Last Updated: February 16, 2024, 12:57 pm by TRUiC Team

How to Start a Corporation in South Carolina

In order to start a South Carolina corporation, you will need to file the Articles of Incorporation with the South Carolina Secretary of State, as well as the Initial Annual Report of Corporations with the South Carolina Department of Revenue.

After that’s done, you will need to hold an organizational meeting. This is where you will appoint your initial directors and draft your corporation’s bylaws.

We’ll show you how to start a corporation in South Carolina yourself.

Or, simply use a professional service:

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Learn how to start a corporation in South Carolina

It's Easy to Incorporate in South Carolina

Step 1Name Your South Carolina Corporation
Step 2Choose a Registered Agent
Step 3Hold an Organizational Meeting
Step 4File the Articles of Incorporation
Step 5File the South Carolina Initial Report
Step 6Get an EIN

For a look at corporation formation in every state, check out our other How to Start a Corporation guides.

Not sure if a corporation is right for you? Check out our LLC vs. Corporation guide to help you make your decision.

Step 1: Name Your South Carolina Corporation

Choosing a business name is the first step in starting a corporation.

1. South Carolina naming guidelines:

A corporate name in South Carolina:

  • Must contain the word” incorporated,” “corporation,” “company,” or an applicable abbreviation. Examples of abbreviations include “Co,” “Inc,” and “Corp.” 
  • Cannot contain language that suggests or states that the corporation is organized for a purpose that is contrary to its Articles of Incorporation or for a purpose that is not permitted by Section 33-3-101.
  • Must be distinguishable from the business names of all corporations which were incorporated or are authorized to transact business within South Carolina (e.g., foreign corporations, etc.). 
  • Cannot include restricted words without prior written approval from a relative state agency. Restricted words include professional services, such as “Banking, University, etc.). 
  • Cannot include words that imply or state that the corporation is affiliated with or sponsored by a US government agency (e.g., FBI, Treasury, State Department, etc.).

Read the South Carolina state statute regarding corporation naming guidelines for more information.

 2. Is my corporation name available in South Carolina?

Your South Carolina corporation name must be unique and distinguishable from other business names in South Carolina. Use the South Carolina Secretary of State’s Business Name Search to determine if your desired business name is available.

3. Is the URL available?

Before registering your South Carolina corporation, you’ll need to check if a good URL is available for your business name. It’s important to secure your URL right away.

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Step 2: Choose a South Carolina Registered Agent

You must appoint a South Carolina registered agent when registering your corporation with the South Carolina Department of Revenue.

A registered agent is an individual or entity appointed to receive service of process, government correspondence, and compliance documents on behalf of a business.

Your registered agent can be an individual, business entity, or professional registered agent service. Any member of the corporation or individual can serve as your South Carolina registered agent as long as the person:

  • is 18 years or older
  • has a physical address in the state where business activity is conducted
  • is available (in person) during normal business hours
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Recommended: Northwest offers one year of free registered agent services with their corporation formation package ($29 + State Fees).

Step 3: Hold an Organizational Meeting

Before you officially file the Articles of Incorporation in Step 4, you will need to hold an organizational meeting to complete the following tasks:

  • Fill out and execute the Articles of Incorporation
  • Create and approve bylaws
  • Select your initial director(s)
  • Determine your share structure
  • Execute an Incorporator’s Statement

Create and Approve Corporate Bylaws

Bylaws are the rules that determine how your organization will be governed and run. For detailed instructions on creating your bylaws, read our corporate bylaws guide.

Initial Directors

You must appoint at least one director who will oversee your South Carolina corporation until the first shareholder meeting.

A corporate director is in charge of the adoption, amendment, and repeal of operational bylaws as well as the election, supervision, and removal of officers.

After forming the corporation, the incorporator(s) — or initial director(s), if named on the formation documents — should call an organizational meeting. During this initial meeting, either the incorporator(s) will elect the board of directors or the initial director(s) will appoint the officers. 

Choose a Share Structure and Strategy

A share of stock is the unit of ownership of a corporation. Each share of stock represents a percentage of ownership of the company. For example, if a corporation issues one share of stock the shareholder (stock owner) would then own 100% of the corporation. 

Shares can be structured into classes. Each class, termed a share class, holds different rights and privileges. You can have multiple classes and each class can hold any number of shares.

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Authorized Shares: the number of shares the corporation is allowed to issue.
Issued Shares: the total number of shares actually issued to shareholders.
Share Class: a group of shares that has a unique set of rights and privileges.

In South Carolina, the Articles of Incorporation form allows you to indicate if the corporation will issue more than one authorized share class or series.

Create and Execute an Incorporator’s Statement

The incorporator(s) should sign an Incorporator’s Statement with complete names and addresses of each initial director and store it in the corporate records book. 

This document names the initial director(s) that will serve until the board of directors is elected during the first shareholder meeting. It should be stored with the rest of your corporate records.

Step 4: File the South Carolina Articles of Incorporation

You will need to file the South Carolina Articles of Incorporation to set up a corporation in South Carolina. You can file it by mail or online with the South Carolina Secretary of State. 

This document will cover the basics of your corporation, including:

  • Corporate name and address
  • Corporate registered agent name and signature
  • The number of authorized shares the corporation is allowed to issue
  • Incorporator(s) name(s) and address(es)
  • The corporation’s effective date

Along with the Articles of Incorporation form, you must file the initial annual report for corporations. The filing fee for both forms is $135: $110 for the Articles of Incorporation and $25 for the initial annual report.

