Operating Multiple Businesses Under One LLC

can i operate multiple llcs under one llc?

You have amazing ideas for new businesses. You’re ready to incorporate in order to protect yourself and your personal assets, and you’ve decided it’s time to take the next step and create an LLC holding company for your various endeavors.

Then, the questions swirl:

  • What type of business activity can I conduct with my LLC?
  • How many different businesses can I operate under one LLC?
  • Should I set up DBAs?
  • Should I create a separate LLC for each project?
  • Will a series LLC work for me, or should I stick to multiple, traditional LLCs?

By now, it’s common knowledge that Delaware is the gold standard when it comes to forming an LLC, LP, or Corporation. The Delaware LLC is by far the most popular entity type for most entrepreneurs building a startup.

As a result, people often wonder if they can operate multiple LLCs under one LLC holding company. 

how to structure multiple businesses

Structuring Multiple Businesses Under One "Umbrella" LLC

Can you have multiple businesses under one LLC? For example, let's pretend a business owner has a trucking business incorporated as an LLC but after some time, he/she may also want to offer real estate services.

These are two completely different types of businesses, so it raises the question of whether or not the owner can provide both services under one LLC. Part of the consideration for owning multiple businesses is, naturally, wanting to avoid additional costs for maintaining another LLC.

The answer is yes--it is possible and permissible to operate multiple businesses under one  umbrella LLC. Many entrepreneurs who opt to do this use what is called a "Fictitious Name Statement" or a "DBA" (also known as a "Doing Business As") to operate an additional business under a different name.

However, just because it’s permissible and possible to operate multiple businesses under one LLC or corporation doesn't mean you should, as there can be downsides.

For example, if a lawsuit is filed against any one of the businesses, the assets of the others could be at stake. The result is that you put yourself at a higher degree of liability risk. In other words, if one of the pieces (businesses) within the LLC were to be held liable, then so could the entire LLC. As the old adage says, "Do not put all your eggs in one basket."

Instead, many people opt to file a new LLC for each of their start-up ventures. Owning multiple businesses under separate LLCs isolates the risk by separating each business's debts and liabilities. Think of the separate entities as helping to put up a big brick wall in between each LLC.There are, of course, additional maintenance fees, but these can be well worth it in order to protect your businesses and offer the peace of mind that separate LLCs will afford.

What About a Series LLC?

Some people explore the low-cost series LLC when they want to operate several different businesses, which is very enticing since there is only one annual Franchise Tax payment to the State of Delaware and one annual Registered Agent Fee.

However, the structure of this business entity is relatively new and unproven, so there are often many hurdles that arise when dealing with a series LLC. Many service providers, banks, attorneys, accountants and other businesses are still unfamiliar with the series concept. It often takes time to explain the series concept and to obtain approval for documentation required, for example, from a bank's lending group. It is generally considered safer and smarter for people to keep their business ventures completely separate from one another by forming an LLC for each aspect of a business; in essence, what you are doing is creating one Delaware LLC as a holding company, and other, individual LLCs within it, yet separate from it. 

Separate LLCs for Separate Businesses

As it stands today, the battle-tested, proven practice of creating individual LLCs that are formed for every variant of a business is traditionally still the most highly recommended strategy by tax professionals, attorneys and business consultants all over the world.

This means that for every sector of the business, for each product line, for every service provided, for each piece of real estate held, clients will often consider creating separate, traditional LLCs.  For people that own multiple businesses, this ensures that the assets, debts, and liabilities of each LLC are completely disconnected and shielded from one another in the event of any possible litigation.

When establishing multiple LLCs, it can be extremely helpful to develop a blueprint hierarchy that will coincide with the relationship of the respective LLCs. For example, people typically set up numerous LLCs for real estate development.

This framework often consists of one parent LLC at the top of the hierarchy—let’s call it ABC Holding Company, LLC. People then typically create multiple sibling LLCs, one for each piece of actual real estate—let’s call them ABC Real Estate 1, LLC; ABC Real Estate 2, LLC; and ABC Real Estate 3, LLC.

Each LLC may own, manage and be responsible for a single piece of property; thus, while all the LLCs share the same holding company—ABC Holding Company, LLC—and may possess similar structures, ownership interests, assets and liabilities, they are insulated and shielded from one another in order to protect the properties and resources of each individual LLC.

