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

By Brette Sember, J.D.

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

By Brette Sember, J.D.

A DBA (doing business as) is a name distinct from a person's or a corporation's legal business name. An S corp that does business using any name other than the registered S corp name needs to register the corporation DBA name.

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When an S Corp Might Need a DBA

It is relatively common to start your company with one purpose in mind and eventually add others. You may add products or services or start a new division. For example, you might start by cleaning homes but then decide you would also like to detail cars. If your S Corp is Chris' Housecleaning, that name doesn't make a lot of sense when advertising your new car-detailing service.

A DBA allows you to use another name for your business other than your registered S corp name so that you can more closely align the name you're using with the service you're offering. For example, Chris' Housecleaning can register Chris' Car Detailing as a DBA and legally do business using that name.

You may also need to register a DBA name for your S corp if you expand into other states. If the name you use for your S corp is already taken in that state, you may have no choice but to do business under a different name to avoid infringing on another business's name.

Why a DBA Is Required

A DBA filing allows the government and anyone you do business with (such as clients or vendors) to determine who is the legal owner of the business. If a client or vendor needs to contact the business owner (if, for example, they need to give notice of a lawsuit), they need a way to access the name of the legal owner. The DBA filing creates a legal record of the owner(s) of a business.

A DBA also ensures that two businesses are not operating using the same name. Your state or county registration office may provide a searchable database you can access before selecting a DBA name.

How to Register a DBA

Each state has its own requirements and procedures for registering a DBA. In some states, you can file it with the state to receive statewide coverage. In other states, you have to file in each county or city you intend to do business in. Research the requirements in your area.

To register the DBA, fill out a form that is likely available online from your county clerk or state business registration office. The form will ask for the name of the legal owner of the DBA business, so enter your S corp's name. You will be required to include contact information and a description of the type of business you will be conducting under the DBA name. A small fee is typically required for filing.

Some locations require businesses to publish a legal notice of the DBA in a local newspaper and file proof of publication. Check the rules in your area. If you operate a business under a name that is not your own legal name or your S corp's name without filing a DBA, you may be subject to fines.

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.