File the South Carolina Articles of Incorporation

Option 1: File Online With South Carolina’s Business Entities Online Portal

File Online

- OR -

Option 2: File the Articles of Incorporation by Mail

Download Form

Filing Cost: $135 ($110 for the Articles of Incorporation and $25 for the initial annual report)

Mailing Address:
Secretary of State
1205 Pendleton Street, Suite 525
Columbia, SC 29201

Note: Your corporation must file an initial report alongside the Articles of Incorporation. See Step 5 for more instructions.

Step 5: File the South Carolina Initial Report

Along with the Articles of Incorporation, you must file the Initial Annual Report of Corporations with the South Carolina Department of Revenue. The filing fee is $25.

This form includes the following information about your corporation:

  • Corporate name and address
  • Nature of business
  • Registered agent name and street address
  • The effective date of corporation
  • The name(s) and address(es) of the officer(s) and director(s)
  • The number of authorized shares of capital stock and their class

Step 6: Get an EIN for Your South Carolina Corporation

An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is used by the federal government to identify a business entity. It is essentially a Social Security number for the company. An EIN is needed:

  • To open a bank account for the company
  • For federal and state tax purposes
  • To hire employees

Get an EIN

Option 1: Request an EIN from the IRS

Apply Online

- OR -

Option 2: Apply for an EIN by Mail or Fax

Download Form

Mail to:
Internal Revenue Service
Attn: EIN Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999

Fax: (855) 641-6935

Fee: Free

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Running Your Corporation

It is very important to adhere to the formalities of running a corporation. Read our How to Run a Corporation guide to learn more.

Taxes, Annual Reports, & Licensing

South Carolina State Corporation Tax Requirements

Depending on the nature of your business, you may be required to register for one or more forms of state tax:

South Carolina Sales Tax

If you’re selling a product, you’ll typically need to register for a seller's permit through the South Carolina MyDORWAY website. This allows a business to collect sales tax.

South Carolina Employer Taxes

If you hire employees, you will need to register for South Carolina employer taxes through the South Carolina MyDorway website. This includes Employee Withholding Tax, Unemployment Insurance Tax, and Disability Insurance.

South Carolina Corporation Licenses and Permits

To operate your corporation in South Carolina, you must comply with federal, state, and local government regulations. For example, restaurants likely need health permits, building permits, signage permits, etc.

Learn more in our South Carolina Business License guide.

File the South Carolina Annual Report

You must file a corporate annual report as part of your corporate tax return each year. C corps must file Form SC1120, and S corps must file Form SC1120S. You can file either form online or by mail. The due date for both forms is April 15.

Corporate Dissolution & South Carolina Good Standing

How to Get a South Carolina Certificate of Good Standing

A Certificate of Good Standing, known in South Carolina as a Certificate of Existence, verifies that your South Carolina corporation was legally formed and has been properly maintained.

You may order a South Carolina Certificate of Existence online with the Secretary of State. After creating an account and logging in, search the database for your corporation, then click “Request Documents.” The fee is $10.

Order a Certificate of Existence

Request a Certificate With South Carolina’s Business Entities Online

Request Online

Fee: $10

How to Dissolve a Corporation in South Carolina

If at any point you would like to permanently stop doing business, or close your business, it is important to officially dissolve your corporation. Failure to do so in a timely fashion can result in tax liabilities, penalties, or even legal trouble.

There are five main steps to close your South Carolina corporation:

  • Stop doing business
  • Hold a board meeting, vote on dissolution, and record the meeting in the corporation minutes
  • File the Articles of Dissolution with the South Carolina Secretary of State
  • Close your federal and state business tax accounts with the IRS and the South Carolina Department of Revenue
  • Close your business bank accounts

File Dissolution Documents

To dissolve your South Carolina corporation, you must file the Articles of Dissolution with the South Carolina Secretary of State. The filing fee is $10.

Is a Corporation Right For You?

An LLC provides limited liability protection without corporate complexity.
Find out if an LLC is the right structure for you.

LLC vs. Corporation | Form an LLC

Steps After Forming a Corporation

After forming a corporation, you’ll want to protect your personal and business assets and build credit.

Taking these steps will set your business up for success:

Form a Corporation with Northwest for $29 Plus State Fees

South Carolina Corporation FAQ

You will need to file the Articles of Incorporation ($110 filing fee), as well as the Initial Annual Report ($25 filing fee) with the South Carolina Department of Revenue in order to start a corporation. 

Having said that, your total cost can increase depending on your choice of registered agent (e.g., yourself, an attorney, a registered agent service, etc.). 

See our How Much Does a Registered Agent Cost article for more information. 

There are several differences. 

For example, an LLC is a pass-through entity, meaning that it’s not required to pay corporation taxes (unlike a corporation).

LLCs are also more affordable, and the owners retain a higher degree of autonomy when it comes to how they can operate.

Note: Corporations are generally only recommended over LLCs when it comes to attracting significant private investment. 

See our LLC vs Corporation comparison for more information.

According to the South Carolina Secretary of State’s website, your corporation’s registration will be processed and completed within 24 hours if filed online.

For filings carried out via email, you can expect the process to take slightly longer (i.e., between two and three business days.).

See our How to Start a Corporation in South Carolina article for more information. 

Starting a corporation in South Carolina is likely to be considered difficult in comparison to forming an LLC or another business entity (e.g., sole proprietorship, general partnership, etc.).

This is because forming a corporation requires more time and money, as well as more preparation when it comes to learning how you will need to operate in order to stay legitimate.

Yes. Starting an LLC is generally easier because it is:

  • More affordable
  • Less time-consuming
  • Faster

Generally speaking, new and small business owners are likely to benefit from registering their business as an LLC over a corporation unless they are interested in attracting venture capitalists or other private investors. 

See our Why Investors and Venture Capitalists Like C Corporations article for more information. 

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