these fictitious business names.

    You can find the applicable laws under Title 54, Chapter 3. By providing basic information, you can operate under names different from the LLC. For example, “Pittsburgh Window Cleaning LLC” could use “Pittsburgh’s Crystal Clear Windows.”

    To use one for a Pittsburgh LLC, follow the Department of State guidelines. A $70 fee applies. You’ll also need to have the fictitious name published in the local county.

  • Stay Compliant

    Launching a new LLC is a monumental action serving as the foundation of your business. But to stay in compliance with rules and regulations, there are a few other items worth attending to.

    Unlike other states, most Pennsylvania LLCs do not need to file annual reports. Instead, you’ll only have to complete a decennial filing every ten years, on the years that end with a one. Certain professional LLCs do need an annual certificate of registration.

    A franchise tax applies to most Pennsylvania LLCs. And if you hire employees, you’ll need to get workers’ comp insurance. You might also consider getting other insurance coverage. These include general liability or commercial property policies.

LLC Formation FAQs

What are the benefits of an LLC?

Most importantly, having an LLC will ensure your personal assets are protected if your business cannot pay its debts. Running your business through an LLC can also provide you with better tax treatment. In addition, LLCs have fewer and less complicated reporting requirements compared to other types of businesses, making them particularly suitable for smaller businesses.

Do I have to form an LLC to start a business?

It is not strictly necessary to form an LLC in order to start a business. You can engage in business as a sole proprietorship instead. However, in that case, your personal assets may be at risk if your business takes on too much debt or loses a lawsuit in court.

How much does it generally cost to form an LLC?

It doesn’t cost much to set up an LLC for your business. In most states, you will need to pay less than $150 to register your new LLC with the local state authorities. In some states, you may need to pay some additional costs later on, for example, when filing an annual report or filing for a DBA.

How long does it take to form an LLC?

The time it takes to have your LLC approved can vary wildly depending on the state, the filing method you used and if you opted for expedited filing. In some states, you can have your LLC approved in as little as one day, while in others, it may take weeks or even months.

If you want the fastest possible turnaround time, you should consider using online filing and pay for expedited service, if available.

How will my LLC be taxed?

The IRS and most state tax authorities treat LLCs as “pass-through” entities. This means that your LLC does not pay taxes directly (as corporations do). Instead, the tax burden is passed through to the members of your LLC. The members will then include profits and losses from the LLC’s business on their personal income tax returns.

In what state should I form my LLC?

It is generally best to form your LLC in your home state, where you will actually carry out your business. Some people believe that it is advantageous to form your LLC in Delaware or Nevada. In reality, you would then have to register with the authorities in your home state as a foreign LLC and pay additional fees – without much benefit in return.

Do I need to file for a DBA?

You are not generally required to file for a DBA (“Doing-Business-As”). However, most business owners choose to do so anyway. Getting a DBA will allow you to omit the letters LLC from your customer-facing business name. You can also have multiple names for your LLC if you want to run more than one business through your LLC.

Can I form an LLC if I am not a US citizen or US resident?

Yes, you can form an LLC for your business in any US state. There is no requirement for you to be a US citizen in order to form an LLC, nor do you need the right to reside in the US. If your business is going to own physical property in a given state, you may want to form your LLC in that state.

Do I need to hire an attorney to form an LLC for my business?

No, you don’t need to hire an attorney to form an LLC for you. It is generally much cheaper and straightforward to file the necessary paperwork yourself or to hire an affordable LLC formation service to handle the work on your behalf. However, you may want to consider hiring an attorney if your business is very complex.

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