If you're setting up a new business, one of the best things you can do to make your life easier is to turn to a business formation service. You fill out a few details, sit back and let the professionals handle it. But there are thousands of formation services out there, and it can be hard to know which is best. Today, Northwest Registered Agent Service and Harbor Compliance Services will be compared side-by-side to see which offers you the best services for your money.

Northwest vs. Harbor Compliance: The Verdict

Northwest is a family-owned entity with over 200 customer service representatives (known as corporate guides) providing support to business owners by providing stellar customer support. Northwest doesn't ever upsell or share your data elsewhere, which is quite common with the cheaper services. They also scan all of your mail to you, whereas the majority of other registered agent services only scan government mail. They offer the best registered agent services available.

Harbor Compliance also offers stellar service; in fact, where most companies require you to fill out a simple form to sign up, Harbor Compliance will immediately put you in touch with a specialist to go through all of your formation options with you. They've helped over 10,000 entrepreneurs and businesses startups. Customer service is stellar with both providers, but they do have small differences. Harbor Compliance is much more expensive, but they're ideal for large non-profits, as they have a 100% success rate in getting non-profit certification.

Choose Northwest if:

  • You want the best registered agent services with no upselling
  • You'd prefer a family-owned business
  • You're starting an LLC or partnership

Choose Harbor Compliance if:

  • You're starting a corporation or non-profit
  • You would want a virtual walk-through signup
  • You don't mind spending extra money

Services Offered & Pricing

The formation packages offered by both are pretty similar. However, Harbor Compliance is much more expensive, offering multiple packages starting from $400 + state fees, whereas Northwest offers just one package for $225 + state filing fees. Northwest also offers a free online account; while this doesn't come with any filing services, it does contain helpful guides and FAQs; you can upgrade to a paid account at any time. Even within their paid services, there is quite a difference. For example, even with the expense of Harbor Compliance, they don't offer expedited filing services.

Choose Harbor Compliance if:

  • You don't need expedited filing
  • You're setting up a non-profit or corporation
  • You want additional customer service from compliance specialists

Choose Northwest if:

  • You want to save some money
  • You want free, helpful advice before spending any money
  • You need expedited processing

Harbor Compliance Packages & Pricing

Harbor offers two simple packages for you to look at. Small businesses will probably benefit more from the basic formation package; however, large NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) or corporations may want to consider the Compliance package.

Formation package - $399 + state fees

The Formation package is limited to entity formation requirements. This package includes:

  • Filing Articles of Organization: Drafting and filing forms submitted to the state to officially create a business entity.
  • Name availability search: Ensuring your name is available by searching through your state database.
  • Registered Agent Service: Free year of mail forwarding via a registered agent who receives important deliveries from the government for you and sends them your way.
  • Federal Tax ID Number: An SS number for your business, which is used to file taxes, open bank accounts, and hire employees.
  • Sample Operating Agreement: Template to outline ownership structure and operation guidelines that you can fill in on your own.

The Formation package costs $399 plus your state fee.

Compliance Package - $799 + state fees

The Compliance package provides the full suite of Harbor Compliance services. This package includes everything from the Formation package, in addition to:

  • Managed Annual Report Service: Managing due dates and filing annual reports to the state on your behalf.
  • Initial report: Some states require an initial report after filing. Harbor Compliance can determine if it's necessary and handle it for you.
  • Publishing: Some states have a publishing requirement of public proof of their business formation in a local newspaper, which Harbor Compliance can handle if required.
  • LLC kit: Custom company binder with your brand name embossed along with a symbolic seal white-labeled with your company name, state, and date of creation.
  • S-Corp and C-Corp tax election: Preparing and filing necessary IRS forms for tax election if you choose to be taxed as a corporation.
  • Ongoing support: Ongoing access to Harbor Compliance's customer support even after entity formation.

The Compliance package costs $799 plus your state fee.

Northwest Registered Agent Packages & Pricing

Northwest is unique in the sense that they only offer one package, with a registered agent fee that is reduced after the first year.

A La Carte Services - $225 upfront, variable per year

Northwest Registered Agent only offers one pricing package, though there are several add-on services. For $225, Northwest Registered Agent incorporates your business and will act as your registered agent for a year (The cost for this is $125 annually after the first year). Since they act as your registered agent, the physical address that you rely on for your mail will be their business address, they'll receive all correspondence for you and send it all your way - even junk mail. This is a win for small business owners, as it protects your personal information from prying eyes.

