A certificate of good standing, or certificate of existence, shows that a business has paid taxes, filed required documents, and otherwise complied with regulations in the business’s state of formation. You can obtain a certificate of good standing from your state’s business filing agency. It might be required when opening a business bank account, applying for a loan, or raising funds from investors.
No matter what state your business is located in, you’ll need to deal with a certain amount of regulation as a business owner. For example, you’ll need to pay taxes at the federal and state level, file an annual report or other documents, and comply with local zoning and permitting requirements to continue operating.
If you follow these types of business regulations, your business entity will be in “good standing” with the state. If your business is in good standing, you should obtain a certificate of good standing from your state’s business filing agency. Why? Well, there are lots of good reasons.
In this article, we’ll explain what a certificate of good standing is, why you should get one, and what the unique process is for acquiring it in every state.
A certificate of good standing verifies that a business is legally registered with the state and is authorized to do business there. This certificate is a physical document that you would acquire from the state agency where you register your business entity type.
In order to get a certificate of good standing, you must have paid all your business taxes, filed required documents, and otherwise complied with your state’s business regulations.
Unlike a business license, you don’t need a certificate of good standing to conduct business in your state. However, when applying for a business loan, raising funds from investors, or applying for federal government contracts, you might have to prove your status by showing a good standing certificate.
The following types of business entities are registered with the state and can obtain a certificate of good standing:
The following types of businesses don’t need to register with the state, so the state cannot issue you a certificate of good standing:
Different states have different laws about which types of businesses need registration, so consult with your state’s business filing agency if you’re in doubt. If you’re asked to show “good standing” as a sole proprietor or as a partner in a general partnership, you might be able to show historical tax returns or bank account statements. However, you won’t be able to show a certificate of good standing.
There are several situations where you might be asked to show a certificate of good standing:
It’s pretty common to be asked for proof of good standing in these situations. And it’s better to get the certificate of good standing ahead of time, as opposed to scrambling at the last minute to update your status with a state agency in the middle of loan or investor negotiations.
Some certificates of good standing expire after a specific date, so what’s valid for one use might not be for another. The expiration date could be at the end of a calendar year, or at some time during the year when state laws require renewal or periodic filings.
In addition, banks, investors, and others might request a certificate of good standing that’s been dated within a specific time frame—no older than 60 days for example. How long certificates of good standing are good for depends on the state and the purpose for which you need it.
Even if you don’t need to show good standing for a specific transaction, a certificate of good standing can help you expand because this certificate is often required when registering to do business in other states. Many states won’t allow a company to transact business within their boundaries if the company does not have good standing in the state where it was formed initially. Even further, some states require that the certificate be dated within a short period of time—as little as 90 days—before filing to do business in that state.
Some states will charge a fine if your business is not in compliance with their regulations, which is an obvious no-brainer for maintaining good standing. But you also want to make sure your business is in good standing in order to preserve the limited liability that filing for business status provides. If your business is not in good standing, in some states that could mean the loss of liability protection for you and your co-owners conducting business outside of compliance, or even the administrative dissolution of the business altogether.
There are many other problems that can arise from losing good standing. For example, you could lose access to state courts or even leave your company open to a higher chance of business identity theft. Identity thieves scroll through business entity search engines and take note of which companies lack good standing. Assuming that no one is paying attention, they often try to hack such companies’ websites or engage in other fraud.
Photo credit: Harborcompliance.com
Business entity laws vary among states, and a “certificate of good standing” can also be called “certificate of existence,” “certificate of status,” or other variations, depending on your state. It’s important to remain updated on what’s required in your state. A sample certificate of good standing is shown above. The document will contain a signature from your state’s secretary of state and their certification that your business is in compliance and up to date with all legal and tax requirements.
Online legal service sites such as LegalZoom and IncFile can file for a certificate of good standing on your behalf in all 50 states for various fees ranging from $50 to $100, plus state fees. If you’re not in good standing, some of these sites will even help you address any problems and reclaim your good standing, a process called reinstatement.
