What Does DBA Mean in Business?

By Tom Streissguth

In the business world, DBA - which stands for "doing business as" - is a vitally important acronym to know. It signifies that an individual or company is doing business under a fictitious name. One common example would be a chain store franchise, operated under a commercial name familiar to everyone but actually run by an individual or firm owning the local franchise. State laws govern the creation and use of DBA fictitious names.

In the business world, DBA - which stands for "doing business as" - is a vitally important acronym to know. It signifies that an individual or company is doing business under a fictitious name. One common example would be a chain store franchise, operated under a commercial name familiar to everyone but actually run by an individual or firm owning the local franchise. State laws govern the creation and use of DBA fictitious names.

Legal Requirements

In order to operate a business under a fictitious name, you must register that name with the clerk of court in the county where you are operating, or with the agency responsible for keeping track of businesses operating in your state. In most cases, this is the office of the Secretary of State or Division of Corporations, or similar regulatory body. State laws require that a DBA name must not be identical to another DBA that is already registered, or resemble an operating DBA with the intention to deceive the public.

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Multiple Residences

Any company that wishes to operate a business under an alias or assumed name must register that name with each state in which it will be doing business. The registration of a DBA does not cross state lines; therefore, it is not sufficient to register a DBA only in the business's home state if the business is operating in another state. If the DBA registration is allowed to lapse, typically the business may no longer legally operate under that name.

Procedure

The registration process for fictitious names is usually simple and straightforward. You fill out a short form with the legal name of the company doing the registration, as well as the chosen fictitious name, business address and phone, owner and officer names, and the name of the registered agent. An attorney or online legal document preparation service can help prepare your DBA application and ensure that the form is filled out properly. The agency will require a filing fee, as well as regular (usually annual) renewals. The information is available to the public through an online database, or through a search in the public records office. Registration allows the public to discover the individual or company responsible for operating under any business name.

Considerations

If you are operating a business under your own name, or legal name of your partnership or corporation, you do not need to register a DBA. If the name of the business is not identical, however, it is a fictitious name. For example, an individual legally named "Terry Woods" may be able to operate a business under the name "Terry Woods Landscaping" without registering a DBA, depending on state laws. The fictitious name will be required in order to get an Employer Identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service and to obtain any necessary local licenses and permits.

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What Is on a DBA Filing?

References

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Cancelling a DBA

A "doing business as" name, also known as a trade name and a fictitious business name, is the name under which a business operates that may be different from its original, official name. A company may use DBAs to conduct business under a different name for various reasons. For example, a foreign company may use a DBA in a specific location because its creation name is being used by another business in the same area. When a business no longer needs its DBA name, it can cancel the name registration with the local government agency that handles DBA registrations.

Define DBA

A DBA, short for "doing business as," refers to the name a company or individual uses when it operates under a different name than its legally registered name. Most states require you to register your DBA with either your county clerk’s office or with your state government, depending on where you're doing business. DBAs are also called "assumed names," "trade names," or "fictitious names."

What Do You Need to Register a Business Name?

For many customers, your business name is the first point of reference they have with regard to your company. Leave a good impression, and you could be well on your way to making a lifelong customer. Give a bad impression, and that person might never give your business a chance. How you register the name of your business depends on the type of name you're registering.

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