Should I File a DBA?
Are you operating your business under a different name than your registered LLC name?! Or, are you operating your Sole Proprietorship under a different name than your legal personal name?! If you are, and you haven’t filed a DBA application with your state or county, this blog is for YOU!
What is a DBA?
“Doing Business As” aka “DBA” means that you are running your business under a different name than the name of your business. Sometimes when you start your business your bills and paperwork are under one name but the name that you advertise under is another name. For instance, if you are a sole proprietor that is using a name that is different from your own legal name you would have a DBA (i.e. your personal name is Lucy Perts and your DBA is “Lucy’s Lockets”). Additionally, if you are an LLC, and you are operating an extension of your business under a name that is different than the legally registered LLC name you would be using a DBA name (i.e. your biz is called Christa’s Corner, LLC but you also sell things online as “Christa’s Beautiful Belongings”). When you are operating a DBA under your LLC, this is often referred to as an alias.
Do I need to file my DBA?
People often wonder why the heck a DBA is even necessary. Operating under a DBA is a great way to separate your business name from your legal name if you are operating as a sole proprietorship. Additionally, having a DBA will ultimately help you grow, expand, and be an official business in the eyes of your customers and other businesses in your area because you are operating under a more official name.
Before you start operating under a DBA you need to register it with the state. I cannot tell you how many small businesses operate as sole proprietors but have not filed ANYTHING with their state and/or county. Here is the main thing you need to know as a sole proprietor: If you are operating your business with a name other than your legal given name you MUST file your DBA in your state and/or county.
How to file a DBA
Are you reading this post and thinking, “Okay, I'm ready to file a DBA!” Your next step would be to go to your state’s Secretary of State’s website and look for a button or link that says “File a DBA” or “File a Trade Name” or “File a Fictitious Name” or “File an Assumed Business name”. A DBA is the same thing as a fictitious name, assumed name, or trade name so just look for which term your state uses. Remember here that a DBA is not a business entity, it’s just the name you are doing business as. That is why these terms are interchangeable. Then, simply follow the steps online to register. Most states have the ability to register a DBA online through a user-friendly method and it should be about $20-$100.
Do I register with my state or county?
In some states, you register your DBA with your state’s Secretary of State or another similar state agency. But, registration may instead be handled at the county level. If you’re in a small state like Wyoming, it's more likely that it's handled at the state level. If you're in a bigger urban area, it's likely it's handled at the county level. So, double-check with your county office before you file anything! They both have different forms and fees for the process, so you don't want to be paying twice.
Does my LLC or corporation need a DBA?
You only need a DBA if you are using a different name then your official LLC name or your legal name as a Sole Proprietor. So, if your business is called Jane Doe, LLC but you operate as “Jane Doe Creative”, then you should file a DBA. Some businesses have multiple DBAs under their LLC. If this is the case you would need to file every single DBA you have under the LLC with the state.
Will filing a DBA affect my tax status?
No. Filing a DBA will not affect the status of the entity for tax purposes. Instead, the structure of the entity itself (Sole Proprietor, S-Corporation, LLC, etc.) will determine your business entity’s tax status.
Do bank accounts require a DBA?
Sometimes! Banks often require businesses to have a DBA if you want to set up a business bank account. But it's best to check with your bank here. Some banks do not require it and you may simply use your social security number.
Can someone else register the same name?
No. But this only applies to the fictitious name/assumed name/trade name. The main thing to know is that a DBA is not a state or federal trademark. If you want to protect the brand name itself on a state and/or federal level, you will want to look into filing a state trademark application or a federal trademark application. Click HERE to learn more about protecting your trademark.
If you are a sole proprietor and are ready to take your business to the next level, consider registering your business as an LLC. TLP is here to help you navigate the ins and outs of registering your business with our DIY LLC Registration Guides HERE. These guides will take you step-by-step through the process of registering your LLC all on your own. They include all necessary links, important definitions of terms you'll see while registering your LLC, additional information related to annual dues, and information to help you find any necessary licenses in your state and local county.
Learn more on the podcast HERE!
THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. EVERY SITUATION IS DIFFERENT & IS FACT-SPECIFIC. A proper legal analysis is necessary based on your location and contract. Consult an attorney in your home state for advice regarding your contract or specific legal situation.