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Anonymous LLC (l4sb.com)
103 points by wslh on Aug 5, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 69 comments



Pricing on these services is pretty high. They charge $404 + filing fees, but at least in New Mexico, one of the states that permits anonymous LLCs, you can form one yourself in about 30 minutes of effort and $100 or so in fees plus $100 or so to hire a registered agent. Hard to justify the $404 on top of fees...


Probably has something to do with the lawyer that comes with it

Their time is not cheap


$200 is for doing it. $404 for knowing how to do it.


Most secretaries of state publish pretty detailed instructions on LLC formation, and more support is usually available from a state small business advocate. Sure, there is value in professional advice, but I wouldn't say LLC formation is the kind of thing that requires it.


It's not even necessarily the advice, it's literally just throwing money at a problem. Even if there are clear instructions, some people would rather throw money at having someone else do it. This service is for these people.


$404 is not high though. Even $600 in total (after filing fees, taxes) is not high.

Just compare it to non-anonymous LLCs, with or without registered agents, and definitely without law firms or CPAs. You are still looking at least at $100. Registered agents charge an extra $100, and the ones that advertise $25 are lying.

You won't get out of California, Delaware or New York that low at all.

New York forces you to publish the existence of your New York LLC in two newspapers in your county, just to make SURE its not anonymous (in the year 1915). So if you live in New York City you are looking at spending $1,600. California is around $800.

So you are accurate that you can do this yourself, at the same prices I pointed out, but there are several gotchas.


As far as I know, it's possible open an anonymous LLC, but to open a bank account must disclose the owners.


Not necessarily...first 3 quick facts:

Member = owner

Manager = manager

LLC's can be member-managed or manager-managed.

Now the transaction:

1. Lawyer forms you Anonymous LLC,the sole owner of the LLC is an irrevocable trust and you are the sole manager (the LLC is manager-managed);

2. Obtain an EIN for the LLC using the EIN of the Trust;

3. Attorney will draft you a bank letter, this informs the bank the attorney formed the LLC, is familiar with the organizational structure, and confirms you are the sole manager of the manager-managed LLC (bank letters are also usually required when opening a DE C-corp bank account outside DE)

No matter what, to get an EIN for the LLC from the IRS one owner must apply using SSN; TIN or EIN. The EIN application will be disclosed to the IRS but otherwise is not public record.


So are you when you get get the EIN, you would have to disclose your SSN. Anyway around that?


Cash based and cryptocurrency based businesses do not need a bank account and therefore don't need an EIN.

Similarly, title holding companies don't need one either.


I am a Mexican citizen. You don’t need an SSN to get an EIN. However it does take a bit longer. However, my lawyer just used his and apparently this is a common practice.


Can I have your lawyer's contact information to request him do the same for me?


I have several LLCs that do not have bank accounts. Cryptocurrency all the way.

They pass through all costs and tax deductions straight to me if I wish, their name can be on any property if I wish, and my name is not on them in the state's public databases.

And thats not even with TRYING to be anonymous. If there was a subpoena and some regulator knew who I was, thats fine.

But I also know how to form them in a way where a subpoena would yield no information either.


I'd be interested to know the situations where an LLC would and would not protect your identity.

The classic examples seem to be buying and selling things, but it's hard to imagine how this would work without banks.

Is the idea that it covers you for transactions via contracts/ownership-stakes/other illiquid-instruments-of-value?


Yeah you should only consider these services based on what you are trying to accomplish.

Think about it analogous to when you are choosing how anonymously you want to browse the internet:

Don't want your roommate seeing your browsing history? Okay then private browser.

Don't want your roommate seeing URLs you visit by monitoring the router? Okay then TOR.

Don't want a three letter agency running an exploit over TOR that reveals your clearnet IP address? Okay then use Whonix or Tails.

It is similar when deciding how anonymous you want your LLC or surrogate entity structure.


Could you recommend any further reading, regarding different structures/options?


But then the anonymous LLC can create a new company somewhere else. The anon LLC will own it and will only need a representative for the Bank.


Yeah. Not really.

All responsible banks have KYC (know your customer) rules.

They aren't just going to let some company come in and open an account without knowing anything about the people who have signatory authority over the account and funds as well as the source of the funds.

So criminals don't really use banks and anonymous accounts the way you think they do. What they do is operate semi-profitable businesses to launder the money via semi-boring companies that are small enough to not raise suspicion but profitable enough to conceal the sources of funds.

THOSE business accounts are then used to purchase "services and goods" from offshore organizations with their own accounts that are owned by alternative personas.

The idea of a truly anonymous bank account is a myth.


How is it "responsible" to give in to government regulations designed to invade everyone's financial privacy? All banks will do it - ignoring KYC laws is a good way to get shut down - but it's a disgusting thing.


What's your solution?

