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How To File a DBA in Colorado in 3 Steps

 

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. But if you aren't comfortable handling Colorado trade name registration yourself, you can use a professional DBA service.

fictitious business name or a new business name can help your rebrand. Before you start your DBA filing, understand what a DBA name can and can't do.

Register your DBA with confidence  through our trusted partner LegalZoom.

Do I Need a Colorado DBA Name?

In Colorado, if you want to operate your company under a name other than your legal business name, you'll need to register a trade name with the secretary of state. The Colorado Secretary of State's Office requires trade name registration to use a name other than the legal business name to conduct business.

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 filed with the secretary of state at business formation.

Benefits of a Colorado Business DBA

There are many reasons to operate your business under a moniker 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 name.

If you have an LLC or corporation, you should file a trade name for marketing and branding purposes. Perhaps you're planning to launch a new line of products or services. You don't want to create another legal entity for the new line, so you might find that a DBA registration in Colorado suits your needs.

A DBA does not require a new federal employment identification number (EIN) or tax ID. The underlying business tax ID or sole proprietor's Social Security number (SSN) carries over to the DBA.

Common Questions About DBA Disadvantages

However, it's important to note that a DBA name is only a name. It's not a legal entity. Legal entities, such as LLCs in Colorado 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. Suppose you're a sole proprietor seeking limited liability. In that case, you should consider forming a legal entity rather than just getting a trade name.

One final consideration is that Colorado treats nonprofits differently regarding trade name registration requirements. A nonprofit organization may — but is not required to — register any name other than the true business name used for conducting business.

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, conducting a trade name search is still a good business practice to check for availability before registering a trade name. Having a unique and distinguishable trade name will help prevent confusion.

Search Nationally and Locally

You can search for a trade name online. On the Colorado secretary of state's website, simply type the name you'd like to use in the Name Availability Search.

You should also conduct a trademark search to see if someone has trademarked your trade name. You can perform the search through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The agency retired its Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) in late 2023. The new search function still checks for registered trademarks and applications in the USPTO database.

Check internet domain website names and social media handles on sites like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. If the name you have in mind is already in use there, your best bet is to pick another one. Keeping the same name across all your online platforms allows for cohesive branding.

Choose an Assumed Name

You'll want to make sure you choose a trade name that doesn't violate any Colorado laws. That means:

  • No obscenities
  • No references to illegal activities
  • Nothing that suggests you are tied to a governmental agency, such as "State Department"
  • Not adding "LLC," "Inc.," or any other business entity designator unless you actually have that type of legal business entity
  • Not using terms such as "bank," "trust," "credit union," or "banker" unless your business provides financial services

One final consideration relating to the trade name you choose for your business is restrictions.

Step 2: Register a Colorado Trade Name

You can register a Colorado DBA online. The Colorado secretary of state website lists forms for registering a trade name. You must select the appropriate registration form for your business entity type.

You can also follow these links to access the forms available with the Colorado Secretary of State's Office:

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 (original entity)
  • Address of the business
  • Nature of the business
  • Colorado Secretary of State ID number (if you have an underlying entity such as a LLC or corporation, this is the number given at initial registration)

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.

You must file these forms online. Forms are not accepted by mail.

Step 3: Manage the DBA

After you file your Colorado DBA, you might wonder about trade name renewals and other issues regarding its management. Will you need to renew your trade name? Can you make changes once it's filed? What happens if you decide you don't want your trade name anymore?

Renewals

All renewal forms must be submitted online.

  • Sole proprietors: For sole proprietors, a trade name is good for one year. It expires on the first day following the month of the anniversary of the original filing. For example, if you registered your trade name on Feb. 15, 2024, the trade name expiration date would be March 1, 2025. 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't be renewed.
  • Business entities: 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. Suppose the business owners bring the company back into good standing before the year is up. In that case, 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 ends, they may file a renewal for the trade name.

Changes or Corrections

You might need to make changes or corrections after filing your trade name registration form. You may need to change the address you listed on the registration form or the description of the nature of the business conducted.

You can change your trade name registration by completing a Statement of Change of Trade Name Information form on the Colorado secretary of state's website. You can also find the Statement of Correction of Trade Name Information form on the website. Along with submitting the appropriate form online, you'll need to submit a filing fee of $10 for a change or correction.

Withdrawals

You can also withdraw or cancel your trade name registration altogether. The Statement of Trade Name Withdrawal form is available on the secretary of state website. A filing fee of $10 applies for trade name withdrawals. You could also simply allow your trade name to expire if you no longer want it.

Frequently Asked Questions About Filing a Colorado DBA

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.

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.

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.

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.

Do I need to get an EIN for my DBA?

You don't need to get an employer identification number (EIN) 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.

Can I file a DBA online?

Yes. In fact, you can only file online.

How many DBA names can I have?

There is no limit on the number of Colorado trade names a business or individual registers. As long as you can complete the registration process, submit the filing fees, and manage the DBAs, you can have multiple DBAs.

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.

You can stop someone from using it using intellectual property law. 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?

It's crucial 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.

If you're unsure about getting a Colorado trade name, you might want to speak with an experienced attorney. A lawyer with background in business organizations can examine your unique situation and help you decide if getting a fictitious business name will suit your needs.

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