If you are forming an LLC or a corporation in Texas, 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 most other states, the state of Texas 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 Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts before registering your LLC or Corporation. There is no fee to search.
Also See: Guide to Starting a Business in Texas
How to do a Texas Business Name Search
Step 1: Visit the Business Name Database
Go to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts website.
Step 2: Search your Business Name
Enter the name or keywords you would like to use in the “Entity Name” field. In this example, we will look up “Sew What” and click “Name Availability Check.”
Step 3: Review Results
Searching the registered names, we get a list of all the businesses with the words “Superior Lawncare.” To be able to register a corporation or LLC name in Texas, 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 “Details” link for the name you are interested in to see a detailed report.
While the name “Superior Lawncare” by itself may not be available, other variants are such as “Superior Lawncare of Texas.” Searching for this business name brings a result that says the business name was not found. Even if the name looks like it is available, the Comptroller of Public Accounts 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 Texas. Even when the name of the business you want looks like it is available, the Comptroller of Public Accounts 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
- Taxpayer Number
- Entity type – Corporation, Limited Liability Company. Etc.
- Status – Active means the entity is in good standing and can conduct business in the state. Other results include “Forfeited, “Not Established,” “Franchise Tax Ended,” and “Franchise Tax Involuntarily Ended.” The names of these inactive results may be available to register.
- Registered Agent’s information – A Texas 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.
- Registered Office Street Address – This could be the business’s physical address, or it could be an address where business records are stored.
How to Register an Assumed Business Name (Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships)
The Comptroller of Public Accounts Business Entity Database provides information on corporations and LLCs registered in Texas. The names of sole proprietorships and general partnerships are not centralized. Instead, registration is through the County Clerk’s office in the county where the business is located.
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.
How to Register an Assumed Name (Limited Liability Companies, Corporations, Limited Partnerships, and Limited Liability Partnerships)
Corporations and Limited Liability Companies won’t typically register a fictitious name since a unique entity name is created during the formation process. Some will file for an Assumed Name (sometimes referred to as a DBA) if they have another business they want to operate under their corporate/LLC umbrella to keep the liability protection without having to form another entity.
What are the requirements to name an LLC in Texas?
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 you want a name but are not ready to register the LLC, you can file the Name Reservation Form (Form 501) on the Texas Secretary of State’s website SOSDirect. The name reservation will hold a name for up to 120 days, at the cost of $40.
How do I form a Texas 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 Texas LLC by reading our step-by-step guide on filing the Certificate of Formation.
While not required in Texas, 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 Texas business licenses and permits to ensure the business is legal to operate.