If you are operating under an informal business structure like a sole proprietorship or partnership filing for DBA name provides addition credibility by allowing you to operate under a name different than your personal name. In addition to this, DBAs can be a great tool for all businesses to help brand different products, services, operating locations and divisions under unique names that help them stand out. In the guide below we’ll go over what a DBA is, why a DBA is useful for business owners and provide step-by-step directions on how to complete a dba name filing.Table of Contents:
The term DBA is an acronym for “Doing Business As”, and allows for a business to operate under a name different than their legal name. DBA’s are often used to help brand a business, product, service or location with a name that is more memorable or unique. DBAs are often used by informal businesses such as Sole Proprietors and Partnerships so that they can operate under a more brandable and credible business name, since informal businesses are required to operate under their personal names.
The terminology for a DBA name can vary depending on the area and are known by a few different names such as:
- Assumed Name
- Trade Name
- Fictitious Name
It’s important to note that while a DBA can allow a business to operate under a different name than their official legal name, it is not a business structure in its own right. This is especially important to emphasize for business owners who choose to operate as a Sole Proprietor or Partnership. Since a DBA is not a legal structure, the business does not gain any additional liability protection to it’s owners. This means that if you use a DBA and you operate your business as a Sole Proprietor or Partnership, you still would have unlimited personal liability for business activities.
If you are seeking to protect your personal liability from your business’ activities you may want to consider forming your business as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or as a Corporation.Related Content:
- How to Start an LLC: A Step-by-Step Guide to Forming an LLC
- How to Incorporate: 6 Steps to Forming a Corporation
Prior to filing to get a DBA name you’ll want to ensure that you have come up with a good business or brand name. In general, you’ll want to ensure that you business name is unique, memorable and is easy to search. In today’s modern era of business online search is incredibly important so you’ll want to ensure that people will remember your name when they hear it and be able to find you easily. If you haven’t finalized your name yet or are looking for some guidance to ensure your name is as good as it can be check out our helpful guide, How to Come Up with a Business Name for some tips and tricks.3 Steps to complete your DBA Filing:
The first step to getting a DBA Name is to determine which governing agency has jurisdiction in your area over the issuance and regulation of DBA names. In the United States, 38 of the 50 states issue DBAs (or their equivalent) at the state level, while 9 states and Washington DC issue DBA’s at the local/county level. There are also a few states that require you to register your DBA with both the state and at the local level (county or city).
In Kansas, New Mexico and South Carolina there is no process for issuing DBA names for unincorporated businesses (sole proprietors and partnerships). With this in mind, you may want to consider forming your business as an LLC or Corporation to ensure that your business name can be reserved.
|State Name||Who Issues DBA||Name of Filing||DBA Filing Fee||Additional Info|
|Arkansas||State and County||Fictitious Name||$15-25||Sole Prop: file with county Others: file with state then send info to county|
|California||County||Fictitious Name||Varies by County|
|Colorado||State||Trade Name||$20||Only Real Estate: file with county|
|Georgia||County||Trade Name||Varies by County|
|Idaho||State||Assumed Business Name (DBA)||$25|
|Illinois||State and County||ABN||$30||File with county: sole proprietorships, general partnerships, professional services corporations|
|Indiana||State and County||Assumed Business Name||$30||File with county: sole proprietorship and general partnership|
|Iowa||State and County||Fictitious Name||$5||Sole Prop: file with county|
|Kentucky||State and County||Assumed Name (ASN)||$20||Sole Prop: file with county|
|Louisiana||State and County||Trade Name||$75||File with county: sole proprietorship and general partnership|
|Maine||State and County||Assumed / Fictitious Name||$125||File with county: sole proprietorship and general partnership|
|Massachusetts||State and County||DBA||$25||File with county: sole proprietorship, general partnerships, or corporation|
|Michigan||State and County||Assumed Name||$15||File with county: sole proprietorship|
|Minnesota||State||Assumed Name / DBA||$30|
|Montana||State||Assumed Business Name (ABN/DBA)||$20|
|Nevada||County||DBA||Varies by County|
|New Hampshire||State||Trade Name||$50|
|New Jersey||State and County||Alternate Name (DBA)||$50||File with county: sole proprietorship and partnerships|
|New York||State and County||Assumed Name||$25||File with county: real estates, sole proprietorship, general partnerships, or limited liability partnerships|
|North Carolina||County||Assumed Business Name (ABN)||$26|
|North Dakota||State||Trade Name / Franchise Name||$25|
|Oklahoma||State||Trade Nam / Fictitious Names||$25|
|Oregon||State||Assumed Business Name / DBA||$50|
|Rhode Island||State||Fictitious Business Name||$50|
|Tennessee||State and County||Assumed Name||$20||File with county: sole proprietorship|
|Texas||State and County||Assumed Name||$25||File with county: sole proprietorship, general partnerships, estates, real estate investment trusts|
|Vermont||State||Assumed Business Name||$50|
|Washington DC||State||Trade Name||$55|
|West Virginia||State||Trade Name (DBA)||$25|
|Wyoming||State||Trade Name (DBA)||$100|
Once you have determined the agency that regulates the issuance of DBAs in your area, you’ll need to complete a name availability search. To increase the likelihood that you application is accepted you will need to ensure that no other business is using the DBA name that you wish to use and that it isn’t too similar to an existing business.
