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How to File a DBA in Illinois: Complete 5-Step Process

Suppose you want to do business under a name other than your business's legal name in Illinois. In that case, you must register that DBA (doing business as) name. A DBA is sometimes called a trade name, an assumed name, or a fictitious business name. Illinois law usually refers to it as an assumed name.

Filing an assumed name registration is relatively easy in Illinois. After filling out some 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.

Register your DBA with confidence through our trusted partner LegalZoom.

Benefits of an Illinois DBA

A DBA name offers numerous advantages for an entrepreneur. If you have a sole proprietorship, having a DBA filing allows you 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 allows the business to sell a new product or service under another name without creating a new business entity.

Another benefit of a DBA is using the underlying entity's employer identification number (EIN). You do not create a new tax ID or form a new LLC. Instead, you can use the underlying entity's EIN. If you operate a business under another name in Illinois, you must file a DBA. That is the only way to get a business bank account under that different name in Illinois.

The DBA itself does not provide liability protection. It would help if you had a business organized with Illinois for that, like a limited liability partnership, LLC, corporation, or nonprofit.

Step 1: Find Out if Your Business Name Is Already in Use

Your assumed business name (DBA) should be unique and not registered by any other Illinois businesses. Conduct a thorough search to find out if you have a unique business name. 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. Remember to look for domain name availability to create a website under your new assumed business name. Check for social media handles on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and X.

If another business does not use your fictitious name and it is not a registered trademark, the next step is to avoid breaking Illinois naming rules.

Step 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. This is something to consider at startup and during the DBA naming process.

Your assumed name should not:

  • Incorrectly imply that you are in the financial or insurance industries
  • Indicate that your business is a government organization. For example, do 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.

These rules exist to prevent consumer confusion and prevent companies from incorrectly claiming they can provide professional or governmental services.

Step 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
  • Business owner name
  • The fictitious name (DBA)
  • Notarized signature (where applicable)
  • Registered agent
  • Filing fee payment and pricing varies based on the county clerk's office

Keep good records of your assumed name registration to make it easier to renew your name when the time comes. Your assumed name renewal is due on the next year after registration, which is divisible by five. For example, if you received your certificate of assumed name in 2021, you would need to renew it in 2025. You must provide your registration number and pay a filing fee at that time. Many entrepreneurs calendar their anniversary month of filing their DBA every year to stay on top of renewals.

Step 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 depends 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 any of the following business entities:

  • Limited liability companies
  • Limited liability partnerships
  • Limited partnerships
  • Corporations

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 generally are about $150 or less.

Business Structures That File With the County Clerk

For all other businesses, 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 company has any of the following structures:

  • Professional Service Corporation: This is also known as a professional corporation. It is a special type of business structure for licensed professionals.
  • Sole Proprietorship: You are a sole proprietor if you own your business and have not filed paperwork to create an LLC or corporation.
  • General Partnership: If you co-own your business but still need to file paperwork to give your business a legal structure, you have a general partnership.

For example, a general partnership with a headquarters in Cook County would register the assumed name with the Cook County Clerk's office.

Step 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 must file a notice of your new assumed name in a local weekly newspaper in that county. 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 must submit proof of publication to your local county clerk's office within 50 days of your assumed name application. Otherwise, the county clerk can void your assumed name registration.

Depending on your county, you may also be required to have a notary public sign your application. Your county clerk can tell you if this requirement applies to you.

Have Questions About an Illinois DBA?

When you've decided to pursue DBA registration, consider using a trusted, simple-to-use online DBA registration tool that will walk you through the process. 

Contact an Illinois business lawyer for questions about your assumed name application or protecting your personal assets. When it comes time to renew or make DBA amendments, a lawyer can answer any frequently asked questions (FAQs) you might have.

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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