Using Your State's "Secretary of State" Website
Every state in the U.S. has a resource to help you in your business. In most states this resource is the state's "Secretary of State." In three states (Alaska, Hawaii, and Utah), there is no "Secretary of State," and in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia the position is "Secretary of the Commonwealth." You can find much useful information on the website of this state official. Although the specific headings for these subjects may be different in different states, in most stats you will find this information:
- Business Forms and Choosing a Business
You will find a listing of characteristics of different types of business forms (sole proprietorship, Limited Liability Company, and corporation), along with non-profit business forms. You will also find links to the appropriate sections of state code describing the regulations for formation, change and dissolution of each type of business.
- Fees and Licenses
A listing of fees for different types of legal activities is included, as well as a section on business licenses for specific types of businesses, like auto dealers, farms, construction, and retail businesses. You may need to find the classification of your business, using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) for this filing.
- Database Search
Most states have a database with all of the corporations and other business entities which have filed with the state. You can search this database to see if another company has already registered the business name you want to use. You can also find out about the business location, its registered agent and officers.
- Online Filings
In most states, you may be able to file reports online. A corporate biennial report and a notary renewal are examples of reports that you might be able to file online using a credit card to pay for the filing.
If you are just starting your business, or you are considering a change in your business, check the website of your Secretary of State to see if you can find the information there. In many cases, you may be able to file reports, find out the correct form of a document, or get information on types of businesses in your state, without needing an attorney to do it for you.
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