When Do You Need to Register a DBA for an S-Corp?

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

When Do You Need to Register a DBA for an S-Corp?

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

A DBA, or "doing business as," is a fictitious business name that a company chooses to use as an alternative to its legal name. State law requires every business to have a legal name for conducting business transactions, but many states also allow businesses to register DBAs for other legitimate business purposes. Any business entity, including an S corporation, can adopt a DBA as long as it follows the specific requirements of the state where it was formed.

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S Corporations and Legal Business Names

When forming an S corporation, the owners must choose a name and submit it with their business's formation documents. The company cannot use a name already in use by another existing business entity in that state. Check to see if your state has an online search form available to check whether the business name you're considering is currently taken.

While every state has its own business laws and regulations, all states require that the name filed with the S corporation's formation documents become the legal name under which the corporation conducts business. This ensures that the public can identify who is behind commercial transactions.

A legal name is required for an S corporation to do business, but it can also register a DBA to operate under an assumed name.

When Must an S Corporation Register Its DBA?

If the corporation wants to use a DBA in place of its legal name for business purposes, it must file the DBA in every state where it plans to do business, according to the relevant state laws. Failing to properly register a DBA in a state may result in fines and penalties.

An S corporation might want to register a DBA to distinguish a part of its portfolio from the rest of the business, develop a new product not associated with the S corporation's legal name, or make it easier to sell off a division of the business without losing the rights to the S corporation's legal name.

Sometimes, an S corporation might have to register a DBA even if it did not originally intend to do so. For example, if the corporation wants to expand its business to another state, it might be forced to register a DBA if there is already an existing business operating in that state with the same or substantially similar legal name. In that situation, the S corporation might have to identify solely as the DBA in that particular state.

How to File a DBA

The requirements for properly filing a DBA vary by state. However, the process is typically very straightforward and generally requires filing a registration form and submitting the appropriate filing fees.

Some states require an S corporation to file its DBA in every locality where the company plans to use it, while others just require filing with the state.

When you decide not to use your full legal name for your business, you're going to need a DBA. Consider the assistance of an attorney to help you navigate the process of filing all the legal paperwork to get your DBA name up and running.

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.