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DBA Los Angeles

You can operate a business in Los Angeles County under a name that is not the name of the company or person who is running the business. This is often called a "DBA" or "Doing Business As." A DBA can also be called a "fictitious name," an "alias," or a "trade name." In Los Angeles and the rest of California, a DBA is legally called a "Fictitious Business Name (FBN)." We will use the terms DBA and FBN interchangeably.

All California-based businesses operating a DBA must register in the county where they have their principal place of business. A Los Angeles County DBA/FBN registers with the Los Angeles County Clerk, as explained in the steps below.

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.

Suppose your principal place of business is outside of California, and you run a DBA in Los Angeles (or anywhere in the state). In that case, you must register with the Sacramento County Clerk-Recorder—not the Los Angeles Clerk.

Nonprofits are not required to register a DBA/FBN in Los Angeles County.

Once you have registered your DBA/FBN in its home county, you may then register that business name in any other California county in which it does business.

Registering a DBA in Los Angeles County 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 through registering a Los Angeles County DBA.

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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 for advertising, proving the business exists, opening a business bank account, accepting credit cards as a merchant, and other advantages. Use it to simplify a corporate name, introduce a new product line, or use a name other than your own. A disadvantage of a DBA is that it is not a type of business structure that protects the business owner like an LLC would do.

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 Los Angeles County Clerk'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 Hollywood McDonalds."

No Limits

There are no limitations to the number of DBAs that a Los Angeles County legal entity can have. As listed in the next section, there are several limitations on what a DBA can call itself.

Step II: Check Your Business Name With LA County

After you have decided on a name, and before you register that name as a Los Angeles County DBA/FBN, take the necessary steps to make that name legally yours.

First, conduct a fictitious business name search on the LA County Clerk's website to ensure that no one else in the state uses that name.

If you have created a unique Los Angeles County name, register that name as a fictitious name, as shown below.

Also, be very aware that there are certain words or designations that you cannot use in a Los Angeles County DBA filing:

  • 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 legal 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 California. You can also register a trademark/service mark with the State of California without filing for a federal trademark.

Now that name is yours.

Step IV: Now File Your Fictitious Business Name With the Los Angeles County Clerk

Any fictitious name used in an ongoing business in Los Angeles County must be registered by filing a fictitious business name statement with the Los Angeles County Clerk Fictitious Name Portal. There is a filing fee, as noted below.

You can register online or by downloading the form, filling it out, and mailing the form. In-person drop-offs have to be scheduled with the Clerk's office.

The registration form is detail-intensive, so have all of your business information available before starting. You will be asked, among other things, for:

  • The proposed business name of the DBA
  • Principal business address of the DBA
  • Names, addresses, and email addresses of individuals with interest in the business (owners)
  • Names and addresses of legal entities with interest in the business
  • Purpose of the business
  • Contact information
  • Signature of the owner(s)
  • Notarized Affidavit of Identity form.
  • Filing fee

The filing fee is $26.00 per business name and one registrant.

Once the registration is approved, the DBA remains valid for five years from the date of approval. It can then be renewed every five years with no limits with a $26 filing fee. It lapses if not renewed.

Step V: Proof of Publication

A filed copy of the statement must be published once per week for four consecutive weeks in an adjudicated newspaper in Los Angeles County. Publication must begin within 30 days after the fictitious business name statement has been filed.

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 California if it will generate sales or use taxes from the DBA. If the DBA has employees, the underlying company or individual must register with the California Employment Development Department and for unemployment insurance.

And again, you must renew your status every five years. If the DBA goes out of business, you must file a Statement of Abandonment with the County Clerk according to state law.

Use a Simple Process To Start Your DBA

Want to take the guesswork out of forming your DBA? Consider using our trusted, simple-to-use online business formation tool. We'll walk you through the steps of creating your business and help you meet all the legal requirements.

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