Pennsylvania Business Entity Search (Step-by-Step Guide)

Last updated: June 19th, 2024
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If you’re planning on starting a new business in Pennsylvania, then the first thing you need to do is conduct a business name search. The business name search on the Pennsylvania Secretary of State’s website allows you to check whether the name you’re considering is indeed available for registration or has already been registered by another business in the state.

Additionally, you’ll be able to access various details on the businesses that are listed in the search results and also use the existing names to spark your creativity and come up with alternative names for your business.

The following step-by-step guide will show you how to conduct a Pennsylvania business entity search.

Pennsylvania search tips

Make use of these tips when conducting your Pennsylvania business information search:

  • The Pennsylvania business information search is not case-sensitive, so you may use both upper and lowercase letters during the search.
  • Spaces, special characters as well as punctuation marks do not affect the results, so feel free to use or leave them out.
  • To narrow down your results, enter as many words as the name contains
  • To broaden your search results, enter just the first one or two words of the name of the business.

The Pennsylvania business information search allows you to search by:

  • Business entity name
  • Business ID

You may also refine your search by choosing one of the following options:

  • Starting with (starts with)
  • All words
  • Any words
  • Corporate name availability
  • Sounds like
  • Exact match

Additionally, you may tick the box that says “Only active corporations.”

Business search by entity name

To begin your business search, refer to the Pennsylvania Department of State Corporation Search page.

1
Enter the business name

Type the name of the business into the search bar under “Business entity name.”

Refine your search by using the drop-down menu under “Type of Search.”

The drop-down menu allows you to filter the search by selecting one of the following options:

  • Starting with (starts with)
  • All words
  • Any words
  • Corporate name availability
  • Sounds like
  • Exact match

You may narrow down your search even further by ticking the box that says, “Only active corporations.”

Hit enter on your keyboard.

2
Review the results

If matching entries are found, they will be displayed on the next page. Scrolling down to the bottom of the page will reveal the number of matching entities that the search picked up.

The information you’ll have access to on this page includes:

  • Business entity name
  • Name type
  • Address
  • Entity number
  • Entity type
  • Status
  • Citizenship

3
Review additional business information

If you’d like to access further details on any specific entity, simply click on the name of the entity or the entity number in blue.

This will take you to the business summary page, where you’ll have access to various pieces of information, including the business entity details, officers’ information, business address, and documents filed.

Business search by ID

While on the same page, you may also search for a business using the business ID.

1
Enter the business ID

Enter the business ID number into the same search bar and hit Enter on your keyboard.

2
Review the result

In this case, if you entered the correct business ID number, there should only be one result coming up after the search.

Pennsylvania search results

Irrespective of the search criteria or search type used, you will be able to view the following information:

  • Name
  • Entity type
  • Entity name
  • Status
  • Entity creation date
  • Citizenship
  • Effective date
  • Address
  • State of Incorporation
  • Officers’ details
  • Filed documents

The business summary page also gives you the option of placing an order for filed documents. However, you’ll need to register for a PENN File Account first.

Copies of documents and certificates

Once you’ve completed your Pennsylvania business name search, you may want to request copies of business documents for various reasons, such as:

  • To submit tax filings
  • To apply for bank loans and corporate bank accounts
  • To facilitate the process of business registration
  • To replace additional business documents

In most cases, you may need certified copies of business documents in order to complete many of the tasks mentioned above. Certified copies are accompanied by authentications, such as a seal, or stamp from the Department of State’s office confirming that they are true and correct copies of what the state has on file.

Plain copies are simply photocopies of what the state has on file; however, they do not come with any type of endorsement to confirm that they are, in fact, correct copies.

When you click on an entity name on the Pennsylvania Department of State’s Corporation Search page, it will take you through to the business summary page, where you can order business documents.

You’ll first need to register a PENN File Account and log in. Thereafter, you’ll be able to select the type of copies you need, be it plain or certified copies, and the quantity that you need. The prices for copies of business documents are all stated on the business summary page, so you are fully aware of the cost prior to placing your order.

Business name availability

It’s important to note that even if the name appears to be available at the time of your search, there’s no guarantee that it will remain available until you’re ready to register your business. This is why it is highly recommended that if a name is available at the time of the search, you reserve it.

To reserve a name in the state of Pennsylvania, you’ll need to complete the Name Reservation Form. When completing the form, ensure that you have the information below:

  • Name you want to have reserved
  • Applicant’s name
  • Applicant’s address
  • Date of name reservation
  • Applicant’s or authorized representative’s signature

Once you’ve completed the form, go ahead and mail it to the following address along with a check for $75 made out to the Department of State:

Pennsylvania Department of State Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations
PO Box 8722 Harrisburg
PA 17105-8722

The name reservation application will reserve the name for 120 days. Unfortunately, there’s no option to renew the reservation application, so once the 120 days expire, the name will become available for any other entity to register.

