DBA Registration

Business names are essential marketing tools. The name you choose to do business under will help customers identify you. Your business name helps the government and customers identify you and your company.

Register your DBA with confidence through our trusted partner LegalZoom.

Whether you're forming a sole proprietorshiplimited liability company (LLC), or corporation, you might need to consider DBA ("doing business as") registration.

Business Names for Legal Entities

Choosing a name and deciding on a business structure are crucial steps in business formation. Three popular types of business entities are LLCs, corporations, and sole proprietorships.

To form these legal entities, you must file the appropriate organizational documents with the secretary of state or county clerk. By filing these documents, business owners also make their business's legal name known. The name a business owner lists on organizational documents, like the article of incorporation, is the legal business name.

There are no such documents for sole proprietors. Instead, the business name for a sole proprietorship is the owner's legal name.

Fictitious Business Names for Legal Entities

What happens if you form a business under one name but start doing business under a different name?

You could face legal penalties if you do business under a name other than your legal business name. To use a name other than your legal business name and avoid legal penalties, you must register the name as a DBA name.

  • LLCs: Register a DBA name if you want to do business under a name other than the one listed on your articles of organization.
  • Corporations: Register a DBA name if you want to do business under a name other than the one listed on your articles of incorporation.
  • Sole Proprietorships: Register a DBA name if you want to do business under a name other than your personal name.

You do not need to get a new tax ID or EIN from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) when you file a DBA registration.

Reasons for Registering a Fictitious Name for Your Small Business

Some business owners turn to DBA registration when they want to expand their business. For example, Buffy Mulder operates an LLC called Buffy's Stuffies, selling stuffed toys. She might want to start selling dog treats. She doesn't want to use Buffy's Stuffies as it may confuse customers.

She wants to operate under a DBA called Buffy's Treats. To use the name Buffy's Treats, she must register the name at the state or county level. It is a different name but not a new business because she did not form a new business with the secretary of state.

Filing a DBA also offers the entrepreneur legal protection. When you operate under the umbrella of a legal business entity, you receive the same liability protection as your existing business. This prevents disgruntled or injured customers from accessing your personal assets in a lawsuit.

If you enter a contract under an assumed name that has not been registered with a state agency, it might be difficult to enforce your rights under the agreement.

Privacy Concerns for Business Names

A sole proprietor may use a trade name because it seems more professional than doing business under one's own name. A sole proprietor might also want to use a different name due to privacy concerns. If you are considering starting a sole proprietorship, you might not want your first or last name to be a part of the business name. Nor do you want to use your Social Security number with the IRS for your business.

DBA Names and Finances

If you do business under a name other than your business's legal name, you might need a DBA name certificate to get a business bank account. Some banks require filing a DBA name certificate before you can use the assumed business name for your bank account.

How To Register a DBA Name

Business owners can typically register a DBA name at the state or county level. This means you must file your paperwork with either the secretary of state or the county clerk's office.

The process for registering a DBA name generally includes:

  • Conducting a name search to determine if the fictitious business name is already in use
  • Filing a fictitious business name statement
  • Paying a filing fee for the fictitious business name statement
  • Running notice of the fictitious business name in the local paper (if required). This requirement is to put the public on notice of your assumed name. Typically, the notice may run for a month or so.
  • Receiving the certificate of DBA

It helps to conduct a name search before you submit a fictitious business name statement. You can use databases at the state or county level to perform your search.

Filing the fictitious business statement involves filling out a form and paying a fee. The fee varies, depending on the state or county where you conduct business.

How To File a DBA in Your State

Each state has a different form for you to file a DBA registration.

If your state is not listed here, check your secretary of state's website for forms or online registration.

Trade Names vs. Trademarks

You might wonder if there is a difference between registering a trade name and registering a trademark. For example, if you register a trade name, do you also get trademark protection?

Registering a trade name and registering a trademark are two different processes. A DBA filing does not give you trademark protection. To have national trademark protection, you would have to undergo a registration process at the federal level with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

DBA Name Renewal

DBA name certificates typically have an expiration date. It is common for a DBA name certificate to be good for five to 10 years. You will need to renew your DBA name registration to avoid expiration. You must also renew your registration in some states if your information changes.

Contact an Attorney About Trade Name Registration

As a new business owner, your company name is integral to your brand and marketing. You want to have confidence that the name you are conducting business under is legal and suitable for your business needs. Do not hesitate to contact a business attorney in your area for advice on fictitious business names.

Use a Simple Process To Register Your DBA

Want to take the guesswork out of DBA registration? Consider letting our trusted partner LegalZoom handle your name search, DBA application filing and publishing for $99 plus filing fees.

Disclaimer: The information presented here does not constitute legal advice or representation. It is general and educational in nature, may not reflect all recent legal developments, and may not apply to your unique facts and circumstances. Consider consulting with a qualified business attorney if you have legal questions.

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