How To File a DBA in Colorado in 3 Steps
Filing a DBA ("doing business as") name in Colorado is relatively simple. If you have the time, you might be able to complete the three-step process on your own. If you don't have the time or aren't comfortable handling Colorado trade name registration yourself, you can use a professional DBA service.
Before deciding how to register your trade name in Colorado, you should think about whether or not getting a fictitious business name will help you reach your business goals. Are you planning on launching a new line of products or services and would like a new business name to use for the new line? Are you attempting to rebrand your business? Perhaps you just want a change. It's essential to understand what a DBA name can and can't do for you before you begin taking steps to get one.
Do I Need a Colorado DBA Name?
In Colorado, if you want to operate your business under a name other than your legal business name, then you'll need to register a trade name with the secretary of state. The Colorado Secretary of State requires trade name registration for the following types of businesses if they are to use a name other than the legal business name to conduct business:
- General partnerships
- Limited partnerships
- Sole proprietorships
- Limited liability companies (LLCs)
For partnerships and sole proprietorships, the legal business name is the owner's personal name. For LLCs and corporations, the legal business is the name that was filed with the secretary of state when the business entity was formed.
There are many reasons to operate your business under a name other than the legal business name. Partners and sole proprietors may want the more professional sound of an assumed name rather than their personal name. Getting a DBA allows business owners who don't have an LLC or corporation to open a business bank account and sign contracts with a business name that is not their own name.
If you have an LLC or corporation, you might want to file a trade name for marketing and branding purposes. Perhaps you're planning to launch a line of products or services that's very different from the products or services your customers have come to expect from your business. You don't want the two different lines to make customers confused about what they're getting from you, and you don't want to go through the process of creating another legal entity for the new line. You might find that getting a DBA name in Colorado would suit your needs in such a circumstance.
It's important to note, however, that a DBA name is only a name. It's not a legal entity. Legal entities, such as LLCs and corporations, provide personal asset protection. This means that the owners of these legal entities generally won't lose their personal assets, such as houses or cars, if someone sues the business. Sole proprietors, on the other hand, have no personal asset protection. Getting a DBA won't provide personal asset protection either. If you're a sole proprietor seeking limited liability, you should consider forming a legal entity rather than getting a trade name.
One final consideration is that Colorado treats nonprofits differently when it comes to trade name registration requirements. A nonprofit organization may, but is not required to, register any name used for conducting business other than the true business name.
Step 1: Conduct a Colorado DBA Name Search
In Colorado, you can register a trade name similar to or even the same as another name on record. However, it's still a good business practice to conduct a trade name search to check for availability before you register a trade name. Having a trade name that's unique and distinguishable will help prevent confusion.
You can do a trade name search online. Simply go to the Colorado Secretary of State website and type the name you'd like to use in the Name Availability Search.
You should also conduct a trademark search to see if someone's trademarked your trade name. You can do the trademark search through TESS (Trademark Electronic Search System). TESS checks for registered trademarks and applications in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database.
One final consideration relating to the trade name that you choose for your business is restrictions. You'll want to make sure you choose a trade name that doesn't violate any Colorado laws. For example, you shouldn't include any obscenities or references to illegal activities in your trade name. You also shouldn't have any words in your trade name that suggest governmental involvement (such as "State Department"). Don't use "LLC," "Inc.," or any other business entity designator unless you actually have that type of business entity and have registered it with the secretary of state. Finally, don't use terms such as "bank," "trust," "credit union," or "banker" unless your business provides financial services.
Step 2: Register a Colorado Trade Name
You can register a Colorado DBA online. The Colorado Secretary of State website has a list of forms for registering a trade name. You'll need to select the appropriate registration form for your business entity type. For example, a sole proprietor seeking to register a trade name would select the "Statement of Trade Name of an Individual" form. Although the Statement of Trade Name forms vary slightly, based on the business type, you'll generally need to input the following information on your registration form:
- Business type
- True name of the business
- Address of the business
- Nature of the business
- Colorado Secretary of State ID number
You'll need to provide the trade name you use or would like to use to conduct business. You'll also need to submit the filing fee of $20 to register your trade name.
Step 3: Manage the DBA
After you file your Colorado DBA, you might wonder about trade name renewals and other issues regarding the management of your trade name. Will you need to renew your trade name? Can you make changes once it's filed? What happens if you decide that you don't want your trade name anymore?
