DBA Registration Levels

To do business under a DBA, you must complete and file the appropriate forms and pay a filing fee. By doing so, you will receive a DBA certification. Depending on where your business is located, you may be able to file with a local or county clerk's office, a state agency, or both. In order to ensure the DBA registration process goes smoothly, you will need to verify all the relevant local governing authorities and confirm the specific requirements for your business based on its entity type.

Where Do You File for a DBA?

DBA filing requirements depend on the state in which your business is located. Your entity type also plays a role in the parameters you must follow to comply with state or local regulations. You may need to provide forms of verification or a certificate of good standing when applying for your DBA. Some agencies allow online filing, and some require notarized documents to be mailed in. Additionally, some states and counties mandate announcing DBA filings in local newspapers or publications for the benefit of the general public.

Once you file your application, you will need to pay any associated fees. Accepted forms of payment vary. Some states or counties let you pay the filing fee by debit or credit card; others require a money order or cashier's check.

The time it takes a county clerk's office or state office to process a DBA filing can vary. In many states, the fictitious name registration lasts for a limited time and must be renewed, or it will expire. Five years is a common term; however, every state is different. If the DBA name is essential to your business, be sure to file for renewal before the expiration. You will likely renew with the same governing agency to which you submitted your initial application.

You also need to be aware of circumstances that prompt a new filing. Most states require new filings if there is a change in the information outlined in the original fictitious name filing, such as the business address, the legal name, or a change in officers, partners, or members. In some states, amendments are filed. In others, a whole new registration is required.

Which Regulatory Agencies Manage DBA Filings?

In the majority of US states, the process of using this alternative name is more complicated than you might think. On one hand, some states don't require you to register your name at all. Some require you to register it with the state, county, and locality. Some states require you to get state approval on your name and then use it in a printed publication. Some have entirely different rules based on what type of entity you operate. Keep reading to learn more about the individual levels of DBA registration.

State Registration

The majority of states require some degree of filing for DBAs. Filing is likely to be completed with the Secretary of State. However, 14 states have no filing requirements whatsoever. These include:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • New Mexico
  • Nebraska
  • Ohio
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

County Registration

Many states require county-level filing in place of, or in addition to, state-level filing. To a certain extent, this is required based on what type of entity you have, with sole proprietorships and general partnerships requiring county clerk filing most often.

Some states check for the uniqueness of the name; others simply require that the name be registered with the government for record-keeping. Some actually provide exclusive naming rights for your fictitious business name. The 19 states that require county-level filing in addition to or instead of state-level filing include:

  • Arkansas
  • California*
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia

*Only for Out of State Businesses

City Registration

The final government body you may have to file your fictitious business name with is the city. There are only three states that require city-level government filing in addition to or instead of county-level & state-level filing. These are:

  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Rhode Island

Outsource Your DBA Management to Harbor Compliance

Determining where and how to file your DBA can be challenging. If you are looking to outsource your DBA filings, Harbor Compliance can help. With our Managed DBA services, you can expect:

  • Worry-Free Compliance. Forget navigating state websites, agonizing over government forms, and tracking renewal due dates. Leave the paperwork to us.
  • Responsive Service. Our one-day onboarding, precision file preparation, and expedited filing options set the bar for prompt, responsive service.
  • Total Solutions. In addition to DBA management, our specialists can manage entities, business licensing, tax registration, and more.

With Harbor Compliance, you're partnering with a team of compliance specialists who understand your goals and can manage the regulatory tasks to get you there. Contact us today to learn more.

Continue reading “Advantages of Filing a DBA”