How to Form a Corporation in New Jersey

To establish a corporation in New Jersey, here's everything you need to know.

To form a corporation in New Jersey, you need to take the steps set forth below. You can also use Nolo's Online Corporation service, which will form a corporation for you with everything you need.

1. Choose a Corporate Name

Your corporation's name must contain one of the following words or an abbreviation: "incorporated," "corporation," "company," or the abbreviation "Ltd.," or words of equivalent meaning in another language.

Your corporation's name must be distinguishable from the names of other business entities already on file with the New Jersey Division of Taxation. Names may be checked for availability online at the New Jersey Business Name Search.

You may reserve a name for 120 days by filing an Application for Reservation of Name with the New Jersey Division of Revenue. If you reserve a business name, you cannot file your Certificate of Formation online.

2. Prepare and File Certificate of Formation

Your corporation is legally created by filing a Certificate of Business Formation with the New Jersey Department of Treasury, Division of Taxation. The certificate must include the corporate name and address; the name and address of the agent for service of process; your tax closing month; your purpose; the number of shares the corporation is authorized to issue; the names and addresses of initial directors; and the name and address of each incorporator.

The articles may be filed online or by mail. The filing fee is $125.

3. Appoint a Registered Agent

Every New Jersey corporation must have an agent for service of process in the state. This is an individual or corporation that agrees to accept legal papers on the corporation's behalf if it is sued. The registered agent may be a New Jersey resident or a foreign or domestic corporation authorized to do business in New Jersey. The registered agent must have a physical street address in New Jersey. The agent should agree to accept service of process on your corporation's behalf prior to designation.

4. Set Up a Corporate Records Book

Set up a corporate records book in which you keep all of your corporation's important papers, including minutes of director and shareholder meetings, stock certificates, and stock certificate stubs. Keep your corporate records book at the principal office of your corporation. You can use a three-ring binder as the corporate records book or you can order a special corporate records kit through a corporate kit supplier.

5. Prepare Corporate Bylaws

Bylaws are an internal corporate document that set out the basic ground rules for operating your corporation. They are not filed with the state. Your corporation is not legally required to have corporate bylaws, but you should adopt them because they (1) establish your corporation's operating rules, and (2) help show banks, creditors, the IRS, and others that your corporation is legitimate. For corporate bylaw forms, see Nolo’s website or Incorporate Your Business, by Anthony Mancuso (Nolo). Corporate kits also typically contain sample bylaws.

6. Hold Your First Board of Directors Meeting

The first meeting of the corporation's board of directors should be held at which the directors can appoint corporate officers, adopt bylaws, select a corporate bank, authorize issuance of shares of stock, set the corporation's fiscal year, and adopt an official stock certificate form and corporate seal. The directors' actions must be recorded in corporate minutes prepared by the incorporator or any of the directors. Additionally, if the corporation will be an S corporation, the directors should approve the election of S corporation status. For corporate meeting minute forms, see Nolo’s website or refer to Incorporate Your Business, by Anthony Mancuso (Nolo).

7. Issue Stock

Issue stock to each shareholder. Although not legally required in most states, small corporations usually issue paper stock certificates. Enter each shareholder's name and contact information in the corporation’s stock transfer ledger. A share of stock in your corporation is classified as a security under state and federal securities laws that regulate the offer and sale of corporate stock.

However, the federal government and all states exempt most small corporations from these laws. For example, federal law exempts "private offerings:" a non-advertised sale to a limited number of people (generally 35 or fewer). Most states have enacted their own versions of this SEC exemption. Visit your state securities office website for information about your state's securities laws. Links to all such offices can be found at the Contact Your Regulator web page of the North American Securities Administrators Association.

8. Comply with New Jersey Annual Report Requirements

All corporations doing business in New Jersey must file an Annual Report with the Division of Taxation every year. The annual report is due by the last day of the anniversary month of the corporation's formation or qualification in New Jersey. The report must be filed online. The filing fee is $50.

9. Comply With Other Tax and Regulatory Requirements

Additional tax and regulatory requirements apply to your corporation. These include:

EIN: Your corporation must obtain a federal employer identification number (EIN). You may obtain an EIN by completing an online application on the IRS website. There is no filing fee.

State Tax Business Registration: All New Jersey and foreign corporations authorized to do business in New Jersey must register with the New Jersey Division of Taxation, regardless of whether they plan on collecting sales tax or having employees. You can file your business registration online or by mailing in a Business Registration Application, Form NJ-REG, to the Division of Revenue. The initial Public Records Filing should be submitted before filing the application, and the application should be filed within 60 days thereafter. New Jersey corporations must pay an annual minimum state tax based on their gross receipts in New Jersey. For more information, visit the New Jersey Tax Center.

S Corporation Filing: If the corporation wants to elect S corporation status for tax purposes, it must submit Form 2553 Election by a Small Business Corporation (signed by all the shareholders). The election should be filed within two months and 15 days after the beginning of the corporation's first tax year. See the IRS S Corporation Fact Sheet for details. An S corporation election should also be filed with the New Jersey Division of Taxation. File New Jersey S Corporation Election.

Business Licenses: Depending on its type of business and where it is located, your corporation may need to obtain other local and state business licenses. For details, check the New Jersey Online License & Certification website.

10. Foreign Corporations Doing Business in New Jersey

All corporations organized outside of New Jersey must register with the New Jersey Division of Taxation to do business in New Jersey. Foreign corporations must appoint a registered agent for service of process physically located in New Jersey. Business registration can be done online or by mail. The registration application must be accompanied by an original certificate of good standing or existence from the Secretary of State or similar official of the foreign corporation's home state that is no more than 30 days old. The filing fee is $125.

Before filing, make sure the corporation's name is available in New Jersey by checking the New Jersey business name database.

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