How to File a DBA
Just Select Your State to Begin
Step 1) Select Your State
DBA guidelines and laws vary by state. In some states, you will be required to register your DBA with the state government and in others, the county or city government.
The best place to begin your DBA filing process is on our simple step-by-step state DBA guides:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
- Washington D.C.
- West Virginia
NOTE: You cannot file for a DBA in Kansas, New Mexico, or South Carolina.
Need Help Choosing a DBA Name?
If you need help coming up with a catchy name, try our business name generator. You can use this tool to generate both business names and domain names.
Step 2) Do a DBA Name Search
The first thing you will want to do is make sure your name isn't taken by -- or too similar to -- another registered business in your state. You will also want to make sure your name complies with any state naming requirements. Choose your state from the drop-down menu for more help with completing this step.
Next, a quick search on the U.S. Trademark Electronic Search System will tell you whether someone else has already trademarked your name.
If you need extra guidance with choosing a brand name for your business, read our naming guide.
Finally, you will want to make sure there’s a web domain available for your DBA. Even if you don't plan to have a website right away, it's a good idea to reserve the domain name to prevent others from acquiring it.
Step 3) Register Your DBA with the State
Depending on your location and business structure, you will need to file your DBA with the state or with the county clerk's office.
Several states require you to register a DBA with more than one level of government. For example, a sole proprietorship may have to file at the state and county level in one state, while another state may require that same sole proprietorship to file with just the county.
What is a DBA?
A DBA is any name a business operates under that isn't their legal name. In most states, you can operate under a different name as long as you officially register it with the proper city, county, or state agency.
In most states, you are required to register any name your company is using besides the name that was listed when the business was formed.
If your business is a sole proprietorship or partnership, then you would need to file a DBA if you wanted to use any name other than your personal name (or your business partners). You can also convert your sole proprietorship into an LLC and use the LLCs legal name as your brand name.
To learn more about how to use a DBA for your particular business entity type, read our DBA for Small Business article.
Business Bank Accounts for DBAs
You can and should get a bank account for your DBA. Brand awareness is a big deal; it’s always good to accept payment with the business name that customers expect to see. A separate bank account will also help with bookkeeping and accounting.
Your bank will most likely need your DBA paperwork and EIN documentation from the main business entity when you open your account. Some banks might also require your business formation documents as well. To save time, call ahead and ask your bank what you should bring.
For more information on the best business bank accounts, read our reviews.
What a DBA Isn't
A doing business as name isn't a legal business entity. It is only a name that your business can use instead of it's legal name.
DBAs don't offer limited liability protection. Limited liability protection means that if your business is sued, your personal assets are protected. To learn more about forming an LLC in your state, visit our Form an LLC page and choose your state from the drop-down menu.
When you form a business entity such as an LLC, corporation (s-corp or c-corp), limited partnership, or limited liability partnership, your business has limited liability protection.
Sole proprietorships and general partnerships legally operate under the owner's last name and they do not have limited liability protection. You can operate under a DBA as a sole proprietor or general partnership but the business will still not have limited liability protection.
To learn more, read our Choosing a Business Structure guide.
DBA vs LLC
One commonly asked question is what is the difference between an LLC and a DBA. A DBA is essentially a nickname for a business whereas an LLC is a true business entity type. Read our DBA vs LLC guide for all the details.
Since a DBA isn’t a business entity, you do not have to file a tax return specifically for the DBA. The income or loss from a DBA is factored into your total tax liability for the business.
For instance, if your DBA doesn’t do well and has a loss, those numbers will be calculated within the tax liability for your LLC.
A DBA doesn’t need an EIN because a DBA isn’t a business entity. Needing an EIN is dependent on the type of business entity you are operating.
To learn more, read our What is an EIN guide.
How to File a DBA FAQ
What does DBA mean?
DBA is an acronym for “doing business as”. In some states, a DBA might be called a fictitious name, trade name, or assumed name. To the point, a DBA is essentially a nickname for your company, and there are plenty of good reasons to use one.
Why should I file a DBA?
