Are you curious about South Carolina business registration? Before you can start your business, you'll have to register with the state, request the required documents, and obtain relevant licenses.

The Secretary of State (SOS) in South Carolina handles business registration. The Starting a Business section at the sc.gov website can provide information and helpful links for your small business.

You can get help with funding, hiring employees, licensing, and registration at the South Carolina Business One Stop (SCBOS) website.

Business Licenses

Many businesses in South Carolina can or must get certain licenses and permits, but it's not always necessary. Licenses for sales tax, the environment, health and safety, etc. are available. There are also licenses and permits for specific professions.

Different state agencies provide different licenses and permits. To find out which licenses or permits you need, visit the Licenses, Permits, & Registration section at sc.gov.

Some licenses can only be acquired locally, but this varies. South Carolina businesses must get certain local licenses. Some businesses might not need a local license depending on state or federal law.

Different businesses will need different licenses and will go through different processes to get them.

Some businesses, like corporations or limited liability companies (LLCs), must file records with the state as well as obtain the necessary licenses and permits.

You can get licenses for your SC business at the county and municipal level. Nearly every municipality in South Carolina requires businesses to be licensed. Eight counties require it as well. These are:

  • Beaufort
  • Charleston
  • Dorchester
  • Horry
  • Jasper
  • Marion
  • Richland
  • Sumter

You'll only need a license from the city if your business operates from within the corporate limits. If your business is in an unincorporated part of the county, you'll need a license from the county. If you do business in both, you'll need a license from both.

Business licenses usually must be renewed every calendar year.

Professional Licenses

Some occupations require a license from the state through licensing and certification boards. The South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (LLR) handles professional licenses.

You can inquire about a license with the Office of Board Services (OBS) within the LLR's Division of Professional and Occupational Licensing (POL).

Not all relevant professions are listed, but there's a link to a more extensive list with more details on the SCBOS website. The professions on both lists have links to additional licensing information.

Legal Names and Business Names

Some businesses will use an assumed name, a fictitious name, a trade name, or a doing business as name (DBA) instead of their legal name.

In South Carolina, foreign or non-South Carolina LLCs and corporations must file a fictitious name form if they're not using their legal name. Foreign limited partnerships must file an assumed name certificate.

Trademarks

To register trademarks and service marks with the state, check that your name isn't already taken. You can see if your name is available via the South Carolina SOS “Search Business Filings” webpage.

Then, file an Application for Registration of a Trademark or Service Mark, and pay the filing fee with the SOS. The Trademarks page of the SOS website has this form available to download.

Reserve Your Business Name

If you're not ready to start your business, reserve your name by filing an application relevant to your business structure. An LLC would have to file an Application to Reserve a Limited Liability Company Name form. A limited partnership would have to file an Application to Reserve a Name – Limited Partnership form. The SOS will hold the name for 120 days.

Register Your South Carolina Business

If you're ready to start your business, you can register your name in your business's formation documents.

The types of forms you need to fill out depend on the type of business you own. It can be a domestic or foreign corporation, nonprofit, LLC, etc. The South Carolina SOS website also has standard forms available.

The forms must be submitted with a filing fee and in a self-addressed stamped envelope.

Business Structure

One of the first steps to planning your business is to choose a structure. Most small businesses form as an LLC because it has many of the benefits of a corporation without the drawbacks of double taxation, a board of directors or officers, etc. However, a corporation might be best if you want to take your business public or make outside profits.

South Carolina is very startup-friendly, and their regulations are more lenient and simple compared to other states. However, there are still certain requirements business must meet and steps they have to take.

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