How to Register a DBA in South Carolina (Step-by-Step Guide)

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by LLC.org Team
Last updated: June 13th, 2024
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Opening a new business can be a stressful time. There are many forms to fill in, legal terms to become familiar with, and big decisions. One of the biggest decisions to make that may impact the success of your business is naming your business. If you want to run your business under a different name than your legal or company name may require you to file a DBA. This article will explain what a DBA means, if and when your business needs one, and how to apply for one in South Carolina.

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What is a DBA?

The DBA acronym, meaning “doing business as,” refers to a company or individual conducting business operations under a fictitious name. It can be viable if a business wants to use a more marketable trade name than its official title. A DBA allows a business to use a different name while still being legally accountable for the business under its legal name.

For instance, if John Smith operates a sole proprietorship that sells handmade candles, he can register a DBA name, such as “The Candle Co. by John,” to promote his products and services instead of using his own name.

Sole proprietors, partnerships, and corporations often choose to register for a DBA if they want to use a different name that better represents their products or services or if they want to use a more creative and catchy name. 

The process for registering a DBA varies by state. Generally, the process involves

  1. Selecting a unique business name.
  2. Verifying its availability.
  3. Filing the appropriate forms with the relevant government agency, such as the Secretary of State or county clerk’s office. 
  4. Paying a filing fee associated with the registration process.

South Carolina DBA name registration

In South Carolina, there is no legal requirement to register a DBA to operate a business in the state. However, it can benefit certain business transactions, mainly banking.

1
Choose your name

First, think of a name for your business. It is important to keep in mind some key rules as you come up with your business name:

  1. No two DBAs in South Carolina can be the same or deceptively similar.
  2. A DBA cannot have any business entity suffix like Corp or LLC unless that business has been incorporated as an LLC or corporation.
  3. Certain financial terms related to the banking sector are prohibited from being used.

2
Check name availability

Your new DBA name needs to be unique.

To confirm the uniqueness of your name, visit the South Carolina business name search and search to see if your proposed name is in use.

If your name is not in use and you want to prevent others from using it, you can trademark it in South Carolina. Filing a trademark in South Carolina only protects it in the state. You can trademark the name with the United States Patent and Trademark Office if you want nationwide protection.

We highly recommend purchasing your business’s web domain as soon as you’ve decided on a name, even if you don’t plan to launch a website immediately. This can prevent others from using your desired domain. Additionally, having a website can be an incredibly valuable marketing tool for any business.

3
Register your name

Filing for a DBA is completed either with your local county clerk or through the South Carolina Secretary of State.

The following businesses will file with the Secretary of State:

  • Corporation (Foreign)
  • Limited Liability Company (Foreign)
  • Limited Partnership (Foreign)
  • Nonprofit (Foreign)
  • Limited Partnership (Domestic)

Foreign businesses

  • Foreign businesses (businesses formed outside of South Carolina) file their fictitious names with the secretary of state. This would be applicable if a foreign business’s name is already being used in South Carolina and its legal name is unavailable.
  • The forms will ask for the following:
    • Applicants name
    • The legal name of the company
    • The date the fictitious name is adopted.
    • The fictitious name to be adopted

If the forms are being completed and mailed to the address is:

Secretary of State
Attn: Corporate Filings
1205 Pendleton Street, Suite 525
Columbia, SC 29201

Limited Partnerships

  • Limited partnerships are the only entity that registers its new name with the Secretary of State.
  • The assumed name certificate form will ask for the following:
    • Name of limited partnership
    • Assumed name for transaction
    • Date filed
    • Date and state of organization
    • Address and name of registered agent

If the forms are being completed and mailed to the address is:

Secretary of State
Attn: Corporate Filings
1205 Pendleton Street, Suite 525
Columbia, SC 29201

Domestic businesses (besides limited partnerships)

Domestic-based LLCs, Corporations, general partnerships, and sole proprietors will file with their local county clerk.

A full list of counties in South Carolina can be found in the South Carolina Association of Counties directory.

Each form is different based on the municipality and county. Some counties may leave a space where you can write your DBA name on local business license registrations; examples are from the City of Columbia Application for a New Business License and the Charleston County Business License Application.

The forms can be quite detailed and ask for the following information:

  • The name of the DBA
  • The registry number of the DBA (if applicable)
  • The principal business address
  • Names and contact information of individuals with an interest in the business
  • Names and addresses of legal entities with interest in the business
  • Counties in which business is conducted
  • Contact information
  • Signature
  • Filing fee (which may vary by county)

It’s also important to note that the DBA form must be notarized before it can be submitted to the Clerk.

4
Pay your filing fees

The DBA filing fees are dependent on the type of business you have.

  • If you file with the secretary of state, the fees are:
    • Corporation (Foreign) – $10
    • Limited Liability Company (Foreign) – $2
    • Limited Partnership (Foreign) – $10
    • Nonprofit (Foreign) – $10
    • Limited Partnership (Domestic) – $10
  • If you are filing on a local level, the cost varies by county but generally costs $10-$20.

