Maybe your business has changed or maybe your tastes have, but the good news is that your business is not stuck with the first name you chose. The steps below describe how to legally change the name of a Wisconsin corporation. When changing your business’s name, it is always a good idea to meet with an attorney who can answer your questions and make sure you have taken all the right steps.
- Choose a New Name. After you have a few ideas for your new business name, you will need to do some research to make sure the name you want is available. A basic internet search can be conducted to see what similarly named businesses already exist. The United States Patent and Trademark Office’s trademark database should also be searched. The new name should avoid creating confusion with another live trademark and should not be too similar to an existing trademark that is used for products or services that are similar to your own. Though not required, it is also prudent to check the availability of related domain names for a business website if your business uses a website.
According to Wisconsin Statues §180.0401, 181.0401, 183.0112 (2019-20) all business names need to be distinguishable from existing Wisconsin business names. You can check to see if your name is taken by searching the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) Corporate Records. Additionally, your new name must contain one of the following words or similar words that accurately describes your business: corporation, incorporated, company, or limited. Alternatively, you may use the abbreviation of one of the aforementioned words like, “LLC,” “Inc.,” or “Co.”
- Change Your Name with the Wisconsin DFI. Legally change your name by filing Articles of Amendment with the Wisconsin DFI. The DFI has a form available to file your name change consistent with your business’s organizing documents. Depending on a business’s operating agreement or bylaws, it may be necessary for shareholders, members, directors, or managers to pass resolutions consenting to the change.
Note: It should be noted that it is also possible for a business to use another name without legally changing the name of the business through the use of a trade name, sometimes known as a “DBA” or “doing business as …” name. Using a new trade name can change the branding of a business but does not change the legal name of a business. In Wisconsin, you can register your trade name with the DFI to protect your trademark. The name will be protected for 10 years and can be renewed. Much like with a legal name change, it is necessary to search the database to ensure your intended name not already in use by others.
- Notify the IRS. If a corporation is filing a return for the current year, there is a box on the return to notify the IRS of a name change. If a corporation is changing its name after filing its return, a notice can be sent to the IRS separately. Usually, a business that has only changed its name will not need a new EIN. The IRS provides information on EINs after name changes in this publication.
- Communicate With Your Bank. Your bank may allow for the name on the business’s account to change or may require opening a new account.
- Notify the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR). Whether a business changes its legal name or adopts a DBA, the DOR should be notified. If adopting a DBA, the DOR may be notified by calling or emailing their office and providing the current name of the business, the EIN of the business, the new name of the business, and the date the name is to take effect. If a business has changed its legal name, the above information should be faxed, emailed, or mailed to the DOR along with a copy of the Articles of Amendment that were filed with the DFI in Step 2. Any other business licenses and permits should also be updated.
- Update Your Branding. Customers and the business community need to know the name has changed. Update websites, signs, and branded materials to be consistent with the new name.
If you are ready to change your business name, please make an appointment with one of our experienced business attorneys. They can guide you through the process.