How to File a DBA in Tennessee

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Filing a Tennessee DBA (doing business as), also known as an assumed name, is a simple process that is completed with the Tennessee Secretary of State or with the County Clerk, depending on your business structure.

Our How to File a DBA in Tennessee guide will help you get started on branding your small business.

Important!

A DBA is used for branding purposes. A DBA isn't a type of business structure and won't protect your personal assets.

Forming an LLC is the best choice for most small businesses. Visit our DBA vs LLC guide to learn what types of businesses need limited liability protection.

How To Use This Guide

First, Choose Your Business Type:

Sole Proprietorship or Partnership

A sole proprietorship is a business owned by a single individual that isn't formally organized.

LLC, Corporation, or LLP

If your business is an LLC, Corporation, or LLP, the information to set up your DBA can be found here.

Use A Professional Service

A professional service will handle filing your DBA on your behalf, allowing you to focus on the other needs of your new business.

four point eight out of fiveMyCompanyWorks ($99 + state fee) for a personalized DBA service.

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Filing a Tennessee DBA for Sole Proprietors and General Partnerships

Sole proprietors and partnerships are required to file for a county business license with the appropriate county clerk’s office if they want to use a name other than their legal name.

A sole proprietorship is a business owned by a single individual that isn't formally organized. If you run a business and file taxes under your own name, you are a sole proprietor.

A DBA does not offer any protection for your personal assets in the event that your business is sued. For more information on setting up a limited liability company, visit our How to Form an LLC page and select your state.


SKIP AHEAD

If you need to create a DBA for an LLC or Corporation, you can click here to skip ahead.

Step 1: Start With a Tennessee DBA Name Search

If you haven't already, head over to the Tennessee Secretary of State website to make sure your name isn't taken by — or too similar to — another registered Tennessee business. You can also search the Knox County online database.

TIP: Our business name generator tool is a great resource for entrepreneurs who are still working to create the perfect business name or website address.

Make sure your name complies with Tennessee naming rules:

  • Your name cannot include words that could confuse your business with a government agency (FBI, Treasury, State Department, etc.).
  • Restricted words (e.g. Bank, Attorney, University) may require additional paperwork and a licensed individual, such as a doctor or lawyer, to be part of your business.
  • Learn more about Tennessee naming guidelines here.

Next, a quick search on the U.S. Trademark Electronic Search System will tell you whether someone else has already trademarked your name.

Now would be the perfect time to make sure there’s a web domain available for your DBA.

If you need extra guidance with naming your business, we can help.

Find a Domain Now

Service provided by GoDaddy.com

After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free

Step 2: Register Your DBA with the County Clerk

If your business is sole proprietorship or partnership, then you are required to file for a county business license with the appropriate county clerk’s office(s) if you want to use a name other than your legal name.

We will give you step-by-step directions to get a Knox County DBA. If you need to file in a different county than Knox County, you’ll have to get in touch with the county clerk for instructions.

You can find your counties' contact information here.

How to File a Knox County DBA

At this point, you should’ve already chosen a name for your business and completed the name searches in Step 1 above. If your business grosses over $10,000 annually, you will file for a normal business license, and if it grosses under $10,000 you will file for a minimal activity license.

Forms

Submit Your County Business License Application

Online

Walk-In or Mail

You can submit your business license application at any of the county’s six locations. The main office address is:

Old Knox County Courthouse
300 W. Main Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37902

Payment

  • $15 filing fee

Manage Your Knox County DBA

DBA Questions. Call 865-215-2392.

Renew Your DBA. Your standard business license is automatically renewed when you file your tax return. If you filed for a minimal activity license, you will need to fill out this renewal form.

Change Your DBA. You will need to file a new registration to change the name on your business license.

Withdraw Your DBA. You can cancel your business license by submitting a final tax return through the Tennessee Department of Revenue.

Filing a Tennessee DBA for LLCs, Corporation, and LLPs

Incorporated businesses such as LLCs, Corporations, and LLPs must file their DBA with the Tennessee Secretary of State. The following business types are considered incorporated:

  • For-profit Corporations, Non-Profit Corporations
  • Professional Corporations, Professional Associations
  • Limited Partnerships, Limited Liability Partnerships
  • Limited Liability Companies
  • Any Foreign Filing Entities

In Tennessee, incorporated entities such as LLCs and Corporations can only register up to five assumed names.

If you are registering a sole proprietorship or partnership, go back to the DBA guide for unincorporated businesses.

Step 1: Start With a Tennessee DBA Name Search

If you haven't already, head over to the Tennessee Secretary of State website to make sure your name isn't taken by— or too similar to— another registered Tennessee business.

TIP: Our business name generator tool is a great resource for entrepreneurs who are still working to create the perfect business name or website address.

Make sure your name complies with Tennessee naming rules:

  • Your name cannot include words that could confuse your business with a government agency (FBI, Treasury, State Department, etc.).
  • Restricted words (e.g. Bank, Attorney, University) may require additional paperwork and a licensed individual, such as a doctor or lawyer, to be part of your business.
  • Learn more about Tennessee naming guidelines here.

Next, a quick search on the U.S. Trademark Electronic Search System will tell you whether someone else has already trademarked your name.

Now would be the perfect time to make sure there’s a web domain available for your DBA as well.

If you need extra guidance with naming your business, we can help.

Find a Domain Now

Service provided by GoDaddy.com

After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free

Step 2: Register Your DBA with the State

If your business is incorporated, you are required to file your DBA with the Tennessee Secretary of State. You can file online or mail in an application form.

Depending on your business type, you will need to complete one of the following application forms:

The application will ask for your new DBA name and information about your business, such as the company’s legal name and its state of organization or incorporation.

Submit Your Application to Register an Assumed Name

Online

Mail

Corporate Filings
312 Rosa L. Parks Ave.
6th Floor, William R. Snodgrass Tower
Nashville, TN 37243

Fees

  • $20 filing fee

Manage Your Tennessee DBA

DBA Questions. Call the Tennessee Secretary of State: (615) 741-2286

Renew Your DBA with the State. Your assumed name must be renewed every five years. The filing fee is $20. You can renew online or mail in one of the following renewal forms:

Change Your DBA. You can change your assumed name by filling out a name change application. The filing fee is $20. Depending on your business type, mail-in one of these forms:

Withdraw Your DBA. You can cancel your assumed name by filling out the appropriate cancellation form and paying the $20 filing fee.

Need Help Filing Your DBA?

Have A Professional Service File Your DBA For You

A professional service will handle filing your DBA on your behalf, allowing you to focus on the other needs of your new business.

We recommend using MyCompanyWorks ($99 + state fee) for a personalized DBA service.

Tennessee DBA FAQ

Can I go online to file a DBA in Tennessee?

Yes, you can register an assumed name online at the Tennessee Secretary of State website.

How do I change my DBA in Tennessee?

You can change your Tennessee assumed name by filling out a name change application. The filing fee is $20. Depending on your business type, mail-in one of these forms:

Contact your county clerk for county-specific instructions for changing your DBA at the county level.

How can I withdraw my DBA?

You can cancel your assumed name by filling out the appropriate cancellation form and paying the $20 filing fee.

Contact your county clerk for county-specific instructions for withdrawing your DBA for your unincorporated business.

How often should I renew my Tennessee DBA?

Your Tennessee assumed name needs to be renewed every five years.

When is a DBA required in Tennessee?

A DBA is required whenever a business is operating under a name other than its legal name.

How do I transfer my DBA in Tennessee?

You can transfer your Tennessee assumed name to a new owner by filing a transfer form. The fee is $20.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Useful Links for Your Tennessee DBA