Registering a business name is only necessary if you plan to make it an incorporated entity. Following these steps for how to register a business name will have your business operating under a unique name that will serve as the legal name of the firm and identify its legal structure.

There are three separate areas where you may need to know how to register a business name. There are federal, state and local agencies in which you can register a company name with. These simple steps will take you from start to finish.

1: Find Out If You Need to Register

The location of your business, as well as its legal structure, will determine if you need to register. This is why you must choose a legal structure for your small business early in the development of your business. Small businesses typically register at a state and local level.

A: File a Doing Business As

Filing a DBA is for the sake of transparency. If it is a sole proprietorship and simple name, you only need to register that and nothing else. This is the most basic registration, and it is also the easiest.

B: Register with Federal Agencies

Registering with federal agencies requires filling out the form to apply for a federal-tax identification. Businesses may then choose to get trademarks or apply to be a tax-exempt business. Tax-exempt business registration is a rigorous process that requires substantive proof of why your company should be exempt from taxes.

These types of businesses include non-profit organizations and religious organizations. If you are registering an s-corp business, you must file form 2553 with the IRS.

how to register a business name

C: Register a Trademark

Trademark registration is optional, but it does add an extra layer of professionalism to your business. If you’re wondering how do I register my business name, then this is a step that takes under 90 minutes if one does it online. The Trademark Electronic Search System should be searched first to determine if another business has trademarked that name. If they haven’t, then you can register that trademark.

D: Register with State Agencies

If your business conducts business in any other states, you must register it with each state where the company operates. Your firm is considered operating within a state if any employee works there, if you have significant revenue from that state and if your business has a physical presence in that state. These filings might be required that the Secretary of State’s office, a business bureau or a business agency.

E: Register with Local Agencies

Local agencies vary widely across the country. Every municipality or local government with have different fees and requirements related to registration. It would be impossible to outline steps required for learning how to register a business name with a local agency. In order to determine what is legally required, you must visit your local government’s website or office in person.

2: Get a Registered Agent

A registered agent is a business term for someone who accepts mail for your company. There’s a number of ways to go about getting a registered agent, but you may want to hire someone who knows how to register a business name and manage those types of documents. A registered professional agent is going to be a business expense, but it’s often worthwhile to have it be someone other than yourself.

3: Foreign Qualification

Foreign qualification does not refer to expanding your business globally, but it refers to branching out into other states. To obtain foreign qualification, you must file for a Certificate of Authority with the state you intend to have business in.

States have different fees for filing, and certain states require proof that your business is in good standing. If you’re just learning how to register my business name, then you should be prepared to spend a lot of time filling out forms.

how to register a business name

4: Filing Appropriate Documentation

The process of how to register a business name is fairly straightforward, but it requires accuracy of documentation. There are also fees that you must pay appropriately. If you’ve asked how much does it cost to register a business name, know that most fees will be under 300 dollars.

Application filings will need to contain the business name, legal structure, business location, appropriate contact information and possibly the value and number of shares.

5: Stay Updated

Staying up-to-date with the requirements for maintaining registration at a federal, state and local level is essential for keeping your business operating legally. Requirements may change, and you may not be notified.

It is vital that you maintain a working knowledge of requirements on a yearly basis. People often ask how to register a business name, but they don’t realize that registration is specific to so many individualized circumstances.

6: Find a State Business Site

The best guide to helping you learn how to register a business name will be on your state’s business website. State guides are thorough and relevant to specific laws in that state. Since all 50 states have different laws governing registration, it is important to consult these websites before making any decisions.

For example, searching for how to register a business name in New Mexico will direct you to results that include official government information on registering in New Mexico.

Putting It All Together

Registering a business name gives you an official element. Also, it is necessary to have a functioning business that is legal and has liability and tax protections. Every business owner should strive to do the minimum requirement if that suits their business need. Still, then businesses can also choose to do in-depth registration in multiple states, localities and with trademarks.

There are lawyers who dedicate their careers to the development and protection of legal business names. They can help you if you run into specific issues when you are attempting to register your business name.

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