Do I Need an EIN If I Am a DBA?

By Brette Sember, J.D.

Do I Need an EIN If I Am a DBA?

By Brette Sember, J.D.

An Employer Identification Number (EIN) provides a way for your business to report income and handle payroll taxes. There are situations in which your DBA business may need to obtain and use an EIN from the IRS.

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What Is a DBA?

You may be operating your business under a "doing business as," or DBA, name. DBAs are used by sole proprietors, partnerships, corporations, and limited liability corporations any time they are operating under a name other than the legal one they are registered as, such as a personal legal name or the legal name of the business.

For example, if you are a sole proprietor whose legal name is John Doe and you call your business John's Shoe Repair, you would need to file a DBA with this business name. If you own Carol's Embroidery, Inc (a registered corporation) but decide to also do work as Carol's Personalized Shirts, you will need a DBA. A DBA creates a legal connection between you and the name you're working under so that consumers and creditors can find you.

How Do I Get a DBA?

To file a DBA name, you need to check with your county. Each county has its own form and procedure, but most require that you fill out a simple form with the name you want to use, your legal name, and your contact information and pay a small fee. You'll receive a certificate that authorizes you to do business using the name you've registered.

When Is an EIN Required?

An EIN from the IRS is required:

  • When the business files federal taxes in its own name
  • For certain business types, trusts, nonprofit organizations, farmers' cooperatives, estates, and real estate entities
  • If a tax return involves alcohol, firearms, or tobacco
  • When a business hires employees (temporary or permanent)
  • If a tax return shows taxes withheld from income (other than wages) that were paid to nonresident aliens

EINs for Corporations, Partnerships, and LLCs

If your company is a partnership or corporation, the IRS requires you to obtain an EIN, whether you are operating as a DBA or not. LLCs are not recognized by the IRS as business entities for tax purposes. Instead, your LLC must choose whether to file taxes as a corporation, partnership, or sole proprietorship. If you choose to pay taxes as a corporation or partnership, you'll need an EIN.

EINS for Sole Proprietorships

The IRS does not require that a sole proprietorship obtain a EIN, whether it has a DBA or not. You can instead use your Social Security number when you file your taxes. However, it can be a good idea to get an EIN so that you keep your business and personal affairs separate. Additionally, some clients or vendors may require that you have an EIN to work with you. Banks often require an EIN, DBA, or both to open a business banking account. Opening a business banking account is a key part of establishing credit for your business.

How to Obtain an EIN

An EIN is generated by the IRS. To apply, you'll need your Social Security number and business contact information. If you have a DBA, you need to provide that name as well. There's a small fee to obtain your EIN, but once you obtain it, you can start to do business with it right away.

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.