How many addresses does one business need? What are the differences between a registered agent and a virtual mailing address? Why can’t I use a virtual mailing address as a registered agent?
These are some of the most important questions that come up in regard to setting up your business and ensuring proper document filings. Whether you are launching an online business, an LLC or Corporation, it is very likely you will need to sign up for a registered agent. And depending on what your approach is to ensuring privacy and security of mail (more on that here) you may consider having a virtual mailing address as well.
In order to understand what role a registered agent plays and how a virtual mailing address fits into the picture, it’s best to define what these two terms mean, and where their differences lie.
What Is A Registered Agent?
The best way to think of a registered agent, is the individual who is responsible for representing your company within the state in which you registered your company. Whether it’s an LLC or a Corporation, a registered agent will need to have a physical street address appointed and not a PO Box. The person (or agency) you designate will also be your primary contact with Secretary of State. Why? Well, they will receive government notifications, including compliance documents, on behalf of your company. Regardless of the state you are based in, it is a legal requirement that your company has an appointed registered agent.
What Does a Registered Agent Do?
That address will be used for filing taxes, federal documents, legal suits and more. Therefore, the registered agent needs to ensure they can access and receive mail during normal business hours. In short, they make sure you never miss an important document ever again! Being a registered agent comes with an urgency of handling mail. Depending on the deadline set on each mail notification (whether an IRS notice, or a lawsuit that requires the business’s attention), the registered agent is responsible for forwarding all important mail to the business owner. This will ensure no deadlines are missed.
Can You Be your Own Registered Agent?
Technically, you can indeed be your own registered agent. It isn’t illegal. However, some business advisers will tell their clients to designate a third-party for this role. Allowing someone else to be responsible for collecting your tax and other legal documents, you can rest easy since you know you are never going to miss them. Thus, you can leave the office whenever you want to and go on holiday whenever you feel like it — all without worrying about not adhering to your state’s Registered Agent legislation.
How to Choose Your Company’s Registered Agent
Since your registered agent is performing such an important role for your company, you do need to consider all the options carefully. Typically, you will be choosing between yourself, an individual who isn’t otherwise involved with your business, or hiring a third-party agency to do it for you.
Let’s take a look at the first option:
Acting As Your Own
We briefly talked about why some businesses are advised not to act as their own registered agent. However, it is a perfectly plausible idea. No matter the state you are in, they each allow you to name your corporate officers as registered agents. So, if you live in the state your company is in, you are able to list yourself. If money is on the mind for you and your business, this is by far the cheapest option. But do bear in mind that there are some downsides to this. What are they, we hear you ask? Well, we’re about to take a look.
Firstly, you are required to be at that address to receive mail during typical business hours. For the most part, your employees will probably be buzzing around your offices at these times. This is not a good thing! We doubt you would want to be served with legal documents while everyone is busy going about their workday. It could be quite embarrassing, to say the least. Not to mention that your staff’s morale will be given a swift kick in the shin and they may start to worry about the longevity of their job.
Another not so fantastic thing about being your own registered agent is that your address will be publicly listed. This means you will be sent hundreds upon hundreds of sales copy and junk mail. You do not need to waste time sorting through this rubbish during business hours, do you? This is why you are better off asking someone else to be appointed.
With that in mind, we’ll take a look at:
Choosing Another Individual
Any person residing in the state your business operates in can be your registered agent. Of course, as we mentioned earlier, they just can’t use a PO box. This seems easy, right? But a lot of corporation and LLC owners find it tricky picking someone who they trust to handle the role discreetly. You pretty much have to put your entire faith into their ability to be secretive and confidential about the matter.
The good news is that you can actually appoint your accountant, lawyer, or someone else in the business to be your registered agent. This way, you will know straight away if something urgent gets mailed in. Plus, this person might be able to fill out a lot of the paperwork for you — it’s a pretty win-win situation. We advise you to choose your attorney or CPA since they have a separate office to your business. With that being said, they might charge an extortionate price.
To avoid this, you might want to think about:
Hiring a Third-Party Agency
If you visit your Secretary of State’s website, you can find a bunch of third-party agencies offering registered agent services in your state. Doing this will negate any time you would’ve otherwise spent mulling over the pros and cons of spending a boatload on appointing your attorney. These guys will be much cheaper than that but you will still be given the utmost protection and privacy. It’s the best of both worlds!