If your desired DBA name is currently in use you’ll need to choose a new, unique name. In addition you will want to check your state’s secretary of state business database to ensure that there are not any LLCs or Corporations using a similar name that could create confusion.
If you try to intentionally choose a name that is similar to an existing business you will want to reconsider. Even if your DBA application is approved it could result in legal repercussions if the existing business feels that you are attempting to tarnish their name or intentionally confuse customers. Long story short, take the time to pick a unique name and stay away from any grey areas that could get you into trouble later.
Why having a Unique DBA Name is Important
Outside of it being required in most areas, your DBA name is meant to be strategically important for marketing purposes. If you are choosing a name that is either not unique enough that other businesses are using the same or very similar names you will be missing out on a huge benefit a DBA provides. Worst of all, your hard marketing and sales work to get your name out there could go to waste if you send business to others using a similar name.
For this reason, we suggest that you do an extensive search to ensure that not only is the name not in use, but that it hasn’t been used before either. Even if the name is available to use now but you see a business that has used the name before, it’s probably not all that unique. To take advantage of the branding and marketing benefits of a DBA, we also recommend that you complete the following searches as well:
- Website Domain Search – This search will ensure that the domain name you have picked is not associated with another business or website. Keep in mind that your website’s URL and name should be the same as the DBA. For this search, you can use Google Domains or another domain registrar.
- Internet Search – If you are setting up a business that operates nationally, internationally, or outside of your local area, you should ensure that your business name is not taken by another provider.
For marketing purposes, you should also pick a DBA that is unique, memorable, web-friendly, easy to spell, and not too similar to a competitor’s name.
When learning how to set up a DBA, it is important to keep in mind that each state has different processes to follow. However, generally, you will need to submit the necessary documents to the relevant office or state agency and pay a filing fee.
What Documents Do You Need for a DBA?
The process of filing and registering a DBA is also known as a Fictitious Business Name Statement or Assumed Business Name Certificate. When registering your DBA, you will need to provide the office or state agency with:
- Your desired DBA Name
- Date of when you have started or formed your business
- Description of the nature of your business, including services and good offered
- Name of the business owner, which can be a person or a legal entity
- A signature of the notary to authenticate the registration
In some cases, you can submit all the necessary documents online.
What Does It Cost to Get a DBA?
The fees you have to pay to file your DBA vary from state to state and range from $5 to $125 with the average being $35. Depending on where you live, you will need to renew your DBA every 3 to 10 years and publish it in a local newspaper.
How Long Does It Take to Set Up a DBA?
Most offices will be able to complete your registration between 1 and 2 weeks. Nonetheless, sometimes, there might be several demands to check and accept, and waiting times can be extended to 4 weeks. Therefore, it is crucial to set up your business name ASAP, ideally straight after incorporating your company. So, you can start trading sooner.
Is a DBA a Legal Entity?
No, a DBA is not a legal identity. Therefore, when you set up a DBA, the state will not create a different business identity than your current one. A DBA will not offer you liability and personal assets protection at a federal or state level. Simply, a DBA is another name for your business that you prefer to use for marketing and branding purposes.
What Is an Example of a DBA?
When learning how to create a DBA, the jargon can make it confusing. However, a fictitious name is just a name that a business owner will use instead of the incorporated business name.
For example, suppose that business owner John Smith registers his company as an LLC with the name Smith’s Food Service Inc. While that’s a fine name for a business, it might not be ideal for branding purposes. So, the owner might decide to file a DBA as “John’s Kitchen” which can better communicate the brand’s personality.
What Happens If You Don’t File a DBA?
In some states, filing a DBA is mandatory, and it is crucial to do so following the state’s precise guidelines. Indeed, a mistake in the registration process can end up in fraud claims.
However, even in the states where it is not necessary to file a DBA, you might still consider during so if:
- You don’t wish to operate under your name if you are a sole proprietor or partner
- Your corporation wants to develop another line of products without having to set up a new business
- You don’t want to pay additional taxes associated with setting up another business
In some cases, a DBA is required to open a business bank account.