If you are forming an LLC or a corporation in South Carolina, the first thing you need to do is a business name search. This search checks all the registered business entities in the state to see if the business name you want to use is available. Like all other states, the state of South Carolina requires each LLC or corporation registered in the state to have a unique business name. So, before starting your business, it’s important to run a business entity search to verify if the name is available through the South Carolina Secretary of State before registering your LLC or Corporation. There is no fee to search.
How to do a South Carolina Business Name Search
Step 1: Visit the Business Name Database
Go to the South Carolina Secretary of State website.
Step 2: Search your Business Name
Enter the name you would like to use in the “Search by Business Name” field. In this example, we will look up “Landscaping Experts” and click “Search”.
Step 3: Review Results
Searching the registered names, we get a list of all the businesses with the words “Landscaping Experts. ” To be able to register a corporation or LLC name in South Carolina, the name must be distinguishable from the other names registered. If you were looking to form an LLC with this name, you would get the warning that “This name is currently being used” and wouldn’t be able to register it.
To find more information about any of the registered business names, scroll down and click on the link in the “Entity Name” column to see a detailed report.
While the name “Landscaping Experts ” by itself may not be available, other variants are such as “Landscaping Experts of South Carolina.” Searching for those business names brings a result that says “There were no records found”. Even if the name looks like it is available, the Secretary 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 South Carolina. Even when the name of the business you want looks like it 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.
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:
- Business Name
- Entity type – Corporation, Limited Liability Company. Etc.
- Status – Good Standing means all reports and filing fees are up to date. Other results include “Dissolved” or “Forfeited.” The names of these inactive results may be available to register.
- Domestic/Foreign – A domestic entity is one that is headquartered in South Carolina, while a foreign entity is one that is headquartered in another state and wants to physically do business in South Carolina.
- Effective Date – Date the entity became active
- Registered Agent – A Registered Agent in South Carolina 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 publically listed.
- Names of the officers and their title
How to Register an Assumed Business Name (Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships)
The Secretary of State Business Entity Database provides information on corporations and LLCs registered in South Carolina. Sole proprietors and general partnerships are not required to register their name and could register the same name.
A sole proprietorship or partnership operating their business under a name that is different from the owner’s legal name will register for an Assumed Name, which is also known as “Doing Business As,” DBA, Fictitious Business Name, or Trade Name.
What are the requirements to name an LLC in South 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 but are not ready to register the LLC, you can file the Application to Reserve a Limited Liability Company Name. The name reservation will hold a name for up to 180 days, at the cost of $25
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 South Carolina LLC by reading our step-by-step guide on filing the Articles of Organization.
While not required in South Carolina, 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, South Carolina business licenses and permits may still be necessary.
Also, be sure to check for South Carolina business licenses and permits to ensure the business is legal to operate.