How Long Is a DBA Registration Good for?

By Jeff Franco J.D./M.A./M.B.A.

Businesses commonly use a “doing business as” name, or DBA, when they want to use a name other than the business’s legal name. For example, since a sole proprietor's legal business name is the same as his name, he might decide that a DBA such as "Valley Plumbing Supply" is more descriptive than "Herb Jones." States that require registration of a DBA generally allow you to use it as long as you like, but most require you to renew the registration every few years.

Businesses commonly use a “doing business as” name, or DBA, when they want to use a name other than the business’s legal name. For example, since a sole proprietor's legal business name is the same as his name, he might decide that a DBA such as "Valley Plumbing Supply" is more descriptive than "Herb Jones." States that require registration of a DBA generally allow you to use it as long as you like, but most require you to renew the registration every few years.

State DBA Laws

Each state creates its own laws governing DBA registration and duration, though the procedures have many similarities across jurisdictions. When a state requires registration of a DBA, it’s usually for the protection of consumers. For example, if you wanted to open a restaurant and you were able to use the same name as the restaurant down the block, customers would be confused as to whether the businesses were related or not. Registration helps eliminate some of those problems, and the requirement to renew your registration helps the state keep track of whether the name is still in use.

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DBA Registration Requirements

Registering a DBA generally requires preparation of a short application form and payment of a fee to your state or county government. In California, for example, you need to file the registration documents with the county clerk in the county where you operate the business and intend on using the DBA. Texas, on the other hand, requires registration with the secretary of state as well as with your local county clerk. And in New York, it depends on the type of business entity that's applying for the DBA: corporations register their DBAs with the New York Secretary of State’s office, whereas sole proprietors register at the county clerk’s office. Renewing your registration typically requires a similar procedure. In California, for example, you file the same form and pay the same fee as when you first registered, and you simply check a box that indicates you're renewing an existing DBA.

When to Renew Your DBA

When you register your DBA, you'll typically want to keep track of when it expires. For example, if you register in California, you’ll need to renew the DBA after five years. If registering in Texas, you can use the DBA for 10 years, and in New York, no renewal is necessary: once you register the DBA, it’s effective indefinitely. As long as you stay on top of your DBA’s expiration date, you can continue to renew it as long as you like -- it’s certainly possible that the DBA will be good for as long as you run your business.

Considerations

Registering a DBA doesn’t necessarily give you any rights to its future use, especially if you let it expire. You also are not allowed to use a DBA exclusively throughout the country. You typically have the right to use the trade name during the current registration period, and according to your jurisdiction's laws. For example, if you registered at the county level, usually this ensures that no one else in the county can use that name, but laws vary among jurisdictions. If you let the DBA registration expire, another business is usually free to register the same name -- so you run the risk of having to change your business name, even if you've been using it for years.

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How to Establish a DBA

References

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How Do I Extend My DBA?

A business owner using a fictitious name, trade name or assumed name -- commonly called “doing business as” or DBA -- must register it with a government office in most states, either at the state or county level. Because your customers and the general public will associate your DBA with your products or services, it is important to properly maintain your DBA by extending or renewing it as required by law. If you fail to properly maintain your DBA, you run the risk of another business or person registering it, which will prevent you from using it.

How to Transfer a DBA to Florida

When you operate a business in one state and use a fictitious name, or “DBA” as it's commonly referred to, (which is short for “doing business as”), you can easily transfer that name if you decide to expand your business or move your operations to Florida. Florida business law does require that you follow certain procedures, which can be a little different, depending on whether you operate as a sole proprietor or as a legal business entity.

How to Close a DBA

When you conduct business under a name different than your own, you are using a DBA which is short for "doing business as." Each state has its own DBA laws, some of which refer to a DBA as a fictitious business name, assumed name or trade name. The purpose for using a DBA is to have your customers identify your product and services with your unique business name. When you no longer use your DBA, you should take appropriate steps to cancel any active registration for the DBA.

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