How to Register a Business Name in Tennessee

Updated: October 1, 2023
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A business name can be registered in Tennessee in three different ways. You can create a separate legal entity by forming an LLC or Corporation. Alternatively, you can start as a sole proprietor or general partnership and register your business name by filing a DBA name (sometimes referred to as an Assumed Name). If you want to register your business name across the United States and have extra legal protections you also want to consider filing a federal trademark.

Registration of your Tennessee business name should be completed prior to most other business filings like:

  • Completing your registration for a Tennessee Sales and Use Tax Account via the Tennessee Taxpayer Access Point (TNTAP) website
  • Applying for an Employer Account Number via form LB-0441 with the TN Department of Labor & Workforce Development to determine if you’re responsible to pay unemployment insurance
  • Obtaining a Federal Employer ID Number (FEIN) from the IRS
  • Registering for business licenses and permits at the federal, state, and local level
  • Opening a Business Bank Account

How much does it cost to Register a Business Name in Tennessee?

The cost to register a Tennessee business name varies depending on the type of registration:

  • Tennessee LLC cost: $300
  • Tennessee Corporation cost: $100
  • Tennessee DBA cost: $15

1. Check Business Name Availability

Before you jump into registering your company name, you need to do a few searches to check if you can and should use the name you’ve picked. Make sure the name you want is available and isn’t too similar to other Tennessee businesses. Doing this helps you avoid issues that confuse your customers, cause legal issues, or result in your name registration getting rejected. To do this the right way, you should do three different searches:

Tennessee Business Name Search Help

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Trademark Search

A trademark search is the first search to verify your business name’s availability. Trademark searches should be done first because trademarks supersede state or local registrations. If you do find that your business name is potentially trademarked you should choose a new name. Using a name that has potential trademark conflict can result in major problems in the future that can be very costly and may force you to change your business name anyway.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) manages federal trademarks. To search their database, visit the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) page. If you find the results from a TESS search hard to understand, we suggest using the Free Trademark Search from Trademark Engine, providing results in an easier-to-use way and searches within trademark filings and not just the filing name.

Tennessee Business Name Search

After ensuring that you won’t face issues related to a trademark, it’s time to move on to a Tennessee business name search. Search the database of businesses registered using the Tennessee Business Information Search.

Remember, a thorough search goes beyond just searching for an exact match of your business name. Experiment with different search variations, incorporating partial name components or wildcard characters. If your business name resembles an existing business, it could lead to your Tennessee business name registration getting rejected.

Pro Tip: Don’t overlook the history of the business name you intend to use, even if it currently appears available. Opting for a previously registered name can significantly complicate obtaining an EIN.

Choosing a name that’s been registered before often triggers the IRS’ EIN online assistant to reject your application due to reference number 101. This problem occurs when your chosen name matches or closely resembles a name that’s already been assigned an EIN. While you can still get an EIN issued when a 101 error happens, you’ll be required to call the IRS and fax the formation paperwork for your business to an IRS agent. This often takes at least an hour on the phone and requires that you have access to a fax system. Unless you’re okay with the process taking potentially hours of your time rather than the 10 minutes or less that the normal online process takes, use a different name for your company.

Website Domain Search

For most businesses, you also want to check if the website domain name matching your business name is available. If you have no plans for a website, you should still try to purchase your business’ matching domain name. This will prevent others from using it or competitors from snatching it up. You can also make your business more credible if you own a domain name, so you can use an email address with your business name in it.

Domain Name and Business Email

You can use Namecheap to verify if your domain name is available. They also offer a business email service that’s free to try for the first 60 days when you purchase a domain.

2. Choose a Business Structure

When you start registering your business name in Tennessee, you must determine the appropriate business structure before filing. The specific filing process you’ll need to complete will differ depending on your chosen business structure. It also has ramifications beyond registration and impacts aspects such as personal liability protection, ease or difficulty for obtaining financing, and how business income can be taxed. You should consider variables like the number of owners (both now and in the future), the amount of capital you’ll need, your stance on personal liability exposure, and tax preferences. If you can’t decide based on the information provided below, our guide Choosing a Business Structure covers this decision in much more detail.

Recommended Business Structure:

For a new business, going the LLC route is highly recommended. Why? With an LLC you have limited personal liability, unlike sole proprietors and general partnerships, and you’re spared the complex double taxation rules that corporations contend with.

You can use an LLC formation service to ensure your LLC is formed properly. If that’s the route you go, we’ve reviewed the best LLC services to save you time finding the right one.


