How to File a DBA in Illinois: Complete 5-Step Process
If you want to do business under a name other than your business's legal name, you will need to register your DBA (doing business as) name in Illinois to make it legal. There are numerous advantages to having a DBA name. If you have a sole proprietorship, having a DBA is a way to operate your small business under a name other than your personal name. A DBA for a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or other business entity can be useful if you want to sell a new product or service under another name without creating a new business entity.
A DBA is sometimes referred to as a trade name, an assumed name, or a fictitious business name. But these all mean the same thing. Illinois law usually refers to it as an assumed name.
Filing an assumed name registration is not difficult in the state of Illinois. After filling out a little paperwork, you can file your Illinois assumed name and start doing business under your new name. To learn how to register an assumed name for your business, follow along with our five-step process below. If you are looking for additional information about starting a business in Illinois, the Illinois Department of Commerce offers a helpful guide.
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1. Find Out if Your Business Name Is Already in Use
Your assumed business name (DBA) name should be unique and must not be registered by any other Illinois businesses. To find out if you have a unique name, you should conduct a thorough search. Start by doing a name search on the Illinois Secretary of State Department of Business Services website. There, you can search by name for registered businesses.
After you have made sure your preferred name is not registered with the secretary of state, you should check to see if it is a registered trademark. You can check this by searching the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO's) trademark database. Don't forget to look for domain name availability so that you can create a website under your new assumed business name.
If you are satisfied that your name is not already being used by another business, and is not a registered trademark, the next step is to avoid breaking Illinois naming rules.
2. Follow Illinois Naming Rules
You should not use any words in your business name that might falsely imply that you have an affiliation or professional license. These rules exist to prevent consumer confusion. They stop companies from incorrectly claiming they can provide professional or governmental services.
Your assumed name should not:
- Incorrectly imply that you are in the financial or insurance industries.
- Indicate that your business is a governmental organization. For example, you should not use an assumed name that contains government agency acronyms like “FBI" or “CIA."
- Contain the words “trust," “trustee," or “fiduciary." You need to file special paperwork and get prior approval if one of these words applies to your business.
3. Collect the Necessary Information for Your DBA Registration
The information you will need to provide on your assumed name application includes:
- Your business's contact information and business address.
- Names of business owners.
- Your assumed name (DBA).
- A notary public signature (where applicable).
- Filing fee payment. This will be about $150 or less.
You should keep good records of your assumed name registration to make it easier to renew your name when the time comes. Your assumed name renewal will be due on the next year after registration that is divisible by five. For example, if you received your certificate of assumed name in 2021, you would need to renew it in 2025. At that time, you will need to provide your registration number and pay a filing fee.
4. Register your Illinois DBA
Now that you know that your assumed name complies with Illinois law, you can move on to registering it with the state of Illinois. Whether you register your assumed name with the secretary of state or county clerk will depend on the legal structure of your business.
Business Structures That File With the Secretary of State
You will register your assumed name through the Illinois secretary of state if your business is structured as any of the following:
You can register online or find more information about filing by mail through the secretary of state. The filing fees vary by calendar year, but they are generally about $150 or less.
Business Structures That File With the County Clerk
If your business has a legal structure other than the ones listed above, you will file your new assumed name application with the county clerk where you do business. Contact your local county clerk's office if your business has any of the following structures:
- Professional service corporation. This is also known as a professional corporation, and it is a special type of business structure for licensed professionals.
- Sole proprietorship. If you own your business yourself and have not filed paperwork to create an LLC or corporation, you are a sole proprietor. If you would like to protect your personal assets from business liability, it is a good idea to consider forming a limited liability company (LLC).
- General partnership. If you co-own your business but have not filed paperwork to give your business a legal structure, you have a general partnership. To shield yourself from being personally liable for your business obligations, you should think about creating an LLC.
5. Publish Your DBA Name
This step only applies if your business is organized as one of the following legal structures:
- Sole proprietorship
- General partnership
- Professional corporation
If you fall into one of the above categories, you will have to file a notice of your new assumed name in a local weekly newspaper. You must do so within 15 days of registering your assumed name. This notice should appear in the newspaper every week for three consecutive weeks. You then need to submit proof of publication to your local county clerk's office. They must receive this proof within 50 days of your assumed name application. Otherwise, the county clerk can void your assumed name registration.
Depending on your county, you may be required to have a notary public sign your application too. Your county clerk can tell you if this requirement will apply to you.
Use a Simple Process To Register Your DBA
As a business owner, you probably have your hands full trying to grow your company. But there are also legal issues to consider as you build your business. Save yourself the stress of figuring out all the legal details by 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.
If you need legal guidance, help naming your business, or advice on legal structures, a local business attorney can help.
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