Iowa Business Entity Search (Step-by-Step Guide)
If you’re considering forming a business in the state of Iowa, the first step would be to perform a business search on the Secretary of State’s website. The search will help determine whether or not the desired name is taken by another business entity or is currently available for business registration.
The handy search tool called the IA Business Entities Search allows you to search for various types of business structures, including for-profit corporations such as limited liability companies as well as nonprofits.
The following step-by-step guide will show you how to conduct an Iowa business entity search.
Iowa search tips
When searching for a business in Iowa, the following guidelines will help give you the best results:
- The Iowa names search is not case-sensitive, so whether you enter uppercase or lowercase letters is irrelevant.
- Even if the company name contains punctuation marks or special characters, you don’t need to include them as it does not affect the search results.
- If a company name contains multiple words, you may just enter the first few letters or words that the entity name starts with, and it will bring up all matching entries beginning with those same letters or words.
The Iowa names search allows you to search by a business name or business number.
Business search by entity name
To begin your name search, access the IA Secretary of State Business Search tool.
Enter the entity name
Enter the desired name while keeping the guidelines mentioned in the helpful tips section in mind.
Click on “Search,” or hit Enter on your keyboard.
Review the results
If matching results are found, you’ll view a list containing the business number, name, status, and type of business for matching entries.
Review additional business information
For further information on a specific entity, simply click on the business number linked in blue, and it will take you to the business summary page.
The summary page allows you to view pertinent information regarding each business entity, such as the legal name of the company, status, expiry date, type, state of incorporation, etc.
There are additional links that provide even more detail about the company, including their mailing address (no PO box), registered agent information, and stock information if relevant.
Business search using additional search types
The next search criteria to locate a business entity in Iowa is to search by business number. The business number is a six-digit code that you need to enter into the search bar and click “Search.”
In this case, there should only be one matching result or an exact match if you entered the business number correctly.
Alternatively, the search will return no matching results.
However, if the business number does reveal business information, you can go through the same process to access further details as you did with the business entity name search by name.
Iowa search results
The search tool will return the following business details:
- Business number
- Entity’s legal name
- State of incorporation
- Expiration/effective date
- Filing date
- Registered agent or service of process agent information
- Home office details
You’ll also find links to various other business information at the top of the business summary page. Simply click on the relevant link to access details about the specific businesses:
- Business filings
- Protected series
Copies of documents and certificates
You may want to obtain copies of business documents after completing a name search on the Department of State’s website. The copies may be certified or uncertified. However, certified copies are state-issued and are exact copies of the original business documents.
You’ll also notice that certified copies come along with a page bearing an official seal, or the Secretary of State’s signature, which proves the authentication.
The most frequently requested business documents include Certificates of Formation, Corporate Dissolution or Liquidation Forms, Certificates of Authority, and DBA fictitious name business filings.
To obtain certified copies of business documents, use the following information:
Iowa Secretary of State
First Floor, Lucas Building, 321 E. 12th St.
Des Moines, IA 50319
Alternatively, contact the Iowa SOS Business Services or Online services website.
Business name availability
It’s also important to note that even if a name does not come up on the search results when conducting a name search, the name could be registered as a trademark by another entity. Conduct a Trademark Search to determine name availability.
It could also be in use by a sole proprietorship or partnership as these business structures do not need to register legal entity names with the state.
Additionally, it is required that all corporations and LLCs registered in the state have unique and distinguishable business names.
The first place to start, as we mentioned earlier, is with a name search on the Secretary of State’s website. The search allows you to check the business database containing all registered businesses in the state.
If it turns out that the name you want to use is already taken, there are a few other ways that you can make your new name significantly different from other entities. These methods are in accordance with the Iowa Code.
According to Iowa naming requirements, a name is considered distinguishable if it has one or more different numbers or letters than any other existing entity or contains a different sequence of numbers or letters.
Additionally, when registering your business name with the Secretary of State’s office, names that are registered in the following records will be irrelevant:
- Fictitious names
- Names or corporations (profit or nonprofit) whose certificates of incorporation have been canceled
- Assumed names of nonprofit corporations
- Expired or terminated assumed names
- Names of the corporation (profit or nonprofit) whose certificates of authority have been revoked
- Expired name reservations
- Expired name registrations
A few other general guidelines do apply when selecting a name for your business in the state, such as:
- The name should not include words that confuse your business with a government agency, so stay away from words such as State Department, FBI, Treasury, etc.
- Restricted words such as attorney, bank, and University cannot be used without additional paperwork. Alternatively, a licensed individual like a lawyer or doctor should be a part of your business.
