How to register a company name

    Company names are essential to growing brands. Taking the time to register your small business is an important step.

    When you register a company name, you can enjoy the following benefits:

    • Helps you realize tax benefits
    • Helps you establish credibility and identity
    • Help you get approved for business loans

    Is it necessary to register the company name?

    Not always. Company structure and organization are factors that determine whether or not you need to register the company name.

    Sole proprietorships, with the business in the owner’s name, generally do not need to be registered. But if you are forming limited liability company, limited partnership or partnership as a business structure, you need to register your company.

    Registering a business name: a step-by-step guide

    It is actually quite easy to register your business no matter what business structure you have. The process can be done online as long as you can upload all required legal documents and paperwork.

    There are some “pre-registration” steps you need to take. You must open a business bank account (and business credit card). You also need to establish your business structure.

    Once you’ve done those things, here are your next steps:

    Choose your legal business name

    Take the time to come up with the legal name for your business. You should choose a name that is easy to identify with your company, and also choose a legal name that has not already been used by any other existing company.

    Also choose a name that refers to the service or product the company provides. For example, business names for balloons could be Air Soar or Up, Away and Back Tours, while business names for estheticians (skin care) could be Smoothly Yours.

    How do you find out if your desired name is already taken? See the Small Business Trends article How to tell if a business name is being used. Once you know your name is clear, make a business name reservation (see below). Name reservations are important so that another new company doesn’t try to use the same name while you complete the filing process.

    The Secretary of State will usually not accept your proposed name for the company if a similar name already exists for an existing company.

    Register with government agencies

    You go to your state’s office, usually called the Secretary of State, to file your business name reservation and register your business. States require registration documents for an LLC, partnership, limited partnership, limited liability company, partnership, or non-profit organization. The Secretary of State website in most states should have a step-by-step process where you can do a significant portion of the filing using an online form.

    In addition to your company registration, you must also appoint a registered agent for the company. The registered agent is usually not the business owner. The agent is a person who can accept legal documents and other paperwork on behalf of the owner.

    If you conduct business in another state, state laws may require you to register your business in that state (see below).

    Register with the federal agencies

    You must register a federal tax ID number, also known as an employer identification number or EIN. You need that number to file your tax return.

    If you are a sole proprietor, you can use your social security number as your individual taxpayer identification number for filing taxes.

    Register with local and state agencies

    The requirement for this may vary depending on your business location. Even if registration isn’t required, find out if you need to submit certain licenses or permits.

    Register a DBA

    DBA stands for Doing Business As. In other words, it is an assumed name or fictitious name for a company. If you use a false name for your business, it will most likely need to be registered by the local and state authorities.

    Register a trademark

    If you want to register your company name, product name, trade name or trademark, you must submit it to the US Patent and Trademark Office. You can use the United States Patent and Trademark Office website to find your local trademark office. You cannot choose a trade name that is already in use.

    Register with the tax authorities

    If your business is an S Corporation or a tax-exempt nonprofit, you must register with the IRS.

    Why company structure matters

    Limited company – Requires registered agent. Must be registered with federal and state agencies.

    Company – Requires registered agent. Must be registered with federal and state agencies. You must file statutes.

    Proprietorship – Does not require federal or state registration. However, a sole proprietorship may choose to form an LLC to protect private assets. Most companies choose to form an LLC despite the additional filing requirements.

    Partnership – Requires registered agent. Must be registered with federal and state agencies. This also applies to general partnerships.

    Please note that in addition to government agency requirements, each business entity may require additional licenses and permits at the state and local level. A fictitious name must also be registered for companies.

    Which company formation documents are required?

    To file, you will need official documents describing your company name and location, as well as its ownership, structure, and management structure (including principal officer and board of directors if it is a corporation).

    You will need the name of the registered agent, address and contact information of the person.

    If the corporate structure is a corporation or S Corp, you must specify the number of shares and the value of each share.

    You will need documents related to your business name registration.

    What happens if you do business in more than one state?

    If your company’s physical presence is in one state and you conduct business in another state, you may need to register your company in both states to maintain a good reputation.

    Here are the criteria that determine whether you need to register your business in another state:

    • Your business has a physical location in the other state
    • You often meet clients in another state
    • Much of your business’s revenue comes from another state
    • Your employees perform work in that state

    Contact a corporate lawyer for advice.

    It comes down to

    Registering a company is step-by-step if you are a new company. Most of the work can be done online and it is inexpensive.

    Registering a company name: frequently asked questions

    Do limited liability companies also have to file a DBA?

    Yes, if they run the business under a fictitious name.

    What does business entity mean?

    The entity is the type of corporate structure of the company (such as LLC, general partnership, etc.)

    How much does it cost to register a company name? Some examples for LLCs:

    California $70; Maine $175, Delaware $75; Maryland $100; ohio $99.

    What business structure do you need to get a trademark?

    Any corporate structure can register a trademark with the USPTO.

    Image: Envato Elements

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