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Doing Business As (DBA)

You may use a business name that is different from its legal registered name.

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Filing for a DBA

What does it mean to have a DBA?

A company is said to be "doing business as" when the name under which they operate their business differs from its legal, registered name. Some states require dba or fictitious business name filings to be made for the protection of consumers conducting business with the entity.

If you're starting a sole proprietorship or a partnership, you have the option of choosing a business name or dba ("doing business as") for your business. If you want to operate your business under a name other than your own (for instance, Carol Axelrod doing business as "Darling Donut Shoppe"), you may be required by the county, city or state to register your fictitious name. (Note: No fictitious business name may include the words "corporation," "Inc.," "incorporation" or "Corp." unless it's a corporation registered with the Secretary of State.)

Procedures for filing for a fictitious name vary among states. In many states, all you have to do is go to the county offices and pay a registration fee to the county clerk. In other states, you also have to place a fictitious name ad in a local newspaper for a certain amount of time. The cost of filing a fictitious name notice ranges from $10 to $100. Your local bank may also require a fictitious name certificate to open a business account for you; if so, they can tell you where to go to register.

In most states, corporations don't have to file fictitious business names unless the corporations do business under names other than their own. Incorporation documents have the same effect for corporate businesses as fictitious name filings do for sole proprietorships and partnerships.

The process of filing for a DBA

Where to file?

Depending on where your business has been formed or incorporated, you may need to file for your DBA at either the state, county, or possibly even the city level. It should also be noted that you would need to acquire a DBA to operate locally if your business was established in a foreign state.

How to file?

The first step when filing for a DBA is to do a preliminary check for name availability in the jurisdiction in which you will be filing. If the name is available, you will then need to fill out the required paperwork with the appropriate agency, and then pay any related fees. Some jurisdictions will also require that you publish a notice (or notices) of your company’s new alias.

What name should you use?

A DBA cannot be used to mislead the general public in any way. Because of this, you cannot use any terms that would lead the public to believe that you operate as a business structure under which you have not officially filed. For example, a sole proprietorship may not use the terms “company” or “incorporated” in its DBA, as this would send the message that the business was formally incorporated when it, in fact, is not.

Are there any publication requirements?

Some states do require that any business that acquires a DBA run a public notice in a local newspaper. Depending on where you are located, the exact details will vary. Our DBA filing service includes the fulfillment of any publications that your local jurisdiction requires.


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