Can an LLC File a DBA and Still Do Business Under the LLC Name?

By Jane Haskins, Esq.

Can an LLC File a DBA and Still Do Business Under the LLC Name?

By Jane Haskins, Esq.

A limited liability company can register a DBA, or "doing business as" name and still do business using the official LLC name. A DBA operates much like a personal nickname—you may use your nickname for some purposes and your full legal name for others. A business might use a DBA for some aspects of the business and the LLC name for others.

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DBA vs. LLC: What's the difference?

An LLC is a business entity that has its own legal existence, separate from its owners. An LLC can sign contracts, take on debt, file a lawsuit, or be sued. To form an LLC, you must file articles of organization with the state. Two of the major benefits of LLCs for small business owners are:

  • Liability protection. LLC owners are not personally liable for the debts and obligations of the business, beyond the amount they have invested in it.
  • Name protection. Forming an LLC is a way of "claiming" a business name in your state. As a general rule, the state will not allow another business to be formed using the same name.

Once you have formed an LLC, the LLC name is the official, legal name of your business—just as the name on your birth certificate is your official, legal name.

A DBA, also known as a fictitious business name or trade name, is any name other than your legal name that you use in your business. For example, if your business is "AAA Cleaning Service LLC" but you decide to market yourself as "Miracle Maids," you would register "Miracle Maids" as a DBA. Any type of business, including a sole proprietorship, can register a DBA. Requirements for DBA filing vary depending on where your business is located. In some places you register with the state, while in others it's the city or county.

Unlike LLC formation, filing a DBA doesn't create a new legal entity or a new legal name. A DBA does not give you any additional liability protection, nor does give you name protection. A DBA is simply an official nickname that you use in your business.

Why would an LLC need a DBA?

If an LLC does business under its own name, there is no need to file a DBA. But sometimes the LLCs owners decide they want to use a different name. Some of the most common reasons an LLC might want a DBA include:

  • Better marketing. When you started your business several years ago, you might have chosen a name like "AAA Cleaning Service LLC" so it would be listed first in the phone book. Today, you might want something catchier, like "Miracle Maids." Rather than change the company name entirely, you could file a DBA for "Miracle Maids."
  • New business lines. Suppose AAA Cleaning Service LLC wants to branch out into a car detailing business. It might use a DBA like "Sparkle Car Detailing" to give the car detailing side of the business a more descriptive name. The company could still perform other cleaning services using AAA Cleaning Service LLC.
  • Multiple businesses under one LLC. Entrepreneurs sometimes have more than one business going at the same time. It may make sense to give each business its own name, but setting up separate LLCs adds a layer of paperwork and complexity. A simpler approach is to give the LLC one name and set up DBAs for each of the business lines. For example, if you are a landscape designer who also mows grass in the summer and plows snow in the winter, you might call your business "Elegant Landscaping LLC" and have DBAs for "Perfect Lawn Care" and "Speedy Snow Plow Service."

If you do file a DBA for your LLC, be sure to use your LLC name on any documents that create an obligation for the company. This includes contracts, invoices, estimates, or the shopping cart area of an e-commence site. This helps preserve the liability protection you received when you formed the LLC.

You can always do business under your LLC name, but DBAs allow you more flexibility in the names you use to market yourself. If you do use a DBA, be sure to register it with the appropriate government agencies to avoid fines and penalties.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.