The Difference Between a Registered Agent and a Business Address

As a new business owner you might find yourself confused by the difference between your business address and an address for your registered agent. 

In this blog post, we will discuss registered agents, what counts as a business address, and the difference between them.

What is a Registered Agent?

A registered agent is a business or individual designated to accept service of process documents, in case of a lawsuit, for a business entity such as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or a corporation. 

They also act as your primary contact with the Secretary of State and can receive other official government notifications, including tax forms and compliance information, on behalf of your LLC or corporation. 

It is a requirement in all states that every LLC or corporation maintain a designated registered agent in the state in which they do business for the above communication purposes. We will dive deeper on who can be your registered agent. 

Why Do You Need a Registered Agent?

Your business needs to have a contact person who will engage in correspondence with the state in which it is incorporated.  

A registered agent is required to have a physical address (PO Boxes are not permitted), which is typically known as the “registered office.” In addition to receiving service of process notices the registered agent’s job is to accept and forward your annual report tax notices, all official documentation from the Secretary of State, and business filings. They must be available at that address during normal business hours to expedite the legal service of process in the case of legal action or a lawsuit. 

Example:

If a customer who fell inside a store then sues the store and the store’s registered agent fails to notify the LLC or corporation of a summons to appear in court in response to the lawsuit, then when the case goes to trial, nobody would appear to defend the store and the customer would win by a default judgment.

Additionally, the store would likely not be able to get the judgment overturned on appeal because in the eyes of the law, they had been properly served.

 

While a registered agent is required in most states by law, criteria for who can be appointed a registered agent for an LLC or corporation may vary across different states. You have three options to pick from when deciding who to appoint to be your company’s registered agent.

First, you can be a registered agent or your company can serve as its own registered agent, in some states, if one of its officers is a resident of that state. However, this is an exception to the rule, and it’s recommended that you check with the state to see if serving as your own registered agent is an option. 

Secondly, a friend or family member can be your company’s registered agent. However, they must be a resident of the state in which you are conducting business. 

Finally, the third option is to appoint a registered agent service for a fee. This is a third-party company that is set up to receive service of process and correspondence on behalf of the LLC or corporation. The registered agent service will then have your legal documents forwarded immediately upon receipt.

If you don’t appoint a registered agent, you run the risk of losing “good standing” with the state in which you do business. That means that your company may face serious commercial and legal repercussions including the following:

  • Revocation fines associated.
  • The inability to enter into legal contracts.
  • Inability to gain access to the state court system that will risk your protection.
  • Termination of business operations and the shutting down of the company.

What is a Business Address?

A business address is used to designate your principal place of business. It is where your business is supposedly operating from, but it can also be an address where the business can officially be reached. 

For example, if a business is incorporated in Delaware, but is operating out of a California office, then the principal place of business would typically be that California office address. 

A business address is required in nearly all crucial aspects of business operations. Here is a list of where a business address is necessary. 

  • Opening business bank accounts or merchant accounts.
  • Opening accounts with your suppliers and vendors.
  • Receiving statements, invoices, payments, and bills.
  • Filing for legal contracts, licenses, and permits.
  • Communicating with your customers.

Recommendation:

If you care about your privacy and portraying a professional business image we recommend a virtual address.

Protect Privacy - If you use your home address you will use that on public websites and documents. You'll also risk angry customers finding your home address and pounding on your door. 

Professional Image - Having your customers send mail to what is obviously a home address can be unprofessional. For example, your customers won’t take you seriously or might think your business is a scam if your address looks like “1122 Cherry Hill, Apt. 8”. 

 

Is a Registered Agent Address and a Business Address the Same?

A registered agent is not the same as a mailing address or physical address.

The registered agent can be an individual or company. You cannot operate your LLC or corporation without assigning a registered agent. However, keep in mind that whomever you assign as your registered agent is required by the state to receive important legal and government documents only. 

A registered agent’s role does not normally include handling your general mail. For that, you need a separate mailbox provider. Many registered agents will offer mailbox or mail receiving as a separate service that you can pay extra for. However, the mail service is limited and doesn’t offer comprehensive mail services that a real mailbox provider would offer (i.e. package receiving, check depositing).

On top of that even in today’s digital business climate, companies must still have a physical presence somewhere, and most states require a business to have a physical business address, regardless of where the company is actually conducting business. So, even if your company conducts business entirely online, you must provide a physical address where you can receive important documents.

To illustrate the differences and requirements, we’ll use an LLC formed in Delaware, but operating out of California. That business would have the following in each state:

  • Delaware: A registered agent with the agent’s address used for legal process.
  • California: Principal business address and registered agent address.

Conclusion

Overall, a registered agent and a business address are two separate requirements that serve separate functions for your LLC or corporation.

You must designate a registered agent in order to form a business entity, such as an LLC or corporation, to operate in the state. The registered agent is necessary to guarantee reception of and forward legal documents, notice of lawsuits, and any other communication from the state. 

A business address, on the other hand, is used to indicate the main location from which the business operates. If you run an LLC, this is your commercial office location. For other types of business it’s the address to which your bills and mail are sent. This could be a home address or the address at which your business is located. Your business address is also the place where a person or an organization can physically be found or contacted.

Need a Registered Agent Service Plus Mailing Address?

Most registered agent services offer limited mail forwarding options. If you want to receive and manage regular mail you will need a separate mailbox provider. If you care about protecting your privacy, a professional business address is the solution. 

VirtualPostMail lets you combine an address to manage regular mail, a business address, and registered agent services all for one price and under one platform.

Learn More

 


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