By: First Union
Why It’s Important to Have Your Secretary of State Registration Up to Date
There are so many things you need to do when you start a new business. Keeping track of everything can be difficult.
One important thing is to register with the Secretary of State where your company operates. You may also need to get a Certificate of Good Standing from your Secretary of State.
Why do you need to register your business with the Secretary of State? Should you register your business name separately? What is a certificate of good standing, and when might you need one?
Let’s talk about all these different types of registration to help you start your business on the right foot.
What Businesses Need to Register with the Secretary of State?
Many, but not all, businesses need to register with the Secretary of State. For example, sole proprietors don’t need to register their business with the state. Neither do spousal partnerships working under their own name.
The following types of businesses usually need to register:
These business types need to register in any state they do business in, usually if:
- You frequently have in-person client meetings in that state
- Your company has a physical presence in that state
- You have any employees in that state
- Your company gets a significant part of their revenue from that state
How Do You Register Your Business with the Secretary of State?
The process to register your business with the Secretary of State varies from state to state. The first place you should start is to find the website of your local Secretary of State. That website (ending in .gov/) should tell you how to register your business.
Many states allow you to register online. Some states require you to mail in paperwork or register in person.
To register with the Secretary of State, you will need the following information:
- Business name (or desired name/)
- Individual responsible for the business (owner, point of contact, partner/)
- Business type
- Business location
- Business start date
- Basic contact details
- Legal entity type (LLC, S-corp, partnership, etc./)
- Value and number of shares (for corporations/)
- Registered agent information
The fees to register your business with the Secretary of State may be up to $300 depending on your state.
Do You Need to Register Your Business Name Separately?
You may want to register your business name first. However, registering your business usually also registers your business name.
There are two good reasons to register your business name before registering your business:
- You’re thinking about opening a business and have a name picked, but you aren’t ready to start the business yet. Registering the business name will prevent anybody else from taking your name before you can use it yourself.
- You’re a sole proprietor. Sole proprietors don’t register with the state any other way, so it’s a good idea to register your business name.
It’s important to note that registering your name is not the same as trademarking it. You don’t need to trademark your name unless you really want to be sure nobody else uses it. You register a trademark through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO/) rather than the Secretary of State.
What Is a Certificate of Good Standing?
You might have heard that you need a certificate of good standing for your business. A certificate of good standing is also obtained through the Secretary of State. However, it’s different from your regular business registration.
A certificate of good standing is also called a certificate of existence or a certificate of status. It’s proof that a business:
- Has filed required documents
- Is registered with the state
- Has paid taxes and other fees
- Has complied with business regulations
- Is legally permitted to do business in that state
- Has good corporate standing
A certificate of good standing usually has an expiration date. The expiration date may be as soon as 30 days from the day it’s issued. That’s to prevent people from using an old certificate when they’re no longer in good standing.
When Might You Need a Certificate of Good Standing?
You don’t always need to have a certificate of good standing handy. However, you will find some situations where you will need one.
There are two primary situations when you will need a certificate of good standing:
- You want to register your business as a foreign entity in another state.
- You want to apply for a business loan or other types of financial transactions.
If you think you might need a certificate of good standing for one of these situations, you should consider going ahead and applying for one. While many states allow you to apply online instantly, some states take several weeks to approve you.
How Do You Get a Certificate of Good Standing?
To find out how to apply for a certificate of good standing, you should visit your Secretary of State’s website. Every state has different rules, processes, and fees.
The fee for a certificate of good standing ranges from free in Colorado and Wyoming to $50 in Connecticut, Delaware, and Nevada.
Support for Your Small Business
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