How to Set Up a DBA in South Carolina

Last updated: March 17th, 2024
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A DBA (Doing Business As) allows individuals and businesses to operate under a different name or expand their brand presence while maintaining legal compliance. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the step-by-step process of setting up your DBA in South Carolina.

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DBA meaning

A DBA is an acronym for “doing business as”, sometimes known as a fictitious name, trade name, or DBA name depending on which state you are acquiring, is a state-level name that your company can use to do business under. Or in simpler terms, a DBA is just another name you can use for your business.

Sole proprietors can benefit a lot from using a DBA because instead of using their own name to run their business, they can use a DBA to operate under a different name, which makes your company look more legitimate and trustworthy to future consumers. 

If you are thinking about a unique business name for your startup as a sole proprietor, the next step would be DBA filing to make sure the name of the business you thought about could be the legal name for your business. Where you are registering for LLCs, general partnerships, or any type of business entity, the acquisition of a DBA is a good way to start. 

How to search DBA names in South Carolina

Before registering a DBA, one of the first things you should do is see if the DBA name you want is available to use. In most states, you cannot have the same business name as any other business, and every business name should be unique. You can search the business database in South Carolina to see if the name you want is up for grabs. Here is how:

1
Know the naming restrictions

South Carolina has a couple of business name restrictions, so make sure the names you choose do not confuse people with government agencies, such as the FBI, state department, and treasury department. Also, you can’t use suffixes like LLC, inc, corp, etc., unless that is your business’ actual structure.

2
Visit the South Carolina Secretary of State Website

To see if the name you want is available, you can search the South Carolina business database on the Secretary of State’s website and use the simple name search tool

3
Review the results

On the search page, you can search each name and see if the results have an exact match. If the results show an existing business already has the name you want, you have to pick something else. The state won’t allow two businesses to have the same name and will register your registration.

If there are no matching search results, the name is available.

4
Register your DBA

You can now start the DBA registration process. The steps to do so are below. 

Have a name in mind? Check on name availability first here.

How to register a DBA in South Carolina

Now that you have chosen a name that is available for you to use, created a business plan, and have everything else in order to start your business, the next step is to file for an assumed business name in South Carolina.

You can follow these steps to get your DBA as soon as possible in South Carolina:

1
Do a business name search

If you haven’t already, you need to do a quick DBA name search to find out if the name you want to use is available. You can do a quick search by using the name search tool here and following the directions mentioned above. 

2
File for a DBA in person

You can only file for an assumed name in person, so you must visit the local county clerk’s office to get started. Here is a complete list of county clerk offices in South Carolina. Look for the one closest to your area, and visit them to fill out the form and get the process started.

3
Fill out the form

Now that you know which office to visit, you need to fill out the Certificate of Assumed Business Name form with the required information.

You need to put the name you want for your new business, the type of business entity, a short description of the business, the owner’s name, business address, the owner’s contact information, and other easy-accessible information.

Once everything is filled out, you need to pay the filing fee. Since you are paying in person, the county clerk will accept cash or check. Most offices will accept credit card transactions.

4
Get your name certificate notarized

If there is no notary public available at the county clerk’s office, you can get the certificate notarized at any notary public in your area, which is the very last step to getting your DBA and finally starting your business.

Ready to register your DBA? Fill out these forms.

What comes next

For some businesses, a DBA is all they need to operate. However, some businesses need to complete a few more steps, such as opening a business bank account, getting an EIN, starting a website, and getting the necessary business licenses and permits needed to start their business.

Here are a few steps you might want to take after finally getting your DBA registration completed:

1
Get an EIN

Getting an EIN or employer identification number is easy, and it has tons of benefits for your growing business. An EIN is essential for tax reasons, as well as for hiring employees. You can also use an EIN to open a business bank account and build a line of credit, which you can use to expand your business. 

If you plan to get an EIN, you can do so on the IRS website.