Note that you do not necessarily need to be incorporated in a particular state to request a certificate of good standing there. “Foreign” businesses can also request proof of good standing from the state where they operate, as long as they are registered in that state as a foreign business entity.
Most states have business entity search engines on their websites to informally check the status of your standing. To do this, you need to remember the name of your entity when it was registered with the state. If you’re having trouble, try searching for only part of the business name or use a keyword search. Most states require you to send a request for an official certificate of good standing by regular postal mail. The fee for requesting a good standing certificate varies by state but usually ranges from $10 to $25. See our state-by-state breakdown below to see how you can make sure you’re in good standing in your business’s home state.
This Southern state offers “certificates of compliance” easily through the Alabama Secretary of State website. Simply click on the link to “obtain a certificate of compliance” and follow directions from there. Your status will then be updated online whether you’re in compliance or not—you’ll have to call the provided phone number if not. The cost of a certificate of good standing is $14, and if you are found to be out of compliance and file a subsequent request, you will have to pay an additional $14.
The northernmost state has an easily navigable online database of compliant businesses where you can search for your business status. If you’ve never filed for a certificate of good standing in Alaska before, you can do so online. You’ll pay a $10 fee.
Businesses in Alaska are required to file biennial reports. Every two years, businesses must make note of changes to the officials on record and keep records up-to-date.
Corporations and limited liability companies can get a certificate of good standing from the Arizona Corporation Commission website. You can order by mail or in person. Normal processing takes up to two weeks, and you’ll have to pay a fee of $10.
The state’s website has a portal to search for your business and find links for purchasing and printing a certificate of good standing if your business qualifies. You can then print your certificate directly off the state website after 48 hours. The cost the certificate is $25.
You can search for your business status in California online here. Applying for the certificate is another ball game: “Certificates, copies, and status reports can be obtained by submitting a request to the California Secretary of State’s Sacramento office either in person (drop off) or by mail,” according to the California Secretary of State website. You’ll pay a $5 fee.
Search for your business on the Colorado Secretary of State website. This will tell you the status of your standing and also lead to a link where you can request certified copies of documents and even set up a secure business filing with the state. Certificates of good standing in Colorado are free.
Good standing in the Nutmeg State is called a “certificate of legal existence” and can be obtained online. Note that the state of Connecticut requires annual reporting by the end of your business’s anniversary month each year. The fee is $50.
You can check the status of your Delaware entity online, but if you need an official certificate, you’ll have to submit your request in writing using their Certificate Request Cover Memo. The cost to get your certificate of good standing ranges from $10 all the way up to $1,000 if you are in need of expedited delivery.
You’re in good standing in the Sunshine State if you have a “certificate of status.” Sunbiz.org, an official State of Florida website, provides instructions for ordering a certificate of status online or by mail. You can search your status on their website.
Georgia’s “certificates of existence” can be checked on this website with an easy-to-follow portal. Simply follow the prompts to search your business, review your information, provide payment, and check the status of your business’s standing. A $10 fee applies.
The Aloha State requires annual business filings to remain in good standing. You can search for your status or print a certificate here. A $7.50 fee applies.
Idaho offers online certificates of existence generated in your web browser, or official certificates delivered by mail through their website. Check your business’s standing through their Business Entity Search engine. You’ll pay an $11.50 fee for a printed certificate, and a $12 fee for an official certificate (signed by the Secretary of State’s office).
The search for good standing status in the state of Illinois asks you to define your business between corporate and LLC, just corporate, or just LLC. To obtain a certificate, you’ll need your business’s state of Illinois Authentication Number. You’ll also have to pay a $25 fee.
Indiana’s online services for corporations website has many link errors. However, you can obtain a certificate of good standing through a third-party website such as MyUSACorporation.com or Business Services Online.
