Obtaining a Certificate of Compliance in Pennsylvania

Unlock the essentials of a Pennsylvania Subsistence Certificate, a crucial document for business compliance. Explore our comprehensive guide below to streamline the application process and grasp its vital role in maintaining your business standing.

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A Pennsylvania Subsistence Certificate, also known as a Certificate of Good Standing (CGS) in most states, confirms that a business exists and is in compliance with federal, state, and local laws. It also shows that a business has submitted all documents necessary to maintain a business in Pennsylvania. In addition, it confirms the business’s name and address, its registered agent’s name and address, the company’s primary purpose, and other items that were part of the business’s original incorporation documents.

While Pennsylvania doesn’t require a Subsistence Certificate to do business within the state, it may be helpful for setting up various business activities, such as mergers, credit transactions, and contract formation, necessary to grow a company.

This article will provide some guidance on acquiring a Pennsylvania Subsistence Certificate. There’s no specific expiration date for the certificate, although it will be of no use if some of the associated documents and information aren’t up to date. For this reason, it’s helpful to get a new one periodically to show the most current data.

What is a Pennsylvania Subsistence Certificate?

A Pennsylvania Subsistence Certificate for domestic (in-state) businesses is a document that verifies that a company is legally able to, and does, do business in the commonwealth. The Pennsylvania Subsistence Certificate attests that all required filings, such as the company’s decennial report, are up to date, as are taxes, licenses, and permits. You can obtain the certificate from the Pennsylvania Department of State Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations (BCCO).

In the United States, companies may acquire a CGS even when they have pending actions such as liens, suits, fraud claims, or other legal issues, so long as they’re compliant with the CGS requirements. The CGS requirements mirror the information in the formation documents, such as the Certificate of Organization or Articles of Incorporation.

A Subsistence Certificate more than a few months old may not satisfy banking institutions and other entities with which you want to do business, so it’s best to request the Subsistence Certificate shortly before you need it.

ZenBusiness can help keep your business in good standing through our worry free compliance services. Let us handle the compliance monitoring so you can relax and run your business without worry.

What does a Subsistence Certificate confirm?

When the BCCO receives a Subsistence Certificate request, it searches its database for records of mandated filings. It also searches for licenses, permits, tax records, and other vital business requirements. Here’s the information you’ll find on the Pennsylvania Subsistence Certificate:

  • Confirmation that the decennial report has been filed, and the fee paid
  • The business’s name and address
  • Confirmation that relevant tax liability has been satisfied for federal, state, and local taxes, including income tax, estimated taxes, self-employment tax, employment and unemployment taxes, and excise taxes
  • Confirmation that all federal, state, and local licenses and permits are up to date
  • The name and physical street address of the company’s registered agent
  • The business’s federal Employer ID Number (EIN) or Tax ID Number (TIN)

Why might a business need a Pennsylvania Subsistence Certificate?

Many regular business activities either require a Subsistence Certificate or are easier to complete with the document in hand. For example, you’ll likely need one if you wish to:

  • Register to do business in another state or country
  • Secure funding, obtain loans, establish credit, or seek grantors to raise funds
  • Open a business bank account
  • Apply for a credit or debit card
  • Buy business insurance
  • Form a contract with Pennsylvania agencies, another state, or another Pennsylvania business
  • Initiate customer-related transactions, such as establishing auto-pay or electronic bills and payments
  • Transfer ownership or sell part or all of the company
  • Recruit business partners and officers
  • Initiate other corporate activities involving other businesses or agencies
  • Renew certain licenses and permits

What Pennsylvania entities can obtain a Subsistence Certificate?

Companies required to register with the state can obtain a Subsistence Certificate. Such companies include:

  • For-profit business corporations
  • Nonprofit corporations
  • Limited liability companies (LLCs)
  • Cooperative corporations such as railroad or electric businesses
  • Professional limited liability companies and corporations
  • Partnerships that are required to register with the state, such as limited partnerships, limited liability limited partnerships, and limited liability partnerships

General partnerships, sole proprietorships, and other entities that aren’t required to register with the state cannot request a CGS.

How to get a Pennsylvania Subsistence Certificate

First, it’s essential to confirm your company has met all of its legal and fiscal responsibilities, including taxes, decennial reports, and other items mentioned in the list above. Remember that ZenBusiness can help with this with our worry-free compliance services. We provide detailed plans, proactive alerts, and regular notifications that help keep your business on top of all regulatory concerns.

Once you’ve squared that away, visit the website for Pennsylvania’s PennFile system to request a Subsistence Certificate online. Follow these steps:

  • Click on “Create a Login.”
  • Click on “Search Business Entities.”
  • Click “Search Name” and click on the name of your business when it comes up. The system won’t find your company name unless the Department of State has previously approved and filed your business formation documents.
  • Find your Subsistence Certificate under “Certified Documents.”

Alternatively, you may mail your request via the United States Postal Service in a letter with an official certification request form. Mail the completed form, along with the proper fee, to the Pennsylvania Department of State, Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations.

Make sure that your Subsistence Certificate will be valid for its intended use. The BCCO can help if you’re unsure. It’s also a good idea to consult with the business, bank, insurance company, or other entity with which you want to do business to find out if it will accept the certificate or if you’ll have to provide more information. Also, check to see how recent the Subsistence Certificate must be to be valid for the party requesting it; if it’s more than a couple of months old, it might not be accepted.

When you receive your approved certificate, send it to the requesting party. Be sure to keep a copy for your records.


Compliance may not be simple to keep up with, especially when considering all the other aspects that make a business go round. At ZenBusiness, we understand that your business needs don’t stop after the business has been registered. ZenBusiness can help keep you in good standing with our worry-free compliance service. With this service, we not only help keep your business in compliance, but we can also secure a Pennsylvania Subsistence Certificate for you if you need one; you just pay the state fees. And, if you don’t have our worry-free compliance but still need a Subsistence Certificate, our Certificate of Good Standing service can help.

Pennsylvania Subsistence Certificate FAQs

  • As of 2021, the fee for a Subsistence Certificate for domestic businesses is forty dollars. This fee is applicable to both online and mail requests and is subject to change.

  • It will be available by email in less than two hours. Mail-in requests may take seven to 10 business days.

  • Yes. There are three levels of expedited services in Pennsylvania.

    As mentioned above, online requests at PennFile are processed and available for delivery by email within two hours. Requests made via USPS mail or other ground delivery are not eligible for expedited service.

  • No. Compliance with all state business requirements and taxes is needed to apply for the Subsistence Certificate through the Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations. It isn’t needed to do business in Pennsylvania. It is, however, needed to do business in other states.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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Written by Team ZenBusiness

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