Do You Need a DBA for Sole Proprietorship?

By Maggie Lourdes

A sole proprietor can work under her own name or operate under a catchy business nickname. A DBA, which stands for "doing business as," can help you create a marketable trade name and identity. State laws regarding DBAs vary. A reputable, online legal document provider can complete DBA registration requirements that may apply to you.

A sole proprietor can work under her own name or operate under a catchy business nickname. A DBA, which stands for "doing business as," can help you create a marketable trade name and identity. State laws regarding DBAs vary. A reputable, online legal document provider can complete DBA registration requirements that may apply to you.

DBA Laws

A sole proprietor is not required to adopt a fictitious, or assumed, name. However, if he does use a DBA, he may be required to register it with his state or county clerk. Generally, you cannot use a DBA that is already registered with another individual or company. It is important to know DBA registration rules that may apply to you. For example, in Michigan, sole proprietors must register their DBA. However, Tennessee does not require sole proprietors to register an assumed name.

File a DBA for your business online. Get Started Now
File a DBA for your business online. Get Started Now
How to Register a DBA Name So No One Else Can Use It

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How Long Is a DBA Registration Good for?

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.

Setting Up a DBA in Massachusetts

A DBA, which is short for doing business as, is the registration form that a business owner must file when she does business under a name other than her real name. Not all states require you to register a DBA, but Massachusetts does. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the law requires business owners to register a DBA to create a public record of the name and address of the true owner of a business. According to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 110, Section 5, DBA registrations are required for "any person conducting business in the Commonwealth under any title other than the real name of the person conducting the business, whether individually or as a partnership." For example, if your name is Kent Plank and your business is Plank's Carpentry, you're using a name other than your real name and must register your business as a DBA. Similarly, if a corporation is named "Waldo's Wonders" in its articles of incorporation but the corporation wants to do business under a different name, the owner would have to register that name as a fictitious business name. In Massachusetts, you register a DBA in the city or town in which you do business.

Can a DBA Company Own an LLC?

You can own an LLC if you are a sole proprietor or partnership using a DBA, or "doing business as." A DBA is not an official company structure, but an identity -- usually called a "fictitious name" or "trade name" -- for business and/or recognition purposes. Your state will recognize your DBA identity, but the legal structure will typically be a single owner business or a partnership. Since states make the rules for DBA recognition, check with your jurisdiction to learn the legal way to own the LLC.

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