“Certificates of Standing” in Iowa can be obtained through this website, where they’ll provide an entity database and links to print your certificate if you’re eligible. You can print this certificate. Each certificate comes with a unique Certificate ID to verify validity. There is a $5 fee.
Perform a Kansas business entity search here. You can also request a certificate of good standing online through the portal or by the Secretary of State’s phone or mail service. Ordering this certificate online costs $10, while paper requests cost $15.
Have you heard about the Kentucky Business One-Stop Portal? Check your standing status here by searching for your organization. Remember to file an annual report with the state to preserve your good standing. You’ll pay a $10 fee for your certificate of good standing.
Check your good standing status in Louisiana here. Once you locate your business in the database, click on “Details” to view the full status. This portal will also provide links for purchasing official certificates. The cost is $20.
Verify your business’s status online here. Annual reports are required of businesses in Maine and can be filed online. The deadline to file is June 1. A $30 fee applies.
By visiting the Maryland Business Express site, where you can search your business’s status as well as file for official certificates. Search your business using its name or department ID. The cost is $40 if you request a certificate in person, or $20 if you request it by mail.
Make sure your business is in good standing through MassTaxConnect, where the Commonwealth requires you to submit an annual certificate of entity tax status. You’ll pay a $12 fee.
The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs handles business compliance for the state of Michigan. Search their entity database here. To receive an official certificate, you’ll need to contact the department online or by mail. The fee to request a good standing certificate is $10.
Go the state’s Business Filings Online portal to search your status and order a certificate. Fees for certificates of good standing are $5 for mail or in-person orders and $15 for online orders. Certificates are typically issued immediately upon payment, while some copy orders can take two to three days.
You’ll need to register with the Mississippi Corporations Registered Filer Login first. From there, you can search your business entity and obtain the proper documentation. You’ll pay a $27 fee.
The Treasure State requires annual reports, which are due every April. Once you have that in order, use the Montana Business Search to check your standing. Click on the name of your business to get a link to request a certificate under “Request Entity Information.”
Nebraska’s online business services page includes a Corporation and Business Search, and you can also obtain your certificate here. The cost is $10.
Search for your business through Nevada’s business portal. You’ll have to register with the site to request any documents, and pay a $50 fee.
Register with the New Hampshire Corporate Division online to search for your business and obtain documents. The Granite State requires annual reporting as well to maintain compliance.
You can search for your entity’s status or certificates through the State of New Jersey Business Records Service. It’ll cost you $6.25 for just a status report. Note that New Jersey requires annual filing.
Search for your business here—and keep in mind, a status of “Active” doesn’t necessarily mean you are in active good standing. Click on your business name to get the full report. Remember that New Mexico requires annual reporting. You can request an official certificate online or by mail.
Good standing in New York state is called a “certificate of status.” You can search a business database on the NYS website, but it won’t tell you if you are in good standing. You will have to call the New York secretary of state’s office in Albany, where they will be able to relay your status over the phone. You can reach them at (518) 473-1654—average wait time on a weekday is about five minutes. It’s helpful to have your DOS ID number handy, but they can also search by name. To get an official certificate of good standing, you’ll have to request one by fax or mail. The fee for a certificate of status is $25.
Check your good standing status by searching for your business on the Secretary of State website—you will know you are in good standing if your status is “Current-Active.” There will also be a link provided to file your annual report there, if needed.
You can search for your entity’s status through the North Dakota Business Records Search. If it does not say you are “active and good standing” in the database, it’s likely you will need to file an annual report, for which they provide a link.
Certificates can be obtained upon request with payment of $5 (check, money order, or credit card) through various outlets:
The Buckeye State has a Business Filing Portal where you search for your business to get the charter/registration number you’ll need to check your status on the state’s online automated service for obtaining certificates of good standing. There is a $5 fee.
Good standing status can be searched on the Oklahoma Secretary of State website by searching for your entity name. From there, you can pay the $20 fee to obtain an official certificate.
