Can an LLC Have More Than One DBA?

By Jane Haskins, Esq.

Can an LLC Have More Than One DBA?

By Jane Haskins, Esq.

A limited liability company can have multiple DBAs or “doing business as" names. A DBA, also known as a fictitious business name, is a business name that is different from the business's official legal name. In most localities, DBAs must be registered with a state or local government.

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DBAs allow an LLC to use multiple business names without having to form separate businesses. You might do this if you have related lines of business and want to give them different names for marketing purposes. However, in some instances it is better to form multiple LLCs.

What's the difference between an LLC and a DBA?

An LLC has its own legal identity, and that means it can own property, agree to contracts, borrow money, and be a party in a lawsuit. A DBA is not a separate legal entity—it is just a nickname the LLC uses.

Many small business owners form LLCs because they offer protection to the owners if the business is sued. In a suit against the LLC, the LLC could lose all its money and assets, but the owners' personal bank accounts and other assets are not at risk. Because a DBA is just another name for the LLC, it does not offer any additional asset protection.

An LLC also helps prevent in-state competitors from using your same business name. Generally, your state will not let another LLC, corporation, or other business entity form with the same name as yours. DBAs do not provide any name protection.

In all 50 states, an LLC is formed by filing articles of organization with the state. Most localities require DBAs to be registered, but the rules vary. You may have to register a DBA with your county, city, or state. DBAs can be used by any type of business, including sole proprietorships, partnerships, and corporations.

Why would I need more than one DBA for my LLC?

The name of your LLC is the official legal name of your business, and you do not need to file a DBA to use it. However, if you plan to use any other name in your business, you probably have to register a DBA. If you don't file DBA registrations when they are required, you could face fines and penalties.

Business owners usually use multiple DBAs when they have related businesses or product lines and want to keep them under the umbrella of one LLC. For example, if you own a dog grooming business, "Grooming to Go, LLC," but want to branch out into dog training, you might register "Dog Training to Go" as a DBA of Grooming to Go, LLC. If you then open a dog bakery called "Barker Bites," you could register Barker Bites as another DBA of Grooming to Go, LLC.

By organizing your business this way, you minimize the paperwork and hassle involved in operating multiple businesses. You will not have to meet state reporting requirements for more than one LLC, and your banking and taxes may be simpler.

Are there disadvantages to using more than one DBA?

Although it can be convenient to operate DBAs under a single LLC, it sometimes exposes your business to additional risk. In a lawsuit, an LLC's creditors can go after any money or assets the LLC has, and this means everything owned by its DBA businesses. By contrast, if you set up separate LLCs for different aspects of your business, each LLC's assets and liabilities are separate and insulated from one another's creditors.

This risk is higher for some businesses than others, and it can be greatly reduced by liability insurance. A business lawyer can help you decide what is best for your business.

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.