Anyway, enough about registered agents, let’s move onto virtual mailing addresses. Then, finally, we’ll get to the difference between the two.
What Is A Virtual Mailing Address?
A virtual mailing address is a physical street address that receives your mail which can all be accessed online. Think of it as an outsourced mailing room; your mail arrives to a remote location were professionally trained personnel manages your mail and packages.
If you have an important document you need scanned, you just request that from within your virtual mailbox and within a couple hours, you can view everything digitally. Items shipped to your location will usually get a large discount as well, due to the amount of shipping mail forwarding companies conduct.
A virtual mailbox can give you other exciting perks too. Take a look at everything it offers:
- You’ll be able to view your mail from anywhere in the world.
- You get live mail notifications when something is deposited.
- You can easily opt for mail forwarding if necessary.
- You can even use the mail forwarding option with packages!
- You can ask the mail handlers to shred, dispose, or recycle your mail with a simple tap on the app.
- You can easily hold packages there.
- You can ship packages from your virtual mailbox’s address.
- You can deposit checks sent to your virtual mailbox without having to trudge down to the bank.
See? Acquiring a virtual mailbox will change the way you run your business and your life.
What Are the Differences Between a Registered Agent and a Virtual Mailing Address?
The most significant differentiating factor between a registered agent and a virtual mailing address, is the type of mail they receive. A registered agent can only be used for the receipt of government documents and no other mail shall be sent there. On the other hand, a virtual mailing address can be used for all other purposes, including personal mail.
You have 3 address options when getting a registered agent:
Home Address. By far the least secure and private option of receiving mail, a home address is often used by smaller companies in order to avoid using office space and physical business addresses. The primary reason you should avoid using a home address as a registered address, is due to the fact that it’s easily accessible online by anyone (angry customers, white collar criminals etc.). Not to mention that so much junk mail and sales copy will be sent there that the poor homeowner (whether it’s you or someone you trust) won’t know what to do with it all.
Private Mailbox. This is an option for people that want the best of both worlds; the safety that comes with distancing your home address but at the price of using your home address. The primary reason people use home addresses as a registered agent, is to avoid paying for office space. Getting a private mailbox (think UPS, independent postal centers etc,) can be a hit or miss since not all locations will provide registered agent services. Another common issue with private mailboxes is the geographic proximity to your home address; sometimes they can be quite a distance to drive to.
Virtual Mailing Address. These addresses are by far the best combination of keeping your mail secure, being on top of your mail/packages, and being able to access it all with the click of a button. That means no driving or waiting in line is required; you just log into your virtual mailbox account and view everything digitally. Virtual mailing addresses are often cheaper to use than private mailboxes as well, as they do not require any physical storage space and can be stored in the cloud. Plus, you will be able to say that you are a true eco-conscious person since you can opt into the mail recycling services that these virtual addresses provide. And, you will never have to acquire any spam or junk mail ever again. Perfect, right?
How to Get a Physical Address For Your Registered Agent
As discussed earlier, the main significance to a registered agent’s address, is that that needs to be located within the same state in which the business operates in. Virtual addresses have become more and more relevant & used by business owners, that do not wish to disclose their registered agent’s location throughout the internet and public records.
When you sign up for a virtual mailing address, you will be able to access all mail online. These companies responsible for handling your mail, are based in warehouse operations with 24/7 security surveillance systems and on property security personnel. Mail is securely stored, scanned & even shipped to your location.
The best part about using a virtual mailing address for your registered agent, is that you can also use that same address as your business address. Additionally, all incoming mail will be stored within your account, and can be traced at any later date simply by using the search feature (think Gmail). Label your mail to find it easily, and you’re good to go!
The Bottom Line: So Should I Get a Registered Agent or a Virtual Mailing Address?
A registered agent and the address your business is registered in, can be the same exact address. You can always go to a UPS store and register everything there, but then that creates a weekly hassle of stopping by to pick up the mail in person. Virtual mailing addresses will let you view, scan, shred or ship all your mail from the comfort of your own couch.
If you need help in deciding what virtual address is right for you, reach out to us here. We are always happy to help you figure out which mailing service is right for you and your business!