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New Jersey DBA

New Jersey DBA

You can operate a small business in New Jersey under a name that is not the name of the company or person operating it. This is a "DBA," or "Doing Business As." A DBA is also a "fictitious name," an "alias," or a "business trade name."

New Jersey has two separate designations based on the type of business. New Jersey law calls a DBA an "Alternative Name" for legal entities like corporations and limited liability partnerships. New Jersey calls a DBA a "Trade Name" for sole proprietorships and general partnerships.

Here is a guide through the legal steps in registering a New Jersey DBA.

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

Before registering your sole proprietorship or partnership as a DBA in New Jersey, ensure you understand what a trade name certificate can and cannot do.

Benefits of a DBA

Here are some common ways a DBA helps a business owner who does want to use their own name or current business name:

  • To advertise easier with a shorter or more useful assumed name
  • To prove the business exists
  • To open a business bank account
  • To accept credit cards as a merchant
  • To get a tax ID number
  • To simplify a corporate name
  • To introduce a new product line
  • To enter into a new service or product market

The most common use of a DBA is in a sole proprietorship or a partnership where the business name differs from the full legal name of the person or people who operate it. You can register your full legal name as your business name. If you have any questions about this, direct them to the New Jersey Secretary of State's office, which is known as the Department of State.

It is a different question—and process—if the registering business is a corporation, LLP, or Limited Liability Company (LLC). If the name of the corporation or LLC is already registered, a second registration of that name as a DBA is not necessary. But, if the corporation or LLC wants to do business under another name, it needs a DBA registration.

There are no limits to the number of DBAs a New Jersey business can have.

Disadvantages of a DBA

A DBA is not a legal entity. The underlying legal entity handles the DBA's business life. This includes filing taxes with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Employer Identification Number (EIN), and business permits and licenses. You must use the underlying legal entity's tax ID to open a bank account using the assumed name.

A DBA is not a business structure that gives a business owner liability protection, like an LLC would do. It's your decision whether to use a fictitious name instead of the business's legal name.

When Is a New Jersey DBA Registration Required?

New Jersey law requires creating and registering a DBA for "foreign" (out-of-state) businesses with the same name as a New Jersey corporation. So, in this situation where the name is identical, you can't use the DBA designation for New Jersey incorporations. You must instead use the DBA designation for foreign corporations.

A complete explanation of these rules is on the New Jersey Treasury Department website.

Step 2: Create Your Business Alternative Name

There are several business name requirements and business name searches you should conduct when you want to formalize your DBA.

Restrictions on Your 'Doing Business As' Name

There are certain words or designations that you can't use in a New Jersey DBA:

  • DBA name that is misleading about the nature of the business.
  • Name connected to the banking and insurance industries unless the business is one.
  • Listing "doctor" or "attorney" in the DBA unless you are one.
  • You can't say that the DBA is a corporation unless one of the entities named in the application for registration is a corporation.

Under New Jersey law, you can't use the term "DBA" as a part of a formal New Jersey company name at startup or formation. The state will reject any attempt to register a company that uses the DBA designation, and you will not get a certificate of formation.

For example, New Jersey would reject a submission for "Sheppard Holding Company DBA Tubbs' Toys and Treats" because I put DBA in the formal name. I could form as "Sheppard Holding Company" and later file my DBA paperwork as "Tubbs' Toys and Treats." When I advertise my business, I say I am "Tubbs' Toys and Treats."

Conduct Business Name Searches

After deciding on a New Jersey DBA, make sure the DBA name you want is available locally and nationally.

First, conduct a business name search on the New Jersey Department of the Treasury, NJ Division of Revenue website to ensure that no one else in the state uses that name. This database also contains the names of all business names trademarked with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Next, conduct an internet search to see if you can secure a domain name. You should also search social media like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube for user names.

Once you create a unique New Jersey name, register it as fictitious.

Step 3: Own That Business Name

You can own your business name so no one else can use it. This is not done through your DBA filing but during the process.

  • Buy the domain name
  • Trademark that name (or register your service mark) with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
  • Trademark your DBA within New Jersey. You can also register the trademark/ service mark with New Jersey without a federal trademark.

Now that name is yours.

Step 4: Now Register as a New Jersey DBA

All New Jersey alternate names register with the state by filling out Form C-150G. The form is then filed with the state or the county, depending on what kind of underlying legal entity is registering the DBA.

The following entities register at the county clerk's office where the small business headquarters are in New Jersey. You must fill out, sign, and notarize the trade name form. You must then mail it back or bring it in person to the clerk. There is typically a $50 filing fee.

  • Sole proprietorship
  • General partnership

All other legal business entities register an alternate name with the New Jersey Treasury Department. There is a $50 filing fee to register with the state. Expedited processing is available for an upcharge. LLPs can't register an alternate name in New Jersey.

  • Corporations
  • LLCs
  • LPs
  • Foreign corporations

The DBA registration forms vary, but there is common information you will need.

What To Expect on the Registration Form

The registration form is detail-intensive, so have all your business information available before you start.

  • The assumed business name of the DBA
  • The registration number of the DBA
  • Principal business address of the DBA
  • Names, addresses, and email addresses of those with an interest in the business
  • Names and addresses of legal entities with an interest in the business
  • Contact information
  • Signature
  • Notarization
  • $50 filing fee

Register the name before you use it. Otherwise, the state charges an extra $50 per year if your name is in use and not registered.

Step 5: After You Register: Managing Your DBA

You are not done with filings after initially registering your New Jersey alternative or trade name.

Renewal

Your DBA registration is good for five years from the date of registration. After that, you can renew for five years at a time. You can renew online or by filling out and submitting Form C-150R. You may submit renewals up to three months early. The renewal fee is $50.

DBAs and Tax Identification

A sole proprietorship DBA can use the owner's Social Security number for tax purposes. In some cases, a partnership can do the same. They don't have to get a Federal Employee Identification Number (EIN).

Any other type of company should have, use, or get a business EIN. You will need to get one if the underlying company does not have a federal EIN.

The underlying corporation must also file with the State of New Jersey for all potential taxation from the DBA. If the DBA has employees, the underlying company or person must register with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development for unemployment insurance.

Get Legal Help in New Jersey for Your DBA

Contact a New Jersey Business Formation attorney for professional legal advice when registering your New Jersey DBA.

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