If you are forming an LLC or a corporation in Iowa, 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, Iowa 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 Iowa Secretary of State before registering your LLC or Corporation.
There is no fee to search.
Also See: Guide to Starting a Business in Iowa
How to do an Iowa Business Name Search
Step 1: Visit the Business Name Database
Go to the Iowa Secretary of State’s website.
Step 2: Search your Business Name
Enter the name you would like to use in the “Entity Name” field. In this example, we will look up “Lawn Kings” and click “Search.”
Step 3: Review Results
Searching the registered names, we get a list of all the businesses with the words “Lawn Kings.” To be able to register a corporation or LLC name in Iowa, 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 each of the registered business names, click on the link under “Business No.” for a detailed report.
While the name “Lawn Kings” isn’t available, searching for “Cowboy Cleaners” is an example of a business name search for an available name. Searching for this name brings a result that says, “Sorry, no results.” 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 Iowa. 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?
The database search can find several pieces of information about the business. Some of the highlights include:
- Legal Name
- Status – Active means the business entity is in good standing with the Secretary of State, and all reports and filing fees are up to date.
- Expiration Date – How long the entity intends to operate. Most select Perpetual as the intention is to allow the business to operate indefinitely.
- Effective Date – Date when the LLC officially started
- Filing Date – Date when the Certificate of Organization was submitted. A company can elect to have an effective date up to 120 days later than the filing date.
- 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 publically listed.
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 a Trade Business Name (Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships)
The Secretary of State Business Entity Database provides information for corporations and LLCs registered in Iowa. The names of sole proprietorships or general partnerships are not centralized and are registered with the County Recorder’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 a Trade Name, which is also known as “Doing Business As,” DBA, Assumed Name, or Fictitious Business Name.
Related: How to register a Trade Name in Iowa
What are the requirements to name an LLC in Iowa?
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 Reservation of Name (Form 501A.301) with the asdf Secretary of State. The name reservation will hold a name for up to 120 days, at the cost of $10.
How do I form an LLC?
Once you know the LLC name is available, learn how to form an Iowa LLC by reading our step-by-step guide
While not required in Iowa, 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 Iowa business licenses and permits to ensure the business is legal to operate.