When running a limited liability company (LLC), you may find that you need to register for a DBA, or “doing business as.” In this article, we will look at the basics of a DBA, how to get a DBA, and why an LLC might need to operate under a fictitious name.
What is a DBA?
A DBA allows your LLC to conduct business under a name that is different than its legal business name, or the one you selected when the LLC was formed. You may see these called fictitious business names, alternative business names, assumed names, or trade names. Generally, business entities can file for as many DBAs as needed.
You might need a DBA because you:
- Are changing the products you sell and your old business name no longer applies
- Want to update your business name to better reflect your services
- Need to purchase a web domain and the best match for your existing business name is not available
- Formed your LLC under your personal name and want to use a business name instead
- Will be applying for a business bank account that requires you to have a DBA
Regardless of why you need to do business under a different title, a DBA allows your existing LLC to keep legally operating with a new name. Keep in mind that a DBA does not form a new legal business entity or change the business structure of your current LLC.
How Do You Choose a DBA Name?
Before you select a DBA name for your LLC, make sure to check your state’s naming guidelines. Once you are aware of those rules, start thinking about how your new business name might reflect on your products or services. Keep your marketing efforts in mind and consider names that stand out and are easy to market. It’s also a good idea to perform a DBA name search and make sure that you aren’t considering names that are already taken. Once you’ve narrowed down your list, be sure to check for domain name availability before you make your final selection.
How Do You File a DBA?
Once you have a DBA name selected, you will want to explore how to get a DBA in your area. The DBA filing process varies from state to state and you’ll need to check with your state’s DBA filing guidelines to find the relevant DBA forms and filing fees.
The process may be as simple as filling out and submitting a form, but some states have more complicated requirements to qualify for a DBA. You might have to show proof that your business is in good standing or even publish a notice of your new DBA in a local newspaper for a specified period of time to show that the name change is legitimate.
In most cases, you will have to pay a filing fee when you file a DBA and those rates vary among states. You’ll also want to check with your state’s guidelines to determine if you are required to file your DBA with a local county clerk’s office or a higher-level state agency. Most states have options to apply for online filing. Once you get approved, you will also want to check and see if your LLC is in a state that requires your DBA to be renewed after a period of time.
Who Needs to Register a DBA?
A DBA is recommended for any limited liability company that wants to do business under a name that is not its legal name. A DBA is common when an LLC is formed under someone's personal name and wants to operate the LLC under a business name, but there are a number of other reasons why a business owner might file a DBA. Many states have penalties for any registered business that operates under an unapproved fictitious name, so it's a good idea to file for one no matter where you do business. A DBA does not establish a new legal entity.
What Are the Benefits of a DBA?
Perhaps the best feature of a DBA is that it allows you to keep the business structure and protections of your existing LLC while doing business under a different name. This option can help you build a new brand, make it easier for customers to find you, and allow you to offer expanded products and services with your LLC. A DBA can also help you qualify for a business bank account and enter into contracts with other businesses that require them.
What States Require a DBA?
The following 38 states require any LLC that wants to do business under a fictitious business name to file a DBA. Keep in mind that even though your state may not be included, there could be county-level requirements for DBAs in your area.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Washington, DC
- West Virginia
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