Dallas County DBA
You can operate a business in Dallas under a name that is not the name of the company or the person who is running the business. This is often called a "DBA" or "Doing Business As." A DBA can also be called an "assumed name," a "fictitious name," an "alias," or a "trade name."
Under Texas law, a DBA is called an “assumed name."
Texas law mandates registering the use of a secondary business name with either the state or the county in which the business is headquartered, depending on the type of business. Smaller, unincorporated businesses register with the county, and larger, incorporated companies register with the state.
The law will protect that DBA name if it is a unique name in the county or state and not protect it if it is not a unique business name.
A DBA is not a legal entity. The underlying legal entity is responsible for the business life of the DBA, including taxation, business permits and licenses, insurance, and so forth. You use the underlying legal entity's tax identification numbers to open a bank account in the DBA name.
Registering a DBA in Dallas is a relatively simple process in and of itself, but the registration will vary depending on several factors. Here is a step-by-step guide to registering a Dallas DBA.
Step I: Decide if a DBA Is Right for Your Business
DBA stands for "doing business as." A DBA or Assumed Business Name is any name that a business uses that is different from its own legal name. DBAs are available for either incorporated entities (LLCs, Corporations, etc.) or sole proprietorships.
DBAs got their start as a form of consumer protection, so bad guys couldn't hide behind fictitious business names but had to reveal (and be liable for) their actions regardless of what name they used.
You can use a DBA to advertise, prove the business exists, open a business bank account, and accept credit cards as a merchant, among other advantages. Use it to simplify a corporate name, introduce a new product line, or not use a person's legal name.
A disadvantage of a DBA is that it is not a type of business structure that protects the business owner like an LLC. It will be your decision whether or not to use a fictitious name instead of the business's legal name. But there are some situations where a DBA is virtually required.
The most common use of a DBA is in a sole proprietorship or a partnership where the business name is different from the full legal names of the person or people who operate the business. This is true even if the name is a part of the business—for example, "Bob's Greenhouse."
At the same time, you can register your full legal name as your business name if you want. Any questions about this should be directed to the Dallas Secretary of State's office.
It is a slightly different question—and process—if the registering business is a corporation or limited liability company (LLC). If the name of the corporation or LLC is already registered, a second registration of that name as a DBA is not necessary. However, if the corporation or LLC wants to do business under another name, a DBA registration is required. An example would be a holding company operating a restaurant: "XYZ Holdings DBA Dallas McDonalds."
No Limits to the Number of DBAs
There are no limitations to the number of DBAs that a Dallas legal entity can have. As listed in the next section, there are several limitations on what a DBA can call itself.
Step II: Create Your Unique Business Name
After you have decided on a name, and before you register that name as a Dallas DBA, take the necessary steps to make that name legally yours.
First, conduct a search of business names already in use in Dallas County. Ensure that another business is not using the assumed name you want to use. If the assumed business name is not unique, it cannot be protected under Texas law.
If you have created a unique business name, then register that name as a fictitious name with the state or county, as shown below.
Also, be very aware that there are certain words or designations that you cannot use in a Texas DBA:
- You cannot use a DBA name that is misleading about the nature of the business.
- You cannot use a name connected to the banking and insurance business unless the business is licensed in those areas.
- You cannot use a professional name (Doctor, Attorney at Law, etc.) unless you are licensed in those areas.
- You cannot use any indication that the DBA is a corporation unless one of the entities named in the application for registration is itself a corporation.
Step III: Own That Business Name
You can own your business name so that no one else can use it. That name will have to be unique, though.
To begin with, you have to make sure that no one else can use it in business or on the internet. This means that you have to ensure that no one else is currently using that name.
For the internet, make sure the internet domain name is available. Then follow the steps to own that domain name (that will only cost a few dollars).
If you expect to work in other states, you can trademark that name (or register your service mark) with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This process takes time and money, but your name is still protected as a common law trademark.
Once you receive your federal trademark, register that trademark or service mark back with the state of Texas. You can also register a trademark/service mark with the State of Texas without filing for a federal trademark.
Step IV: Do the Paperwork
The paperwork for your DBA can depend on your business name and the type of business.
Texas Name Registration v. Name Reservation
Texas business names are either reserved or registered, depending on the type of business. Once the processes are completed, you receive an Assumed Name Certificate.
Most business names for a small business are reserved rather than registered. Most names that are registered are financial institutions and foreign companies.
Names required to be registered are companies authorized in Texas as banks, trust companies, savings associations, insurance companies, or companies that are also foreign filing entities not otherwise authorized to do business in the state.
The Type of Underlying Business Determines Where You Reserve/Register Your Assumed Name
Your assumed name will be registered or reserved in Dallas County if the underlying business is an unincorporated business of any kind, including:
- Sole Proprietorship
- General Partnership
- Joint Venture
- Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT)
All other assumed names are registered or reserved with the State of Texas. These include:
- Limited Liability Companies (LLCs), including professional LLCs
- Corporations, whether for-profit or nonprofit, and all other incorporated entities
- Professional Associations
- Limited Liability Partnerships
- Foreign Filing Entities
If the assumed name is registered with the state, it can also be registered with Dallas County. This is optional.
Now Register as a Dallas or Texas DBA, Depending on the Underlying Business Structure
Any assumed name being used in an ongoing business in Dallas must be registered with either the Texas Secretary of State or the Dallas County Clerk's Office. The Texas SOS also has a helpful FAQ page.
Once you go to the appropriate website, the procedures are laid out for you step-by-step.
You can register online. You can also download the form, fill it out, and mail the completed form or take it to the Clerk's office in person.
The registration or reservation forms are detail-intensive for the state or the county, so have all of your business information available before you start. You will be asked, among other things, for:
- The proposed assumed business name of the DBA
- Principal business address of the DBA
- Names, addresses, and email addresses of individuals with an interest in the business (owners)
- Names and addresses of legal entities with an interest in the business
- Purpose of the business
- Contact information
- Texas Certificate of Ownership of the underlying business
- Signatures of the principals – all signatures must be witnessed by a notary or a Deputy County Clerk
- Filing fee
The Dallas County filing fee is $24. The state filing fee is $25.
Once the registration or reservation is approved, the DBA remains valid for ten years from the date of approval. It can then be renewed every ten years with no limits or lapses.
If the DBA is no longer functioning at any time, it can be withdrawn.
After You Register: DBAs and Tax Identification
A sole proprietorship DBA can use the owner's Social Security Number for taxes. In some cases, a partnership can do the same. They do not have to obtain a Federal Employee Identification Number (EIN). Your accountant will be able to walk you through this.
Any other type of company should have, use, or obtain a business EIN. The DBA is not a separate business entity. That means that the DBA does not file taxes and does not have to get its own tax identification numbers—federal or state. The underlying corporation pays the DBA's income and employment taxes. Again, this is a job for your accountant.
If the underlying company does not have a federal EIN, you must obtain one. The underlying corporation will also need to file with the Comptroller of the State of Texas if it will generate sales or use taxes from the DBA, as well as for employment taxation. You must also register with the state and unemployment insurance if you have employees.
And again, you must renew your status every ten years.
Get Help Registering Your Dallas County DBA
An experienced business and commercial lawyer can make the job of registering your Dallas County DBA much more manageable. Contact one to help you move the process along.
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