An LLC, short for Limited Liability Company, is business entity under Tennessee law (TN § 48-201) that is recognized as separate from its owners. As a result, the owners have personal liability protection. LLCs provide both tax and management flexibility.

Learn More: What is an LLC

LLC Pros

  • Personal liability protection
  • Legally separate entity
  • Default pass-through taxation (business income taxed once)
  • Unlimited number of owners (members)
  • Flexible management – can be run by members or non-owner managers
  • Option for S-Corp tax status

LLC Cons

  • Upfront filing costs
  • Ongoing cost and filings to stay compliant
  • Unable to go public

Do you need to register to be an LLC in Tennessee?

Yes, legally becoming an LLC in Tennessee requires registration through the Tennessee Secretary of State.

Jump to: Register an LLC Name


A corporation is a legally independent business entity under Tennessee law (TN Code § 48-12). Stockholders own it, with limited liability. It’s a solid option for raising external funds and businesses that may consider going public in the future.

Learn More: What is a Corporation

Corporation Pros

  • Personal liability protection
  • Legally separate entity
  • Unlimited number of owners (shareholders)
  • Easier to raise capital by selling stock
  • Able to go public
  • Option for S-Corp tax status

Corporation Cons

  • Default double taxation
  • Upfront filing costs
  • Ongoing costs and filings to stay compliant
  • Increased record keeping requirements
  • Strict management structures set by law

Do you need to register to be a Corporation in Tennessee?

Yes, to be legally acknowledged as a Corporation in Tennessee, you’ll need to register with the Tennessee Secretary of State.

Jump to: Register a Corporation Name

Sole Proprietor

A sole proprietorship is a basic one-owner setup. Start easily with a few registrations. It doesn’t establish a separate entity so the owner has unlimited personal liability.

Learn More: What is a Sole Proprietorship

Sole Proprietor Pros

  • Easy and inexpensive to start
  • Simple taxes (business income taxed once)
  • Easy to maintain
  • Complete control for owner

Sole Proprietor Cons

  • Unlimited Liability Risk
  • Hard to raise money and get loans
  • Not separate from owner
  • Difficult to sell business
  • No other tax status options

Do you need to register your sole proprietor business name in Tennessee?

When operating as a sole proprietor in Tennessee, it’s crucial to note that if your business name doesn’t have your name, you’ll need to file a “doing business as” name (DBA). For example, if your name is “Taylor Harris” and you’re going to run a barber shop, there’s no requirement to register “Taylor Harris Grooming.” However, selecting a better brandable name like “Kingscape Grooming Lounge” would require registration of a DBA.

Jump to: Register a DBA Name


A partnership is a business with 2 or more owners who agree to work jointly together. Each partner has unlimited liability. Earnings or losses go directly to each partner, who report their portions on individual tax returns.

Learn More: What is a Partnership

Partnership Pros

  • Easy and inexpensive to start
  • Pass-through taxation (business income taxed once)
  • Unlimited number of owners (partners)
  • Shared business responsibilities

Partnership Cons

  • Unlimited Liability Risk
  • Responsible for partners’ actions
  • Hard to raise outside capital
  • Not separate from partners
  • Difficult to sell business
  • No other tax status options

Do you need to register your partnership business name in Tennessee?

Partnerships operating in Tennessee need to register a “doing business as” (DBA) name unless their business name includes the last names of all partners. For example, a landscaping partnership founded by Jessica Davis, Michael Wilson, and Emily Stevens can use the name “Davis, Wilson & Stevens Landscapes” without filing. However, if they prefer the unique brand name “Greener Scapes Oasis”, they need to register an Assumed Name (DBA).

Jump to: Register a DBA Name

3. File your Tennessee Business Name Registration

You’ve ticked off name availability and structure selection. The next step is submitting your Tennessee business name filing. Below is the information on the registration process specific to each business structure. For clarity, sole proprietorships and partnerships will file their business name registration via a DBA filing.

Register a Tennessee LLC Name

To register an LLC in Tennessee, you need to file a formation document known as Articles of Organization with the Tennessee Secretary of State. This filing has a state fee of $300. In your Articles of Organization submission you’ll include basic information about your business, including:

  • LLC Name
  • Information about the LLC members (owners) and managers (if applicable)
  • Business Address (Must be a physical address – PO Boxes not allowed)
  • Name and Address of your Registered Agent

Tennessee LLC Name Requirements

Tennessee LLCs must use a name that follows the naming rules outlined in Tennessee law (TN Code § 48-249-106):

  • Must be distinguishable (unique) from all others businesses registered with the Tennessee Secretary of State
  • Must clearly denote the business is legally structured as an LLC by including the words “limited liability company” or an abbreviation such as “LLC”
  • Cannot use words or designators associated with Corporations such as “Corporation” “Incorporated” “Corp” or “Inc”
  • Cannot contain words that imply association with a government entity
  • Cannot contain words that are prohibited or require prior approval such as Mortgage, Bank, Banks, Credit Union, Trust

For more in-depth information check out our How to Start an LLC in Tennessee guide, where we cover all the steps needed to form an LLC in full detail.

