Whether you’re researching the availability of a business name or checking the status of a business entity the Pennsylvania Department of State website has the information you are looking for.
The Department of State Business Entity Database provides information on sole proprietorships, partnerships, corporations and LLCs registered in Pennsylvania. The names of sole proprietorships or general partnerships are not centralized.
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:
- Business Name
- Entity type – Corporation, Limited Liability Company. Etc.
- Status – Active means the entity is in good standing with the state and all reports and filing fees are up to date. Inactive results may be available to register.
- Citizenship – Domestic means the business initially formed in the state. Foreign means an out-of-state entity wants to do business in the state of Pennsylvania.
- Entity Creation Date – Date the entity was first filed with the Department of State.
- Effective Date – The date the entity first became active.
- Address – This could be the physical address of the business or it could be an address where business records are stored.
- A copy of the Certificate of Organization and other documents can be purchased.
How to do a Pennsylvania Business Name Search
Visit the Pennsylvania Department of State website.
Enter the name you would like to use in the “Business Entity Name / ID” field. In this example, we will look up “Lawn & Order” and click “Name Availability Check”. It is recommended to search by “Starting With”, “Any Words” and “Sounds Like” in the drop-down menu to search your name thoroughly. Checking the “Only Active Corporations” will limit the search to only entities that are in good standing with the state.
Searching the registered names, we get a list of all the businesses with the words “Lawn & Order”. To be able to register a corporation or LLC name in Pennsylvania, 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 “Business Entity Name” column to see a detailed report. In this example, we will look up “Lawn & Order LLC”.
While the name “Lawn & Order LLC” is not be available, we can do an example search for one that is. This time we will look up “Cowboy Cleaners”, which brings a result that says “No results found for search term”. Even if the name looks like it is available the Department of State will do their own search to avoid confusing potential customers with a business name that sounds like someone else’s. Typically words that sound alike but are spelled differently and even abbreviations will make names show up as available but won’t be approved.
These are the basics of searching for a business name in Pennsylvania. Even when the name of the business you want looks like it is available, the Department 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 a Pennsylvania LLC by reading our step-by-step guide on filing the Certificate of Formation.
While not required in Pennsylvania, an Operating Agreement, which contains 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, Pennsylvania business licenses and permits may still be necessary.