- It’s also important to note that in the event a business has been dissolved administratively, the name is still not available for public use for the period of five years.
If it turns out that your preferred name is available, but you are not prepared to complete business registration at this point, then you may choose the name reservation option. Reserving your name involves completing the Application for Reservation of Name with the Secretary of State’s office.
The form requires the following information:
- Type of business
- Applicant’s name and address
- Name to be reserved
- Applicant’s signature
Additionally, the cost of a name reservation in Iowa is approximately $10 and is payable to the Secretary of State. The form and the check should be mailed to the Business Services Division at:
Secretary of State Business Services Division
1st Floor Des Moines
Domain name availability
Once you’ve confirmed that your preferred name is available, the next step is deciding on a domain name for your business. Domain names may seem relevant; however, they are priceless when it comes to establishing your business’s online presence.
Essentially it’s a tool that points people in the direction of your products and services, so it is absolutely imperative to have a domain name in the age of the Internet.
Years ago, it was much easier to choose a domain name and simply register it. Nowadays, with millions of websites online, it’s a bit more challenging to find an available domain name.
However, you may use a professional domain checking service like namechk.com. This service is highly recommended as it helps to filter your search results and also provides alternatives in the event that your preferred domain name is taken.
It is highly recommended that if you come across a domain name that you like and it is available that you register it immediately. This is to avoid it being taken the next time you conduct your search.
Fictitious business name search
You may want to get a DBA for your Iowa business for various reasons. A DBA is short for “doing business as” name and is also referred to as an assumed, fictitious, or trade name. Lots of business owners choose to register a DBA when they want to trade under any other name aside from the legal entity name.
However, registration is mandatory in order to remain compliant with state laws. By registering your fictitious names with the state or local county, you will be able to conduct business legally under your fictitious names.
Some of the benefits of using a DBA include being able to open up business bank accounts under your assumed name. This is because when opening up a bank account, banks and financial institutions require that you use your business’s legal entity name or fictitious name.
Additionally, registering a fictitious name allows you to transact under a catchier or shorter name which makes for improved marketing success. So if you’d like to use a name that doesn’t contain a designator like Corp. or LLC, then registering an assumed name is the way to go.
Furthermore, you will avoid potential legal complications as a result of the confusion of the business name by registering your fictitious name with the state. Ultimately, this helps to avoid liability.
If you’re forming a corporation or LLC, then you should register your fictitious name with the state. Alternatively, if you are registering a limited liability partnership or sole proprietorship, then your registration should be handled by the County recorder’s office.
For corporations and LLCs, you should refer to the Secretary of State’s website and go to the Business Entity Forms and Fees section under the Business Services menu, or refer to https://sos.iowa.gov/business/formsandfees.
Thereafter, locate the Fictitious Name Registration Form, complete, print, and sign.
There is a filing fee of $5 payable to the Secretary of State when registering your fictitious name.
You may submit the form via mail to:
Secretary of State
Business Services Division
Lucas Building, 1st Floor
Des Moines, Iowa 50319
Alternatively, to complete the process online, use the Fast Track Filing system for a fictitious name. You have the option to sign up if you do not already have a Fast Track account. You can then log in and complete the Fictitious Name Form and pay the $5 filing fee via credit card.
What is a Certificate of Good Standing?
A certificate of good standing is, like the name implies, a certificate that verifies that your company’s business filings are in order. It basically verifies that the necessary documents have been filed, registration fees have been paid on time, and you are legally permitted to conduct business activities within the state.
What is the purpose of a trade name?
A trade name which is also referred to as a DBA or “doing business as” name, is a fictitious name that business entities may use to transact. It’s used by business owners who want to conduct business under various other names aside from their legal names. Trade names are also referred to as assumed names.
What is a federal tax lien?
In the event that you neglect or fail to pay a tax debt, the government has a legal claim against your property, and this is known as a federal tax lien. It basically protects the government’s interest in all your property, including personal property, financial assets as well as real estate.
Can I use the Iowa entity search database to look up for-profit corporations and nonprofits?
Yes, you may use the business registry to look up various types of business structures, including for-profit corporations and nonprofit corporations. However, the database cannot be used to look up sole proprietorships or fictitious, trade, and assumed names.
How do I find out if a name is trademarked?
To find out if the company name is trademarked, you’ll need to refer to the Trademark Search on the Secretary of State’s website. Type in the trademark name that you’re looking for, and if there are matching results, then the name is trademarked and therefore off-limits.
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