Choosing a business name is one of the first things you need to consider when you start a business. If you decide to incorporate a business as a corporation or LLC, you need to give your business legal entity a name. Even if you don’t decide to incorporate, you should still give your business an official name by filing a “Doing Business As” (DBA) form to protect your rights, make it possible to get a business bank account and build your credibility with customers.
What is a “Doing Business As” (DBA) Filing?
“Doing Business As” forms, or DBAs, are official business filings that provide notice to the public of the true owner of a business (in case the identity would not otherwise be known from the name of the business itself). DBAs are sometimes called Fictitious Business Names (FBNs), assumed business names or trade names. To help notify the public, many jurisdictions require that the FBN or DBA be published in the legal notices section of a newspaper meeting specific requirements over a specified time period.
Which types of businesses need to file a “Doing Business As” (DBA)?
A “Doing Business As” (DBA) must be filed anytime you are operating a business using a name that is different from your own name if you are a sole proprietor or general partnership, or that is different from your company name if you are operating your business through a corporation or a limited liability company.
For example, if Jane Doe is operating a cookbook store called “Jane Doe’s Cookbooks,” then she would not need to file a DBA. If Jane were calling her bookstore “Books for Cooks,” then she would need to file a DBA because her business name is different from her actual name. If her company name was Books for Cooks, Inc. then she could use the “Books for Cooks” name without a separate DBA filing, since she has already incorporated the business under that name.
When do you need to file a “Doing Business As” (DBA)?
“Doing Business As” (DBA) should be filed before you start conducting business using the fictitious business name. Some jurisdictions allow you to file a DBA within a short time period of first using the name. However, since you usually need a DBA before you open a business bank account or use your business name in contracts, it is best to get the DBA done upfront.
Where do you need to file a “Doing Business As” (DBA) – at the state or county level?
Where the filing should be made depends on the state where you are conducting your business. DBAs are usually filed at the state or county level. In addition, some jurisdictions have a publication requirement – meaning that when you file your DBA, you need to give public notice by publishing an official announcement of your business name in an approved newspaper. For example, the requirement may be that the DBA be published once per week for a period of four weeks in a specific newspaper in the legal notices section. Of course, specific publication requirements vary, and there may be additional fees or costs involved with buying space in the newspaper.
How can a “Doing Business As” (DBA) filing help your business?
Filing a “Doing Business As” (DBA) will help keep you in compliance with the law, and makes it possible to open bank accounts and receive payments in the name of your business. Most banks will not allow you to open an account without receiving a copy of your filed DBA.
For those business owners who have decided not to incorporate or form a limited liability company, filing a DBA allows them the freedom to use a business name that helps market the products and services of the business and to create a professional business identity separate from their personal identity.
Is a “Doing Business As” (DBA) the same thing as a trademark?
No. A DBA gives you certain benefits, but it does not protect your use of your business name from others. For that, you would need to seek separate trademark protection.
Can I use “Inc.” “Co.” or “LLC” in my “Doing Business As” (DBA) filing?
No. One of the few limitations on which types of business names you can choose with a DBA filing is that you cannot use a name that contains words or abbreviations that would make it sound like it is a corporate entity. This means you cannot use Corporation (or Co.), Incorporated (or Inc.), or LLC in your DBA name.
This limitation is to prevent businesses from using DBAs to create a misimpression about the ownership structure or corporate status of the business. In some jurisdictions, you must do a name search to make sure your name is not already being used. In other places, no such search is required (and someone else may be using the exact same name).
If your name is important to the business, we recommend that you conduct a business name search and search for existing trademarks prior to filing a DBA. CorpNet offers a free business name search that you can use to make sure that your chosen business name is available for your use, to avoid any complications or disputes with other businesses.
How can CorpNet help you file a “Doing Business As” (DBA)?
Since exact filing and publication requirements vary from state to state and county to county, you may wish to have CorpNet handle your DBA filing, including checking to see if the name you want to use is already in use (where that is a requirement to making a filing), filling out the forms based on information that you provide, filing the form, and publishing the name in the right newspaper for the right length of time (where required).
Once you give us the necessary information, we prepare the DBA documents for you. If the appropriate jurisdiction for your filing requires a name search, we will do that for you. After you sign the DBA forms, we file them and, for those states with a publication requirement, we work directly with the newspapers to meet that requirement on your behalf. Using CorpNet can save you both time and money with service that is fast, reliable and affordable. And remember, our services are backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee. We make everything easy for you so that you can focus on what you do best – running your business!
Talk to CorpNet today about how we can help you with your DBA forms and other business filings – contact us for a free business consultation.
Naming your business doesn’t have to be time-consuming or complicated. You can get all the help you need to make your business “official” and protect your legal rights by filing a DBA form to give your business a name.
And if you’d like to find out which business structure is right for you and your small business, find out now and Take the quiz!
Filing Papers Photo via Shutterstock
After I read this article, I found the paperwork to file a DBA with my county recorder. I didn’t know this needed to be done. Thanks.
I already have an LLC for my event planning company. I am looking to branch into other business ventures unrelated to event planning. I was reading the article “How To Set Up and Structure Multiple Businesses” and I believe that option 2 “Option 2: Create One Corporation/LLC and Have Multiple DBAs Under the Main Corp/LLC” might be best for me. However, does that mean I should create a new “parent company” and then make my existing company a DBA? Or should I change the name of my existing company to make it the “parent” and then make my existing and new company DBAs under that?
I didn’t know that DBAs are official business filings that provide notice to the public of the true owner of a business. I guess that helps protect people from fraudulent fictional business based scams. DBAs sound really useful for maintaining brand recognition.