How to Search Available Business Names in North Carolina

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Quick Reference

Whether you’re researching the availability of a business name or checking the status of a business entity the North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State website has the information you are looking for.

The Department of the Secretary of State Business Entity Database provides information on corporations and LLCs registered in North Carolina.  Assumed Business Name registration is also on file with the Secretary of State which includes sole proprietorships and general partnerships. These names are also searchable by county with the Register of Deeds office in the county being searched.

There is no fee to search the database.

What information can be looked up?

The database search can find several pieces of information about the business. Some of the highlights include:

  • Legal Name
  • Entity type – Corporation, Limited Liability Company. Etc.
  • Status – Current – Active means the entity is in good standing and all reports and filing fees are up to date. Other results include “Admin. Dissolved”, “Dissolved”, “Withdrawn” among others. The names of these results may be available to register.
  • Registered Agent’s information – A Registered 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 Registered Agent service like Northwest Registered Agent or IncFile so their home address isn’t listed.  
  • Principal Office Address – This could be the physical address of the business or it could be an address where business records are stored.
  • Company Officials – Names of the officers and their titles.

How to do a North Carolina Business Name Search

Visit the North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State website.

Enter the name you would like to use in the “Entity Name” field.  In this example, we will look up “A1 Affordable Storage”.  It is recommended to search both by “Starting With” “Any Words” “All Words” and “Exact” in the “Words” drop-down menu to be sure search your name thoroughly. Also, keep the default selection of “Company” in the “Search By” field.

How to do a North Carolina Business Name Search

Searching the registered names, we get a list of all the businesses with the words “A1 Affordable Storage”.  To be able to register a corporation or LLC name in North Carolina, 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.

North Carolina Business Entity Search

To find more information about any of the registered business names, click on the link in the “Entity Name” column to see a detailed report.  In this example, we will look up “A1 Affordable Storage LLC”.

While the name “A1 Affordable Storage” by itself may not be available other variants are such as “A1 Affordable Storage of Charlotte” or “A1 Affordable Storage Solutions” are.  Searching for those business names, brings a result that shows there were no results found”.  While final approval is still with the Department of the Secretary of State, it is likely available to register. 

North Carolina Business Name Availability

These are the basics of searching for a business name in North Carolina.  Even when the name of the business you want looks like it is available, the Department of 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. 

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 an North Carolina LLC by reading our step-by-step guide on filing the Articles of Organization.

While not required in North Carolina, an Operating Agreement, which are the rules for how the LLC operates, may be a document worth considering especially for multi-member LLCs.

After forming a Limited Liability Company, be sure to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN).  This is a “social security number” for the business.  There is no cost to get one through the IRS.

After forming the LLC, North Carolina business licenses and permits may still be necessary.