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How To Get a DBA in Texas

If you want to conduct business in Texas using a name other than your original company name, you must use a DBA (“doing business as"). Entrepreneurs must register that they are "doing business as" that name.

Texas DBAs are "assumed names." DBA filings occur with the Texas Secretary of State and county clerk's office. The filings let customers, creditors, and other parties identify a company's owner.

The steps to register your DBA depend on your Texas business structure. This article guides you through each step.

Register your DBA with confidence through our trusted partner LegalZoom.

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. You may notice a Texas DBA has other names like:

  • Assumed name
  • Trade name
  • Fictitious name

For example, Texas law requires sole proprietors to operate under their own name. A DBA lets the sole proprietor run their businesses under a different name. A DBA will also allow your business to:

  • Advertise to the public using a different name
  • Enter a new line of business under a new name distinct from the existing name of the business
  • Conduct operations as an entity distinct from an LLC or corporation without starting a new company
  • Conduct operations without amending the LLC operating agreement or corporate bylaws
  • Get a tax ID number from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) so that a sole proprietor doesn't 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 believe your business would benefit from registering a Texas DBA, follow the steps below to receive a new assumed name certificate.

Step 1: Where to File a Texas DBA

Texas law requires sole proprietorships and general partnerships wishing to do business under a DBA to register with:

  • The county where the business is located (e.g., a Dallas company registers in Dallas County); or
  • The county where the business operates and does business

Limited liability companies (LLCs) and corporations usually register only at the state level through the Texas Secretary of State's office.

Step 2: Picking a Name for Your DBA

Unfortunately, picking a name for your Texas DBA often requires more effort than brainstorming one that works for your business. It should be unique. That means you must research whether your name of choice is available. If not, what alternatives exist? Consider whether the available names fit your brand.

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. Check with your Texas county clerk to see if your desired DBA is available. LLCs and corporations must use the Secretary of State's website, and there is a $1 fee for each search.

What happens if you register for a name that is the same as or similar to one already claimed?

Texas law doesn't bar you from applying for a DBA for a name already registered with the state or in your county. That means you're free to file an assumed name certificate using a name already registered. It's possible it may not be rejected.

But it's generally considered a bad idea to use a previously registered name. It may lead to customer confusion, especially online. If the other business has already trademarked the name, it can sue your business for state or federal trademark infringement.

What should I do if someone files for a DBA similar to mine?

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.

Step 3: Check for Prohibited Words

The Texas Administrative Code bars business entities from using the following words in their assumed business name unless it is a specific type of business that has permission to use the word:

  • "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 for the benefit of veterans or their families without the written approval of a veterans organization

You also can't use the following terms in a DBA:

  • Words implying a government affiliation
  • Offensive words
  • Words implying the business has a purpose it's not legally allowed to pursue

You should exercise caution and refrain from using a DBA alleging you're in a professional association you don't belong to. An example would be saying the company is “Summers and Phillips Medical Practice," implying the business has licensed doctors.

Step 4: Own Your DBA Name

The next step in choosing a DBA should be checking whether your choice is subject to either a state or federal trademark. 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's 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 online.

Step 5: Register Your DBA

Depending on your business structure, you must register your Texas DBA at your county clerk's office or with the Texas Secretary of State.

Sole Proprietors and Partnerships

Suppose you operate 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 has a location or conducts business. Most counties make the form available on the county clerk's website.

The information required for the county DBA forms generally includes:

  • The DBA name being registered
  • The address of the business seeking the DBA
  • The name and address of the business owners
  • The name and address of the registered agent
  • The type of entity seeking the DBA

notary public must witness the signing of the form for the county clerk. Each county charges a filing fee.

LLCs and Corporations

If your company is an LLC or a corporation, you must file a DBA with the Texas Secretary of State. You will use a Form 503, Assumed Name Certificate. There is a $25 fee for each assumed name certificate you file.

The information on the assumed name form includes:

  • The DBA name
  • 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 is in use

This form can be filed online using SOSDirect portal or mailed to:

Texas Secretary of State (inside the James Earl Rudder Office Building)

1019 Brazos Street

Austin, TX 78701

Finally, an LLC or corporation must file an assumed name certificate at the county level where the principal office is.

Step 6: Renew Your DBA

Texas assumed name certificates are valid for 10 years from the date filed. If you want to continue using the assumed name, you must file for a new certificate before the previous certificate expires.

Using a Business Lawyer To Help Register a Texas DBA

It helps to seek the advice of a Texas DBA lawyer when filing your DBA forms. These attorneys can answer any FAQ you may have during the process.

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