Whether you’re researching the availability of a business name or checking the status of a business entity the Office of the Secretary of State website has the information you are looking for.
The Office of the Secretary of State Business Entity Database provides information on sole proprietorships, partnerships, corporations and LLCs registered in Washington.
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
- Business Type – Corporation, Limited Liability Company. Etc.
- Principal Office Street Address – This could be the physical address of the business or it could be an address where business records are stored.
- Status – Active means the entity is in good standing and all reports and filing fees are up to date. The names of “Inactive” 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 or IncFile so their home address isn’t listed.
- Governors – Names of the entity’s officers.
- You are also able to look up the Certificate of Formation (LLC), Articles of Incorporation (Corp) and Annual Reports.
How to do a Washington Business Name Search
Enter the name you would like to use in the “Corporation Search” section of the site. In this example, we will look up “Sew What” and then click “Search”. It is recommended to search by “Contains”, “Begins With” and “Exact Match” to search your name thoroughly.
Searching the registered names, we get a list of all the businesses with the words “Sew What”. To be able to register a corporation or LLC name in Washington, 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 “Sew What, LLC”.
While the name “Sew What” by itself may not be available, other variants are such as “Sew What Seamstress”. Searching for this business name brings a result that says “No value 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 Washington. 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.
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 Washington LLC by reading our step-by-step guide on filing the Certificate of Formation.
While not required in Washington, 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, Washington business licenses and permits may still be necessary.