Do You Need a DBA with an LLC?

By Jane Haskins, Esq.

Do You Need a DBA with an LLC?

By Jane Haskins, Esq.

If your business uses a name that's different than its official legal name, you'll need to register a DBA or "doing business as" name. You don't need a DBA for your LLC if you use your LLC name as the business's name, though. You may also need a DBA if you operate a sole proprietorship or general partnership.

Here's what you need to know.

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Business Names vs. DBAs

A DBA registration creates a record showing who's behind the name you're using for your business. A DBA is also sometimes called a fictitious business name, assumed name, or trade name.

  • In a sole proprietorship, you don't have to file a DBA if you use your own personal name as the name of your business. "Jane Smith, CPA" doesn't need a DBA, but "Accounting 2 Go" does.
  • In a general partnership, you don't need a DBA if you use the partners' last names as the business name. Jim Jones and Dan Moore could call their business "Jones & Moore" without registering a DBA, but they'd need a DBA for "J+M Affordable House Painting."
  • In an LLC, the name of the LLC is the business's legal name. If you form "Coffee Expressions LLC" and you give your café the same name, you don't need a DBA. But if Coffee Expressions LLC operates "Nan's Coffee Shop," then the LLC business would need a DBA name registration for Nan's.

An LLC offers liability protection and potential tax advantages that aren't available with a sole proprietorship or general partnership. For this reason, it may be better to form an LLC with your business name than to operate as a sole proprietorship or general partnership with a DBA. A business lawyer can advise you.

When Does an LLC Need a DBA?

There are a few situations where a DBA may be a good business strategy for an LLC.

  • When you have multiple businesses. For example, your business might operate two restaurants or provide two types of services that you want to market under different names. To keep things simple, you might create a DBA for each business rather than forming multiple LLCs. However, it's best to consult a lawyer if you have multiple businesses. Sometimes you need separate LLCs to minimize your liability exposure.
  • When you want to minimize startup costs as you test out new business ideas. You might use DBAs to launch one or more new businesses under an existing LLC. If a new venture succeeds, you can re-evaluate whether it needs a separate LLC.
  • When you want to market your business without using the "LLC" at the end of your business name. If your state requires you to use the "LLC" designation, you may not be able to omit it without filing a DBA.

You create a DBA for an LLC by first forming an LLC. You may need to do a local or state name search to confirm that the DBA name you want is available.

You'll then register the DBA, usually with a local agency in your city or county. Requirements vary by state and locality, so it's important to check the laws in your area. If you've registered a DBA and want to switch your business name to something different, the proper procedure is to file a DBA name change, rather than adding a DBA to your existing DBA.

While sole proprietorships and partnerships often need a DBA, most LLCs don't. However, DBAs can be a good way for LLCs to streamline their operations or test out new business ideas.

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.