You can search for your business status and annual report filing due dates through Oregon’s Find a Business portal. To obtain a certificate, you’ll need to complete and mail or fax this form and pay a $10 fee.
As long as you are listed as “active” in Pennsylvania’s business database, you’re in good standing. To obtain an official certificate, call the Department of State’s office at 717-787-1057. There is a $40 fee to obtain a certificate.
Businesses can be searched through the Rhode Island Corporate Database—if your business is not listed as “inactive” in your search, you are in good standing. Once you find your business in the database, click on the link to request a certificate if needed. You can also mail your request to the following address: Compliance & Collections, RI Division of Taxation, One Capitol Hill, Providence, RI 02908 (401)574-8941.
Make your check payable to: RI Division of Taxation. A $20 fee applies for in-person, mail, and phone orders. Online orders cost $22. Processing can take up to four weeks.
South Carolina’s Business Entities Online has a direct portal to check your status—just click “Search Existing Entities,” and the database will show your status right away. You can also request certificates and documents easily online if you pay a $10 fee.
South Dakota requires annual reports, which you can file easily online. Their Business Services portal lets you search for your standing status online as well as request certificates. There is a $20 filing fee.
You can find your business records, including good standing status, through Tennessee’s Business Services Online. From there you can request a “certificate of existence” or file an annual report. The filing fee is $20. An online service fee may be added to the filing fee. You can also file by mail and not pay a fee.
Known as “certificates of account status” in the Lonestar State, statuses can be searched through the Comptroller’s online portal here. You’ll need to complete a Form 05-359 to obtain an official certificate, and pay a $15 fee.
The Utah Business Name Search will inform you of your business’s status, whether that is good standing, active, or delinquent. You can request a “certificate of existence” or “certificate of good standing” by clicking on the business name in the search portal or by mailing or faxing this form.
Processing takes seven to 10 business days.
You can search for your business’s status through the Vermont Corporations Division online. If you’re still unsure of your status, call the secretary of state’s office at 802-828-2386, where they can check for you. To obtain an official certificate, you need to register a username and password with the secretary’s website—where you can also file necessary annual or biannual reports. You’ll pay a $25 fee.
Virginia’s SCC eFile can be used to search for entities. Scroll down to the “certificate of good standing/certificate of fact” and search for your business name or by using your SCC ID. This will pull up your standing and provide links to submit annual fees and reports.
Search for your business through the Washington State Corporations Search portal. You need your Unified Business Identifier (or UBI—a nine-digit number) in order to obtain a certificate, which will be listed under the Corporations Search. To get a UBI, you’ll need to submit your Washington Articles of Incorporation or Certificate of Formation to the Department of Revenue and wait two to five business days. There’s a $20 online filing fee.
Create a profile on D.C.’s CorpOnline to access services such as entity searches and certificate requests. From there, click on “Business Filings Search” to check on your status.
West Virginia has a Business Entity Search where you can check active status and filing history—the state does require annual reports. Once you click into your business name, there is a link to purchase a “certificate of existence” for $10.
To check your business’s status, search for your business entity and click on your business’s name to get your standing, the duration of that standing, and your Wyoming state-issued filing ID. Annual reports are required for some businesses in Wyoming, which you can file online. You can generate a certificate of good standing with your filing ID online. There is no cost to obtain your certificate of good standing.
Certificates of good standing can be essential when you’re trying to grow your business. It’s a good idea to have this document ready to go before you apply for a business loan, open a bank account, or compete for a government contract. If you’re thinking of expanding your business nationwide and registering outside of your home state, that’s another situation where it’s helpful to have a certificate of good standing.
Fortunately, getting a good standing certificate is usually pretty easy and inexpensive. Visit your state’s secretary of state office or business filing agency to get started.
Meredith Wood is the founding editor of the Fundera Ledger and a GM at NerdWallet.
Meredith launched the Fundera Ledger in 2014. She has specialized in financial advice for small business owners for almost a decade. Meredith is frequently sought out for her expertise in small business lending and financial management.