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What Is a DBA?

What Is a DBA?

A DBA means "doing business as." It's a fictitious business name that a business owner uses. In other words, it's a fictitious name created for a small business rather than forming a new business. Entrepreneurs use a DBA if their company name does not reflect a new product line or service they wish to roll out.

This FindLaw article answers frequently asked questions (FAQ) about DBAs.

Register your DBA with confidence through our trusted partner LegalZoom.

What Is a Legal Business Name?

Business owners use DBA names to avoid using their legal business names. The type of business determines a company's legal name at start-up.

If you're a sole proprietor, your personal name is typically your legal business name. If you own a limited liability company or are a member of a corporation, the registered name is the initial business name. Filing a DBA allows you to use a different name in these situations.

Common Names for a DBA

Some states call a DBA by other names, such as:

Every state has its own laws concerning DBAs.

Understanding a DBA

You might wonder why an individual would want to use an assumed business name. There are many reasons for using DBA names. The owner of a sole proprietorship may not want to use their personal name, or the owner of an LLC may want to branch out under a new name.

Different legal entities can use a DBA. For example, you may use a DBA for a sole proprietorship, LLC, or S-corporation.

Sole proprietors don't have to use a DBA unless they use a name other than their legal name. For example, Buffy Simpson can do business under her own name without a DBA. If Buffy Simpson wants to use "Buffy's Spectacular Cookies" for her small business, she needs to register that name as a DBA since it's not her full name, "Buffy Simpson."

Benefits of a DBA

You can open a business bank account or sign a contract using your registered DBA name. Having a DBA allows you to use the underlying business entity's tax identification number (tax ID) or employer identification number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

An assumed business name, or DBA, does not protect business owners from personal liability. This means a sole proprietor who gets a DBA may still lose their personal assets if someone sues the business. Only forming a separate legal entity like an LLC or corporation will keep personal assets safe.

Filing a DBA

Does a business owner need to do a DBA filing? If you wish to conduct business under a different name, you may have to go through DBA registration.

Small business owners can register the DBA name with the secretary of state (or county clerk's office). Each state's process is different, so make sure to check your state's laws. The best starting point is your state's secretary of state.

There is a DBA filing fee, which differs from state to state. Most jurisdictions cost $30-$75. Depending on your local laws, you may also have to publish the DBA name in the local newspaper.

Filing a DBA by State

Registering your DBA puts the public on notice that you are using it.

Find your state below:

Your DBA name and DBA registration become a public record upon registration.

Does a DBA Come With Legal Protections?

Some business structures provide legal protection. A DBA is not a business structure. So, a DBA name doesn't offer limited liability protection. Registering a DBA name also will not stop someone from using that DBA name in another state. Only a federal trademark can do that.

Looking to start your own business? Use FindLaw's DIY forms to get a legal business entity set up in minutes.

Get Legal Help for Your DBA

If you're unsure what you need for your business, talk to a small business lawyer in your state or the state you want to operate in.

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