How To Get a DBA in Texas
If you want to conduct business operations in Texas using a name other than that of your company, you will need to register that you are "doing business as" (DBA) the name. Texas DBAs are usually referred to as "assumed names." They are registered with the state and county governments so that customers, creditors, and other parties can quickly identify a company's true owner.
The steps you must take to register your DBA depend on how your Texas business is structured. Texas law requires sole proprietorships and general partnerships that wish to do business under a DBA to register with the county where they are located or are doing business. Limited liability companies (LLCs) and corporations will usually register at the state level with the Texas Secretary of State's office.
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Why Would a Business Need a DBA?
There are many reasons a small business or new business would want to conduct at least some of its operations under a DBA, which is often referred to as an assumed name, trade name, or fictitious name. For example, Texas law requires sole proprietors to operate under their own name, and a DBA lets them run their businesses under a different name. A DBA will also allow your business to:
- Enter a new line of business under a name that is distinct from your existing name
- Conduct operations as an entity that is distinct from an LLC or corporation without starting a new company or amending the LLC operating agreement or corporate bylaws
- Get a tax ID number from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) so that a sole proprietor does not need to use their personal Social Security number for the business
- Open a bank account in the name of the DBA
- Use a name that is easier to remember or more search-engine friendly than your current name
- Create a business identity that aligns with an available internet domain name if you are looking to expand your online presence
If you believe that your business would benefit from registering a Texas DBA, follow the below steps to register for a legally valid assumed name.
Step 1: Choose a Name for Your DBA
Unfortunately, picking a name for your Texas DBA often requires more effort than simply brainstorming one that works for your business. Your DBA should be more than catchy and memorable; it should be unique. That means you will need to research whether your name of choice is available and, if not, what alternatives have not been claimed.
Fortunately, the internet makes it easy to conduct a name search to find whether a name has already been registered. Suppose your business is a sole proprietorship or partnership. You will need to check with your county clerk to see if the DBA you want has been claimed. The Secretary of State maintains a list with the contact information for Texas county clerks. LLCs and corporations must use the Secretary of State's website, and there is a $1 fee for each search.
The next step in choosing a DBA should be checking whether your choice is subject to either a state or federal trademark. While nothing would stop you from using a trademarked term or name as your DBA, if your business uses a trademarked name or term, it could be subject to legal consequences. The trademark holder can sue to keep your business from using the name and seek financial damages if it shows that the trademark's unauthorized use damaged its business.
While there is no legal requirement to do so, it is usually a good idea to ensure that your DBA—or something close to it—is available as an internet domain name. This will help avoid confusion when people look up your business on the web and ensure that people familiar with your business will remember your domain name.
Step 2: Check for Prohibited Words
The Texas Administrative Code bars business entities from using the following words in their names unless they are a specific type of business that has permission to do so:
- "Olympic" or "Olympiad" without the authorization of the U.S. Olympic Committee
- "Bank," "Trust," "Bank and Trust," or "Trust Co." (or similar words in a foreign language) without a letter of no objection from the Banking Commissioner
- "University," "College," "Medical School," "School of Medicine," "Health Science Center," "School of Law," "Law Center," or "Law School" (or similar words in another language) without a "no objection" letter from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
- "Veteran," "Disabled," "Legion," "War," "Foreign," "Spanish," or "World War" if it implies that the named entity was created for the benefit of veterans or their families without the written approval of a veterans organization
Additionally, the following terms can't be used in a DBA:
- Words implying a government affiliation
- Grossly offensive words
- Words that imply that the business has a purpose it is not legally allowed to pursue
Names containing Roman or Arabic numerals or symbols typically found on a standard keyboard are generally acceptable.
Step 3: Register Your DBA
Depending on your business structure, you will need to register your Texas DBA in one of two places.
Sole Proprietors and Partnerships
Suppose you are operating your business as a sole proprietorship or general partnership. In that case, you will need to submit an assumed named certificate to the county clerk in each county where your business either has a location or conducts business. Most counties make the form available on the website of the county clerk.
The information required for the county DBA forms generally includes:
- The DBA name that is being registered
- The address of the business seeking the DBA
- The name and address of the business owners
- The type of entity seeking the DBA
A notary public must witness the signing of the form. Each county where a form is submitted will usually charge a filing fee.
LLCs and Corporations
If your company is structured as an LLC or a corporation, you must file a DBA with the Secretary of State using a Form 503, Assumed Name Certificate. There is a $25 fee for each assumed name certificate filed.
The information that must be supplied on the assumed name form includes:
- The DBA name being registered
- The legal name of the registering business
- Whether the business is an LLC or corporation
- The Secretary of State file number for the registrant
- The principal office address and jurisdiction of the registrant
- The county or counties where the DBA will be used
Finally, an LLC or corporation must file an assumed name certificate at the county level. This should be done in the county where its principal office is located.
FAQs on Filing for a Texas DBA
Frequently asked questions about Texas DBAs include:
What happens if you register for a name that is the same or similar to one that has already been claimed?
Texas law does not bar you from applying for a DBA for a name already registered with the state or in your county. That means you are free to file an assumed name certificate using a name already registered, and it will not be rejected. However, it is generally considered a bad idea to use a previously registered name since it may lead to customer confusion, especially online. More importantly, if the other business has already trademarked the name, your business could be sued for state or federal trademark infringement.
What should I do if someone files for an assumed name that is the same as, or similar to, the one I am using?
The Secretary of State's office recommends that you retain a business attorney if you believe another party has taken actions that have harmed your business name or goodwill through a DBA. While the Secretary of State will allow for DBAs to be filed using existing names, the company receiving the DBA can't use it to violate laws regarding unfair competition, unfair trade practices, or trademarks.
Does my registration for an assumed name certificate need to be notarized?
Forms filed with the Secretary of State's office need only be signed and do not need to be notarized. County clerks will usually require you to have the form notarized.
How often do I need to renew my assumed name certificate?
Texas assumed name certificates are valid for ten years from the date they were filed. If you want to continue using the assumed name, you must file for a new certificate before the previous certificate expires.
Use a Simple Process To Register Your DBA
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While filing for a DBA in Texas is often simple, there are some situations where you may want to seek the help of a local business attorney to ensure the name registration process runs smoothly. Those situations often include times when the name you desire is the same or similar to one already registered. You may also want to consult with an attorney if you believe someone else has filed a DBA to damage your business.
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