If you form a limited liability company (LLC) but wish to conduct its business under a different name, you may need to formally register that name. That second name is most commonly referred to as a DBA.
What Does “DBA" Mean?
Once your LLC is registered, you may operate your business under the official name of your LLC. However, if you wish to use a different name to conduct business, you will be using what is called an “assumed name," “trade name," or “fictitious name," depending on what state you are in. “DBA" (sometimes seen as “dba") is an abbreviation for “doing business as." Using “DBA" or “dba" indicates that your LLC is using an assumed name.
For example, if your LLC is registered as “Robert Jones Enterprises LLC" but you wish to do business as “Summit Property Management," you would use “Robert Jones Enterprises LLC, dba Summit Property Management" on any official paperwork.
Reasons to Use a DBA
The most common reasons for using a fictitious name include:
- Being able to engage in two or more different types of businesses without having to form separate LLCs. For example, Robert Jones Enterprises LLC might want to use “Summit Property Management" for a business that handles rental properties and “Summit Lending" for a business that offers mortgages.
- Using a name for your business that more accurately describes its nature, for marketing purposes.
- Using a name for your business that you believe will give you any type of marketing advantage. For example, if your LLC is registered as “California Wine Outlets LLC" and you decide to open a store in Monterey, you might want to use the name “Monterey Wine Outlet" for that store, in order to present it as a local business. You would then be “California Wine Outlets LLC, dba Monterey Wine Outlet."
Do You Need to Register a DBA?
Registration of a fictitious name is required in most states. Depending upon the state, this will be done with either the city, county, or state government where the company has its main place of business.
If you will use more than one assumed name, you will need to do a separate registration for each name.
The following steps may help you determine what is required in your state:
- Do an online search for fictitious name requirements in your state. For example, search “Florida fictitious name registration."
- Check with the state agency where you registered your LLC.
- Check with your city or county agency that deals with business regulation, typically the county or city clerk's office.
- Check with your local office of the United States Small Business Administration (SBA).
How to Register a DBA
If registration of an assumed name is required, you will need to register with the appropriate state or local agency, which you may be able to do online. If not, you will need to obtain the proper form, fill it out with the required information, and file it with the appropriate agency. You will be required to provide both the name of your LLC as it is registered and the fictitious name you want to use. There may be restrictions on using a name that is the same or similar to a fictitious name that is already registered. You will probably also be required to pay a registration fee, which is typically less than $100.
In order to start using the assumed name, you may also be required to publish some type of notice in an approved newspaper. If such publication is required, you can usually find a local legal newspaper that offers much lower publication rates than a general circulation newspaper.
There are definitely benefits to using a DBA, so if you feel your company could benefit from them, it's likely worth the time and minimal monetary invest to set one up.
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