What Is a DBA?
A DBA stands for “doing business as” and is a registered name you give your business (or part of your business) that is different from its legal registered name.
DBAs are typically filed with the Secretary of State or other entity that governs business formation in your state. If your business operates in multiple states, you'll likely need to file in them all. It’s easier than it sounds — you can even do it online. We’ve got you covered on all the dirty details.
Who Needs a DBA?
If you’re a sole proprietorship or partnership, you’ll likely need a DBA. That’s because you’re unincorporated, so you didn’t file entity formation papers or choose a business name. Your legal name will be your business name unless you file a DBA.
S and C corporations, LLCs and limited partnerships typically don’t need a DBA if they’re happy with their chosen business name when they formed their legal entities. Check with your state and city to be sure of
Franchise owners, who typically have LLCs or corporations, may want to file a DBA to indicate they’re operating business under the franchise’s umbrella.
Other Terms for a DBA
You might also see DBA listed by a few other names, including:
Why File a DBA?
There are four key benefits business owners should pay attention to.
A DBA for each location your business operates in allows them to hold distinctly separate names under the same umbrella company (for example, “Cassidy’s Cookies New York” and Cassidy’s Cookies LA”).
Say you’re a jack-of-all-trades and run many businesses all under your name. Use multiple DBAs to clarify what your product offerings are (for example, “Cassidy’s Cookies” and “Cassidy’s Cakes”).
Maybe you registered your LLC under a name that doesn’t quite fit your vibe anymore. Target your audience better by creating a DBA that aligns more with your new branding as your company evolves (rather than forming a new LLC).
When you form a business, it automatically takes on the name of the business owner unless you file as a certain legal entity (like an LLC or S or C Corporation). A DBA allows you to legally separate your name from your business’s name so you can maintain privacy.
How to File a DBA
Find Out What Entity Controls Business Formation
Usually this is the Secretary of State. However, sometimes this is
done at the county level. If that’s the case, make sure you register
your DBA in each county you operate in.
Download, Fill Out and Send the Online Form
Visit the relevant website and find the section on DBA, trade, fictitious or assumed names. With any luck, you’ll be able to do this digitally - although some systems are woefully outdated and require faxing or mailing.
Pay the Filing Fee
Filing fees vary by state and depend on whether you’re
registering for an LLC, corporation or other entity.
Ensure Your Business Name Is Protected
A DBA by itself won’t protect your business name. Forming an
LLC or corporation is one of the best ways to secure the legal
name of your business, but if you want to take an extra step, it
may be worth trademarking your business name. We can help
Our low-cost Trademark Search and Registration service makes it easy to protect your DBA.
File Your Taxes
Whether or not you have a DBA, you’ll need to file taxes. The
method and frequency of this depend on your business structure.
DBA vs. LLC
The main difference between a DBA and an LLC is that an LLC is a legally registered business entity, while a DBA is like a formal nickname for an already existing business.
Why Use an LLC?
We talk a lot about LLCs. They provide legal protections for the business owner, separating their personal assets from the business’s assets. LLC owners aren’t required to file a DBA.
Why Use a DBA?
Since a DBA is just a nickname for your business, it doesn’t provide the same legal protections as an LLC. You are not protected under a DBA alone — you’ll need to form a business entity first.
States That Allow DBA Filing
Choose your state below to view specific DBA requirements, including fees, length of approval, forms needed and where to file. It’s that easy.
Select your state above.
And see results over here
$30 to $150 depending on the year of filing; see state guidelines for details
Yes, in a local qualified Legal Newspaper for two consecutive issues
Trade name (for business entities) or fictitious name (for individuals)
Assumed business name
If the registration includes an individual then notice must be published in two local papers, one of which must be a legal publication
Fictitious business name
Assumed business name
$5 trade name fee, plus a $19 general filing fee