How to Use this Guide
To file a DBA in California, use the step-by-step guide below or hire a professional service to do it for you:
This is California we’re talking about, so first conduct a business name search in your county and city. The CA Secretary of State does not track DBAs, rather its counties and/or cities “license” for such privilege of being allowed to pay the fees. Then if you think there could be trademark issues, use the TESS System through the U.S. Patent office to check. We recommend searching both databases to be prudent.
Now, in California each county has a different Fictitious Name Statement form and some counties do not use fictitious name forms and instead use “business tax” forms in their place.
So, head to the California’s Counties page through the CSAC and contact the one where you intend to set up shop or here: http://www.counties.org/county-websites-profile-information.
Once you get your hands on the form, digital/hard copy (if you don’t have legal representation and you aren’t working with a DBA filing service) read and understand every word. Many counties have online forms you can fill out and pay online, then await approval.
Once you’ve double and triple checked after filling out the form, sign it and then file with the right county. The fees are different but you’ll know right away once you contact them or it’ll be on the form itself. To save yourself stress, walk in the form and file it at the counter.
Mailing in a form means you must do it perfectly right, whereas if you make a mistake at the filing office the clerks can help you fix the errors right there. Online forms are easier, you can fix mistakes once it is rejected.
Within your first month of filing, you’ll then need to publish your Fictitious Name Statement in a local newspaper. This should be done every week for the next four weeks. They’re all quite used to it.
After that time, you’ll need to give a signed Affidavit of Publication to the county clerk. This should also be done within 30 days of the last date of publication. Each county has instructions on their forms on how, when, where, and who to publish with, and there is a list of approved publishers. After that you’re good to go!
Once you have the DBA/FBN you can open a bank account using just your social security number and the DBA or FBN documents. However, it’s a better idea to get a separate Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your business. Commingling finances between your business and your personal life is a terrible idea and opens you up to IRS audits.
Call ahead at your chosen bank. Most banks require the EIN document from the IRS and the DBA/FBN documents, some require additional documents such as a business license or “tax certificate” from the local city/county.
This guide is for information purposes, not a legal document of any kind. Furthermore, the specific details tend to change over time depending on your area. Please consult a business lawyer for specific legalities and details on filing a California DBA or specifics on starting a business.