How To File a DBA in Missouri in 3 Steps
If you're considering getting a Missouri fictitious name, you should take some time to familiarize yourself with the DBA ("doing business as") registration process and requirements. You'll need to know if fictitious name registration is required for your business and, if so, how to complete the process.
You can complete the process of registering a Missouri fictitious name in three simple steps. However, if you need assistance, there are services available to business owners who'd prefer not to complete the process on their own.
Do I Need a Missouri DBA?
In Missouri, it's unlawful to transact business under a name other than its legal name without first registering the new name. The name that a business owner uses, other than the legal business name, is called a fictitious name. Fictitious names have to be registered so that consumers can identify the individuals or legal entities behind the fictitious names.
You might wonder if the type of business you own would be required to register a fictitious name. You might be wondering why anyone would even want to use a fictitious name for their business in the first place. Consider the following types of businesses:
If you're operating a sole proprietorship, your own personal name is the legal name for your business. Many sole proprietors and partners find fictitious names appealing because it allows them to maintain their privacy and present their business more professionally. DBA registration also provides business owners who'd like to use a name other than the legal name for their business the ability to sign contracts and open business bank accounts under a different name. If you own an LLC or corporation, the legal name for your business is the name you provided on the paperwork you filed when you formed the business entity.
Owners of limited liability companies or corporations find DBAs useful when launching a new product or service. Take, for example, the owner of a fine dining establishment who'd like to try her hand at owning a fast-food restaurant. She doesn't want customers to be confused by using the same name for the new venture, and she doesn't want to form a new business entity altogether. She can register a DBA and use it for the new restaurant.
Personal Asset Protection
While getting a DBA in Missouri could offer branding opportunities for your business, it won't provide it with personal asset protection. If you're the owner of an LLC, corporation, or other legal business entity, you likely already have personal asset protection.
However, if you're a sole proprietor, you run the risk of losing your personal assets, such as a house or car, if someone sues the business over a debt or obligation. If your goal is to get personal asset protection, you should consider forming a business entity such as an LLC or corporation instead.
How Do You File a DBA in Missouri?
You can file a Missouri fictitious name in three simple steps. Before you start the process, though, you should take some time to brainstorm potential names. Create a list so that you'll have other options if you find that a name on your list isn't available.
Step 1: Conduct a DBA Name Search
The fictitious name that you choose should be unique and distinguishable. You don't want to pick a name that's already in use by another individual or business entity. To check for name availability, you should search state business records and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database.
First, search state business records through the Missouri Secretary of State Business Entity Search. If a name on your list is already taken by a Missouri business entity, you should move on to another name on the list.
Next, visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website. Search for the fictitious name you'd like to use on TESS (Trademark Electronic Search System). It's your responsibility to determine if someone has already trademarked a name you'd like to use. You could face penalties for using a name that someone else has trademarked.
Finally, consider the name restrictions in Missouri. Most states have naming regulations that you must be aware of when considering the name you'd like to register for your business. Note the following restrictions for Missouri DBAs:
- You can't use any words or phrases that suggest you are a governmental agency
- You can't use any business entity suffix (such as "LLC," "Corp.," or "Inc.") unless you have that type of business entity
- You can't use words or phrases such as "bank," "credit union," "banker," "trust company," or "savings bank" unless you have a financial institution
Generally, make sure that you don't use any words or phrases in your fictitious name that would be misleading or confusing to the public. Once you've settled on an available name, it's a good idea to go ahead and secure the web domain.
Step 2: Register Your Missouri DBA
You have the option of registering your Missouri fictitious name online or by mail. You can also submit your application in person to: Corporations Division, 600 W. Main St., Rm. 322, Jefferson City, MO 65102.
To file a Missouri DBA name online, visit the Missouri Secretary of State online business portal. To file a DBA by mail, complete the Registration of Fictitious Name form and mail it to: Corporations Division, P.O. Box 778, Jefferson City, MO 65102.
Be prepared to provide the following information for your DBA name registration in Missouri:
- Fictitious name to be registered
- Owner's name and address
- Business address
- Charter number (if the owner is a business entity)
Don't forget to include the filing fee of $7 with your trade name registration. Once you've completed the registration process, you can manage your DBA.
