If you run a business under an assumed name in South Carolina, you may want to set up a DBA. Short for “Doing Business As,” a DBA serves as an alternate title for your business. Often, a DBA is the name customers will use to refer to your company. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about DBAs: who needs one, who doesn’t, and two easy steps to filing with the state.
In South Carolina, the DBA is actually called an “Assumed Name” (a “Fictitious Name” for foreign entities). Essentially, they’re the same concept. “Assumed Name” is just the terminology used by the state. For consistency, we’ll call it an Assumed Name throughout the rest of this guide.
NOTE: Keep in mind that filing a trade name will not give your business protection through the corporate veil like an LLC will. If this is something you want or need, don’t fret, there are many online LLC services that can help you take care of the paperwork.
Do You Need a South Carolina Name?
Not all business entities in South Carolina need an Assumed Name. Ordinarily, a business needs an Assumed Name when the name of their business differs from the name registered with the state.
So let’s say that Lauren operates a sole proprietorship; her legal business formation documents list her full name as the legal owner of the business. But if she wants to run her shop under the name Sew Sweet Creations, she’d need to file an Assumed Name in order to use that name. An Assumed Name is also useful for corporations which want to establish additional businesses or locations with a name that’s different from the Corporation name.
Limited liability companies, nonprofit corporations, and corporations operating exclusively under the name on file with the state usually do not need an Assumed Name. They may choose to use one if they want to establish a new product line or chain of businesses under their original parent company.
A South Carolina Assumed Name does present a few advantages. While it doesn’t offer any specific legal protections or tax incentives, an Assumed Name allows you to get a business bank account. You can also give your customers peace of mind—most people are more comfortable writing a check to a business than an individual.
South Carolina has a unique process for registering Assumed Names. Most entities will file with their local county clerk. However, Limited Partnerships and foreign entities will file with the Secretary of State.
1) File Your Assumed Name with the South Carolina Secretary of State or Your Local County Clerk
South Carolina expects most entities, including sole proprietorships, LLCs, corporations, and more, to file any Assumed Names they wish to use with their local county clerk. Sole proprietorships and foreign entities can find the forms they’ll need to file here. These are the only entities that need to file on the state level. For the remainder of this guide, we’ll focus on the policies for county level filings.
Filing requirements vary depending on your county, but in general, you’ll need to ensure your name is available before file it. First, you need to make your name distinguishable on the records of both the Secretary of State and your county. It’s especially important that your name does not infringe on any legal names of incorporated entities.
To learn whether or not an incorporated entity is already using your name, you should run a Business Name Search. Simply type in the name you hope to use, and if an exact match appears, then you may not be able to use the name. But if no matching results pop up, then it’s likely your name is free to reserve. You’ll also want to check your county office to see if they have a similar search tool as well.
After that, you’ll need to actually complete the filing process. The form you need will also depend on the county where you file. It’s often referred to as a “Certificate of Assumed Name” or an “Application to Register an Assumed Name.” Usually, your county requires a small fee for this registration.
2) Maintaining your South Carolina Assumed Name
In some cases, your Assumed Name is valid for a fixed period of time. If assumed names expire in your county, you’ll be expected to file a renewal. Similarly, if you intend to stop using your Assumed Name or you need to change it, you may need to file the appropriate forms.
The requirements to maintain your Assumed Name will depend based on your county. We strongly recommend that you ask your county clerk about maintaining your name while you file the initial registration.
Need Help Filing your Assumed Name?
If this process sounds like a hassle, you can get help with setting up your business’s name with a service like Legalzoom. They make the process simple: you simply provide them with the necessary information about your company, and they’ll fill out the paperwork so you don’t have to. The process is both easy and affordable, letting you focus on running your business.
Your name is an important part of your business, but keeping compliant with state requirements can be tricky! We hope this guide made it quick and easy to set up your South Carolina Assumed Name.