How to File a DBA in California
Last Updated: By TRUiC Team
Filing a California DBA (doing business as), known as a fictitious business name, is a simple process that's completed with the county where your principal place of business is located.
A DBA won't protect your personal assets. You need a formal business structure for liability protection. Forming an LLC is the best choice for most small businesses. Learn more in our DBA vs LLC guide.
For a look at DBA filing in every state, check out our other step-by-step How to Get a DBA guides.
Filing a DBA in California is Easy
A DBA doesn't offer any protection for your personal assets in the event that your business is sued. For this reason we strongly recommend that a DBA should only be used by a formal business structure such as an LLC or corporation for the purpose of changing or adding a new brand to their business.
If you are an informal business structure (sole proprietorship or partnership) we strongly recommend you form an LLC. An LLC is usually the most suitable choice for most small businesses. The name of the LLC can also act as your brand name, hence, you will not need a DBA.
Step 1: DBA Name Search California
The first step to getting a Calfornia Fictitious Business Name is choosing your name and making sure it’s available. Your name can be similar to other business names, but it’s still a good practice to create a unique name.
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. You can also use our free logo generator tool to make a logo yourself! No design experience necessary!
Before you file your DBA, you will be required to search your county’s records to make sure your exact name isn’t already taken. You will also need to consider any naming rules.
In California, your fictitious business name should not include any business entity suffix, such as LLC, Incorporated, Corp, etc., unless the business is actually an LLC, corporation, etc.
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.
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After registering a domain name for your DBA, consider using a business phone service to improve customer satisfaction and further establish credibility. Our top pick is Nextiva because of its affordable pricing and useful features. Start calling with Nextiva.
Step 2: File Your California DBA with the County Clerk
In California, you register your fictitious business name with the county where your principal place of business is located.
If your principal place of business is outside of the state of California, you are required to file with the Sacramento County Clerk. Non-profits are not required to file a Fictitious Business Name Statement.
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
Filing a DBA with Your County Clerk
DBA regulations are managed by the state of California which means the steps for getting a DBA are very similar from county to county.
We will give you step-by-step directions to get a Los Angeles County DBA. If you need to file in a different county, you’ll need to contact the correct county clerk for instructions.
These links will lead you to the fictitious business name websites for some of the more populated counties:
- Sacramento County Clerk
- Orange County Clerk
- San Diego County Clerk
- LA County, Full Instructions Below
You can find the complete list of county contact information on the California Department of Public Health's website.
How to File a Los Angeles County DBA
At this point, you should’ve already chosen a name for your business and completed the name searches in Step 1 above. LA County requires that you also check their fictitious business name records before you start the filing process.
Most business owners use the LA County County Clerk’s online fictitious name portal to gain access to various California DBA PDF forms. You can also request a copy of the forms be mailed to you by calling (800) 201-8999 or you can get one in person by visiting the County Clerk’s office.
When applying in person, applicants do not need to have their statements notarized. If you apply by mail or by third-party, you must also send in a Notarized Affidavit of Identity Form. This form is provided by the county.
You have three options to file your Ficticious Business Name. Once you go to LA County Business Filing and Registration System, you'll select File a Ficticious Business Name and then select your preferred filing option.
- File In-Person
- File By Mail
- File Via Third Party
You must include an affidavit to identity form unless you apply in person. Instructions for delivery of the forms are included within the forms listed above.
- $26 first-time filing fee for one business/one registrant
- $5 for each additional business name/registrant
Within 30 days of filing your fictitious business name, you must publish a statement in a newspaper in the county where your principal place of business is. You must publish one a week for four weeks. Publication steps are listed in the next section.
Manage Your LA County DBA
Call (800) 201-8999 for general questions about LA County fictitious business names.
Renew Your DBA
You are required to renew your Los Angeles County DBA every 5 years. Renewal forms can be found on the lavote.net website. The fee for renewing your FBN is $26. Depending on how you deliver this form to LA County, you may need a notarization form.
Change Your DBA
To make changes to your Los Angeles County DBA, visit the fictitious business name amendment page on the LAvote.net website. Depending on how you deliver this form to LA County, you may need a notarization form.
Withdraw Your DBA
Call the county clerk at (800) 201-8999 to request a statement of abandonment. If the case that your county doesn’t provide this form, you can create your own by following the rules detailed here.
Step 3: Publish a California Fictitious Business Name Statement
Within 30 days of registering your fictitious business name, the state of California requires you to publish a "fictitious business name statement" in a newspaper in the county where your principal place of business is. You must publish once a week for four weeks.
Publication is easy and when you call the newspaper to run your ad, they will be familiar with the process and they will have the template for the fictitious business name statement.
Publication requirements are explained in detail on California's legislative website. The basic steps are:
- The newspaper must be a general circulation publication that circulates in the county where you register your fictitious business name. You can find a list for LA County on the LA County website.
- You must publish once a week for four weeks.
- If refiling your fictitious business name is required (the original expired), you must publish again.
- You must file an affidavit proving publication within 30 days of the completion of publication. In LA county, this can be completed by following the steps detailed here.
You should direct any questions about publication to the county clerk’s office that you registered your fictitious business name with. You can find the complete list of county contact information on the California Department of Public Health's website.
Need Help Filing Your California Fictitious Business Name?
Have a Professional Service File Your California 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 Swyft Filings ($99 + state fee) for a personalized DBA service.
Fictitious Business Name California FAQ
Can I file a DBA online in CA?
You will need to contact the county of your principal place of business to find out if online filing is available. You can find the complete list of county contact information on the California Department of Public Health's website.
How do I withdraw my California DBA?
Call your county clerk at (800) 201-8999 to request a statement of abandonment. If the case that your county doesn’t provide this form, you can create your own by following the rules detailed on the California legislative website.
How can I insure my California DBA?
DBAs don’t require insurance because DBAs aren't a business entity. However, the business entity that the DBA is under will need protection from losses that can happen naturally in the course of business, such as property damage or lawsuits.
We recommend Tivly because they provide coverage for a large variety of businesses. Get a free quote from Tivly or call 855-965-3168 to learn more.
How do I change my DBA in Los Angeles County?
To make changes to your fictitious business name, visit the fictitious business name amendment page on the LA County website. Depending on how you deliver this form to LA County, you may need a notarization form.
How often should I renew my California DBA?
You are required to renew your California DBA every 5 years. For LA County, renewal forms can be found here on the LA County website. The fee for renewing your FBN is $26. Depending on how you deliver this form to LA County, you may need a notarization form.
When is a DBA required in CA?
A DBA is required whenever a business is operating under a name other than its legal name. In the case of a sole proprietorship, you will need a DBA if you are operating under a name that doesn’t include your surname.
How do I transfer my DBA in California?
Most transfers can be completed by filing an amendment to change the owner’s name.
Is my California 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.
How many California 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 California 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 California 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 California 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 California 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.