If you are planning to start a business and want to know how to register the name of your business, first, check state law. Then, ask yourself the following questions.
What is the form of your business?
If you are the sole proprietor of your business, your full name automatically becomes the legal name of the business. But if your business is a partnership, the last names of the partners become the legal name. Or, if a name has been mentioned in the partnership agreement, that is the legal name. In the case of limited liability corporations (LLCs) and corporations, the name registered with the state government is the business’ legal name.
Why is a business name important?
All government forms and applications will require the legal name of your business. When you apply for permits, licenses, and employer tax I.D.s, you will be asked to state the legal name of your business.
Can I have any other name as my business name?
If you want to do business under a name different from your full name (in the case of sole proprietorships) or the last names of partners (in the case of partnerships), then you may be required to register a “fictitious name.” Depending on the state that your business is based in, this has to be done at a county clerk’s office or some other government agency.
This “fictitious name” (in some states, this may be referred to as dba or “doing business as,” or assumed name or trade name) is a name that is different from your personal name, the names of your partners or the officially registered name of your LLC or corporation. For instance, let us assume John Stiller is the sole owner of a company dealing in office stationery. John prefers to call his business “San Jose Writing Products,” instead of the legal name, John Stiller. So, the best option for John would be to register his name choice as a fictitious name with a government agency. Some states do not require the registration of fictitious business names.
What’s the procedure to register fictitious name?
The procedure for registering fictitious name in California, Illinois and New York is discussed here. If your business belongs to any other state, look it up in the Small Business Administration website.
California: In California, fictitious names have to registered by filing a “Fictitious Name Statement” with the county clerk office or registrar-recorder in the county where your business is located.
Illinois: In Illinois, sole proprietorships and general partnerships that assume a name different from the owners’ names are required to register with their local county clerk’s office. The registration should be as per Illinois Assumed Name Act. As far as LLCs, corporations, LLPs and limited partnerships are concerned, registrations have to be done with the Illinois Secretary of State.
New York: Sole proprietorships and general partnerships are required to file a Business Certificate and Business Certificate for Partners, respectively, with the county clerk’s office in the county where the business resides. LLPs, corporations, LLCs, and limited partnerships register an assumed name as part of their required business filings with the New York Department of State.