A DBA is an acronym for “doing business as," and can be used by any business owner, including an S Corporation, to distinguish the business’s products and services from its competitors. Any type of trade name, fictitious name or assumed name used for a business is generally referred to as a DBA. To add a DBA to your S-Corp, you must follow the requirements of the state law where your S-Corp was formed. Most states require registration of a DBA with a government agency, with some states further requiring publication of the DBA in an approved newspaper.
Review the requirements for registering a DBA in the state where your S-Corp was formed. For most states, this information is available from the Secretary of State's office or county clerk's office. The U.S. Small Business Administration's website provides links to state agencies providing DBA filing requirements.
Choose a DBA name that is suitable for registration by searching an available DBA name database. For example, the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk's office and Florida Department of State provide online search engines to review their existing DBA records to determine if a name is available. Also choose a name that does not violate DBA naming rules that typically prohibit using such words as "corporation," "incorporated," and "limited," or abbreviations of such words, as part of a DBA name.
Prepare the appropriate DBA registration form provided by your state or local government agency where the DBA is filed. In addition to the DBA name, the information required to complete the form will include the name and address of your S-Corp, as well as a brief description of the business activities associated with the DBA.
File the completed form with the required governmental agency, such as the secretary of state, county clerk or, in a few states, the county court. All states charge a fee for filing the form, with the current amount typically printed on the form.
Publish a notice regarding the filing of the DBA according to the requirements of your state. For example, California law requires that a DBA filing be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the county where the business is located. The notice must be published for four consecutive weeks -- at least one time a week.
Repeat the DBA filing process in every locality where your S-Corp will use the DBA, if your state requires local registration, such as with a city or county agency.
Tips & Warnings
Three states -- New Mexico, Kansas, and Mississippi -- do not have a requirement or procedure for registering a DBA.
Consider using an online legal documentation service to prepare, file and publish your S-Corp's DBA.
States that require DBA registration typically require renewal of the registration on a regular basis. For most states, a DBA registration is valid for five years. However, DBA registration can be valid for as long as 10 years, such as in Texas, and as short as one year, such as for a sole proprietorship or general partnership in Colorado. If you fail to renew your DBA registration before it expires, you risk having a competitor register your DBA and prevent you from renewing it.
References & Resources
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Register Your Fictitious or "Doing Business As" (DBA) Name
- Vermont Secretary of State: Getting Started With a Trade Name or Sole Proprietorship
- Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk: Fictitious Business Name
- Florida Department of State: Fictitious Name Search
- Gwinnett Superior Court: Trade Name Registration
- Arizona Secretary of State: Tradenames and Trademarks Questions and Answers
- Alabama Secretary of State: Application To Register Trademark, Service Mark Or Trade Name In Alabama
- Texas Secretary of State: Form 503 — General Information (Assumed Name Certificate)
- Colorado Secretary of State: Business FAQs
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