What Is a DBA Name?

A Doing Business As (DBA) is a formalized, legal nickname for a business or company. Also known as a trade name, fictitious name, or assumed name, it allows you to conduct business under a name other than your legal business name. However, a DBA isn't required to form or run a business. It is an assumed or fictitious business name that is sometimes used by sole proprietors, partnerships, LLCs, and corporations for branding purposes.

What Is the Purpose of a DBA?

The purpose of a DBA is to give the public a way to identify the actual owners of a business. It is important to note that DBAs are not separate legal entities from their parent organization and do not serve as a business structure. DBAs also do not provide asset or liability protection to a business.

What motivates a sole proprietorship to opt for an assumed name is different from what motivates a corporation or LLC. However, some of the most common reasons why businesses use a DBA include the following:

  • They do not want to do business under their personal name.
  • They want a unique name.
  • Their bank requires a DBA to open a business bank account.
  • Their company is entering a new line of business not reflected by their current name.
  • They want to strengthen their business' credibility or improve their online visibility.

Your choice to pursue a DBA will vary depending on your legal business entity type, what kind of business you're in, and your growth strategies. We strongly advise speaking with your accountant or attorney to determine whether a DBA registration is the right choice for your business. Should you decide it is, Harbor Compliance can assist you with managing your DBA filing.

DBA Name State Requirements

Most states require companies using an assumed name to register. There are no limits to the number of DBAs or assumed names you can use. However, the law in most states is that unless the DBA name is registered, which is done by making a filing in the state, a person can only do business under their registered name. Corporations and LLCs can only do business under the name on their formation document.

The majority of states that require registration of assumed names also require renewal of assumed name registration. Typically assumed names need to be renewed every five years, but other states have renewal cycles ranging from one to ten years.

In addition to state filing requirements, some states also have county-level assumed name registration requirements. Depending on the legal structure of your business, a business may need to register an assumed name with the state and county, or just the county. Sole proprietorships and general partnerships are more likely to require a county-level assumed name registration than other business structures.

If you're planning to grow your business into additional states, you'll also need to foreign qualify in each respective state. Every corporation, LLC, or other statutory business entity is prohibited from doing business in a state without being qualified. There are penalties if you don't comply. Your legal name in the states where you qualify will be the name on your company's certificate of authority. If you want to use a different name, you will have to register your DBA name in that state by filing the appropriate documents.

Outsource Your DBA Management to Harbor Compliance

Your business name is a valuable asset that you want to protect. Using a DBA name can be an important part of your business strategy. If so, making the appropriate filing to register the DBA name and ensuring the registration does not expire is crucial.

Launching and continually securing your state and county trade names requires more than half-measures and partial solutions. 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 entity registration, 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.

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