How to Find Business Records

You can learn a lot about a company from their business records.
You can learn a lot about a company from their business records. (Image: Allan Baxter/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Businesses have information that is a matter of public record. Business licenses and incorporation records are part of this type of information. Trademark information and corporate filings are also included in public records. These records can be seen by requesting them through the appropriate channels. Certain records are available through a national database. Others can be accessed through state governments in charge of business records. The records of a business can be useful to anyone considering doing business or investing with a given company.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer
  • Internet Connection

Search the Electronic Data Gathering and Retrieval database available at the Securities and Exchange Commission website. According to the SEC's website, all companies are required to file certain kinds of documents through this system. They provide this information to the public free of charge.

EDGAR provides users with several ways to search the database. A company will be easy to find if you have the full business name, their stock ticker symbol, or their file number to enter into the search engine.

View any filings that you find in the database that you are interested in. Also, note the state of incorporation for the business.

Visit the website of the company that you are researching if they are not listed on the SEC website. Search their page to find the state in which they are incorporated.

Go to the website for the Secretary of State that applies to the company you are researching. Visit the general homepage for the state if their Secretary of State department does not handle business records. Use that site to find out which department is responsible for the handling of business records.

In most states, it is the Secretary of State who handles business records, but there are exceptions. For example, in Hawaii these records are handled by the Hawaii Department of Commerce & Consumer affairs.

Request the records that you require from the applicable state department. The process will differ depending on which state you are requesting information from.

Search and view records online in the states where this service is provided. Submit a written request for the records if there is no online option. Make a request in person if it is critical that you obtain the records as soon as possible.

Tips & Warnings

  • Search the website of the Delaware Division of Corporations if you can't find where a business is registered. Fifty percent of all businesses are incorporated in the State of Delaware.

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