How To File A DBA
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How To File A DBA

How To File A DBA


How to legally protect your new small business

November 01, 2008

By Elias Stassinos, Esq.

If you are starting a business, find out how to get a business license or how to get a dba. Keep in mind that you are required to obtain a DBA Business Name in California and in most states if your business name does not include your last name or if you incorporated or formed an LLC but you do business in a name different from the LLC or corporation name. 


By the way, our office currently does not file DBAs.  Even though we cannot guarantee worked performed by other services, we recommend using another service. There are several service companies you can use for DBA filing.  Click here for an inexpensive and professional DBA filing service.  However, keep in mind that neither our attorneys, nor our law office is responsible for services not rendered by our law office.

What is a "DBA" Name?

"DBA" means "Doing Business As...".  In using a DBA a person or a company is operating their business using a business name other than their real, actual name.  For example, John Jones starts a new business called "American Wholesale Jewelry". His business name is not his own name, thus he  must be registered a DBA.  However, let's say that John Jones does business as "John Jones wholesale", then a DBA is not required to be filed because the owner's legal personal last name can be ascertained within the DBA business name.

Likewise, if you incorporate or form an LLC and if your Corporation, or LLC, or any other corporate entity does business under a name other than the legal name of the Corporation or LLC filed under, then a DBA must be registered. If your Corporation's or LLC's name is "Advisors, Inc", and your corporation is doing business with the same corporate name "Advisors, Inc", you do not need a DBA.  However, if your "Advisors, Inc " corporation does business under the name "Biz Advisors" for instance, then the corporation or LLC must file a DBA.

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Can I Use Any Name or Word In My DBA Business Name?

Generally, you can use any word as part of your business name, such as "Landscape King", "American Nationwide Jewelry", "Day Care One" and so on. Your products, location, first or last name or any other name may be part of your DBA business name.  However, most states may not let you file a dba name with an "Inc.", "LLC" or any other similar suffix that denotes a corporate entity.  So, if you want a DBA after you incorporate or form an LLC select a name that does not include corporate suffixes. For example, if your corporation's legal name is "IDM, Inc" and you want to file a DBA of "IDM California, Inc" you will not be allowed to file it. However, if you file the exact same name without the "Inc." suffix, you can file it.

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Where Can I file my DBA registration?

The dba registration form asks for your own street address as well as the street address of your business. The business address can be your home or an office but you cannot use a PO box address. Therefore, the DBA will be filed in the State, County or City that your business is located. You need to have a business address in the State, County or City where you want to file your dba.  You can file a DBA in more than one location but only if you have an address in that location.  But since it does not help in any way to file multiple dbas in different locations, save your money to promote and use it to promote your business.

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 Do I have to sign my DBA application?

In most states, the owner's original signature is required.  So, if you are a sole owner filing a DBA, you must sign the DBA application as the business' sole proprietor. If you incorporate or form an LLC, and you desire to file a DBA for your Corporation or LLC, any one of the corporate officers or directors may sign.   Also, most states require that you  provide copies of filed Corporate Articles of Incorporation or LLC articles of Organization with the application, if you are filing under a corporation or LLC.  In the case of a General Partnership, all partners must sign whereas in a Limited Partnership only the general partner may sign.

 

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Are DBA regulations the same among different states?

No, laws, regulations, ordinances pertaining to starting a business and getting a DBA Business Name are different in almost all states. A DBA registration is required if your company’s name is other than your own legal name (for sole proprietors) or the corporation's or LLC's legal name (for corporations and LLCs). Banks require a DBA Certificate if you want to open a business Checking bank account.


If I incorporate or Form an LLC – Do I need to file a DBA for my corporation?


You need to file a dba if your corporation’s name is different from the name you doing business. Example: Your corporation’s name is "XYZ, Inc", and the corporation is doing business as “John's Auto Repair”.  You need to file a DBA under the corporation.

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What Do I Need a DBA for?

First, it makes you legal.  I.e., it helps you comply with the legal requirement that all person doing business under a name other than their legal name  have to file a DBA.  Second, it is a required filing to open a business checking bank account in the name of the business. Without a DBA registered, it will be almost impossible to open an bank account - banks will generally not open an business account without your filed copy of your DBA registration certificate. Note that some banks may also ask you for your business license.  On the other hand, if you form an LLC or Incorporate, you don't need to file a DBA.  When you see your banker, just show him your corporate certificate and he may not even ask you for a business license.
How many DBA names can I register?

In most states, there is no limitation to the number of DBA Business Names you can register. However, some states do ask you pay an additional fee for each name additional name filed and or file a new certificate for each name registered.  Because a DBA name is just a business name and not a new separate business, in most states you can file as many DBA names as you wish.  You can file one or more DBA names, or add new DBA names to an existing DBA Business Name. Keep in mind, however, that the government charges additional filing fees with each additional DBA Business Name registered.

What if I Incorporate, Form an LLC or Get a Business License.  Would I still Have to File a DBA?

Yes, you can incorporate or form an LLC and not file a DBA. If you do incorporate, you will not have to file a dba.  However, in most states, getting a business licenses does not relieve you from the requirement that you file a DBA.  Also, incorporating will not eliminate the requirement that you also get a business license. 


Do all states impose a requirement to get a DBA Business Name?

All states require a starting business to get a DBA Business Name. Note that your incorporation, forming an LLC or getting a tax id number is not the same as getting a DBA Business Name in California and in most states.  DBA registration is required if your company’s name is other than your own name (for sole proprietors) or its legal name (for corporations and LLCs). Banks require a DBA registration to open a business bank account.

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What information is included in DBA Business Name application?

Most DBA Business Name applications must contain the following information:

  • The name and address of the small business owner.
  • A description  of the small business starting business operations.
  • And various other information pertaining to the business or the business owner.

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What if I do not file a DBA Business Name?

Most states require a DBA Business Name filing.  In California and most other states, you are require to have a DBA Business Name before you start your business and there is a fine or in some states, may be a misdemeanor not to file it.

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By the way, our office currently does not file DBAs.  Even though we cannot guarantee worked performed by other services, we recommend using another service. There are several service companies you can use for DBA filing.  For example, Click here for an  inexpensive and professional service.  However, keep in mind that neither our attorneys, nor our law office is responsible for services not rendered by our law office.

    • All legal articles in this site are general and informative.  The articles or any other information on this site is not legal advice nor is any information warranted or guaranteed.   Laws change over time and in different localities and jurisdictions laws may be different from any laws mentioned on this site.  It is advisable that you consult a  attorney and or an accountant in the area where your business will be located.

    • Elias Stassinos, Esquire  is a trademark and incorporation attorney that has helped thousands of  small business owners and entrepreneurs launch their first business enterprise.  He's also an entrepreneur who operates several successful businesses not related to his law practice. 

    Copyright © E. Stassinos, Esq. 2005. All Rights Reserved.

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