You may have seen a corporate “annual report.” The Securities and Exchange Commission requires publicly traded companies to send shareholders a yearly financial report describing the corporation’s business and operations for the year and assessing its future prospects. These company annual reports are often glossy booklets full of pictures and graphics.
But for small business owners, there’s another type of annual report that is far more important: the annual report you must file with your state. This report is a short document that provides updated information about your business, including the name and address of the business, the people who run it, and its registered agent. By keeping this information up to date, a business ensures that it will receive notice of lawsuits and other important correspondence.
Preparing an annual report and filing it with the state is not difficult, but requirements vary widely from state to state. Here’s a step-by-step guide for how to file an annual report.
1. Determine if you need to file an annual report
Every state has its own annual report requirements. Some states require them for all types of business entities. Others don’t require annual reports at all. And some require reports for certain types of business entities but not for others.
Business entities that might be required to file annual reports include corporations, LLCs, nonprofit corporations, limited partnerships, and limited liability partnerships.
To find out whether your state requires an annual report for your type of business entity, visit the state agency's website where you filed your organizational documents. You can also do an internet search for “annual report” in your state. Some states do not call their documents “annual reports.” In California, for example, you file a “statement of information.”
2. Find out when the annual report is due
In addition to describing who must file an annual report, your state’s business filing website should explain when the reports are due. Some states require you to file a report every year, while others have a biennial (every other year) filing or even a decennial (every 10 years) filing.
The report may be due on the anniversary of the date your business entity was formed, or your state may have a single due date for all reports. Some states require you to file an initial report within a certain time period after your business is formed.
If your report is not due yet, make a note of the due date and set up a reminder system on your calendar. Some states charge hefty fees to businesses that miss the filing deadline, and failing to file a report can jeopardize your good standing with the state.
3. Complete the annual report form
Many states allow you to fill out and file your annual report electronically through the state business filing agency website. You must print the form from the website and mail it to the state in other states.
The exact information required for your annual report varies from state to state but usually includes the following:
- The name and address of the business.
- For a corporate annual report, the names and addresses of officers and directors.
- For an LLC annual report, the names and addresses of managers or members.
- The name and address of the registered agent.
- In some states, the type of business the company is engaged in.
4. File annual report
Once you have completed the form, you must submit it to the state along with any required filing fee. Some states also require you to pay franchise taxes or other business taxes when you file the annual report. Many states allow you to file this paperwork online, but some may request a paper filing that has to be mailed to the correct office. Check with the Secretary of State in your state for details.
5. Repeat the process for other states where you’re registered to do business
If you are registered to do business in more than one state, you may have to file annual reports in each state where your business is registered. To do this, you’ll need to repeat the same procedure you used to file in your home state.
6. Set up reminders for your next annual report deadline
It can be easy to forget to file your annual report. While you’re working on this year’s report, make a note on your calendar of the due date for your next report.
Filing an annual report isn’t hard, but it can be difficult to stay on top of deadlines and requirements, especially if you do business in more than one state. An annual report service can make sure your reports are filled out properly and filed on time.