Step 1: Choose a Business Structure
The type of business structure you choose to form will determine how you register the business with the state. Use our how to choose a business structure guide to help choose which business structure is best for you, whether it’s sole proprietorships, general partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs), and corporations.
The factors you should consider when choosing a business structure will depend on your needs and wants for personal liability protection, tax liabilities, and paperwork to keep the company in compliance.
Sole Proprietorships and General Partnerships
By default, sole proprietorships operate as the same name as the owner while general partnerships must include the surnames of all the partners.
LLCs and Corporations
Both LLCs and corporations require unique names in South Carolina that must follow certain naming requirements:
Step 2: Check Name Availability
When registering a business name, it's important to make sure it's unique and no one else in your state formed a company with it or has control of it online as a domain name.
Domain Name Search
We strongly recommend that you also check to see if your business name is available as a web domain (URL). Even if you don't plan to create a business website today, you may want to buy the web address to prevent others from acquiring that domain name. If the web domain is available then it’s likely the name will also be available in a business search.
South Carolina Business Name Search
Next, search the South Carolina Secretary of State business name search tool. This is an important step in the process because your filing will be denied if you try to file for a name already in use.
Search requirements can vary depending on your business needs. For example, a unique and available name is required to:
- File for formal business structures like LLCs and corporations.
A state-level name search isn’t required for informal business structures like sole proprietorships or general partnerships in South Carolina.
Step 3: Form Your Business With the State of South Carolina
Once you have selected your business structure and name, you will need to file your formation documents with the state, which will register your business with the State of South Carolina.
To register your South Carolina LLC, you'll need to file the Articles of Organization with the South Carolina Secretary of State. You can apply online or by mail. Read our Form an LLC in South Carolina guide for details.
To register your South Carolina corporation, you’ll need to file the Articles of Incorporation with the South Carolina Secretary of State. Read our Form a South Carolina Corporation guide to learn more.
Protect Your Business Name With a Trademark (Optional)
Once you confirm the availability of your business name and secure it, you can choose to apply for a trademark for your business. This typically costs around $225 to $400 plus any attorney fees as well as a renewal fee every 10 years.
While this cost can be high for a start-up or fledgling business, it will give your company brand nationwide protection backed by federal law. That means if others try to do business with the same — or a similar — name as yours, you’ll have legal precedent on your side. For most small businesses, this really isn't necessary unless they are thinking of going national.
How to Change the Name of a South Carolina Business
If you want to change the legal name of your LLC or corporation by filing an amendment to the legal name of an existing business. Here are links to forms for both options:
You may submit both by mail along with the $110 filing fee.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a business license required in South Carolina?
There’s no statewide business license in South Carolina. But, depending on your location, you may need to apply for local business licenses.
How much does it cost to start an LLC in South Carolina?
Forming an LLC in South Carolina costs $110 to file your Articles of Organization with the Secretary of State.
How do I register for business taxes in South Carolina?
You can register your business for tax purposes online via the South Carolina Department of Revenue website.
Where can I get a business license in South Carolina?
Visit the South Carolina Business One Stop site for a list of licenses by county. To determine if your business requires an occupational license, contact the South Carolina Department of Labor, License, and Regulation.