South Carolina is a popular place to live, find your dream job, or run your own business. If you want to begin your entrepreneurial journey by taking the first steps to start your own business, you will find that registering a business in the Palmetto State is pretty simple and straightforward. This is because of the state’s efficient and ongoing support for new businesses just starting out.

There are many different development centers in South Carolina with the sole focus of helping entrepreneurs and those with existing small businesses develop, maintain, and succeed within their local community, throughout the state, nationally, and even on the international stage.

Starting a business in South Carolina is not only an attractive proposition because of the many business benefits, but also because of the incredibly healthy labor market that has been developing for a number of years which means a higher-skilled and readily available workforce is at your disposal.

South Carolina’s support for small businesses is evident in its approach to encouraging new businesses to register in the state. With access to an abundance of different business development centers, a low and fixed corporate income tax rate, affordable homes, commercial space, a highly-rated education system, and competitive salaries, it will come as no surprise why so many people register a business in South Carolina.

How to register a business in South Carolina

How to Register a Business Name in South Carolina – 7 Easy Steps

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The South Carolina Secretary of State makes it reasonably easy to register your business name. There are three ways you can do this:

  • 1. Do it yourself directly on their website.
  • 2. Pay a document filing company that can register everything online for you – there is a modest fee for this but it saves a lot of time and ensures it is done correctly.
  • 3. Hire an attorney or accountant to file and register your new company – there are higher fees associated with this.

Step 1 – Determine your registered name

Firstly, you must determine that your business name is unique and not being used by someone else. A business registration company can do this research on your behalf or alternatively, you can search directly on the South Carolina Secretary of State website.

Once you have established your name is available you can register a business name in South Carolina directly on their website if you are comfortable with the process. Or, if you want a company to do this for you that specializes in this, you can use an online registration service to do it.

These document filing companies usually offer a free registered agent service for one year with most of their packages which is often a necessity for new businesses and those being registered by foreigners with no U.S. address.

Before doing any of this, you must decide on the right structure.

Step 2 – Choose the right entity

You need to choose the right type of business to register and the most common options are a limited liability company (LLC) or an incorporated company (Inc.). If you are keeping things really small and simple (one or two people), then you may consider a sole proprietorship or a general partnership.

Even if you plan to be a solopreneur, it is usually more beneficial for you to register a South Carolina LLC to make sure, as the owner, you have limited liability under this structure, and so you can benefit from the pass-through tax advantages.

Here is a quick rundown of the various options and what they might mean to you:

  • Limited Liability Company: A South Carolina LLC is often the best route for most entrepreneurs because the structure comes with personal asset protection, no double taxation, is fairly easy to maintain and does not have high registration or annual renewal costs. Through LLC formation you have better tax flexibility and income can be taxed as a pass-through entity like a sole proprietor or partnership, or as a corporation.
  • Incorporated Company: A South Carolina Corporation offers personal asset protection and your company can own property, vehicles, incur liabilities, and is responsible for its own debts and can conduct business without the owners risking their personal assets such as their homes, cars, personal savings, retirement, etc. On the flip side, owners of sole proprietorships or partnerships face unlimited liability for both business and personal assets.

Step 3 – Make sure your name is not being used by another company

This may seem obvious, but if you check the South Carolina Secretary of State website and see that your chosen business name is available, that is all well and good, but that doesn’t mean someone else is not using that same or similar name, particularly in another state.

Many people register an “official business entity name” and trade under a different name. This is called a South Carolina dba, or “doing business as” name or assumed trading name, and needs a separate DBA certificate.

You will want to do a Google search for your official name and your desired trading name (if different) to make sure no one else is using this name. Most importantly, you will want to make sure you can get an easy-to-remember website domain name that is not being used by someone else.

Having an awesome name or trading name for your business can be crucial to your success, so making sure the domain name is available too, and registering it right away, is equally as important.

Finally, if you go to the South Carolina Secretary of State website and discover that someone else has registered the name you would like, you can search for variations of that name by adding a word before it or after it, or using some other variations until you find a name that is available and acceptable for you.

Step 4 –  Request an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Once you have registered your new business in South Carolina you will need to get an EIN for a number of reasons. These include paying taxes for your business, opening a bank account, obtaining credit cards or lines of credit, establishing terms with vendors and suppliers, hiring employees, and more.

There are only a few instances where you likely won’t need an EIN. More often than not, many business activities are just not possible without having an EIN.

An EIN is the business equivalent of a social security number and is used to track your business dealings. Even if you do not intend to hire employees, you will almost certainly still need an EIN for your South Carolina company and it protects you from having to use your social security number.

An EIN (also known as a federal tax id) is free to obtain from the IRS and you can apply online but if you are not comfortable filling in forms you can use a third-party document filing service to do this for you for a small fee. This ensures you are 100% compliant with the law and they handle everything with the IRS.

Step 5 – Obtain the Required Business Licenses and Permits

To operate your business in South Carolina you must comply with federal, state, and local government regulations. South Carolina law requires a small business owner to have a “general” license to operate.

You will, however, need additional specific permits for specific businesses. For example, if you open a restaurant or similar food-related business you will most likely need a health permit, sales tax permit, facilities permit, and others. If you plan to sell alcohol, you will need a liquor license, essentially it all depends on the type of products and services your business is going to offer.

The business licenses you will need to acquire in order to register a business in South Carolina will also differ depending on the location of the business too.

You must find out how to obtain the necessary South Carolina business licenses and permits, this link will allow you to personally search for your type of business in order to familiarize yourself with the permits and licenses your business may require to operate in South Carolina, offering the appropriate forms.

Alternatively, you could hire a professional document filing company to do this for you. It eliminates a lot of time and hassle and ensures you are correctly complying with South Carolina law.

Step 6 – Determine Your Business Employer Requirements

There are several things you need to check regarding your responsibilities as an employer in South Carolina because there are requirements you must meet at the federal and state level. These could include various workforce commissions, safety, and state tax obligations, as well as labor law requirements including the minimum wage in South Carolina and employee rights and remedies under the South Carolina minimum wage act.

To learn more about South Carolina employer resources take a look at the South Carolina Office of Wages and Child Labor website.

Step 7 – Open a Business Bank Account for your South Carolina Company

As a new business owner, you should seriously consider separating your personal and business bank accounts to make it easier to track and account for your income and expenses. For certain business types, such as an LLC or a Corporation, it is essential that you open a separate business bank account to maintain your liability protection.

Once you have your EIN and your company registration documents, coupled with your driver’s license, you are ready to go to the bank and open your checking account.

Don’t worry, this won’t be expensive or leave you burdened with hefty monthly fees to pay – there are many free business bank accounts out there for you to choose from. Each has its different features and benefits, so you can decide what bank and checking account best suits your needs.

Summarizing Registering a Business in South Carolina

South Carolina has a solid business ecosystem, tailored for businesses both large and small, and it is constantly improving and developing too! It has increased its focus on specifically aiding small businesses over the past several years, with multiple development centers and free support systems focusing solely on helping out startups and already operating businesses.

Small Businesses thrive in South Carolina because of its low state tax burden (5% flat corporate income tax rate), an ever-growing and stable economy, an abundance of readily available office space, supportive local communities, a highly-rated education system (38% college-educated), and a highly-skilled workforce.

The state fee for registering a business in South Carolina is a reasonable $110 for an LLC and $110 for a corporation. The annual filing fee to maintain your company in South Carolina is free for a corporation and the same is applied for an LLC.

The Palmetto State is committed to your success and has many resources at your disposal that you can take advantage of.