South Carolina Business Entity Search (Step-by-Step Guide)

Last updated: June 19th, 2024
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The first step in starting any type of business structure involves deciding on a suitable business name. While it may seem like a daunting process, if you know what to do, finding the ideal name for your organization is possible.

One of the best ways to find out if your desired name is available for use is to conduct a business name search on the Secretary of State’s website. This will help you confirm the availability of the name and also offer ideas for finding a unique name in the event that the preferred name is no longer available.

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

South Carolina search tips

Make use of the following guidelines when conducting your South Carolina business entity search:

  • Adding or removing punctuation marks and special characters will not affect the search results.
  • Additionally, whether you use uppercase or lowercase letters will not affect your search results.
  • Do not add or remove spaces in business names, as this will affect your search results.
  • To broaden your results, enter just the first one or two words of the name when the company name has multiple words.

You may choose to narrow down your search results by using one of the following options:

  • Begins with (starts with)
  • Contains
  • Exact match

The only search type to conduct a South Carolina business name search is by business name.

Business search by business name

To begin your business search, refer to the South Carolina Business Filings Entity Search page, which is the Business Services page.

1
Enter the business entity name

Enter the name of the business you’re looking up in the search bar under “Search by business name.”

You may then choose to refine your search by selecting one of these options:

  • Begins with
  • Exact match
  • Contains

Thereafter, click on the “Search icon” or hit Enter on your keyboard.

2
Review the results

If results match the name or keyword you entered, they will be displayed in a table on this page. The information you’ll have access to on the results page includes:

  • Entity name
  • Date of Incorporation
  • Entity type
  • Entity status
  • Incorporated State

3
Review additional business information

For further information on any specific entity, simply click on the name of the business, and it will take you to the business summary page.

On the business summary page, you’ll have access to further information on the specific entity, such as the entity ID, the effective and expiration date, and the official documents on file.

South Carolina search results

Irrespective of your search criteria, you will be able to view the following information:

  • Entity name
  • Date of Incorporation
  • Entity type
  • Entity status
  • Incorporated State
  • Domestic/Foreign structure
  • Effective date
  • Expiration date
  • Term end date
  • Dissolved date

There’s also an option to view “Official documents on file” and “Request documents.”

Copies of documents and certificates

After conducting a business entity search, you may or may not want to request copies of business documents. Copies of business documents are available in either plain copies or certified copies.

Both types of copies are only available from the South Carolina Secretary of State. Irrespective of whether you need the documents to apply for business credit, open a corporate bank account, or for licensing requirements, you’ll need to reach out to the South Carolina SOS https://sos.sc.gov/online-filings/business-entities/document-request-online to make a request and pay for the certified copies.

The South Carolina Business Entities Online system allows the public to search businesses on file with the Secretary of State. Additionally, it also allows the public to obtain copies of the documents, like the Certificates of Existence.

You may request all documents on file or just specific documents for A particular business entity. Some documents, such as a Certificate of Existence, can be used for many purposes, such as opening a bank account or applying for a Certificate of Authority in order to transact in another state.

Users may order certificates like these from home, the office, or on the go, thanks to the online services offered by the South Carolina Department of State.

When it comes to this requesting specific documents, you’ll need to go to the business summary page of the specific entity you need the documents for and click on the “Request for documents link” this will take you to the login page where you need to create a new account in order to process a document request.

After creating the account and logging in, follow the step-by-step instructions to obtain the documents you need.

The documents request comes with a $3 filing fee per page, and you’ll need to pay the filing fee for the specific certificate you are obtaining.

Business name availability

When using the South Carolina business name search option, you’ll see a message that says, “The name is currently being used” when searching certain keywords or business names.

This means what it says, which is that the name has been used or registered by another business entity in the state. However, it simply means that you need to go back to the drawing board if you don’t already have a few alternatives to search.

Ultimately, it is the South Carolina Department of State’s office that determines whether the name will be approved for business registration, and this can only happen at the time of filing. It is, therefore, advisable to ensure that the name you submit for business registration complies with South Carolina naming rules. Some of those rules are as follows:

  • The name should contain the words corporation, LLC, company, limited, etc., or at least an abbreviation of any of these terms depending on your business structure.
  • The name should not include any words that may mislead the public into believing that your company is associated with a government agency.
  • The name must be significantly different from any other existing businesses registered with the South Carolina SOS, including reserved names.