The issue that was faced is that banks could rightfully claim that they had no duty to verify identity and/or the legal status of funds they accepted on deposit. This led to all sorts of shenanigans like fraud, money laundering, and outright theft.

the KYC regulations are a compromise between having the government know EVERYTHING about your financial life. With KYC, it's the bank's duty to know at least a few things about you and your money to make it harder to use the financial system to conduct criminal activity.

I know a lot of folks like to believe in the libertarian paradise where no government can ever exercise power over you and each man is a sovereign unto themselves but the truth is that a true libertarian community wouldn't be someplace anyone wants to live.


The solution is to make prosecutors do their job instead of giving them an easy out, violating privacy to boot. Prosecutors could subpoena the bank and access the account's records, then continue chasing the criminals onwards.


SOOO....continue the madness that existed before we had compulsory KYC rules. The same rules that allowed the financial system to enable the exact criminal activity we'd like to prevent?

Gotcha.


It takes 3 clicks to find the owner of a llc online. No such thing exists for banks (how do i get the bank account number of xxxx llc?)


Totally incorrect. I have formed very, very many LLCs and they all use registered agents. You'd have to sue in order to find out the actual owners.

For the record, I am a practicing attorney licensed in NY State.


Sorry I can add more text.

You can go from LLC Name (Foo, LLC) to Registered Agent Name in 30 seconds. You cannot do the same with Company Name to Bank Account (or from Bank Account to Owner Name).

I also use a registered agent for all my LLCs, but you don't have to. You can totally put your own address down when doing paperwork, and then your home address is open to the world.


Not entirely true. I have an LLC in New Mexico through a registered agent which does not disclose ownership.

EDIT: Elaborated


If you are doing business in california, you need to register a california llc, though. And california is a big market.


> If you are doing business in california, you need to register a california llc

No, you can just register as a foreign LLC [1]. Notably, you do not have to disclose ownership to do business as a foreign, i.e. non-Californian, entity in California.

[1] http://bpd.cdn.sos.ca.gov/llc/forms/llc-5.pdf

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice.


Thanks for correction.


Batteries not included


The requirement for qualifying to do business in a foreign State isn't based on whether you are doing business in said state, rather if the business has a physical presence in said State.


It's not that cut and dry. Consult your legal counsel for the correct answer to this scenario.


Unfortunately for Californians, if any managing member of an LLC resides in California the state requires the LLC to register as a foreign LLC and pay an $800 per year tax.


The bank needs to know who is the final beneficiary. It doesn't mean they publish this information for everyone to know.


Exactly, a bank protects your information by default.

A state business registry does not. Which is why you use / might want a registered agent for your business. But you don't need to do the same thing at the bank (and in fact, I don't think most banks will allow an account without a name and a SSN to tie it back to)


LLC's are already anonymous depending on the state. This is such a marketing gimmick.


haha, that is what is funny about this. But you really should use a lawyer to form your entities, because the registered agent can be subpoena'd and you would never know. The lawyer can lock that up under client-attorney privilege.


Do I need something like this if I want to work on side projects that touch legal gray areas? Let's say asking users to upload/annotate stuff that might be copyrighted for a ML pipeline?

The only step taken to staying anonymous is hiding WHOIS on the domain. But I feel like if someone really wants to sue me they can still send a court order to DNS host or something so I want to limit personal liability if it's stuff that I am just doing for fun.


The desire for Anonymonity doesn't have to be for nefarious reasons. Like you said ppl like to use Private WHOIS records so that their private info isn't broadcast all over the web.

Another possible use-case for Anon-LLCs is Apple's App Store, apparently the only way you can register an app there is either through your own name or a corp -- using an Anon-LLC is this case would be along the lines of electing a private whois.


There is no such thing as "anonymous LLC". Being in that business far longer than that company existed, I should know it. We have registered LLC companies all over states for decades.

Anonymity is not absolute. The simple fact that manager and member names need not be disclosed to Secretaries of States does not make the LLC "anonymous".

Anonymous means having no known name or identity or known source.

Each LLC company must have its organizer, the person registering the company. Organizer may me the member of the LLC or the agent.

Each LLC company must have its registered agent, and such agent must keep information of members and managers ready in their offices, and shall give it to Secretary of State upon request, or to any courts upon court orders. Failures to maintain correct information of the members/managers of the company are penalized.

The title is misleading.


FYI, any attorney can do this for you. You just pay them and they act as the registered agent. Actually, anyone can act as your registered agent (in my state, at least).


Is it truly anonymous even with a FEIN registration? The owner will need to file an SS-4 with their SSN or already registered FEIN anyway.

NM looks the most attractive to me right now.


What are the use cases for an anonymous LLC?


Assembling property for development. Concealing ownership of certain assets. Keeping your name from appearing in certain public records.


>Assembling property for development

This is definitely the most common reason for anonymous LLCs. For elaboration, think about buying up a ton of crappy property in a specific area. Doing it all under a single LLC with traceable names can cause property agents and banks to notice and raise prices / hold out on existing property that the developer may need.


