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How to Get a DBA in South Carolina

Q: How do I get a DBA for my business in South Carolina?

The process for getting a DBA in South Carolina is different from most other states. DBA stands for “doing business as” and is any name your business uses that isn’t your legal business name. In the majority of states, DBAs—also called fictitious or trade names—are registered with the Secretary of State or other state agency in charge of business registration. However, in South Carolina, DBAs are registered locally. We’ll go over how to get a DBA in South Carolina, plus some general information about DBAs.

Legal Name Vs DBA

What’s the difference between your legal business name and a DBA?

If you’re a sole proprietor or a member of general partnership, your legal business name is your full name or your name along with the names of your partner(s). If you own an LLC or corporation, your legal business name is the name on the formation documents you filed to register your business with the state (for LLCs, that means your Articles of Organization and for corporations, your Articles of Incorporation).

By contrast, a DBA is like a nickname for your business. It allows you to use a different name without having to register as a new business entity. You can advertise, sell products, open new locations, and generally conduct business as usual under a DBA—or even under multiple DBAs—without changing your legal business name. (Note: you’ll still need to file taxes under your legal business name.)

Why Get a DBA in South Carolina?

There are many reasons to register a DBA. Here are two of the most common:

  • You’re a sole proprietor or member of a general partnership. Using your own name as your business name isn’t always very appealing or professional. With a DBA, you do business under Pristine Plumbing instead of Joey Jackson or Greenhouse of Eden instead of Tammy Chan.
  • Your business is evolving. Using a DBA can really benefit a growing or changing business. For example, if you started out as Budget Arbor, LLC, but you’ve expanded into landscaping, you can get a DBA for Budget Arbor and Landscaping. Or, say you want to re-brand as a prestige arbor and landscaping service. Using a DBA, you can go from Budget Arbor, LLC, to Palmetto Arbor Pros.

How to Get a DBA in South Carolina

In South Carolina, DBAs are registered locally at the county or city level. Typically, registering your DBA is a part of the application process for local business licenses.

As noted by Richland County Business Service Center in its DBA’s: What To Know handout, most local municipalities include a space for businesses to identify their DBA(s) on local business license registration forms. Two examples of this are the City of Columbia Application for a New Business License and the Charleston County Business License Application.

DBAs aren’t accepted or recognized by the state—they are only recognized in the municipalities where your business registered to do business.

How much does it cost to get a DBA in South Carolina?

There is generally no extra cost to get a DBA outside of your local business licensing fee.

How long does it take to get a DBA in South Carolina?

There’s no set time to get your DBA in South Carolina. Since your DBA is tied to your local business license, you’ll be able to use your DBA when your business license application (which identifies your DBA) is approved.

Do I need to renew my DBA in South Carolina?

Because your DBA is a component of your local business license, your DBA will be renewed whenever you renew your license.

How do I cancel my DBA in South Carolina?

Your DBA will be canceled along with your local business license whenever you close up shop in the municipality where you are licensed. If you wish to remain licensed but stop using or change your DBA, you’ll need to contact the specific municipality that issued your local business license.

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