If the name you’re searching for does not appear on the search results, it’s probably available for registration. However, you may not be ready to initiate the process. In this case, it’s best that you reserve the name with the Secretary of State.

In order to reserve the business name in SC, file the application to reserve the name with the SC SOS. Use the following link to download the correct form and then complete it using the following information:

  • Name of your business
  • Name and address (not po box) of the applicant
  • Application date
  • Applicant’s signature

Once you’ve completed the form, go ahead and file it with the Secretary of State at the following mailing address:

Secretary of State
Attn: Corporate Filings 1205 Pendleton Street
Suite 525 Columbia
SC 29201

The name reservation application will cost you $25.

Additionally, you should also consider having your name trademarked to protect it from intellectual property theft. To trademark your company name, refer to the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Domain name availability

Domain names are just as important as company names and therefore require careful consideration. In some cases, the organization name you’ve decided on may not be available as a domain name. In that case, you can always get creative and start thinking of some catchy alternatives.

Just remember to keep the following tips in mind when coming up with your domain name:

  • Make the name as significantly different from other domain names as possible
  • Keep the name as short and simple as possible to make it more memorable
  • Do your research to ensure that another entity has not already trademarked your preferred domain name.
  • Avoid using hyphens, numbers, and doubled letters so the name stays easy to read and remember
  • Stick with popular extensions like .com and .org.

Using a professional domain name service like Namechk.com is highly recommended as it will help you filter your options and provide suggestions in the event that your desired domain name is already taken.

Namechk.com checks your desired name against various platforms and over 100 social media networks like:

  • Tumblr
  • Yelp
  • WordPress
  • YouTube

Fictitious business name search

If you plan on operating a business under any other name aside from your South Carolina business entity name, then you need to register a fictitious name. This is also referred to as an alias, trade name, or assumed name in many states. However, under South Carolina law, it is simply referred to as a DBA.

Filing a DBA does not mean that you’re forming a new legal entity. However, it’s simply an underlying name registered under your legal entity name. However, your business will still be liable for licenses, permits, taxation, insurance, and so on. When opening up a corporate bank account under a DBA name, you will need to provide your legal entity’s tax identification numbers.

When it comes to registering DBAs in South Carolina, you’ll need to do so by county and with the state itself. Reach out to your county clerk’s office for instructions on how to go about filing a DBA.

Additionally, you also have the right to trademark that DBA name with the state. Alternatively, if you want nationwide protection for your DBA, you should trademark it with the USPTO website.

FAQs

What is a Certificate of Good Standing used for?

A Certificate of Good Standing is an indication that your business has filed all the necessary reports and paid the due fees to the Secretary of State’s office. Ultimately, it is simply evidence or proof that your business exists and is authorized to transact in the state.

How do I register a DBA name in South Carolina?

If you’re considering registering a DBA in South Carolina, then there is no option to register with the state. Instead, you’ll need to reach out to your county clerk’s office for instructions on how to go about filing a “doing business as” name in the state.

How do for-profit corporations and nonprofits differ?

For-profit corporations are formed to fulfill the founders or owners’ organizational objectives, which are usually to sell products and services to make a profit. Nonprofits, on the other hand, are explicitly formed to provide a service to the community or to benefit the public at large.

What purpose does the UCC serve?

The Uniform Commercial Code, also known as the UCC, is a complete set of laws that govern all commercial transactions based in the US. It is a uniformly adopted state law; however, it’s not federal law. Ultimately, it plays an important role in regulating interstate transactions of a business.

What is the difference between limited liability Partnerships and limited liability companies?

Limited liability companies provide personal liability protection from lawsuits and debts filed against the business or individual members. With Limited liability partnerships, on the other hand, partners are personally liable for lawsuits and debts filed against them, but only if it is due to their own negligence. So one partner cannot be held responsible for another partner’s actions with an LLP.

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