Obtaining a Certificate of Compliance in South Carolina

Elevate your business standing in South Carolina with a Certificate of Existence – explore the essential details and streamline the application process by delving into our comprehensive guide.

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Once a business or corporation begins conducting business in a state, it needs to ensure it remains in compliance with the state’s regulations and laws. That means making sure taxes, licenses, and other important documents are current.

There are some situations where you may need to provide proof that your business is in compliance. You can do this by showing your South Carolina Certificate of Existence (COE), also known as a Certificate of Good Standing/Certificate of Status/Certificate of Compliance, depending on which state you’re in.

Your business may need a COE for many reasons, and it’s important to know how to obtain one when the time comes. Note, however, that it’s not required to obtain a COE for a domestic (in-state) company to do business within the state. Here’s what you need to know about a South Carolina Certificate of Existence and how to obtain one.

What is a South Carolina Certificate of Existence?

A COE serves as evidence that a certain business entity exists or is authorized to conduct business in that state and that the company is in compliance with state law. If you want to obtain a Certificate of Existence, you will need to apply for it.

There are certain forms you need to fill out and a process you need to follow before you can obtain one. You can apply for one through the South Carolina Secretary of State (SOS). If you need help applying for this certificate, ZenBusiness can help keep you in good standing through its worry free compliance service.

What does a Certificate of Existence confirm?

A Certificate of Existence confirms the company’s status and lists all the documents on file. It confirms that you’re following all the guidelines laid out by the state, complying with the state laws, and are up to date on state fees, taxes, and business filings (notably, the annual report that’s required by the state if you’re a corporation).

However, it doesn’t mean that you’re in compliance with every agency, as it only applies to state entities. It doesn’t mean that you’re in compliance with federal taxes and requirements. As a result, it’s often possible to get a COE even if you owe taxes to the IRS.

Why might a business need a South Carolina Certificate of Existence?

There are many reasons a business may need to present their Certificate of Existence in South Carolina. Most businesses will need one at some point in time. Some reasons you might need one include:

  • Expanding your business to another state
  • Opening a business bank account
  • Starting a line of credit or securing funding
  • Obtaining a lease for office space
  • Setting up payment processing
  • Renewing business licenses or permits
  • Getting insurance
  • Selling the business

This is not an all-inclusive list of reasons why you may need to have a Certificate of Existence. While you don’t need to keep a current copy on file at all times, any time one is requested, you’ll need to provide it.

What South Carolina entities can obtain a Certificate of Existence?

Certificates of Existence in South Carolina are available to corporations, nonprofit corporations, limited liability companies (LLCs), limited partnerships, and limited liability partnerships, all of which are registered entities with the state.

Sole proprietorships and general partnerships cannot apply for a Certificate of Existence because they’re not registered with the state.

How to get a South Carolina Certificate of Existence

If you need to obtain a South Carolina Certificate of Existence, there are certain steps you must take to complete the application process.

Register your business

You must register your business with the State of South Carolina before you can apply for a Certificate of Existence. Both LLCs and corporations can ask for a Certificate of Existence. If you need help registering your business, reach out to ZenBusiness.

Make sure your business is in compliance

Your business must be in good standing before you can be granted a Certificate of Existence. You will need to make sure to file all your taxes on time and that your business is legally registered with the state.

If your business is a corporation, it needs to have filed the statutory annual reports. If you aren’t sure where your business stands, you can check the South Carolina Secretary of State’s website for a searchable database. This will show you the stats of your business and areas where you’re not compliant.

Request the Certificate of Existence from the South Carolina Secretary of State

Once you meet all the requirements, you can request a COE from the South Carolina SOS. This process requires you to go into the office and make a formal request. You can also request the certificate online, by phone, mail, email, or fax. There is a filing fee. If you would rather use a service to handle this for you, ZenBusiness can help.

Go to South Carolina’s business website to request a Certificate of Existence

If you need the certificate right away, you’ll want to file online. Once you file and pay the fee, it should be available for immediate download. You’ll need to navigate to the the South Carolina Secretary of State (SOS) business portal and sign in. Here you’ll find the proper form. You can complete it online and submit the fee through the website, or you can print out the form and mail it in with the fee.

Make sure your Certificate of Existence is valid for its intended use

Before you request the Certificate of Existence, you need to make sure it’s valid for its intended use. Check with the jurisdiction or entity that’s requesting the certificate to find out what they’re willing to accept. A South Carolina COE doesn’t technically expire, but it may need to be updated. Some will want a current certificate, and most require that the date on a COE be within 30 to 60 days of its intended use.

Send to the requesting party

Once you’ve obtained your Certificate of Existence, you need to send it to the party that has requested it. You may want to check with this party to determine their preferred method of receipt. Some may allow you to email or fax the certificate, but others may prefer to have it sent through the mail. You can print off as many copies of your COE as needed from the South Carolina Secretary of State website.


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 South Carolina Certificate of Existence for you if you need one; you just pay the state fees. And, if you don’t have the worry-free compliance but still need a COE, our Certificate of Good Standing service can help.

South Carolina Certificate of Existence FAQs

  • For the most current fees and methods of payment available, check with the South Carolina Secretary of State website.

  • If you choose to complete your request online, you can complete the form and submit the fee to make your certificate available for download immediately. If you choose to file by mail, it can take up to three days for the request to be processed and another three to five business days for it to be mailed back to you.

  • No, but if you need the Certificate of Existence faster than the standard turnaround time, you may want to register for it online on the South Carolina Secretary of State website. You can also go to the office to request one in person.

  • No. A business doesn’t need a Certificate of Existence to be in compliance with state law.

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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