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DBA FAQ's


What is the difference between a fictitious business name and a DBA "doing business as" name?

There’s no difference between a fictitious business name and a DBA. A fictitious business name is often referred to as a DBA, an assumed business name or a trade name.

If I have an LLC or corporation, am I required to file a DBA under that name as well?

The articles of incorporation or organization are enough for official name registration and business name transactions with financial institutions provided that the entity uses its legal name. A DBA is simply a name statement registered with the state and not an official business formation like a corporation or an LLC. If your business is incorporated or organized under state law, you only have to register a DBA if you operate your business under a name other than its legal name as filed with the state.

If I am running a sole proprietorship under my personal name, do I need to file a DBA?

No. DBA filings are only required when you are operating a sole proprietorship or partnership under a name other than your personal legal name. For example, if your name is John Smith and you are operating or desire to operate a sole proprietorship as “John Smith Plumbing Services,” or a partnership as "Smith & Associates Plumbing," then you would not need to file a DBA to conduct business under that name. However, if you are a sole proprietorship, you must file a DBA to legally be called “Smith and Associates Plumbing.”

Are others allowed to use my business name if I have a DBA?

In most states, DBAs, unlike corporations or LLCs, do not guarantee exclusive use of a name. In most cases, the state or county will file any correctly prepared fictitious business name statement, regardless of name conflict.

What are the DBA publication requirements?

State law differs regarding the need for DBA publication. Generally speaking, when publication is required, the DBA statement must be published once a week, in a specific newspaper that posts legal notices, for a duration of four consecutive weeks.

Publication is included in the LegalZoom filing process. LegalZoom will publish your statement for the required length of time, in the appropriate newspaper, and advise you of the final steps to take.

Do I need to wait until my DBA has been filed to operate my business and open a bank account?

You should not be conducting business under your fictitious business name until you have filed the DBA statement. In addition, most banks will not allow you to open a bank account until they have seen proof of the filed DBA.

When you are doing business under a company name, you need a company bank account to accept payments for the company. Banks have restrictions about not accepting or cashing company checks using your personal account.

Every bank is different. Most banks have policies and requirements in regards to a DBA statement. If you experience a bank employee who will not accept your DBA statement, you may want to try a different branch or bank. Make sure to keep the original copy for your records in case you need it for future business transactions.

How will I know if my business name is already being used? Will you perform a name check before filing my DBA form?

Some states do require a name check before filing a DBA form. Our partner, LegalZoom, will only do a name check if your state requires a name check before filing a DBA statement. In this case, LegalZoom will conduct a name search at no extra charge and advise you if your name is currently being used. You may then decide whether you wish to proceed with the filing or try a different name.

What is a DBA?

DBA is an abbreviation for “doing business as.” Certain jurisdictions may use the terms fictitious business name, trade name or assumed name instead of DBA. DBA registration is necessary if your business operates under a name other than its legal name. The legal name of a corporation, LLC, or other state registered entity is the name on the articles filed with the state, and for all others the personal name of the business owner or owners. Conducting business and opening a bank account under a name other than the legal name of your business is only possible after you have fulfilled your state’s DBA filing requirement.

Using your DBA

The most significant use of a DBA is the ability for a sole proprietorship to open a business bank account and collect money using a name other than its legal name.

In many cases, more than one business can operate under the same DBA, and therefore, there is no protection or exclusivity offered by operating solely under a “doing business as” name. When registering your DBA, you may also find that there is a corporation, LLC, sole proprietorship, or other business entity using the same or a similar business name.

DBA Requirements

A DBA statement must generally be filed before using your DBA in the operation of your business, and in some cases within 30-40 days of your first business transaction. In addition, there are several states that require publishing your DBA statement in a local newspaper, and then filing proof of publication with the proper government office. The objective of publication is to inform the public of new businesses in the area, their legal name and ownership.

A DBA name may not contain any word or corporate ending that implies it is anything other than a DBA, unless the DBA is being filed for a corporation, LLC or other state registered entity. For example, if Joe Smith operates a sole proprietorship under “ABC Plumbing,” he cannot file a DBA as “ABC Plumbing, Inc.” In order to have the title of corporation or LLC you would have to form and file such an organization with the appropriate state agency.

What is a Corporation?

A corporation is a distinct legal entity created under state laws which can open a bank account, purchase property, enter into contracts and operate a business. One of the most important features of a corporation is that generally, its owners are not personally liable for the debts of the corporation.

What is an LLC?

A limited liability company, or LLC, is an entity created under state laws which has characteristics of both a corporation and a partnership. Like a corporation, the owners of an LLC are not personally liable for the debts of the LLC. Like a partnership and sole proprietorship, an LLC has operating flexibility and is a pass-through entity for tax purposes. This means that the profits of the LLC are passed through and taxable to the owners of the LLC.

*Point of origin credit for this file is given to LegalZoom.com, Inc., a registered and bonded legal document assistant, #0104, Los Angeles County. LegalZoom.com is not a law firm and is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.

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Disclaimer: Please note that DBAform.com and LegalZoom's legal documentation service is not a law firm, does not act as your attorney and is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Rather, it helps you represent yourself in your own legal matters. If you seek representation, are involved in litigation or have complex legal issues that cannot be resolved on your own, we recommend that you hire an attorney.