5
Renew, amend, or withdraw your DBA

  • If you have filed with the secretary of state, your DBA is valid for five years.
    • It must be renewed before December 31 of your fifth year.
    • It can be renewed online.
    • The costs vary depending on your business entity.
    • To amend or withdraw your DBA, contact the South Carolina Business One Stop at 1-803-898-5690.
  • If you have filed with your county, contact them to find out information about your DBA name’s renewal, amendment, or withdrawal.

6
Obtain an EIN

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issues an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to identify a business for tax purposes.

If the original business already has an EIN, obtaining another one for the DBA is unnecessary. However, some businesses may require an EIN, especially if they plan to hire employees or open a business bank account.

Sole proprietors can use their social security number as their tax ID if an EIN is not required.

Applying for an EIN online on the IRS website is free and straightforward, and the process typically takes less than an hour to complete.

7
Open a business bank account

Opening a business bank account is a necessary step for any business owner.

It helps keep your personal and business finances separate, crucial for accurate bookkeeping and tax preparation. With a business bank account, you can also accept credit card payments made out to your new name.

You must typically provide your EIN, business registration paperwork, and personal identification when you open your account. Some banks may require additional documentation, such as a business plan or financial statements.

Useful links

Advantages and disadvantages of a DBA

There are many advantages to registering a DBA: 

  • Enhanced flexibility: A DBA name can be altered or updated more quickly and efficiently than a legal business name, which allows business owners to adapt to shifts in their products, services, or market conditions with greater flexibility. Business owners can use various DBA names to cater to different markets or products, broadening their scope and client base.
  • Segregation of personal assets and business finances: Registering for a DBA allows a business bank account to be opened, allowing for using the business name on financial transactions instead of the account holder’s name. This permits the receipt and issuance of checks using the new name.
  • Increased branding opportunities: A well-crafted name can be more descriptive and memorable than a legal name. This alias can help increase brand recognition and improve marketing and advertising opportunities. Filing for a DBA protects brands by prohibiting others from using the same name in certain states and counties.
  • Cost-effective solution: Compared to other business structures, such as Corporations or Limited Liability Companies (LLCs), registering for a DBA is generally less expensive and less complex, making it a cost-effective alternative for small businesses and startups. 

There are a few drawbacks to registering for a DBA, such as:

  • Limited legal protection: Unlike other business structures, such as LLCs, DBAs do not offer personal liability protection. This can mean that the owner is personally responsible for all debts, obligations, and lawsuits related to the business.

Who needs a DBA?

  • Sole proprietors: These individuals own businesses without creating a separate legal entity. A DBA can help them use a different name for marketing their products or services and provide them with more flexibility to adapt to market changes.
  • Partnerships: Joint ventures between two or more individuals who want to operate under a different name than their names. Filing a DBA allows partners to enhance brand recognition.
  • Corporations: Business entities that want to use a name different from their legal name or conduct business activities under multiple names. For instance, a corporation with a subsidiary that sells software named “Tech Solutions LLC” but wants to sell hardware can file a DBA for “Tech Hardware” to distinguish the two business activities.
  • Limited Liability Companies (LLCs): These flexible business structures allow owners to limit personal liability and protect their assets. LLCs can also register a DBA to conduct business under a different name or brand.

Why or why wouldn’t you need a DBA?

You would need a DBA if:

  • Operating under a different name: If you plan to use a name that differs from your legal or company name, then a DBA may be necessary.
  • Multiple business names: Corporations, LLCs, sole proprietorships, and partnerships that operate under numerous business names may need a DBA to keep their branding and legal structures distinct.
  • Test new products or markets: A DBA can be useful for testing new products or entering new markets without changing your legal name.

A DBA may not be necessary if:

  • Operating under the legal or personal name: A DBA may not be necessary if you operate under your or your company’s legal name.

FAQs

Does my DBA give me a business license?

This depends; in South Carolina, when you register with your local county clerk selecting a DBA name can often be part of the process of applying for a business license. However, a stand-alone DBA does not allow you to have a business license. Contact your local county clerk to find out specifically about your county.

Do I need to advertise my DBA in a local newspaper?

South Carolina does not mandate advertising DBAs in local newspapers. There are many benefits to letting a local community know of your new business, but it is not a requirement for filing for a DBA.

Are DBAs necessary in South Carolina?

DBAs are not necessary in South Carolina; if you are a general partnership or sole proprietor and want to operate under your own name, there is no need to apply for a DBA.

Why do I need one, then? 

Banks do not often let you open a business bank as a sole proprietor under a different name. If you plan on opening a business bank account to create a separation between your finances and your business finances, you will almost certainly need a DBA.

What is the difference between a DBA, assumed name, fictitious name, and trade name? 

There is no difference. They all mean to complete business under a different name. They can be used interchangeably as they are on the South Carolina Business One Stop site.

Find out how to register a DBA in your state

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