Can I Operate a Sole Proprietorship Without a DBA in Texas?

By Joe Stone

Operating your business as a sole proprietorship in Texas is the easiest and least expensive form of business structure you can choose. Unlike a limited liability company or corporation, you do not have to file any documents to create your business as a separate legal entity from yourself. Also, so long as the business is operated under your name, Texas law does not require you to obtain a DBA -- short for "doing business as" -- which is referred to as an "assumed name" in Texas.

Assumed Name Basics

Texas assumed name law only applies to the name of your sole proprietor business in two situations: the name does not include your surname or suggest the existence of other owners by including such words as “Company,” “& Company,” “& Associates” or similar words. If either of these situations apply, you are required to file an assumed name certificate with the county clerk's office where your principal place of business is located. If you do not have a physical business location, you must file a certificate in each county where you conduct business. The purpose underlying the certificate requirement is to notify the public of the identities of the owner or owners using the assumed name.

Filing an Assumed Name Certificate

Each Texas county has its own form of Assumed Name Certificate that must be used for filing. As a sole proprietor, you complete the form by providing the assumed name for your business, its principal address (if any), and your name and address. Your signature on the form must be notarized, which can usually be done at the county clerk's office where you file it. Before you file the certificate, it is advisable to review the county clerk's records to determine if there is a certificate on file with the same assumed name being used by another business.

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Amending and Renewing

Texas assumed name law requires you to file a new assumed name certificate if there is a material change in the information in the certificate, such as a change in your location or taking on a new partner for the business. The new certificate must be filed within 60 days of the change occurring. An assumed name certificate is valid for 10 years, after which it expires, unless it is renewed. The renewal period begins six months before the expiration date.

Penalties

Failing to comply with Texas assumed name law can result in the imposition of both civil and criminal penalties. In a pending civil lawsuit, you can be prohibited from either pursuing a claim or defending yourself against a claim if you operated your business under an assumed name without having filed the appropriate certificate. If you continue to operate your business under the assumed name and intentionally fail to file the certificate, you can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. Anyone who files an assumed name certificate with knowingly false information or a forged signature can be charged with tampering with a government record, which is also a Class A misdemeanor.

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How to Transfer a DBA to a New Entity in Texas
 

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DBA as a Sole Proprietorship in Massachusetts

Naming a business is often a very important step from a branding perspective. In Massachusetts, business registrations are typically handled by the Secretary of the Commonwealth. For owners that choose to structure their business as a sole proprietorship, the name of the company defaults to the name of the owner. In some cases, however, this may not be a desirable option. In such cases, a new fictitious business name must be registered locally before the company can operate. The procedure involves the completion and filing of a certificate containing the addresses and names of the business and owner as well as the payment of a filing fee. The fictitious name will then be included on all government forms and tax filings as well as any applicable licenses and permits.

Define DBA

A DBA, short for "doing business as," refers to the name a company or individual uses when it operates under a different name than its legally registered name. Most states require you to register your DBA with either your county clerk’s office or with your state government, depending on where you're doing business. DBAs are also called "assumed names," "trade names," or "fictitious names."

Setting Up a Sole Proprietorship in Texas

One of the first decisions you must make when starting your own business is to choose which business form you want to use. Many business forms are available for new businesses in Texas, including corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships and sole proprietorships. Each has unique formation and maintenance requirements, which are handled by the Texas Office of the Secretary of State.

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