Do You Need a DBA with an LLC?

By Lee Roberts

A limited liability company is a legal structure that blends some of the elements of a corporation with those of a partnership. State law controls the formation of LLCs, including naming issues. States require businesses to operate under distinct names within state lines as a way of creating clarity in the marketplace for consumers, creditors and others. Depending on your circumstances, you may or may not need a DBA.

LLC Legal Names

If two or more independent companies operate under names that are similar to one another, there is a chance that members of the public will become confused and believe that the companies are related. State laws work to reduce instances of confusion by requiring new LLCs to choose names that are distinct from names of existing companies. When the state approves a name for the LLC to use, it requires the LLC to use that name in all areas of business. If the LLC wishes to use another name, however, most states will allow the business to adopt a DBA name.

DBA Defined

With respect to LLCs, a DBA allows LLCs to conduct business under a name that differs from the name under which they registered their company initially. State law defines the terms and scope of DBAs. Each state sets its own eligibility rules. The majority of states require businesses to register their DBA name before using it in commerce by completing certain forms. The specific steps and motivations to register a DBA vary widely across the states, but primarily the states are interested in making sure that the government and interested parties are able to connect a company’s legal name with its DBA name.

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Foreign LLCs

If an LLC conducts business in states other than the state in which it is based, it is said to be a "foreign" LLC. Those other states will subject the company to state laws regarding foreign businesses, including name requirements. Typically, LLCs operate under the legal name set forth in the organization documents of their home state. In the event that another company is using the same or similar name in the new state, however, the LLC must use a DBA when conducting business there.

DBA Benefits

DBAs are a useful option to employ as part of an LLC’s overall marketing strategy. For example, if your LLC offers a diverse line of products or services, then you may want to segment your market in order to convey a clear and consistent message to consumers. Creating a separate name to sell a product or a group of products allows a company to take advantage of all of its resources without letting one product distract consumers from the attributes of another product. LLCs must weigh the cost of registering their DBAs in all the appropriate places against the income they hope to generate by using other names.

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

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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."

How to Establish an LLC

An LLC, or limited liability company, is a type of business entity that appeals to business owners because it shields the LLC's members from personal liability and offers more tax advantages than a corporation. To establish an LLC, you have to comply with state regulations and submit the necessary paperwork and fees to state agencies. While every state has different rules, there are certain basic and necessary steps that all business owners should take when forming an LLC.

Alaska Foreign Business Registration Requirements

When it comes to business registration, Alaska considers those that aren't based in the state as “foreign,” even if they're located in another U.S. state. Since out-of-state companies generally are required to register in the state of Alaska before operating within its boundaries, you’ll likely have to register if your business is based in another state.

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