How to Register + Apply for a DBA Online

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How to Register + Apply for a DBA Online

Table of Contents

There are times in the life of your business when you may need to make a name adjustment. Often, instead of completely changing the name of your business, you can simply file for a DBA, or "Doing Business As." A DBA is commonly referred to as a fictitious business name, assumed business name, or trade name, depending on your state, but the goal is always the same — to allow you to conduct business under a name that's different from that of your registered business entity. Here, we'll outline how you can apply for a DBA online, why you might need one, and how much you'll need to pay. Let's dive in.

Not ready to form a business entity yet? Get a DBA instead.

How to File a DBA Online

When you formed your business, choosing a name was one of the first major steps in making things official. But on occasion, a situation may arise in which your original business name no longer meets your needs. However, the name of your business is no less important to your customers.

business-name-importance

Fortunately, when your business name requires a slight adjustment, you can do that by filing for a DBA online. You might decide to eliminate some of the paperwork by using a DBA service like Incfile's, or you can go directly through your state agency. Whatever you choose, the following steps will help you get your DBA registered in a flash.

Step 1: Find Your State's Governing Agency

Where and how you file your DBA online will vary depending on where your business is based and where you want to use your assumed business name. For instance, if you're expanding your business into a new location, you'll need to file the DBA in that county and/or state.

In many cases, you'll file the DBA with the same state agency that registered your legal business entity. Often, that's your Secretary of State. But in some cases, you'll need to file at the county or city level, either alongside or in lieu of state filing.

where-file-a-DBA

Always start with the state agency that handles business formation, and go from there. That department will then direct you to county offices, such as the County Clerk or city governance.

Step 2: Check Business Name Availability

Just as it was when you formed your business, you must choose a name that is not currently being used by another business in your location. Check with your state to refresh yourself with naming rules and regulations, then run a name search to make sure your selected name is available for use.

You can search your business name on the Secretary of State's website or your state's business formation agency website. However, in some states, you'll have to pay a fee every time you run a search. Save time and money by using Incfile's free Business Name Search Tool. We'll let you know if your name is available in the state you select.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when coming up with your DBA:

  • You may need to signify a particular location (e.g., Don's Heat & Air Repair, Indiana).
  • Remember that DBAs aren't trademarks, so other businesses in other states, counties, or cities may use them.
  • Keep the name short, memorable, and easy to pronounce and spell.
  • Consider that you might want additional DBAs for other service lines, so have a plan to keep those names relevant and consistent (e.g., Connie's Crafts, Connie's Fabrics, Connie's Home Decor, etc.).

If you need additional inspiration to spark creative ideas, try our Business Name Generator. Just enter keywords related to your business or industry, and browse the generated suggestions.

Step 3: Gather Information

Similarly to the business formation process, you'll need to gather some key information before you can apply for a DBA online. It's best to have all of these details assembled and ready before you begin the process so you don't need to scramble or try to remember anything on the fly. Here's what you'll need:

  • The names and mailing addresses of all of the members of your business
  • The entity type and nature of your business
  • The legal business name you registered when you formed your business

Once all of this information is compiled, you're ready to move on.

Step 4: File Your Forms

Now, you're ready to make things official. But be aware — there are some locations where you cannot file your DBA online, primarily in states that require you to file at the county or city level. In these instances, you may need to visit the office (county clerk or town clerk) in person or submit your forms by mail or fax.

Fortunately, that's not the case in most locations across the U.S., as nearly every state offers an online filing option. If you're uncertain, you can check our list of states that allow DBA filings and learn how you can complete the filing process, whether you choose to do it yourself or use our service.

Step 5: Pay Any and All Fees

Every state that permits a DBA to be filed requires you to pay a fee in order to do so. The fees vary from state to state, but they can also vary depending on the county or city in which you file. When determining what you'll spend on your DBA(s), you'll need to consider:

  • State filing fees (anywhere from $5-$150)
  • County or city filing fees (vary widely, and you may need to pay for both county/city and state)
  • Approval term and how frequently you'll need to renew your DBA
  • Differences in cost for filing online versus in-person or by mail

Remember that if you're filing multiple DBAs, the fees can add up quickly. In addition, if you're filing them all at once, you may also need to pay renewal fees at the same time.