Step 3: Manage Your Missouri DBA
Fictitious name registration is good for five years in Missouri. This means that your Missouri DBA will expire in five years unless you renew it on time. Note that expired fictitious names can't be renewed. If you allow your DBA to expire and you still wish to use a DBA, you'll have to file a new registration. To avoid the expiration of your fictitious name, file a renewal within six months before the expiration date. You can either file your renewal online or by mail. The fee for a renewal is $7.
You can also make changes to your DBA. If you'd like to change the business address on your registration or correct a misspelling, you can file an amendment. However, if you want to change your fictitious name or transfer ownership to another individual or business entity, you'll need to cancel your registration and file a new fictitious name.
If you need to cancel your fictitious name registration for some reason, you can do so by filing the Cancellation of Registration of Fictitious Name form. There's no fee for cancellation, and it can be done online or by mail.
What Else Should I Do After Filing My DBA?
Particularly if filing your DBA was an initial step in getting your business up and running, you'll want to take quite a few more steps after you've filed. For example, you'll need to consider how you will integrate your new DBA name into your marketing plan. You'll likely need to get new signage, brochures, business cards, and other marketing materials to attract potential customers. Consider getting a website, even if you're not comfortable building the website on your own. You can hire help for your website, if necessary.
One important task is separating your personal funds from your business funds. Not only does it make accounting easier, but it's also vital to maintaining personal asset protection if you have it. With a DBA certificate, you can open a business bank account and get a business credit card or debit card in your new name.
Don't forget to look into business insurance. Secure a general liability policy to protect your assets in the event of a loss or injury.
Frequently Asked Questions About Filing a DBA in Missouri
1. Do I need to get an EIN or Tax ID number for a Missouri DBA?
No. You don't need to get an EIN (Employer Identification Number) or Tax ID number for your DBA because a DBA is only a name. An EIN or Tax ID number is assigned by the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) to business entities for tax purposes. However, since a DBA isn't a business entity, you don't need an EIN or Tax ID number for it.
2. Can somebody else use my fictitious business name?
Fictitious name registration in Missouri doesn't give you any name protection. This means that someone else could use the same name that you've registered as your fictitious name. However, you can gain legal protection for your DBA by trademarking it if you're concerned about other individuals or entities using the name.
3. How many DBAs can I have?
You can have as many DBAs as you can afford to register and manage. It's a good idea to make sure that each DBA name that you get is necessary.
4. Do I need a DBA for my LLC?
If you have an LLC, the legal name of your business is the name that was provided when the business entity was formed. Missouri Revised Statutes 417.210 states that any business entity using a name other than the legal name for the business entity must register the fictitious name with the Secretary of State.
If you only conduct business under the name you provided when you formed your LLC, then you don't need to register a DBA in Missouri. If you engage or transact in business activities under a different name, you need to register the fictitious name with the Missouri Secretary of State.
5. Can I convert my DBA into an LLC?
You can't convert a DBA into an LLC because a DBA isn't a type of business entity. If you have a sole proprietorship and want an LLC, you'll need to form an LLC with the appropriate agency.
6. Is a fictitious name the same as a DBA or trade name?
Yes. A name other than the legal name used for conducting business can be referred to as a DBA, trade name, fictitious name, or assumed name. Missouri laws refer to "doing business as" names as fictitious names.
7. Is there a penalty for failure to register a fictitious name in Missouri?
If you're conducting business under a name other than your legal business name and you don't register the fictitious name, you could be charged with a misdemeanor.
8. How much does it cost to register a Missouri trade name?
It costs $7 to register an assumed name in Missouri.
9. How do I transfer my Missouri DBA?
To change ownership of your fictitious name, you'll need to cancel the registration and file a new fictitious name.
Still Unsure About Registering a Missouri Fictitious Name? Speak to an Attorney
You might still have questions about the registration process or whether you truly need to operate your business under a fictitious name. It's a good idea to make sure that you've gathered all the information you need before making a decision that affects your business. Any unanswered questions should be directed to a professional.
An attorney could discuss your options and the DBA registration process with you. Don't hesitate to reach out to an attorney in your area for legal advice about DBAs in Missouri.
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