Business Registration

Before You Begin

Before You Begin

Are you “just” selling to friends or “just” selling on the internet and wondering am I in business? If you have to ask the question, then you probably are.

Sometimes a hobby can become a business. You are in business if:

  • You start to charge for that barbecue sauce that you make for your friends
  • You buy and sell items online
  • You buy and sell items at the flea market (A single yard sale is not a business. You’re in business if you regularly purchase items to resell.)
Choose a Business Name

Choose a Business Name

Naming your Sole Proprietorship or General Partnership

You may name your business after your own name without having to consult anyone. For example:

  • Jane Smith Landscaping (not Jane’s Landscaping)
  • Joe Doe Plumbing (not Doe Plumbing)
  • John Jackson and Mike Mason Handyman Service (not John and Mike: The Handymen)

A name like Jane’s Landscaping, or a business name that has nothing to do with your personal name, is considered an “assumed name.” This is the same as "doing business as." With an assumed name, you should conduct a search with your county Register of Deeds  to find out whether someone is already doing business under the name you want.

Information filed at local level is compiled into a online searchable statewide database at the NC Secretary of State’s office.

Assumed Name Business Forms for Sole Proprietors and General Partnerships 

Naming your Corporation, Limited Partnership (LP), or Limited Liability Company (LLC)

The NC Secretary of State’s Office reviews potential business names and has guidance on how to select the right name for your business.

Choose a Business Name at the Secretary of State Website

Choose a Business Structure

Choose a Business Structure

Choose your business structure carefully. Your choice affects how your business is taxed, your financial liability and who makes decisions about the company. You should consult your attorney and/or accountant to help you make the right choice for your particular business. The State of North Carolina cannot advise you.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorshipis a business that is owned and operated by an individual. It is the simplest and most common structure chosen to start a business. There is no distinction between the business and you, the owner. You are entitled to all profits and are responsible for all your business’s debts, losses and liabilities.

Tax Implications

You are entitled to all profits and are responsible for all your business’s debts, losses and liabilities. Because you and your business are one and the same, the business itself is not taxed separately--the sole proprietorship income is your income. You report income and/or losses and expenses with a Schedule C, E, F, etc. and the standard Form 1040. This will flow to your North Carolina D-400. It’s your responsibility to withhold and pay all income taxes, including self-employment and estimated taxes.

General Partnership

A general partnership is formed by two or more persons who agree to contribute money, labor, and/or skill to a business and to share its profits, losses, and management. All partners typically are held legally responsible for their own actions and the actions of the other partners.

Tax Implications

A partnership is a single business where two or more people share ownership. A partnership must file an annual information return Form 1065 with the IRS and D-403 with North Carolina to report the income, deductions, gains and losses from the business’s operations, but the business itself does not pay income tax. Instead, the business "passes through" any profits or losses to its partners. Partners include their respective share of the partnership's income or loss on their personal tax returns. (See NC Department of Revenue Forms for Individuals, including D-403.)

All Other Types of Businesses

Corporations, LLCs, limited parternships, and nonprofits are described at the Secretary of State's Office website. 

All Other Business Structures

Register Your Business

Register Your Business

The type of business will determine where you file. 

Sole Proprietor

  1. Select your sole proprietor business name.
  2. If operating under an assumed name, download and file a Certificate of Assumed Name  with your County Register of Deeds. Be aware that a fee may be charged.

General Partnership

  1. Select your general partnership name.
  2. If operating under an assumed name, download and file a Certificate of Assumed Name  with your County Register of Deeds. Be aware that a fee may be charged. 

Corporations, LLCs, Nonprofits, Etc

File with the NC Secretary of State 

If your business is any of the following, the NC Secretary of State is the proper place to register:

  • Business Corporation

  • Limited Liability Company (LLC)

  • Limited Partnership (LP)

  • Limited Liability Partnership (LLP)

  • Limited Liability Limited Partnership (LLLP)

  • Nonprofit Corporation

  • Professional LLC

  • Professional Corporation

After You File

After You File

After you electronically submit business formation documents with the NC Secretary of State’s Office, you will receive an e-mail about the status of the entity. Allow 5 to 7 business days to receive this email. You may not use your business name for any official purpose until the NC Secretary of State’s Office approves the document for filing, which creates the entity.

We advise you not to purchase stationery or business cards with your business name until receiving confirmation from the Secretary of State that your business is formed. 

Maintain Your Registration

Maintain Your Registration

For any businesses filed with the Secretary of State’s Office, be sure to follow the requirements to maintain registration.