For sole proprietors, a trade name is good for one year. It expires on the first day following the anniversary month of the original filing, unless it's renewed. For example, if you registered your trade name on February 15, 2020, the trade name expiration date would be March 1, 2021. Trade names for sole proprietorships can be renewed anytime within the three months leading up to the expiration date. If the expiration date passes, the trade name can no longer be renewed.
Trade names for LLCs and corporations are good so long as the business remains in good standing. If the company falls out of good standing, the trade name will be good for one year after that date. If the business owners bring the business back into good standing before the year is up, the trade name will be effective again if the company remains in good standing. If the business owner doesn't bring the business back into good standing before the year is up, they may file a renewal for the trade name.
Changes or Corrections
You might find that you need to make changes or corrections after filing your trade name registration form. Perhaps you need to change the address you listed on the registration form or the description of the nature of the business conducted.
You can make changes to your trade name registration by completing the Statement of Change of Trade Name Information form on the Colorado Secretary of State website. You can also find the Statement of Correction of Trade Name Information form on the website. Along with submitting the appropriate form, you'll need to submit a filing fee of $10 for a change or correction.
If you'd like to withdraw or cancel your trade name registration altogether, you may do that as well. You can find the Statement of Trade Name Withdrawal form on the secretary of state website. There's a filing fee of $10 for trade name withdrawals. You could also simply allow your trade name to expire if you no longer want it.
Next Steps After Filing a Colorado DBA
After filing your Colorado trade name, you might be wondering what's next. It could be helpful to get started on your website as soon as possible. Note that you may need to hire help to get a logo and promotional materials with your new business name on them, so make room for these items in your budget.
You might also need to open a business bank account with the DBA name on it so that you can keep business and personal funds separate. If you don't already have business insurance, take some time to shop around for the best general liability insurance policy that you can get for your small business.
Frequently Asked Questions About Filing a Colorado DBA
1. Can my DBA become an LLC?
A DBA is not a legal entity, so it can't become an LLC. If you have a Colorado DBA and want to form an LLC, you can withdraw your trade name and create a limited liability company.
2. Can I renew an expired DBA name in Colorado?
In Colorado, you can't renew an expired trade name. If your trade name has expired, but you'd still like to use it to conduct business, you can file a new Statement of Trade Name using the same name. The records will be kept separate.
3. Will a DBA protect your personal assets?
A DBA won't protect your personal assets. It's important to know that a DBA will not provide personal asset protection in the event of a lawsuit or other claim against your business. This means that a DBA will not prevent the loss of your house, car, or other personal assets as the result of a judgment.
If you have a business entity such as an LLC or a corporation, you likely have limited liability. This means that your personal assets are protected in the event of a lawsuit against your company. However, if you're a sole proprietor, you don't have personal asset protection, and getting a DBA name won't offer such protection either. If you're a sole proprietor seeking personal asset protection, you should consider forming a legal entity such as an LLC or corporation.
4. Can I transfer my trade name to another person or entity?
No, you can't transfer your trade name to anyone else. Colorado trade names are non-transferable.
5. Do I need to get an EIN for my DBA?
You don't need to get an EIN (Employer Identification Number) or Tax ID number for your DBA because it's not a legal entity. You may already have an EIN, as required by law, for your business entity. You won't need to get a separate EIN or Tax ID number from the IRS for your DBA.
6. Can I file a DBA online?
You can file the registration form for your Colorado DBA online. The appropriate form for the type of business you have can be found on the Colorado Secretary of State website.
7. How many DBA names can I have?
There is no limit on the number of Colorado trade names that you can have. As long as you can complete the registration process, submit the filing fees, and manage the DBAs, you can have multiple DBAs.
8. Can someone else use my registered trade name?
In Colorado, trade names aren't distinguishable, so someone else in the state of Colorado could use a name that's similar to or the same as yours. Furthermore, you have no protection for your trade name in other states. If you're concerned about getting legal protection for your trade name, you can look into trademarking your trade name.
Thinking About Getting a Colorado DBA? Get Some Advice
It's essential to understand what a trade name filing can and can't do for your business. Perhaps getting a legal name change or forming a legal entity could be the best move for you. On the other hand, getting a DBA could serve your business needs perfectly. Suppose you're unsure about getting a Colorado trade name. In that case, you might want to speak with an experienced attorney who can examine your unique situation and help you decide if getting a fictitious business name will suit your business needs.
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