Changing your business name is more complex than spreading the word about the new name. But if you’re committed to the re-branding, read on to learn how to change your business name in ten steps.
Pick a Memorable Moniker
The new name should still reflect your brand identity, products or services or a combination of both. It should also resolve a concern you had with the previous name. For example, if the old name was forgettable, too verbose or too close to the name of a competitor, ensure the new business name is memorable, concise and unique.
Check for and Claim the Domain Name
Use the WHOIS domain lookup tool to ensure a domain is available for your new business name before you change it. Choosing a unique new name will boost the odds of the domain name being available.
If the domain is unused, buy it quickly before someone else does. You can also try variations of a business name domain if your first choice is already taken. As an example, modifying “mybusiness.com” to “mybusinessonline.com”.
Ensure the Name Isn’t Trademarked
You want to ensure that your business name doesn’t infringe on an already registered trademark. Infringement can cause legal hassles down the road. Search for your potential new name using the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office’s trademark search tool. Ensure there are no registered trademarks that match your new business name. If you want, you can also register the new name as a trademark.
Notify Your Secretary of State
You’ll need to notify your Secretary of State of your name change before doing business with it. See the USA.gov State and Territory Business Resources site to access the form needed to file the name change. The form used to do this will vary by state. The change can also come with a small fee.
Register the DBA
If your new business name is a “Doing Business As” name, you’ll need to register the fictitious name with the state as you did for the original name. You can obtain the forms for DBA registration through the Small Business Administration or your county clerk’s office.
Update Licenses or Permit
Did you obtain any special licenses or permits to operate your business at the federal, state or local level? You’ll need to either amend or obtain new licenses or permits to indicate the new business name.
Notify the IRS
See the IRS’ business name change instructions for the specific action you’ll need to take to notify them of the change. It will vary depending on your business entity. You’ll either need to simply write to the IRS or send in a form. In some cases, you’ll also need to notify your state or local revenue agency.
Get a New EIN
In some, but not all cases, you’ll need to get a new EIN (employment identification number) when you change your business name. See IRS Publication 1635 to determine whether your business needs a new EIN.
Update Business Accounts, Documents and Marketing Collateral
This includes business bank accounts, credit cards and loan documentation. It also includes contracts with vendors or clients. Most importantly, your business logo and store signage should reflect the new name.
Tell Your Customers or Clients
Perhaps the most important aspect of how to change your business name is communicating the change to your customers and clients. Notify them through e-mail, phone or snail mail that all business will be done under the new name going forward. And tell them to address all future mail correspondence to the new name.
MileIQ’s blog does not constitute professional tax advice. You should contact your own tax professional to discuss your situation.