How to File for DBA? – File a DBA (Guide)
Form an LLC & File for DBA Quick and Hassle-Free
The term DBA stands for ‘Doing Business As’, but why would you need one for your business, and what purpose does it serve?
What Is a DBA?
Every business out there has a legal name. This can either be the name that it is registered with, in the case of a sole limited liability company or other statutory entity, this is the one that is on its formation document. Alternatively, is you have a sole proprietorship or a partnership, then the business name is the name of the business owner or owners.
Although this is the legal business name, if the company does business under another name, then this is known as a DBA name. A company is allowed to have as many DBAs as they feel like they need, but in most states, unless that name is registered, the company can only do business under their legal name.
Just remember that if you register a DBA before you form an LLC, corporation or other legal entity type, then the state is going to see you as a sole proprietorship.
What a DBA is Not?
You should be very aware of the fact that a DBA is not a legal business entity, it is a name that has been attached to a business entity. Doing business under a DBA name is not the same as forming a business.
So How Do You Register a DBA Name?
You can’t just suddenly decide that you want to use a DBA name and then start doing it, there is a process involved, as well as a fee.
There are forms you have to fill out, and how you go about this varies state by state. Some will require you to fill out the forms and file with the local or county clerks office, while some will require you to file them with a state agency, while others will let you file it with both. Just make sure where you need to be filing the paperwork for the state you are in or the state you will be conducting business in. Different business typed also have different requirements, so be sure you have completed all the necessary steps for your business type.
Once you have completed all the necessary procedures, you will receive a fictitious name certificate, and you can then start to use your DBA name.
Other procedures you should be aware of:
Step 1: Do a preliminary DBA name search
The first step of the process would be to do a preliminary DBA name search. You have to first check that your desired DBA name is still available, much like when you were choosing the original name for your business. Jot down a few names you like that fit your brand and then log onto the Secretary of State’s website for the state that you a doing business in and use the search to see if your desired names are still available. At this point you could also do a quick domain search to see if any of them are available to purchase.
Some states will hold your name for you for 120 days for a small fee, which is ideal if you are not ready to file yet, but do not want to lose the name to another company. You could also consider trademarking your DBA name, or at least seeing if there are any existing trademarks in your name. Be sure to check your state’s regulations to ensure you are not breaking any rules when it comes to naming regulations.
Step 2: Application filing
Once you have picked your name and checked that it is available, it is time to file it. Be aware that some states may list this as filing for an assumed name, fictitious name or trade name. Find the correct form on the Secretary of State’s website, fill it out and submit it online. The whole process will not take very long. You could also mail the form. Most states will also charge a small fee for the filing.
All you will need to fill out the form is your chosen DBA name and your company’s Employer Identification Number. If you don’t have an EIN you can use, then you could use your Social Security Number. Several states require you to register a DBA with more than one level of government. A sole proprietorship, for example, may have to file at the state and county level.
Step 3: Publication
Some states, but not all, will then require you to publish the name once it has been filed and approved. California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and Pennsylvania all require you to publish the name to the local newspapers, usually each week for four weeks, although this can vary from state to state.
Why Would You Need a DBA?
There are many reasons that companies would use a fictitious name rather than their legal name. The reasons greatly vary greatly depending on the business type, for example a sole proprietorship would use a DBA name for a different reasons than an LLC would.
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Are there any other names for a DBA?
You might hear the term DBA name also referred to as an assumed name, a fictitious business name or a trade name.
Why do I have to register a DBA name?
The main reason you need to register a DBA name is so that you can notify the public that your company is conducting business under a name that is not its legal name. This is so that the public is able to know who the actual owner of the business is when they buy from them or deal with them.
If I have an LLC, do I need a DBA name?
You don’t have to have a DBA name if you have an LLC, it is a choice you can make for your business if the situation requires it. There are a few reasons why it is beneficial and can open a range of opportunities for branding and marketing your business.
Can my DBA be used in other places, or is it protected?
Some states have laws that prevent DBAs from sounding too similar, so if there is one that already exists that is similar to your desired name, you may not be able to use it. This does vary from state to state, so it is always worth checking if this is the case. It is also possible to trademark a DBA if you wish to, as this would give your DBA even more protection, even over state lines.
Should a DBA name get a Tax ID or an EIN?
No, a DBA name cannot get an EIN or a Tax ID because the DBA name is not an actual business entity, the actual business behind the DBA is the one that requires the EIN.
How much will it cost to register a DBA name?
There a few different costs associated with registering a DBA name, although not all of them are mandatory. You’ll have to pay if you want to register your name, reserve your name, trademark you name, purchase a domain or publish your DBA name. The costs of each of these actions varies from state to state, and the publishing of a DBA name for example, is only required in certain states. The cost will also depend on factors such as if you decide to file online or by mail. You will also have to pay when you renew you DBA name, as it will expire after a while.
The fee for filing varies state by state, but usually is between $5 and $50, and on average it is about $20. It is always worth registering and paying this small fee, because the penalties and fees for failing to register can sometimes add up to several thousand dollars.
How long will it take to get a DBA name?
Once you begin to use the name, you will be required to file it within a period of time, usually within 30 to 60 days. Once you have filled out the paperwork, it will usually take between one and 4 weeks to file depending on the state and the circumstances.
Will I need to renew my DBA name?
Yes, all DBA names come with an expiration date, so if you wan to continue using it after this date is up, you will have to pay a fee to get it renewed. It is very important that you find out how long the DBA name registration lasts. Five years is the common term for a DBA to last.
Are there taxes associated with a DBA?
As a DBA is not actually a business entity, you don’t have to file a tax return specifically for a DBA. The business’ taxes are determined by the business structure, and each has specific filing requirements.
How many DBAs can I get?
There isn’t a limit to the number of DBAs you can get. It is important to note that each new DBA will cost you money and if you have too many, it may be too hard to keep track of. Each comes with additional incremental expenses and paperwork, so although DBAs can be beneficial, it is usually best not to have too many of them.
When do I have to do another filing?
Most states will require you to conduct a new filing if there is a change in information relating to your business. This could be the business address, the legal name of the business, or a change in members, officers or members. Some states just need the amendments to be filed, while other will require a whole new registration.