DBA as a Sole Proprietorship in Massachusetts

by Wayne Thomas
In some cases, it is desirable for a business to go by a name different from the owner's name.

In some cases, it is desirable for a business to go by a name different from the owner's name.

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Naming a business is often a very important step from a branding perspective. In Massachusetts, business registrations are typically handled by the Secretary of the Commonwealth. For owners that choose to structure their business as a sole proprietorship, the name of the company defaults to the name of the owner. In some cases, however, this may not be a desirable option. In such cases, a new fictitious business name must be registered locally before the company can operate. The procedure involves the completion and filing of a certificate containing the addresses and names of the business and owner as well as the payment of a filing fee. The fictitious name will then be included on all government forms and tax filings as well as any applicable licenses and permits.

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Using Owner's Name

Most sole proprietorships start automatically the instant the owner begins business operations. The owner and the company are considered one, with personal liability for the debts and taxes of the business remaining with the owner. In Massachusetts, so long as the owner operates the business under his name, no registration with the commonwealth is required, nor does any formation paperwork need to be filed.

Using a DBA

In Massachusetts, if a sole proprietor wishes to operate a business under a name that differs from her name, she must register the name. In this instance, according to Massachusetts law, an owner is required to file a certificate with the office of the city clerk in every city or town where the business may be situated. This certificate is often referred to as a "Doing Business As" certificate.

Registration Process

The registration process involves the filling out of an application, including the name of the business and its location. The certificate must also include the name and residence of the owner and must be signed in the presence of either the city or town clerk or a notary public.

Fees Duration

In addition to filing the appropriate paperwork, registration of a DBA name requires the payment of the required filing fee before the name will be officially recognized. The name will be effective for four years and the owner will be required to pay an additional fee if he wishes to change the name of the business during that time.