The first step in forming an LLC or corporation in Massachusetts is to verify the business name is available to use. Each business entity that is registered with the Massachusetts Secretary of State must use a unique name. See our step-by-step guide to learn how to quickly search available names by using the state’s Business Entity Database.
The Secretary of State Business Entity Database provides information on corporations and LLCs registered in Massachusetts. The names of sole proprietorships or general partnerships are not centralized. Instead, they are registered with the Town Clerk’s office where the business is located.
How To Do A Massachusetts Corporation or LLC Business Name Search
Step 1: Visit the State Database
Visit the Massachusetts Secretary of State website.
Step 2: Search your Business Name
Enter the name you would like to use in the “Search by entity name” field. In this example, we will look up “Fix our Lawn” and click on the “Search Corporations” button. It is recommended that you try your search with the “Search type” drop-down menu (“Begins with,” “Exact match,” and “Full text”). Otherwise, you may miss a name that is already registered.
Step 3: Review Results
Searching the registered names, we get a list of all the businesses with the words “Fix our Lawn.” In this instance, there is only one, but your search may show several more. To be able to register a corporation or LLC name in Massachusetts, the name must be distinguishable from the other names registered. If you were looking to form an LLC with this name, you wouldn’t be able to since there is already one registered.
To find more information about each of the registered business names, click on the link in the “Entity Name” column to see a detailed report.
While the name “Fix our Lawn” by itself may not be available other variants are such as “Fix our Lawn Fast” or “Fix our Lawn Landscaping,” are. Searching for those business names brings a result that says, “No records found; try a new search using different criteria.” While final approval is still with the Secretary of State, it is likely available to register.
These are the basics of searching for a business name in Massachusetts. Even when the name of the business you want is available, the Secretary of State will make a final determination at the time of filing to ensure the name you picked isn’t too similar to other registered names.
What information can be looked up in the name database?
The database search can find several pieces of information about the business. Some of the highlights include:
- Business Name
- Entity type – Corporation, Limited Liability Company. Etc.
- Date of Organization – Date the entity was filed with the Secretary of State
- Principal Address – This could be the business’s physical address, or it could be an address where business records are stored.
- Resident Agent’s information – A Resident Agent is the singular point of contact for the entity should a legal or tax notice need to be sent to the business. This is often one of the owners, and if their home address is used, that address becomes public information. Many people find this concerning and use a Resident Agent service like Northwest Registered Agent, so their home address isn’t publically listed.
- Name and address of each manager.
- You can also view filings such as the annual report, certificate of organization, and more.
Something to keep in mind is that even though each Corporation and LLC name must be unique, it may not stop someone else from using that name since business names for a sole proprietorship or partnership are not registered by the Secretary of State and are not required to be unique. To protect your business name, consider getting a trademark.
Related: Should I trademark my business name?
How to Register a Trade Name for Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships
A Trade Name, also known as “Doing Business As,” DBA, Assumed Name or Fictitious Name is a name used by a sole proprietorship or partnership and is different from the owner’s legal name.
What are the requirements to name an LLC in Massachusetts?
In addition to the name being unique, the name of the LLC must include a special designator such as Limited Liability Company, Liability Company, L.L.C., etc., in addition to not using restricted words such as bank or insurance, unless the entity is licensed to operate as such.
Can an LLC name be reserved?
If there is a name you want but are not ready to register the LLC, you can file the Application for Reservation of Name. The name registration will hold a name for up to 60 days, at the cost of $30.
How do I form an LLC?
Before starting your business and forming an LLC, be sure to do the business entity search first to make sure the name is available to use. Once you know the LLC name is available, learn how to form a Massachusetts LLC by reading our step-by-step guide on filing the Articles of Organization.
While not required in Massachusetts, an Operating Agreement, which are the rules for how the LLC operates, is a document worth considering, especially for multi-member LLCs.
After forming a Limited Liability Company, an Employer Identification Number (EIN) is commonly needed. This is a “social security number” for the business. There is no cost to get one through the IRS.
Also, be sure to check for Massachusetts business licenses and permits to ensure the business is legal to operate.