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What Is a DBA?

A DBA ("doing business as") is a fictitious business name used by a business owner.

If you are a sole proprietor, your personal name is typically your legal business name. If you are the owner of a limited liability company, the registered name is your business name. Filing a DBA could allow you to use a different name in either of these situations.

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Key Takeaways:

  • Business owners use DBA names to avoid using their legal business names.
  • You can register your DBA name with the Secretary of State (or county clerk's office).
  • A DBA name can be used for different types of businesses.
  • An assumed business name does not protect businesses owners from personal liability.

Understanding a DBA

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

You can open a bank account or sign a contract with your DBA name once you register it. However, a DBA does not protect you from personal liability. This means that a sole proprietor who gets a DBA may still lose their personal assets if someone sues the business.

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.

Each state's processes are different. Your Secretary of State (or county clerk's office) may be the appropriate office for your filing. There is a DBA filing fee, which is different from state to state. Depending on your local laws, you may also have to put the DBA name in the local newspaper.

What Entities Can Use an Assumed Name?

Different legal entities can use a trade name. This means that you may use a DBA for a sole proprietorship, LLC, or S-corporation.

Sole proprietors do not have to use a DBA unless they use a name other than their legal name. For example, Jane Smith can do business under her own name without a DBA. If Jane Smith wants to use "Jane's Spectacular Cookies" for her small business, she may need to register that name. If you'd like to use a name other than your LLC's registered name, you can use a trade name.

Does a DBA Come With Legal Protections?

Some business structures provide legal protection. A DBA is not a business structure. A DBA name does not offer limited liability protection. Additionally, registering a DBA name will not stop someone from using that DBA name in another state.

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