Any type of business can use a DBA, or "doing business as," designation as long as the proper paperwork is filed with the state where the business is operating. However, if the business is only using a DBA, it is most likely operating as a sole proprietorship. A sole proprietor must file articles of organization with the state to covert the business into a limited liability company, or LLC, and inform the state that the DBA registration is to be transferred to the new company.
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Visit the business section of the website for the secretary of state or comparable government agency that handles business registrations in your state. Familiarize yourself with the different types of business resources the website provides. Business entities are formed under state law, and every state maintains a website portal with all the information a person would need to register a business with the state. Some states enable businesses to reserve DBAs through this business registration portal, so you may already be familiar with this state website.
Inform the state that you want to convert your DBA registration into a new LLC. Determine whether your state uses a form, sometimes called a conversion or transfer form, to convert a DBA registration to another entity. Each state has its own procedures for managing business entities. Check the “Forms and Fees” section of the website and see if anything is listed there pertaining to the transfer of a DBA. If you registered your DBA at the county level, call the county clerk’s office to find out how to transfer the DBA to a newly formed LLC. Some states have no official procedure for converting a DBA, and you will have to cancel the registration so the name will be available for use by the new LLC.
Download the articles of organization template for a domestic LLC from the “Forms and Fees” section of the state website. Each state makes available a fill-in-the-blank PDF form of articles of organization that comply with the requirements of state law. You are not required to use this form but using it ensures your filing will be accepted by the state.
Fill in the articles of organization with the basic business information requested by the form. Each state has different requirements for forming an LLC, but the form will at least request the name of the company, the name and address of a registered agent, and the name and signature of the person filing the paperwork. The state requires that each business operate under a unique name. This is why you must convert or release your DBA registration before filing the articles. The state will conduct a name search, and will reject your filing if there is another business operating in the state with the same name listed on the articles.
File the articles of organization with the state. The PDF form will include instructions for mailing, faxing or delivering the articles to the state office with the correct filing fee. Some states have an online electronic filing system that can be used to streamline the process. Call the state registration office directly before sending in your articles to find out what you should do. If the state rejects your articles, you will likely have to pay another fee to have a corrected document filed. Your business is considered to be converted to an LLC as of the date the state accepts and stamps your articles of organization.
Tips & Warnings
References & Resources
- Business.gov: Business Name Registration (Doing Business As)
- FindLaw: Forming an LLC
- FindLaw: Writing and Filing the Articles of Organization
- Citizen Media Law Project: Limited Liability Company
- IRS.gov: Limited Liability Company (LLC)
- Score.org: Business Tools
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Small Business Planner
- ABA Family Legal Guide: Forming and Operating a Small Business
- FindLaw: Start-Up Toolkit
- FindLaw State Guide: Corporations Offices
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