Can I Operate a Sole Proprietorship Without a DBA in Texas?

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

Can I Operate a Sole Proprietorship Without a DBA in Texas?

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

A sole proprietorship's legal name is the owner's full name, so these businesses often operate under DBAs ("doing business as"). If you are well-known in your community as a provider of a specific service or the creator of a certain product, you might not need a DBA. However, if you're new to town, or if your personal name has nothing to do with the operation of your business, adopting a fictitious business name might be a smart move.

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Many individuals start their small businesses as sole proprietorships. In a sole proprietorship, the owner and the business are legally one and the same. While this business formation is the easiest and least expensive, it also comes without any liability protection and may be more successful under a DBA, also known as an assumed name or a fictitious business name.

Implications of Using a DBA

A fictitious business name only provides you the ability to operate under a different name than your own; it does not carry any legal protections or limited liability. You and your business are still one entity, and anyone seeking legal action against you would still sue you personally. You would also continue to sign your own name on legal documents and contracts.

Although using a DBA as a sole proprietor in Texas does not change the structure of your business, it can provide marketing advantages. Coming up with a name for your business—rather than just using your personal name—gives potential customers and clients a better idea of what your business values and what it has to offer.

In Texas, if you operate under an assumed name, you may face harsh penalties and fees that could include misdemeanor charges, being prohibited from filing or defending a lawsuit in Texas, and large fines.

DBA Requirements in Texas

Many Texas sole proprietorships use DBAs, but state law does not require it. You can conduct business under your personal name. If you add any words to your personal name ("John Smith Pottery" instead of "John Smith," for instance), your business name becomes an assumed name, and you must file the appropriate paperwork.

If you are a sole proprietorship operating under an assumed name in Texas, you must register your name with the office of the county clerk in the county of your business's principal location. Registration notifies the public as to the name under which you do business.

To register your assumed name, you must obtain, complete, and submit an assumed name certificate for the county where you conduct business. The county clerk's website likely provides the required forms, which request information such as the assumed name you've chosen, the address of your principal place of business, your name, home address, and how long you plan to use the DBA.

In Texas, your assumed name does not have to be unique. You can have the same assumed name as another business; however, you might want to check for businesses that have already filed under that name. Having an identical or similar DBA could create confusion or risk legal issues involved with trademark or copyright law.

You can select how long you want your assumed name registration to last, and the duration can be up to 10 years. Unless you renew it prior to expiration, your assumed name expires after the selected duration. If you stop using your assumed name before it expires, you must file a Statement of Abandonment or Withdrawal. If anything about your assumed name certificate changes through out the 10 years, you must file an entirely new assumed name certificate that includes the changes.

Before you choose to operate as a sole proprietorship, keep in mind the rules and regulations within the State of Texas. It might be more beneficial for you to operate as a DBA depending on your circumstances. Regardless, you can visit the Texas Secretary of State website to learn more about operating a sole proprietorship or registering your DBA name.

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.