There are several potential reasons to file a DBA. These include possible branding benefits, a more professional look, and practical things like business bank account requirements. For more details, check out our article about the many reasons to File a DBA.
How important is a DBA?
A DBA could potentially be very important for your business. From creating new opportunities and attracting customers to staying in compliance with regulations, a DBA can play a large role in the success of your business.
What is the difference between a DBA and fictitious name or trade name?
There is no difference between a DBA, fictitious name, or trade name. These are all different names for the same thing. The term for DBA varies by state. Check out our state DBA guide for your business’ home state to get a better idea of the regulations relevant to you.
When would it be good to do a DBA versus a legal name change?
Getting a DBA is often a better choice than changing your business’ legal name. If you are simply interested in rebranding your company or focusing on another line of business, filing for a DBA is a much simpler process than filing for a legal name change.
How much does a DBA cost?
The cost of registering a DBA varies from state to state but usually falls between $10 and $100.
Check out our state DBA guides to see the potential costs in your business’ home state.
When is a DBA required in my state?
If you are operating a sole proprietorship, you will need a DBA in order to open a business bank account or accept payments in a name other than your legal name. If you have an LLC or a corporation, you will likely need a DBA if you want to conduct business under a name other than the one you already registered.
These rules can vary by state. Check out our state DBA guides to see what the regulations are in your business’ home state.
Do I need to file a DBA with my county?
The filing rules for DBAs vary by state and locale. Check out our state DBA guide for your business’ home state to get a better idea of the regulations relevant to you.
Can a DBA be transferred?
Most states don’t allow DBAs to be transferred but you can usually change the contact information for the DBA by completing a form and paying a fee. For state-specific information, check our state DBA guides.
Can a DBA have two owners?
A DBA doesn’t have owner’s per se because a DBA is just a nickname for the main business entity. The main business entity can have two owners depending on the organization’s business structure.
When does a DBA expire?
This depends on your state. Each state has their own set of rules. Your DBA could expire after a number of years or be valid indefinitely. Check your state’s specific regulations to see how long a DBA is valid for.
When should I renew my DBA?
DBAs need to be renewed before their expiration date, which will depend on your state’s guidelines. Check your state’s specific regulations to see how long a DBA is valid for.
How many DBAs can I have?
You can have as many DBAs as you can afford to create and are able to keep track of. However, more isn’t necessarily better. Each one will come with additional incremental expense and paperwork, so you will want to make sure you have a good reason for each one you have.
Can a DBA get an EIN or Tax ID?
DBAs aren’t required to have a separate EIN because DBAs aren’t a business entity. The business entity that the DBA is under would have an EIN if an EIN is required.
To learn more about EINs and when you would need one for your business, read What is an EIN from our friends at TRUiC.
Are DBAs and sole proprietorships the same thing?
No. A DBA is only a nickname for a business, not an actual business entity. A sole proprietorship is a business entity.
Can a DBA be a partnership?
A DBA is only a nickname for the main business entity. So, no, a DBA can’t be a partnership. A partnership can have a DBA though.
Can a DBA be a corporation?
A DBA is only a nickname for the main business entity. So, no, a DBA can’t be a corporation. A corporation can have a DBA though.
Can a DBA have an LLC?
No. A DBA is just a name for a business, not a separate entity. It cannot have an LLC.
Can a DBA become an LLC?
Your DBA is just a name. A DBA is often confused with a sole proprietorship. If you mean “can my sole proprietorship become an LLC?” then the answer is “Yes. Absolutely.”
How many DBAs can an LLC have?
As many as you want. There is no limit to the number of DBAs an LLC can form, but each one does come with additional expense and paperwork.
Can a DBA have Inc. in the name?
A DBA can only have Inc. in the name if the business entity the DBA is attached to is a corporation.
How do I set up a DBA for a rental property?
It’s always best to consult an attorney. Usually, the best option is to form an LLC to protect your personal assets in the event of an issue with the rental property. Holding the rental property in your name and with a DBA will not afford you any protection.
To learn how to form an LLC, visit our Form an LLC state guides.