South Carolina Business Name Search (Step-by-Step Guide)
Even with the help of business services through the Secretary of State, registering a business has financial consequences. Always discuss business setup with a business attorney.
How to search for South Carolina business names
Before a business owner can register a new business entity name in South Carolina, the business owner must search the South Carolina Secretary of State’s office database to ensure the business name is unique. If a business owner finds an exact match or a similar name, she must choose another business name.
To search for business name availability:
- Step 1: Navigate to the South Carolina Secretary of State’s search tool to start entering search criteria.
- Step 2: Using the dropdown menu, choose “Begins With.”
- Step 3: Enter the business name.
- Step 4: Click the ‘Search’ button.
- Step 5: Review names for an exact match or similar names.
If the search produces zero results, repeat the search, except change the search type to “Contains.” If the system produces zero results or no exact matches, the name is most likely available, and the business owner can continue with the registration after doing the searches for a domain name and social media accounts.
How to register a business name in South Carolina
Once a business owner chooses a name and ensures that it is unique, the business owner can file the entity name. Before filing, the business owner should choose an entity type. If she does not know which entity is best for her business, she should seek the advice of a business law attorney.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) taxes various entities in different ways. For example, profits from corporations are taxed twice – once at the corporate level, then again at the personal level. Limited liability companies are pass-through entities – the IRS taxes them only once – on the business owner’s personal taxes.
To register a business entity name in South Carolina, navigate to the business entity search page. Enter the business name, then click the link for “Add a new entity.” The system will take the business owner to the login page for business filings.
South Carolina trademark/DBA name search
South Carolina does not have an interactive trademark database search. However, the state does publish a list of current trademarks. A business owner might register a trademark in South Carolina, but should keep in mind that the state registration only protects others from using the trademark in South Carolina.
If a business owner wishes to protect intellectual property on a national level, he must register the intellectual property with the US Patent and Trademark Office. If a business owner wishes to determine whether a business name or logo has been trademarked at the federal level, search the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Check if the domain name is available
Before a business registers its name, the business owner should take additional steps to ensure that the name is available for domain and social media use. While the domain name and social media accounts or pages do not have to have the same name as the business, it is better for marketing purposes. If another person or entity is already using the name, a prospective business owner can choose another name to register at the state level or use a different name that describes the business for the domain name and social media accounts.
If a business owner wishes to create an internet presence, search for a domain name that is the same as or similar to the business name. The business owner could also choose a domain name that describes the business.
To search domain names, navigate to any domain registry. Enter the business name in the search box. The domain registry will tell you if the name is available.
If a domain name is not available
If not available, some domain registries suggest alternative names.
Some of the alternative names could be the same business name with a different extension. We do not recommend using the same business name with a different extension as that frequently confuses customers – they’ll end up on a competitor’s website. For example, if ABC Widgets is not available as a dot-com but is available as a dot-net, we do not recommend using ABCWidgets.net.
If the name is available, we recommend registering it as soon as possible. We also recommend registering the other popular extensions, such as dot-net, dot-us, dot-org, and dot-store. Business owners can set up landing pages on the other sites that point to the main dot-com site.
Check if the social media name is available
Social media platforms are another way for a business to advertise for free or next to nothing. To search a social media platform, enter the business name in the platform’s search box. If the name does not come up, create an account for the business. If it does, a business owner can choose another business name and start over or choose a similar or descriptive name for the social media platforms.
Naming considerations for South Carolina business entities
South Carolina requires most businesses to append certain phrases, words or abbreviations to the end of a business name.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
South Carolina does not require sole proprietorships and general partnerships to register. Thus, these entities do not have any naming conventions. However, they must use the business owner’s or partners’ surnames as the business name.
If a sole proprietorship or general partnership wishes to use a ‘doing business as’ name (DBA), the business owner should search the database to ensure the name is unique. However, DBA names are not registered with the South Carolina Secretary of State.
Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
If a business owner chooses to incorporate as a limited liability company, the business owner must append one of the following to the end of the business name:
- Limited liability company.
- Limited Company.
Limited liability partnerships
Businesses that wish to register their business name as a limited liability partnership must amend one of the following to the business name:
A business owner who wishes to incorporate as a corporation must append one of the following to the end of the business name:
South Carolina nonprofits do not have to append an entity type at the end of their names.
How are business licenses obtained in South Carolina?
South Carolina does not require businesses to have a general business license. However, certain industries might need a business license or permit. Additionally, counties and cities might require a business to obtain a license or permit. Always check with local jurisdictions for licenses and permits.
Does my business need a registered agent?
If the business is registered with the South Carolina Secretary of State, a business owner must have a registered agent. The registered agent ensures that the business is in compliance with state regulations for businesses. The agent also accepts service of process and other legal documents on behalf of the business, which also keeps legal matters private from employees and customers.
Does my business need a Federal Employer Identification Number?
If a business has employees, it must have a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). In some cases, banks, vendors, and creditors will require a business with no employees to obtain a FEIN in order to do business. A business owner can apply for a FEIN, or we can obtain the FEIN for the business.
Do I have to file an annual report?
Yes. If the business is registered with the South Carolina Secretary of State, a business owner must file an annual report or risk being administratively dissolved.
Where can I find downloadable paper forms?
Navigate to the South Carolina Secretary of State’s form page to view and download paper forms.
How do I find out if a creditor or vendor placed a lien on my business property or business?
Navigate to the South Carolina UCC filings page to conduct a search for the business.
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