Are you operating as a sole proprietor?! If you are, and you haven't filed a DBA application with your state or county, this blog is for YOU!
Who should file a DBA?
Now, most people that ask me about DBA's start with the question, "Who Needs to File a DBA?" First off, a DBA means that you are "Doing Business As” another name. So, if you are a sole proprietor that is using a name that is different from your own legal name (i.e. my personal name is Paige Griffith and I am d/b/a/ "The Legal Paige"), then you want to file a DBA with your state. Also, if you are a LLC, and you are operating an extension of your business under a name that is different then the legally registered LLC name (i.e. you biz is called Christa's Corner, LLC but you also sell things online as "christasonlinecorner.com" then you will want to file a DBA.
Why should I file a DBA?
People often wonder why the heck a DBA is even necessary. The main reason is because its the only way to be 100% legal as a sole proprietor. I cannot tell you how many small businesses have come to me operating as a sole proprietorship, but have not filed ANYTHING with their state. They are honestly operating their business in a vacuum without any legalities lined up.
So, first things first, you are required to file a DBA in your state and/or county if you are using a name other than your official personal name.
Second, it is often required to have a DBA if you want to set up a business bank account. Although some banks do not require it and you may use your social security number, I STILL recommend getting a DBA to be official with your state.
Third, is your legitimacy. Although some businesses still find a DBA to be unnecessary, I find it highly necessary to be legit. Its one of the only ways to register your name as a sole proprietor with your state. So, it will ultimately help you grow, expand, and be an official biz in the eyes of your customers and other businesses in your area.
How to file a DBA
Are you reading this post and thinking, "Okay, Paige, I'm ready to file a DBA!" Then, next step is to go to your state's Secretary of State's website and look for "File a DBA" or "File a Trade Name" or "File a Fictitious Name". Many small business owners don't know that a DBA is the same thing as a fictitious name or a trade name. So, don't overlook those on your state's website!
Then, simply follow the steps online to register. Most all states have the ability to register a DBA online, and it should online be about $20-$100.
Do I register with my state or county?
In some states, you register your DBA with you 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 Montana, its more likely that its handled at the state level. If you're in a bigger urban area, its likely its 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.
Is a fictitious business name the same as a DBA?
Yes. The name varies by state. A DBA name is sometimes also called an assumed business name or trade name.
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, as you operate your business day-to-day. So, if your business is called Paige Griffith, LLC but you operate as "The Legal Paige", then you should file a DBA.
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.
Can someone else register the same name?
Yes. A DBA is not a trademark. So, some states will register businesses that have the same name as yours. If you want to protect the name itself, you will want to look into filing a state trademark application or a federal trademark application.