Delaware LLC holding companies are also considered a smart, strategic way to further protect your personal assets from your LLCs.

If you would like more information or have any questions about forming your own companies or adding another business under the parent LLC please contact us by phone (800-345-2677), Skype (DelawareInc), email or live chat. One of our knowledgeable business startup specialists will be happy to assist you.

Next: How to Create and Use a DBA

*Disclaimer*: Harvard Business Services, Inc. is neither a law firm nor an accounting firm and, even in cases where the author is an attorney, or a tax professional, nothing in this article constitutes legal or tax advice. This article provides general commentary on, and analysis of, the subject addressed. We strongly advise that you consult an attorney or tax professional to receive legal or tax guidance tailored to your specific circumstances. Any action taken or not taken based on this article is at your own risk. If an article cites or provides a link to third-party sources or websites, Harvard Business Services, Inc. is not responsible for and makes no representations regarding such source’s content or accuracy. Opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Harvard Business Services, Inc.

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There are 27 comments left for Can I Operate Multiple Businesses Under One LLC?

Mokgohlwa said: Monday, March 12, 2018

Hi, what is the procedure of combining two or three different businesses?

HBS Staff replied: Monday, March 12, 2018

Typically, a DBA is set up with the state and/or county that you are operating out of. Before setting up the DBA, your home jurisdiction may require you to foreign qualify there, if you have not done so already. We are not able to file the DBA, but we are more than happy to assist with the foreign qualification.

Your business is considered domestic to the state where formed, and foreign in all other States.  To take advantage of the strong corporate law structure, Delaware is by far the most popular domestic choice.

If your business will have a physical presence by operating, hiring employees, banking or even holding an asset in a state other than its state of incorporation, clients will often qualify the business to operate in that state.

The foreign qualification process enables a company to transact business in a jurisdiction other than where it was formed.  By failing to comply with local compliance issues, you may be putting the protection of your company at risk.

For further information on the DBA visit https://www.delawareinc.com/blog/dba-or-doing-business-as/

For more information on the foreign qualification process https://www.delawareinc.com/blog/what-is-foreign-qualification/


R said: Saturday, December 2, 2017

I own parts of 4 restaurants, all S-Corps. Core partners are the same but a couple have additional ones. I am not listed as an officer in any of them. Should I force the issue? Does it impact my tax benefits? Or is my tax status affected for my umbrella LLC just formed now by me as only member affected at all? I will likely add equity positions in other industries over time under the umbrella LLC.

HBS Staff replied: Monday, December 4, 2017

Thanks for reading our blog. Unfortunately, we can't answer your questions as they are out of our realm of experience. A tax professional and/or a lawyer would be better suited to help you.

Miles Fidelman said: Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Is this not the whole point of Series LLCs? Has the status been clarified at all when it comes to tax treatment, and filing requirements when operating in other states notably MA?

HBS Staff replied: Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Series LLC is treated as a single entity that can have different series or classes internally in the LLC. Each series can hold its own assets, have its own members and conduct its own operations yet remain insulated from claims of members, creditors or litigants pursuing the assets of, or asserting claims against, another series. Typically, each series is considered a separate entity for the purposes concerning the federal taxation of the entity. Many accountants or tax professionals are still not familiar with the structure adding to the many uncertainties that make it difficult to actually utilize a series LLC

If physically operating the Delaware Series LLC in MA, people typically qualify the entity there as a foreign LLC. The entire process to qualify the Delaware Series LLC there only takes a couple of business days on average.    

Naimah Makor said: Friday, October 20, 2017

I just applied for an EIN # to sell handmade crafts, but I also want to see products on Amazon. Do l need another EIN #?

HBS Staff replied: Friday, October 27, 2017

Traditionally, the IRS will only issue one EIN per company. Generally, clients consult with a tax professional in order to determine if anything additional is needed to become an Amazon vendor, just to be on the safe side.


Andeywala said: Monday, July 24, 2017

Thanks for sharing up–to-date on this subject! I find it is very informative and very well written one! Keep up on this quality!

HBS Staff replied: Monday, July 24, 2017

Thank you and we're glad you are enjoying our blog.

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