7 Steps to Changing Your Business Name

by Tim Parker

2 min read

Sometimes a business name just doesn’t work out: You thought the clever moniker you chose would truly represent your brand, but customers didn’t make the connection. Or maybe you used your own name in the company’s title, and you now want to change it to reflect a larger, more corporate brand.

Whatever your reason, changing your business name is a difficult task, and you run the risk of losing any brand recognition you do have. That said, when the positives outweigh the negatives, it can be done. Here’s how to go about it.

1. Research the new name. Start by checking the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Use its trademark search tool to see whether your new name is already registered by someone else.

If not, check whether the domain name is available using any accredited registrar. Ideally, if you are a for-profit business, you want a .com address, and if you’re nonprofit, you want a .org address.

Finally, go to your secretary of state’s webpage to make sure your new name isn’t already registered in your state.

2. Notify your secretary of state. Your state’s office has a form for changing your business name. States have different names for these forms. Go to USA.gov to find a link to your state’s office. There will likely be a fee for the name change.

3. Change licenses and permits. Nearly all businesses have licenses and permits with various levels of government. Contact each of the offices associated with those permits to learn how to change the name on those forms. Fees will likely apply.

4. Notify the IRS. The IRS has different requirements depending on your type of business. Visit the IRS website to read about your specific requirements. In some cases, it’s as easy as noting the name change on your next tax return.

5. Apply for a new EIN. Some businesses will need to obtain a new employer identification number. See IRS Publication 1635 [PDF] to determine whether you need to reapply.

6. Update your business documents. Change your branding to your new name and logo. This includes all business forms, signage, and your website. Contact your website administrator and ask them to redirect your site to your new domain.

7. Communicate with your customers. Sometimes a name change takes place because the company was purchased, new management assumed control, or some negative turn of events prompted a fresh start. As soon as possible, let customers know that you’re still open for business. Briefly explain (even celebrate!) why your business name has changed. This will help you retain their confidence and start building your new brand.

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