How to Change Your Business’ Name with the State

Changing your business name- more intensive than you might think.

Changing your business name- more intensive than you might think.

Name availability

First things first, before you take the plunge into changing the name of your business, make sure the name is available. Run a name search on most secretary of state websites to check availability. Another important thing to consider when changing the name of your business is whether or not the domain name is taken. There’s no denying that a web presence is a vital aspect to running a successful company, so it is important to ensure that you will be able to obtain the domain name you desire. Same goes for a custom URL or name for your company’s Facebook page, Twitter, Google+, and other social media platforms.

Try Googling your preferred name change and see what pops up, what is similar, and what the competition is. It is increasingly more difficult to corner a market on a name, so be creative. Make sure your proposed URL name isn’t too long or difficult and avoid something that needs abbreviations or that will go by an acronym. If a client or potential customer is trying to find your website, they will most likely type the name of your business into the search bar, as opposed to the name or acronym you had to adapt to in order to get a certain domain because others were not available. Aside from a quick search, you can also check this database to see if the domain you want is still available. You can also do a trademark search here to ensure that your name is available.

What if the name I want isn’t available?

There are general name rules, depending on entity, that universally apply to most businesses (within the United States). For example, there are corporate endings (such as Ltd., Co., Inc.) that must be a part of an official business name. It is smart to check the statutes for the state in which you are forming your business to make sure your name adheres to their specific guidelines.

Contacting the state and IRS

Once you have determined that your name is available, get in touch with the state (generally the secretary of state, though this does vary depending on which state you’re in). You will need to change the name of your business in your articles of incorporation, and will need to file a form with the state to do so. This might involve a certificate of name reservation, an amendment to articles of incorporation form, or articles of amendment. Once again, it is dependent on which state you are wishing to change your name in.  There is generally a fee that accompanies this. Make sure to notify the IRS as well as other state agencies of your name change.

If you run a partnership, notify the IRS via your Form 1065 tax return. If you have already filed your return, you’ll need to write to the IRS at the filing address to let them know.

If you operate a corporation, you can write your new business name on Form 1120 when you file your corporate income tax return.

If you are a single-member LLC or sole proprietorship, send the IRS a signed letter notifying them of your name change. Send this letter to the address where you usually file your tax return.

Other changes

Depending on the state, city, and county in which your business resides, you will need to update permits and other business licenses. Contact your local government, and they will point you in the direction of certain forms that may need to be filed. There will most likely be a fee to file along with any forms.  You will also need to update business documents, any marketing material or social media sites, contracts, business cards, and anything else that bears the name of your business.

The bottom line

As you can see, changing the name of your business is no easy task! Before doing so, make sure the name is available for your use legally, as a domain, and in the social media world. Be prepared for a lot of paperwork, some fees, and reestablishing yourself in your market.