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How to Start a Business in South Carolina

When considering starting a South Carolina business, you must make sure that you fully understand the process required to set up that business properly and legally. It is also imperative you get to know the business climate in South Carolina before you become a part of it. If you explore that business climate and decide that opening an SC business is in your best interest, then you must select a business structure and a name for your business. After a company structure and name has been determined the proper business licenses must be obtained from both the state of South Carolina and your local board in charge of business management. However, not all SC businesses obtain the same licenses. The information below can help you to determine which structure is best for your South Carolina business as well as the exact types of business license you will need.

The Business Climate in South Carolina

The South Carolina business climate centers primarily on aerospace and related transportation industries. Pharmaceutical and biotechnology are also quite common in SC, which has a rapidly expanding resident population. Additionally, the cost of operating a South Carolina business was 0.1 percent below the nation-wide average as of 2016, which has encouraged many South Carolinians to start new businesses.

South Carolina Business Structures

Selecting a South Carolina business structure is the process of determining how your business will be assessed for tax purposes. You will be required to file specific tax forms based on your business type. Business structures include corporations, partnerships and sole proprietorships. Alternatively, you may register your business as a Limited Liability Company (LLC), which can help you to protect your personal assets by keeping them partially separated from your business assets. You should discuss your business licensure options ahead of time with a SC attorney or accountant in order to ensure that you are registering your business in a manner which will be best for you.

South Carolina Occupational Licensing Requirements

Depending on the type of South Carolina business you wish to open you may have to apply for some form of occupational licensing through the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation Division of Professional and Occupational Licensing (POL). SC business licensure boards overseen by POL are specialized boards which ensure that those working in industries requiring specific training have been properly certified. Examples of such entities include licensing boards for contractors, medical professionals, dentists, accountants and veterinarians. You must check with the POL division to see if you require such licensure.

South Carolina State Business Licensing and Business Name Requirements

As a new South Carolina business owner, you do not have to name your business after yourself.  The business may have a completely unique name, but that name must also be unique from all other names of registered businesses in South Carolina. Availability of a specific business name can be verified through the SC Secretary of State. Uniqueness is determined by the name of the business, not the business type. For example, if two businesses have the identical names but one is an LLC and the other is a corporation, the names are still considered to be identical by the Secretary of State's Office. If you choose a name which is unavailable, then you must select a different business name.

When your South Carolina business name has been verified as available and you have acquired the proper occupational licensure, if applicable, you may register your new business at the state level. By registering your business with the South Carolina Secretary of State's Office your business name will become unique to your company within the state. Once your unique business name has been properly registered, the SC Secretary of State's office will mail you an official licensure certificate. It is imperative you have the official license from the Secretary of State's office before trying to obtain any licenses or permits at the local or county level.

Obtaining an EIN in South Carolina

Any business you open will require a Federal Employer Identification Number regardless of the type of business you intend to operate with two primary exceptions. The first exception is that you may use your own Social Security Number in place of an EIN if you are operating a sole proprietorship with no employees. Exception number two is that you do not have to obtain a new EIN for your business if you are simply opening a branch of an existing out-of-state business in South Carolina because your existing EIN is a form of identification, not a state-specific form of identification.

South Carolina Local Business Registration

If you are opening an SC business in the counties of Jasper, Marion, Horry, Charleston, Dorchester, Beaufort, Richland or Sumter, then you will need a county business license in order to operate your company. Regardless of the company location, you also need to obtain business licenses from any cities or towns in when you plan to have business branches. In order to do so you must talk to a representative of the local organization responsible for business licensure in the specified town, which may be the Town Hall, Local Business Board or another entity.

South Carolina Taxes Relating to Starting a Business

South Carolina business tax laws include requirements you must follow for paying taxes regardless of your business type. However, there are also extra tax collection requirements for certain types of SC business. For example, if you intend to operate a business which serves food or beverages, then you must collect hospitality taxes from your customers and give that tax money to the appropriate county or city tax collection office. You may also be required to collect SC local accommodation taxes from your guests if you operate a business such as a campground or hotel where guests may stay overnight.