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How To File a DBA in Oregon in 5 Steps

You can operate a business in Oregon under a name that is not the name of the company or person who is operating the business. This is often called a "DBA," which stands for "doing business as." A DBA can also be called a "fictitious name," an "alias," or a "trade name." Oregon law calls a DBA an "Assumed Business Name."

A DBA is not a legal entity. The underlying legal entity is responsible for the business life of the DBA, including taxation, business permits and licenses, insurance, and so forth.

If you are operating as a DBA, Oregon requires you to register that assumed business name with the Oregon Secretary of State. This allows owners to conduct business in the state under that name.

Registering a DBA in Oregon is a relatively simple process in and of itself, but the registration will vary depending on several factors. Here is a step-by-step guide through registering an Oregon DBA.

Step 1: Decide if a DBA Is Right for Your Business

A DBA is any name that a business uses that is different from its own legal name. DBAs are available for either incorporated entities (LLCs, Corporations, etc.) or for sole proprietorships.

DBAs got their start as a form of consumer protection, so bad guys couldn't hide behind fictitious business names but had to reveal (and be liable for) their actions regardless of what name they used.

You can use a DBA for advertising, proving the business exists, opening a business bank account, and accepting credit cards as a merchant, among other advantages. Use it to simplify a corporate name, introduce a new product line, or to use something other than the person's legal name.

A disadvantage of a DBA is that it is not a type of business structure that protects the business owner like an LLC would do.

It will be your decision whether to use a fictitious name instead of the business's legal name. But there are some situations where a DBA is virtually required. The most common use of a DBA is in a sole proprietorship or a partnership where the business name is different from the full legal names of the person or people who operate the business. This is true even if the name is a part of the business—for example, "Bob's Greenhouse."

At the same time, you can register your full legal name as your business name. Any questions about this should be directed to the Oregon Secretary of State's office.

It is a slightly different question—and process—if the registering business is a corporation or limited liability company (LLC). If the name of the corporation or LLC is already registered, a DBA registration of that name is not necessary. However, if the corporation or LLC wants to do business under another name, a DBA registration is required. An example would be a holding company operating a restaurant: "XYZ Holdings DBA Portland McDonalds."

No Limitations on Amount of DBAs

There are no limitations to the number of DBAs that an Oregon legal entity can have, as long as the DBA is a legal business. There are several limitations on what a DBA can call itself, as listed in the next section.

Step 2: Choose Your Business Name

After you have decided on a name and registered it as an Oregon DBA, take the necessary steps to make that name legally yours. First, conduct a business name search on the Oregon Secretary of State website to ensure that no one else in the state uses that name.

Technically, a DBA name cannot be protected under Oregon law. There can be three businesses called, for example, "Bill's Auto Repair" in the same city, county, or across the commonwealth. Or even on the same street. It will be well worth the time to create a name that no one else would use.

If you have created a unique Oregon name, register that name as a fictitious name, as shown below.

Also, be very aware that there are certain words or designations that you cannot use in an Oregon DBA:

  • You cannot use a DBA name that is misleading about the nature of the business.
  • You cannot use a name connected to the banking and insurance industry unless the business is licensed in those areas.
  • You cannot use a professional name (doctor, attorney, etc.) unless you are licensed in that area.
  • You cannot use any indication that the DBA is a corporation unless one of the entities named in the application for registration is itself a corporation. However, the use of the word "company" is permissible for any fictitious name, regardless of the registrants' status.

Step 3: Appoint an Authorized Representative

The DBA must authorize one person to represent the business in transactions with the Oregon Corporation Division of the Secretary of State. This can be an individual or a company. This authorized representative must be filed as a part of the application for the assumed business name, but there is no other separate filing to designate the representative.

Step 4: Own That Business Name

You can own your business name so that no one else can use it. That name will have to be unique, though. To begin, you must be certain that no one else can use it in business or on the internet. This means that you must ensure that no one else is currently using that name.

For the internet, make sure the domain name is available. Then follow the steps to own that domain name (this will only cost a few dollars).

If you expect to work in other states, you can trademark that name (or register your service mark) with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This process takes time and money, but your name is still protected as a common law trademark. Once you receive your federal trademark, register that trademark or service mark back with your state, if your state law allows.

Step 5: Register as an Oregon DBA

Any fictitious name being used in an ongoing business in Oregon must be registered with the Secretary of State. There is a $50 filing fee. You can register by mail or online.

A sole proprietor who does business under that individual's legal name does not have to register as a DBA.

How To Register Your DBA

First, get the form. You can download it and fill it out and then mail it in, or you can fill it out online. This page has the registration form and links for amending the form, canceling the registration, and renewing the registration. Note that an Oregon DBA must be renewed every two years.

The registration form is detail-intensive, so have all your business information available before you start. You will be asked, among other things, for:

  • The assumed business name of the DBA
  • Description of business
  • The registry number of the DBA
  • The principal business address of the DBA
  • Names, addresses, and email addresses of business owners
  • Names and addresses of formal business entities with an interest in the business
  • Counties in which business is conducted
  • Contact information
  • Signature
  • $50 filing fee

Once the registration is filed online or received through the mail by the Secretary of State, the approval process should take about 5-7 business days. The DBA remains valid for two years from the date of approval. It can then be renewed every two years with no limits or allowed to lapse.

If the DBA is no longer functioning at any time, it can be canceled.

After You Register: DBAs and Tax Identification

A sole proprietorship DBA can use the owner's Social Security Number for taxes. In some cases, a partnership can do the same. They do not have to obtain a Federal Employee Identification Number (EIN). Your accountant will be able to walk you through this.

Any other type of company should have, use, or obtain a business EIN. The DBA is not a separate business entity. That means that the DBA does not file taxes and does not have to get its tax identification numbers—federal or state. The underlying corporation pays the DBA's income and employment taxes. Again, this is a job for your accountant.

If the underlying company does not have a federal EIN, you will need to obtain one.

The underlying corporation will also need to file with the State of Oregon to generate sales taxes from the DBA. If the DBA has employees, the underlying company or individual must register with the Oregon Department of the Treasury for payroll taxes and unemployment insurance.

And again, you must renew your assumed business name status every two years.

Find an Oregon Business Attorney

It is always good to have professional help when forming a business or doing any state paperwork. An Oregon business attorney can guide you through legal uncertainty when it matters most.

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