Step 1) Select Your State
DBA guidelines and laws vary by state. In some states, you will be required to file 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.
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.
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 want to make sure there’s a web domain available for your DBA.
Step 3) Register Your DBA with the State
Depending on your location and business structure, you may need to register your DBA with the state or with the county clerk's office.
The best way to learn the exact steps for registering your DBA is on our state guides.
One of the most important things you should know about DBAs is that they are not a business entity. One commonly asked question is what the difference is between an LLC and a DBA. This question comes up because many entrepreneurs aren't familiar with DBAs.
To learn more about how to use a DBA for your particular business entity type, read our DBA for Small Business article.
A DBA isn’t a business entity. The income or loss from a DBA is factored into your total tax liability for the business. You do not have to file a tax return specifically for the DBA.
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.
EINs for DBAs
A DBA doesn’t need an EIN because a DBA isn’t a business entity; a DBA is essentially just a name for your business. Needing an EIN is dependent on the type of business entity you are operating.
To learn more about EIN requirements, check out this article by our friends at TRUiC.
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 business banking, read our reviews!
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.”
To learn how to form an LLC, visit our Form an LLC state guides.
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 incorporated. Incorporated businesses include LLCs, corporations, and Limited Partnerships to name a few.
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.
Is my DBA protected from being used in other places?
There are some state-level laws that prevent DBAs that are too similar to existing ones from being used, but this varies from state to state. It is possible to trademark a DBA, which would offer stronger protection across state lines.