Another important consideration is to ensure that another entity in the state hasn’t already trademarked the name. The best way to do this is to conduct a trademark search on the state of Pennsylvania’s business filings website or, alternatively, conduct the trademark search on the USPTO website.

Additionally, when it comes to naming a Pennsylvania-based business, you’ll need to comply with the naming rules in the state. Some of those rules are as follows:

  • The name must contain a designation such as corporation, company, limited liability company, etc.
  • The name must be significantly different from other names registered with the Department of State or dos.pa.gov.
  • You must obtain prior approval from the Department of Education, Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs, Insurance Department, Department of Banking and Securities, etc. if you include certain restricted words in your business name.

For the complete guide to business naming rules in the state, refer to the Pennsylvania State statute.

Domain name availability

Once you’ve decided on the ideal business name, it’s time to start thinking about an equally suitable domain name for your business.

Domain names are absolutely essential in the age of the Internet, and therefore, you’ll need to choose one that is not only suitable and catchy but draws customers to your website for years to come.

When deciding on an ideal name for your website, consider the following hints and tips:

  • The name you choose must reflect your company’s values, identity, and what you promise to deliver.
  • Your domain name must be short, simple, and easy to pronounce and remember.
  • To keep domain names in 6 to 10 letters.
  • Try to ensure that your domain name is significantly different from other names already registered.
  • Choosing an ideal name for your website comes with various benefits, such as:
  • Establishing your business as tech savvy and forward-thinking brand.
  • Increasing your search engine rankings.
  • Making your products and services available throughout the globe
  • Providing brand visibility for your business.
  • Establishing credibility and separating your site and business from millions of other websites online.

When it comes to finding the ideal domain name, there are various tools available online. However, we highly recommend using a professional service like Namechk.com.

This website is a professional domain checking service that filters your options and provides suggestions in the event that your proposed domain name has already been taken.

Namechk.com checks your desired names against more than 100 social media networks.

Fictitious business name search

It’s important to note that if you plan on conducting business under any other names aside from your legal entity name or business entity name, then you need to register a DBA in the state of Pennsylvania. While DBAs are known as assumed, trade, or “doing business as” names, they are more commonly referred to as fictitious names in the state.

DBAs do not offer any type of legal protection for your assets in the event that your business is sued.

However, it so strongly recommended that you file a fictitious name application if you want to conduct business under a name that is separate or different from your legal business name. This is because customers have a right to know who they are conducting business with.

Once you’ve established that the name is available for registration, ensure that you keep the following naming rules in mind:

  • The fictitious name should not include a suffix like LLC, Corp., Inc., etc.
  • The fictitious name should not include words such as bank, banker, trust company, savings bank, etc., or any other similar words that may imply that your business is affiliated with a financial institution.

Once you come up with a name that is suitable for your business and complies with Pennsylvania naming rules, there are two ways to file your DBA application. The first method is to file online with the PENN File website, also known as the state of Pennsylvania’s online services, and complete the Registration of Fictitious Name Form.

Alternatively, you may download the Fictitious Name Registration Form and have it mailed along with a $70 filing fee to the following address:

Pennsylvania Department of State
Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations
P.O. Box 8722
Harrisburg, PA 17105-8722

FAQs

What does the term “federal lien” mean?

A federal lien is a term used when the government attaches your property or assets due to you defaulting on your taxes. So unless you arrange to settle your debt, your property may be sold, levied, or seized by the Internal Revenue Service.

Who can serve as a company’s registered agent?

Anyone may serve as a company’s registered agent, also known as a service of process agent, as long as they are over the age of 18, have a physical address in the state of Pennsylvania, maintain normal office hours, and consent to the appointment.

Should I start a limited liability Partnership or a limited liability company?

Whether you start a limited liability partnership or a limited liability company will depend on your goals. LLPs need to have a minimum of two partners; however, they also enjoy significant tax advantages when compared to LLCs. However, with any business structure, there are both advantages and disadvantages, so you should do your research before deciding on a business structure.

What are the different types of corporations?

There are different types of corporations, such as S corporations, C corporations, and limited liability companies, as well as nonprofit corporations and for-profit corporations. Each structure has its own set of advantages and disadvantages that you’ll need to consider before registering your business.

How do I obtain a Certificate of Good Standing?

In order to obtain a Certificate of Good Standing, you need to have filed the relevant reports and paperwork on time as well as submitted the necessary taxes. The Certificate of Good Standing is then issued to state that your company has complied with the relevant laws and is fully authorized to transact.

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