For $225, Northwest also provides new business owners with other essential documents, like corporate bylaws, stock certificates, and initial resolutions. The $225 price is more than many other organizations charge, but the Northwest services are more thorough.

After you have used your first year of service, you can use Northwest to submit your annual report to the state for $100 plus the state's filing fee.

Document Management & Online Experience

This is one area in which Northwest shines - they revolutionize this process and send you everything that they receive, allowing you full control over your business inbox. Compared to Harbor Compliance, which only passes on the important stuff. Harbor does offer free registered agent services (for a year), though, and has online interfaces such as the entity manager that streamlines your experience, which makes for a better experience than Northwest.

Key Similarities

  • Excellent registered agent services
  • Secure websites that will allow you to do everything you need online

Key Differences

  • Harbor Compliance has online entity managers
  • Northwest sends you all of your mail, irrespective of its importance

Processing Time

Your turnaround time will depend heavily on the state that you're incorporating in; Harbor Compliance does offer contact with a specialist compliance agent from day one, which speeds things up, but they don't promise a set turnaround time, nor do they advertise one. Expedited filing isn't available, either. Northwest does offer expedited filing, which starts from $100, depending on the state. Since neither relies on third parties or heavy outsourcing, you can trust them to offer the best processing times possible.

Key Similarities

  • You can trust both to get your filings done quickly
  • They don't use third parties

Key Differences

  • Harbor Compliance offers contact with a compliance specialist
  • Northwest offers expedited filing

Compliance & Track Record

Whether you go with Northwest or Harbor Compliance, you'll enjoy an unblemished track record and stellar compliance services. Northwest has been filing documents since 1998 without any compliance issues, and Harbor was founded in 2012 but has already helped over 10,000 businesses form.

In terms of what they can do for you, they can keep your business in good standing, keep up to date with all legal requirements, issue compliance notifications and create functioning legal documents. They also receive unblemished customer reviews online.

Key Similarities

  • A rating from the Better Business Bureau, but only Harbor Compliance is officially accredited
  • Unblemished compliance records

Key Differences

  • Northwest is not BBB accredited despite being around for longer

Customer Service

While Northwest offers great customer service, Harbor Compliance goes one step further. With Harbor Compliance, you'll be allocated a compliance specialist on day one, and they'll always be there for everything you need - you can contact them via a direct phone number or personal email. Northwest offers an excellent, quality customer support team, but they cannot match the level of personalization that Harbor Compliance offers.

Key Similarities

  • Excellent customer service

Key Differences

  • Harbor Compliance offers dedicated 1-1 customer support

Structure Breakdown

Your exact experience of the formation process will vary depending on which business structure you're setting up. Incorporation services for limited liability companies may differ completely from services offered to corporations, which is why I've broken down each business structure to analyze what they can offer you.

LLCs: Choose Northwest

Northwest can help you handle all of your important documents (scanning absolutely everything you receive) and provide you with reliable, stellar service. While Harbor Compliance does go a little further, the additional cost isn't really worth it if you're only forming an LLC. Their offerings are more suited to more complex incorporation services.

Corporations: Choose Harbor Compliance

Harbor Compliance offers great 1-1 service and additional services for corporations; you can get assistance with legal services, business licenses, EIN, bylaws, and Local & state ID. The 1-1 service is excellent and provides peace of mind - you can call your dedicated compliance specialist with queries at any time.

Partnerships: Choose Northwest

Partnerships are a simple legal entity; Northwest can help you set up a partnership with a DBA or partnership agreement, though you may want to consider legal advice about how debts affect your partnership. Partnerships are a common legal entity for accountancy and law firms, Northwest is highly experienced in setting up partnerships, and it's difficult to justify the excess costs associated with Harbor Compliance when Northwest can do it all for you.

Non-Profits: Choose Harbor Compliance

While expensive, non-profits should consider Harbor Compliance due to their rare 100% success rate in securing tax exemptions for charitable entities. While Northwest can help you, they don't have the same track record for this.

The Last Word

Northwest Registered Agent and Harbor Compliance are two premium providers; if you're looking for the best registered agent service provider or forming an LLC with a user-friendly predominantly online business, you should consider Northwest first and foremost. However, if you're looking for a premium provider that will give you a call and set things up over the phone and provide a compliance specialist to guide your new business every step of the way, then you should consider Harbor Compliance and all that they have to offer.

Filed under: Head-to-Head

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