The first step in forming an LLC or corporation in Illinois is to verify the business name is available to use. Each business entity that is registered with the Illinois 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.
Also See: Guide to Starting a Business in Illinois
How to do an Illinois Business Name Search
Step 1: Visit the Business Name Database
Go to the Illinois Secretary of State website.
Step 2: Search your Business Name
Enter the name you would like to use in the “Search” field. In this example, we will look up the business name “American Lawn Care.”
Step 3: Review Results
Searching the registered names, we get a list of all the businesses with the words “American Lawn Care.” To be able to register a corporation or LLC name in Illinois, 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 a registered business name, click on the link with the business name.
Clicking on the link for “American Lawn Care LLC” brings a detailed report.
While the name “American Lawn Care” may not be available, another variant like “American Lawns” is. Searching for those business names brings a result that says there were no matching entries. While final approval is still with the Secretary of State, it is likely available to register.
These are the basics of searching for a business name in Illinois. Even when the name of the business you want 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.
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:
- Entity Name
- Status – Active means the business is in Good Standing with the Secretary of State and all reports and filing fees are up to date
- Type of LLC – Corporation, Limited Liability Company. Etc.
- 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, so their home address isn’t listed.
- Principal Office – This could be the business entity’s actual address or an address where the business records are stored.
Something to 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?
How to Register an Assumed Name (Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships)
The Secretary of State Business Entity Database provides information for corporations and LLCs registered in Illinois. The names of sole proprietorships or general partnerships are not centralized and are registered with the County Clerk’s 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 Name, which is also known as “Doing Business As,” DBA, Assumed Name, or Trade Name.
What are the requirements to name an LLC in Illinois?
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 Name (Form LLC 1.15) with the Illinois Secretary of State. The name reservation will hold a name for up to 90 days, at the cost of $25.
How do I form an Illinois 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 an Illinois LLC by reading our step-by-step guide on filing the Articles of Organization.
While not required in Illinois, an Operating Agreement, which are 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 Illinois business licenses and permits to ensure the business is legal to operate.