How to Change a Business Name

by Jennifer Kiesewetter in
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TLDR

  • As you grow your startup, you may decide that your initial company name no longer represents your brand.
  • As an alternative to changing your startup’s name, you can choose a less permanent route—using a DBA. Like a limited liability company or a general partnership, you can also implement a “doing business as” (DBA) name for either a limited liability or a corporation.
  • With either a complete name change or the establishment of a DBA, you’ll need to check in with your local and state authorities to see if you need to make any changes to licenses or permits or if they required new licenses or permits, based on your new name for your startup.
  • Most businesses have a federal employer identification number (EIN) used for financial, banking, and tax purposes. When you change your startup’s name, you’ll need to confirm that your EIN is assigned to the correctly named business.
  • You’ll also need to notify the IRS of your startup’s name change.
  • To keep your startup information current, changing your company’s name on both Google My Business and Google Maps is critical. To update both Google search and maps, sign in to Google My Business.
  • Through Google My Business, you can select the part of your startup that you’d want to edit. You can edit your business name, business category, hours of operation, and contact information, including your website.

As you grow your startup, you may decide that your initial company name no longer represents your brand. A new business name may be in line to better reflect your products, service, or customer base.

So, how do you legally change the name of your startup? Although there are several steps in changing your business name, it’s a relatively simple process. In this article, we are going to walk through the steps you need to take when changing the name of your startup.

How to Change the Name of Your Business

When changing the name of your business, you first need to consider your entity type, as this governs the name-changing process. The state where you legally formed your company is where we start.

Here, we’re going to guide you on how to change your startup name depending on whether you are a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, or corporation. Note that these are general guidelines, as the state where you initially formed your business will govern.

Sole Proprietorships & Partnerships

If your startup is a sole proprietorship or a general partnership, it typically doesn't have a legal business structure. As the most straightforward and popular business form, a sole proprietorship “refers to a person who owns the business and is personally responsible for its debts.” Similarly, a general partnership is an “agreement between partners to establish and run a business together ... All partners in a general partnership are responsible for the business and are subject to unlimited liability for business debts.”

In most states, to change the name of your sole proprietorship or general partnership, you can file a “doing business as” or DBA name. To do so, you’ll need to check both your state and local rules for filing a DBA concerning your startup. Additionally, you’ll want to check on any state or local business permits and licenses to see how your DBA should be reflected. To find additional guidance, a good place to start is your state’s secretary of state website.

Limited Liability Companies & Corporations

If you founded a limited liability company (LLC) or corporation, you have a couple of options when changing your startup’s name. First, let’s explore the name change process.

Suppose you want to change your startup’s name and it's a limited liability company or corporation. In that case, you can file an article of amendment (sometimes called a “certificate of amendment”) with the state where you initially incorporated your startup. Suppose you conduct business in other states as a foreign limited liability company or corporation. In that case, you must file an article of amendment in those states as well, reflecting your startup’s name change.

As an alternative to changing your startup’s name, you can choose a less permanent route — using a DBA. Like a limited liability company or a general partnership, you can also implement a “doing business as” (DBA) name for either a limited liability or a corporation.

For example, you may possess particular intellectual property under your startup’s current name and don’t want to get rid of your business name. Or, perhaps you have built a brand under your current name and would like to preserve that following in the marketplace. In these instances, a DBA may be the better choice.

Additionally, you also have more options with a DBA. Depending upon your state, you can also have multiple DBAs, which could, for example, be tied to separate product or service lines.

With either a complete name change or the establishment of a DBA, you’ll need to check your local and state ordinances to see if you need to make any changes to licenses or permits or if they require new licenses or permits, due to your startup's name change.

How to Change Business Name With EIN

Most businesses have a federal employer identification number (EIN) used for financial, banking, and tax purposes. When you change your startup’s name, you’ll need to confirm that your EIN is assigned to the correctly named business.

So how do you change your startup’s name on your tax ID? If you’re only changing the name of your company, and your ownership and business structure are not changing, then you’ll need to submit an EIN name change.

How you change your EIN’s name depends on your startup’s business structure. Suppose your startup is organized as a sole proprietorship. In that case, you can send the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) a signed letter stating the new name for your startup and that you are authorized to send such notification.

If your startup is a corporation or a partnership, then you can change its name on your annual tax return, tying your new business name to the EIN. If you don’t want to wait until you file your yearly taxes, then you can send a letter to the IRS similar to that required for a sole proprietorship.

On the other hand, if you change your business’s entity structure or get a new owner in addition to changing your startup’s name, you’ll need to apply for a new EIN. If you’d like more information on your EIN, you can reference the IRS’s Publication 1635.

How to Change Business Name With IRS

In addition to changing your federal EIN name, the IRS also needs to know about your startup’s name change. However, notifying the IRS of your name change is a similar process to changing your EIN name.

Let’s go through this process in more detail. The table below gives you specific information on how to change your startup's name with the IRS. These same processes will also effectively change your EIN name as well. You’ll notice that limited liability companies are not listed in the table below. 

For LLCs, use either the sole proprietor or the partnership process, based on how your startup is taxed. For example, for single-member LLCs, you’ll use the sole proprietorship directions. For multimember LLCs, you’ll use the partnership directions.

Chart by the IRS.

If you would like the IRS to confirm your startup’s name change, then you may request that the IRS send one. For example, you can include this request in your letter to the IRS when you notify them of the name change.

How to Change Business Name on Google

If your startup has a physical location, then your online presence is heightened through your Google listing. With Google processing 12.7 billion U.S. search queries in April of 2020, you want to make sure that your startup information is correct, making it easy to find.

To keep your startup information current, changing its name on both Google My Business and Google Maps is critical. To update both Google search and maps, sign in to Google My Business. You may need to claim your business if you haven’t already done so.

If you have more than one location, choose the startup's headquarters or main location. On the left side of the screen, you can edit your business name, business category, hours of operation, and contact information, including your website. Once you edit your name and any other relevant information, you can click “Done.”

Since your online presence is critical to your brand and your potential sales, make sure you don’t leave this last task off your to-do list. 

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