It is common for a business to operate under a name that is different from the one it filed with the state at its formation. When businesses chose to do this, they are using a DBA, or "doing business as" name. Fictitious names, trade names, and assumed names are other common terms for DBAs.
Jurisdictions typically require sole proprietorships and partnerships to file a DBA when operating under a name other than the name(s) of the owner(s). Corporations and LLCs must also register DBAs when they wish to operate under a name other than the name listed in their original filing with the state. A business usually files a DBA form with the county or state agency that regulates businesses, depending on the jurisdiction. Each jurisdiction has different requirements for filling out the forms, but there are some key similarities in these requirements. For the most part, filling out DBA forms is simple and easy.
Step 1. Obtain the appropriate forms.
First, acquire the appropriate forms for registering a DBA in your jurisdiction. It is often possible to find these online, depending on the jurisdiction. Alternatively, contact your county or state to obtain the appropriate documents.
Step 2. Complete the forms.
Provide all required information on the DBA forms. Again, you may be able to do this entirely online. Include all relevant information for the owners and the business, including the DBA name you would like to use and the address for the business's primary location. Be advised, a post office box is usually not sufficient for your location.
Check with the state to make sure your desired name is available. States generally require unique business names, meaning your name is not the same as or easily confused with an existing business.
Step 3. Provide your business entity type.
DBA forms typically require you to provide the form of your business, such as a sole proprietorship, corporation, or LLC. This is for informational purposes for your jurisdiction—DBAs are not limited to certain types of businesses.
Step 4. Provide any other information.
Provide any other information your jurisdiction requires. This varies and may include a brief description of your business. It may also include identifying any DBAs your business has used previously.
Step 5. Sign the forms.
The document must be signed by the appropriate party, typically the owner(s) or officer(s) of the business. Further, if your business is subject to an operating agreement or bylaws, follow all requirements of that document when drafting and executing a DBA. Be advised, your jurisdiction may require notarization of the signature(s).
Step 6. Pay the fee and file the forms.
Pay the appropriate filing fee and file the document with the appropriate agency. This often may be done online. The agency must accept and approve the filing for the DBA to become official.
Follow these steps—and any others your jurisdiction requires—to register a fictitious name for your business. You may also choose to work with an online service provider to guarantee correct completion of DBA forms. Online service providers can help search possible DBA names to ensure the uniqueness of your chosen name as well.
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.