Step 6: File Notice of Publication

Some states require you to publish an announcement about your DBA in your local newspaper. That announcement must run concurrently for a certain number of weeks (depending on the state) and then be filed with your state's governing agency. States requiring notice of publication include:

  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • Pennsylvania

If you're filing your DBA in one of the above states, be sure to learn the process for filing a notice of publication. Your DBA won't be officially recognized until after you file, so make sure to complete this crucial step before conducting business.

Step 7: Maintain Compliance

The biggest factor you need to keep in mind is the term of approval. In most states, DBAs expire after a certain time period (1-10 years, though 5 years is most common). You'll need to be prepared to file again when that deadline is near and pay all fees associated with the DBA again. Be sure you don't let the DBA lapse; you won't be able to continue doing business under that name if you let it expire.

Additionally, if any information about your business changes — such as an address, legal structure, or legal name — you may be required to file a new DBA or make an amendment to the existing one. Always be sure to check with your state's governing agency for full details.

Who Needs a DBA?

DBAs aren't typically required for most businesses, but they are extremely useful in many situations. Here are some of the business owners who may benefit from a DBA:

  • Sole proprietors who want to operate under a name that isn't their own, often to protect their privacy
  • Partners without a legal business entity who wish to conduct business under a name that doesn't include all of the partners' last names
  • A business (LLC or corporation) owner who wishes to expand to different geographic regions or into new service lines
  • Any business owner (whether in a legal business entity or not) who wants to do business under a different name than the one they've officially registered

Of course, you should also be aware that a DBA can't do it all. It is not a trademark, so it doesn't stop businesses outside of your immediate location from using it. It also is not an LLC or other legal business entity, so it can't offer you the same liability protection as forming a legal structure.

How Much Does It Cost to File a DBA Online?

One of your biggest questions at this point may be how much you'll have to pay to apply for your DBA online. As mentioned previously, the costs vary widely and may depend on your state, county, or city offices. You might also have to pay multiple fees in states that require filing at the state and county/city levels.

Check out what it will cost to file your DBA in your state here:

State

Filing Fee

Length of Term

AL

$30

5 years

AK

$25

5 years

AZ

$10

5 years

AR

$15-$25 (depends on entity type)

Indefinite

CA

Varies by county

5 years

CO

$20

1 year

CT

$10

Indefinite

DE

$25

Indefinite

FL

$50

5 years

GA

Varies by county

Indefinite

HI

$50

5 years

ID

$25

Indefinite

IL

$30-$150 (depends on year of filing)

5 years

IN

$30 ($26 for Nonprofits)

5 years

IA

$5

Indefinite

KS

Not permitted

Not permitted

KY

$20-$46

5 years

LA

$75

10 years

ME

$10-$125

Indefinite

MD

$25

5 years

MA

Varies by town

4 years

MI

$10 for Corp or limited partnership; $25 for LLC

5 years

MN

$30 by mail; $50 online

1 year

MS

$25

5 years

MO

$7

5 years

MT

$20

5 years

NE

$110 in-office; $100 online

10 years

NV

Varies by county

5 years

NH

$50

5 years

NJ

$50-$58

5 years

NM

Not permitted

Not permitted

NY

$25

Indefinite

NC

$26

Indefinite

ND

$25

5 years

OH

$39

5 years

OK

$25

Indefinite

OR

$50

2 years

PA

$70

Indefinite

RI

$50

Indefinite

SC

$10

5 years

SD

$10

5 years

TN

$20

5 years

TX

$25

10 years

UT

$22

3 years

VT

$50

5 years

VA

$10

Indefinite

WA

$5 trade name fee; $19 filing fee

Indefinite

DC

$55

2 years

WV

$25

Indefinite

WI

$15

10 years

WY

$100

10 years

Filing your DBA online is often a necessary step in the life of your business. Incfile is here to help you in the process with all the information you need to check on your state's DBA requirements, terms of approval, and associated fees so you can plan ahead. Better yet, we can even take care of the whole process for you.

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