Your business name is more than just a few words that appear on your filing documents and tax returns; it's often your first interaction with potential customers. In South Carolina, the Secretary of State manages the registration of business names and requires that every business have a name that's distinguishable from those that are already registered in the state. According to the Secretary of State, it usually processes your registration within two business days of when it's received, but the processing could take longer if the office is swamped with applications.
Determine the availability of the business name you want to register by checking the South Carolina Secretary of State's "Search Business Filings" website. The name must be grammatically distinguishable from any other names anywhere in South Carolina. For example, if "Sweet Cookies Bakery" is already in existence in Greenville, you couldn't use "Sweet Cookies Bakery" even if your company only operates in Charleston. But, you could register "Sweet Brownies Bakery" regardless of where you do business because the name is grammatically distinguishable.
Reserve the name, if you're not ready to start your business, by filing an application to reserve a business name for your specific entity type. For example, if you had a limited liability company, use the Application to Reserve a Limited Liability Company Name form. Alternatively, if you have a limited partnership, use the Application to Reserve a Name -- Limited Partnership form. A name reservation is good for only 120 days and can't be renewed. But, if you're ready to incorporate or organize your business immediately, you don't need to file a name reservation first.
Register your business name by filing the formation documents for your business. The specific form for your company depends on your entity type, such as a domestic or out-of-state corporation, nonprofit, or limited liability company. The standard forms for each entity are available on the South Carolina Secretary of State's website. These legal documents create the foundation of your company, so the assistance of an attorney or online legal document service is recommended. When you submit the forms, you must also include the filing fee and a self-addressed stamped envelope.
The South Carolina Secretary of State disregards entity labels when determining whether a name is distinguishable. For example, if "My Business Name, Inc." is taken, you can't register "My Business Name, LLC."
A company that wishes to operate under a name different from its legal name should file for a Doing Business As, or DBA. The South Carolina Secretary of State does not maintain this registry, but does provide forms for entities who require fictitious names -- out-of-state businesses whose legal names are unavailable in South Carolina.
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