2
Open a business bank account

Having a business bank account with your business name on it adds another layer of legitimacy for your business. Your clients can issue checks to your business name, and you can have a debit card with the business name on it.

In addition, you can also get proof of transactions, which you can use to open up credit lines to help your business grow. Another benefit of having a business bank account is that you can separate your personal money from your business account, which helps if you want to get analytical with your expenses and profit.

3
Get a business license

Although not all businesses in South Carolina need to be registered with the state, some businesses need to get the needed permits to operate. For example, if you are opening up a convenience store, you will need a liquor and tobacco license to sell them. For a list of business licenses you might need and more information about permits, you can visit the Secretary of State’s licenses, permits, and registration page.

Cost to get a DBA set up

The cost of getting a certificate of assumed business name in South Carolina varies from each county, but you can contact your local county clerk’s office to find out. If you need to find out which clerk’s office is closest to your area, you can check the complete list and map here. Note that you will also need to get your name certificate notarized by a notary public, which is not going to cost more than $10. Some county clerks’ offices have their own in-house notary public, which makes the process a lot faster. 

Who is a DBA best for?

A DBA is best for a sole proprietorship that wants to operate or do business under a different name, other than its legal name. For sole proprietors, a DBA allows them to work under an assumed name of your business without having to file or open a separate LLC business structure.

Note that a DBA is different from an LLC or any other business entity. While your LLC is a formal business structure, a DBA is just another name your business can operate under. However, an LLC is a legal entity that can also benefit from having a DBA for business growth and creating separate entities within a growing small business. 

For example, suppose you already own a small business that sells one thing. In that case, you can also expand and create a separate legal entity with a DBA to differentiate between these two businesses regarding legal protections and liability. 

Why would entrepreneurs choose to set up a DBA in South Carolina?

There are many reasons to get a DBA instead of an LLC or any other business entity, especially when you are just starting. With that in mind, here are some of the benefits of starting a DBA in South Carolina:

  • Having a DBA allows you to apply for an employee identification number or EIN, which allows you to hire employees or freelancers.
  • Getting a DBA is the most affordable way to start a legitimate business as a sole proprietor.
  • A DBA will allow you to do business using a different name other than your personal name, which also allows you to create a business bank account and start credit lines with an assumed name, other than your legal name.
  • Acquiring a DBA is sometimes required by state laws to open a business.
  • Existing companies can use a DBA to rebrand without having to change their original name, whether it’s an incorporation or LLC.
  • A DBA offers privacy protection since you can do business under a different name.
  • A fictitious business name will make your business more legitimate and trustworthy, which is essential for growing your client base.
  • Having a separate company name or trade name is essential for small business owners to start a brand.
  • It allows you to separate personal assets from business assets.

FAQs

Is getting a DBA required in South Carolina?

No, a DBA is not required in South Carolina. However, if you want to help your business get more transactions and seem more legitimate in the eyes of potential customers, getting a DBA can be beneficial for business growth. 

Does South Carolina require a state business license?

South Carolina does not require a state-wide business license. However, you will need to check with your county and get the necessary permits from them. You can only operate your business in the county you are registered your business at in South Carolina.

Are there any disadvantages to a DBA?

There are no disadvantages to getting a DBA. However, you should know that a DBA is neither a business structure nor a legal entity. With that said, if you want liability protection for your small business, it is better to get an LLC. However, a DBA is something you can use to make your small business do business under a different name. 

Is it better to get an LLC or DBA?

An LLC is better if you already have a DBA and already started your business, which is gaining popularity. An LLC provides more benefits, but you can also get a DBA if you already have an LLC. It will let you use a different name from your LLC, which is great if you want a nickname for your existing business. 

Does South Carolina have a business tax?

Yes, the state of South Carolina has business taxes. It is a flat rate of 5% on all taxable income for corporations and LLCs. However, if your business entity is a sole proprietorship or general partnership, you need to file your taxes using your personal tax information.

Find out how to set up your DBA

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