The first step in forming an LLC or corporation in North Carolina is to verify the business name is available to use. Each business entity that is registered with the North Carolina Department of the 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.
How To Do A North Carolina Corporation or LLC Business Name Search
Step 1: Visit the Business Name Database
Step 2: Search for a Business Name
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 to search your name thoroughly. Also, keep the default selection of “Company” in the “Search By” field.
Step 3: Review the Results
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.
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.
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.
Something to also 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?
What information can be looked up in the database?
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, so their home address isn’t listed.
- Principal Office Address – This could be the business’s physical address, or it could be an address where business records are stored.
- Company Officials – Names of the officers and their titles.
How to Register an Assumed Business Name for Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships
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.
An Assumed Business Name, also known as “Doing Business As,” DBA, Trade 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 North Carolina?
In addition to the name being unique, the name of the LLC must include a special designator such as Limited Liability Company, LLC, 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 to use but aren’t ready to form the LLC, the Application to Reserve a Business Entity Name can be filed to hold the name for up to 120 days. The state filing fee for a name reservation is $20, paid to the Secretary of State.
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 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, is 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.
Also, be sure to check for North Carolina business licenses and permits to ensure the business is legal to operate.