Want Help Starting a Tennessee LLC?

Use a professional filing service like Northwest Registered Agent ($39 +state fees), which can save you $210 vs LegalZoom when forming a Tennessee LLC.

Register a Tennessee Corporation Name

To get a Tennessee Corporation registered, you’ll need to file a For-Profit Corporation Charter with the Tennessee Secretary of State. This filing costs $100 and you’ll need to include information about your business, such as:

  • Corporation Name
  • Names and addresses of the board of the directors
  • Number and type of authorized shares
  • Business Address (Must be a physical address – PO Boxes not allowed)
  • Name and Address of your Registered Agent

Tennessee Corporation Name Requirements

Corporations in Tennessee are required to use a name that follows the rules detailed under Tennessee law (TN Code § 48-14-101):

  • Must be distinguishable (unique) from all others businesses registered with the Tennessee Secretary of State
  • Clearly indicate the business is legally structured as a corporation by including the words “Corporation” or “Incorporated” or use an abbreviation such as “Corp” or “Inc”
  • Cannot use words or designators associated with LLCs such as “limited liability company” or “LLC”
  • Cannot contain words that imply association with a government entity
  • Cannot contain words that are prohibited or require prior approval such as Mortgage, Bank, Banks, Credit Union, Trust

Want to Incorporate in Tennessee?

If you’re interested in incorporating, you can learn more with the ZenBusiness guide on How to Start a Corporation in Tennessee, which covers each step you’ll need to complete to start a Tennessee corporation.

Register a Tennessee DBA (Assumed Name)

A Tennessee DBA (Assumed Name) allows a business to operate using a business name that is different than their legal name. To register a Tennessee DBA you’ll need to complete a Business Tax Registration Application and submit it to the county clerk’s office, along with the filing fee of $15. You’ll need to provide the following information:

  • Name and address of Applicant(s)
  • Business Name (Assumed Name)
  • Address where business is transacted

Tennessee DBA (Assumed Name) Requirements

The rules for a Tennessee Assumed Name (DBAs) are not quite as strict as they are for LLCs or Corporations, however there are still restrictions. Mainly, your DBA can’t include designators used for legal entities like “LLC” or “Inc” in the Assumed Name. DBAs also can’t contain prohibited words or words that imply association with government entities.

Tennessee DBA Registration Assistance

Get help registering your Tennessee DBA with Swyft Filings. Packages starting at $99 (plus filing fees).

4. File a Trademark (Optional)

Business owners who want more control and protection over their Tennessee business name can opt to trademark their name. Trademarks offer federal-level protection that extends beyond state boundaries.

You can apply for a trademark online on your own but the overall process is complex and time-consuming. It usually takes around 7-9 months for a USPTO examining attorney to initially review your application. As a result, errors on the initial application can make the process take quite a long time.

Getting help from a qualified attorney or a dedicated filing service is a good idea if you want to make your trademark registration process smoother. They have the knowledge and expertise to save you time and simplify the application submission and follow-up procedures.

Trademark Filing Assistance

Ensure your trademark is filed properly with the help of the experts at Trademark Engine, who’ve helped file over 120,000 trademarks since 2016. Packages start at $99 (+USPTO fees).

Additional Business Resources in Tennessee

For more help, check out our How to Start a Business in Tennessee guide, or use these resources:

  • Tennessee Secretary of State – The official website for registering business names, providing information about business entities, forms, and guidelines.
  • Tennessee Department of Revenue – Offers information about taxation, permits, and licenses for businesses in Tennessee, helping entrepreneurs navigate tax requirements.
  • Tennessee Chamber of Commerce – A comprehensive resource that connects businesses with networking opportunities, advocacy, and resources for growth and development.
  • Tennessee SBDC – The Small Business Development Center provides free consulting, training, and resources to help entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
  • SCORE Tennessee – A nonprofit organization that offers free mentoring and education to entrepreneurs, assisting them in building and scaling their businesses.
  • Pathway Lending – Pathway Lending offers financing solutions, loans, and advisory services to support small businesses in Tennessee with their financial needs.