It predates the LLC era, but this was how Disney bought up its huge swaths of land just outside Orlando to build Walt Disney World.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-disney-shell-companies...


An easy one is: anything legal or illegal that would harm the owners reputation to be associated with.

Rich guy heads his local anti-drug crusading non-profit in Seattle or Salt Lake City. Also co-owns an anon LLC that is in the booming marijuana business.


Tax fraud and organised crime aside I'd say getting into the online music business. Staying anonymous for as long as possible today probably is the only way to establish an independent business in that industry without having to pay extortionate licence fees to the big four.


Disagree regarding the music business. They don't care if the owners are anonymous, they'll go right after the LLC itself and destroy it as necessary, while trying to pierce the anonymous aspect any way they can. Having an anon-ownership list won't protect the company from their licensing fees at all.


Anyone know how if it is possible to form Anonymous LLC in California or Nevada, is yes, how?


If I live in California though, my understanding is that I must have a California LLC. Is that not true?

Basically either way if I have a California LLC or Delaware LLC, I'll still be required to pay California income tax and the flat $800 a year LLC fee.


If you're physically in California, you're required to qualify/register your LLC with California (and pay the taxes), but it does not have to be a California LLC. See, for example: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/qualify-foreign-busin...


So there would be no financial advantage to switching to a Delaware LLC if I'm going to continue living in California other than the courts are more favorible to business in Delaware. Is that right?


My understanding is that the primary benefit of Delaware incorporation is that it has the most well established case law of any state, not that its courts necessarily have any particular bias toward businesses over individuals (although this may very well also be the case).


Which is a totally overrated benefit.

Judges in any other state can lean on Delaware court outcomes if their state has never seen the issue before. But what if you don't like the direction the case law went? Then its better for you to create a new outcome in literally any other state.

You think literally all 50+ states' legislatures just sat idly over the last 30 years while Delaware's marketing machine was churning out the non-income-tax-related revenue scheme for their government?

Just think about it for a second, it doesn't matter what the collective conscious currently thinks right now, just think for yourself on it. There are over 50 US jurisdictions that could have any number of things in their law books and case law related to business.


I'm recieving Firefox warnings about my privacy in this website.


Same on Safari


in WA state

https://www.sos.wa.gov/corps/search_detail.aspx?ubi=

with a UBI will tell the agent and the governor(s) of the LLC.

If you use the current search function on the SOS website like this one :

https://www.sos.wa.gov/corps/search_results.aspx?ubi=

then you get a group of listing with a click through that does not list the governor(s).

Weird quirk.


JJ Luna is a well known expert in this space: https://jjluna.com/Resources-LLCs

A recent podcast with him: https://inteltechniques.com/wp/2017/01/17/the-complete-priva...


Not sure who JJ Luna is, but reading through his FAQ on ghost addresses doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Specifically his description of INTERPOL "holding someone's feet to the fire". That's not how INTERPOL even remotely works. They aren't a Supra national police org, they don't even have the power to make arrests. They are a data clearing house for individual state police authorities. At most they could put out some kind of notice, but it would be the Spanish police org in his example that would be doing all the work.

Understanding your adversary is the first step to rational risk assessment.


I've always been confused about the different protections afforded to different cooperate structures. Why do you want an anonymous LLC rather than a different legal entity? How much anonymity is provided via this service? Is this actually a benefit?


IANAL but my understanding is that 1) it keeps your activities private when doing business as the LLC since no one has to disclose the owner of the LLC and 2) tax liabilities are not passed to the owner of the LLC, so if a business deal goes underwater the creditors can't pursue you personally.

I'm sure some details there aren't 100%. most people I know using them are privacy freaks so my experience is biased towards that end of it.


It would've prevented https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8fU2QG-lV0 from getting caught. Not that that's a good thing, but it's an example of the type of business an anonymous LLC would be used for.


Anyone besides stripe/atlas operate a service like this that comes with a bank account?


Website still says copyright 2016, not a strong signal regarding their attention to detail.


Or maybe it's an indication of their proper understanding of copyright notices...

The year in the copyright notice is suppose to be the date of the creation of the work or the year in which it was first published, which is not necessarily the current year [0].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_notice


Anonymous companies are a problems for years now, people are hiding their taxable income behind those companies. They are also used to avoid responsibility in case something goes wrong. See the panama papers a few years ago. Delaware is a paradise for those companies.

The NGO Global Witness is fighting anonymous companies for years now https://www.globalwitness.org/en-gb/campaigns/corruption-and...


But what is the problem?

When you run some sort of SilkRoad website, I doubt you can ride it long just because you happen to incorporate in Delaware. After all, its still a part of USA.


I think it is a huge problem, because it makes corruption easier and if you put enough anonymous companies between you and what you do, nobody can find out what you are doing. At least those people hope they can. That is why a public register is important. Companies were never a tool for being anonymous, they were always a tool of distributing risk.




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