The first step in forming an LLC or corporation in Tennessee is to verify the business name is available to use. Each business entity that is registered with the Tennessee 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 Tennessee Corporation or LLC Business Name Search
Step 1: Visit the Business Name Database
Go to the Tennessee Secretary of State website.
Step 2: Search for a Business Name
Enter the name you would like to use. In this example, we will look up “Acme” and click “Search.”
Step 3: Review the Results
Searching the registered names, we get a list of all the businesses with the words “Acme.” To be able to register a corporation or LLC name in Tennessee, 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 “Control #” column to see a detailed report.
While the name “Acme” by itself may not be available, other variants are such as “Acme Movers.” Searching for those business names brings a result that says, “No Matches 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 Tennessee. 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?
The database search can find several pieces of information about the business. Some of the highlights include:
- Business Name
- Status – Active means the entity is in good standing, and all reports and filing fees are up to date. If the status is “Inactive,” the names of these results may be available to register.
- Principal Office – This could be the business’s physical address, or it could be an address where business records are stored.
- Registered Agent’s information – A Tennessee 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 publically listed.
- A Certificate of Existence can also be ordered to prove the status of the entity.
How to Register an Assumed Business Name for Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships
The Secretary of State Business Entity Database provides information on corporations and LLCs registered in Tennessee. The names of sole proprietorships and general partnerships are not centralized. Instead, they are registered with the Register of Deeds office in the county where the business is located.
To register, 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 Business Name, which is also known as “Doing Business As,” DBA, Trade Name, or Fictitious Name.
What are the requirements to name an LLC in Tennessee?
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 for Reservation of Name (Form ss-4228) can be filed to hold the name for up to 4 months. 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 Tennessee LLC by reading our step-by-step guide on filing the Articles of Organization.
While not required in Tennessee, an Operating Agreement, which contains 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 Tennessee business licenses and permits to ensure the business is legal to operate.