How To File a DBA in Maryland in 3 Steps

You have multiple options if you want to operate your business under a new name. You could change the name if you've formed a legal entity, such as an LLC or corporation. You could also form a new business entity with the name that you'd like to use. But that requires a new business license. A DBA offers another solution.

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Filing a DBA ("doing business as") is a common solution for Maryland entrepreneurs. Your LLC operates under the DBA name to conduct business. If you're operating as a sole proprietor, you could either form a legal business entity or file a DBA name to conduct business under a name other than your own.

If you need help deciding which route you'd like to take, understanding the process of filing a DBA in Maryland could help you decide. The process for filing a fictitious business name in Maryland is relatively simple. This FindLaw article helps explain how to register for an assumed name.

Maryland DBA Basics

A DBA name or a trade name is just a name. It's not a legal entity. It doesn't provide any legal protections. For example, if you're a sole proprietor, you don't have the same personal property protection as owners of LLCs and corporations. You could lose your personal assets, such as your house or car, in a lawsuit or other claim against your business. Getting a DBA name won't change that. DBA names don't offer limited liability protection, but filing a DBA is beneficial for marketing purposes as your business grows.

Suppose a corporation specializing in healthy food options wants to open a burger spot. To avoid confusing its customers, the owners might use a different name for the burger spot than the name filed at the formation. A DBA name allows it to branch out into a different line of food products without going through the formalities of forming another corporation.

The owner's personal name is the legal business name for owners of sole proprietorships and partnerships. Many business owners prefer to use a business name over their personal name because it seems more professional.

Since a DBA is not a legal entity, you won't need a separate EIN (Employer Identification Number). You don't need to file taxes for your DBA, either. Whether you have one DBA or multiple DBAs, you'll be taxed based on the business entity that you created. Your DBA is considered part of that business.

What Types of Businesses Can File a Maryland DBA or Trade Name?

There are several types of business structures in Maryland. Corporations and LLCs (limited liability companies) are popular for business owners who want personal asset protection. Business owners attracted to the simplicity and informality of sole proprietorships may choose to operate as sole proprietors instead.

You can register the following types of businesses on the Maryland Business Express website:

Once you've registered your business, you can file a DBA in Maryland.

There's no limit on the number of trade names that you can have. Remember that you'll have to pay the filing fee for each trade name. You also have to manage each trade name. If, for example, you don't renew one of your trade names on time, you risk forfeiting it. Make sure that having more than one trade name serves your business goals before you apply.

3 Steps To File A DBA in Maryland

1

Conduct a Maryland Trade Name Search

You must choose a unique trade name for your business. To ensure that the name you'd like to use isn't already in use by another company in Maryland, you need to conduct a trade name search.

You can search on the Maryland Business Express website. Simply type in the DBA name you'd like to use and check for availability. Keep in mind that Maryland has restrictions on trade names.

Your trade name can't include words that:

  • Suggest your business is a financial institution (such as "bank," "banker," "savings," "trust," or "credit union") unless you offer these services
  • Suggest your business is a government agency (such as "state department" or "treasury")
  • Indicate your business is a legal entity (such as "Inc." or "Corp.") if it's not

Finally, businesses offering home improvement services should also check with the Home Improvement Commission to ensure the desired trade name is available. Following the rules for trade names in Maryland is essential—your application could be rejected if you don't.

2

Register a Maryland Trade Name

When you file for a DBA in Maryland, the Maryland State Department checks the name that you'd like to use against other names on record in the state. Each trade name must be distinguishable and unique. For this reason, if the Department accepts your application, it becomes less likely that another Maryland business owner will attempt to use it.

But DBA name registration doesn't prevent business owners in other states from using your name, and it doesn't guarantee that it won't be used in Maryland. If you're concerned about protecting your trade name, you should look into getting a trademark.

You can register your trade name in Maryland online or by mail. To register online, simply complete the Maryland State Department of Assessments & Taxation Trade Name application form. Be prepared to provide the following information on your application:

  • Trade name
  • Business owner's name
  • Business owner's address
  • SDAT ID (identification number provided by the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation)
  • Nature of the business

There is a $25 filing fee for the trade name application. Processing typically takes four to six weeks, but you can pay an additional $50.00 for expedited service.

Using a DBA Service

Note that there is another way to complete your Maryland trade name registration if you don't want to fill out and submit the application yourself: a professional DBA service. A DBA service will take your information and complete the registration process for you. They may also assist with renewals.

3

How To Manage Your DBA in Maryland

Once your application has been accepted, you can manage your DBA online. You can renew or make changes to your DBA this way.

Change Trade Name

If you want to change the trade name, you must submit a new application. But if you wish to amend the address or the business owner's name, you can use the Trade Name Amendment Application. Amendment costs $25.00, and expedited service is available for an additional $50 charge.

Cancel Your Maryland DBA

If you want to cancel your DBA registration, you can use the Trade Name Cancellation Application. Cancellation or withdrawal of your trade name costs $25.00. Expedited service is available for an additional charge.

Renew Your Maryland DBA

If the Department accepts your application, you should receive an acknowledgment at the address you listed on your application. Your trade name is good for five years. You should renew your trade name during the six months leading up to the expiration date if you'd like to keep it. If the expiration date passes, and you'd like to continue to use the trade name for your business, you'll have to file a new application.

If the owner of a trade name is an LLC or corporation, the LLC or corporation must be in good standing to file a renewal. "Good standing" means that the business entity complies with the laws governing Maryland businesses. Failure to file reports or make payments on time could affect the status of your business.

To check the status of your business entity, search the Maryland State Department of Assessments & Taxation website. You can also request a Certificate of Status to show that your business is active and in good standing.

Next Steps After Filing a Maryland DBA

Once you've obtained a new name to use for your business, there are several steps that you should take, including:

  • Opening a business bank account
  • Building a website
  • Getting a logo, signage, and other marketing materials

Be sure to budget for the marketing materials you'll need with your trade name. You might be able to save money and build a website yourself. If you don't feel comfortable making your own site, you should get assistance with creating it to reach customers.

Get Legal Help Filing a DBA in Maryland

As a small business owner, you have to decide the right move for you and your business. 

If you've decided to pursue DBA registration, consider using our trusted partner LegalZoom to handle your name search, DBA application filing and publishing for $99 plus filing fees.

If you're still unsure or have questions about getting a DBA in Maryland, consult with an attorney about Maryland trade names for small businesses.

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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