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Do I Need a DBA?
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Do I Need a DBA?

By Devin Scott Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Many clients want to operate a business under a different name than what was originally named on the certificate filed with the state. The question we hear quite often is: "'Do I need a DBA' or 'doing business as' name with my company?" and "What is the process to do this?" Here is some information from that may help clarify this topic.

The legal name of a sole proprietorship is the name of the person or entity that owns it. If you are the sole owner of your sole proprietorship, its legal name is your full name. If your business is a partnership, the legal name is the name given in your partnership agreement or the last names of the partners. For limited liability companies (LLCs) and corporations, the business's legal name is the name in Article One of the certificate that was registered with the state government.

Your business' legal name is required on all government forms and applications, including your application for employer tax IDs, licenses and permits. However, if you want to open a shop or sell your products under a different name, then you may have to file a "fictitious name" registration form with your local government agency.

A fictitious name (or assumed name, trade name, or DBA name, short for "doing business as") is a business name that is different than your personal name, the names of your partners or the officially registered name of your LLC or corporation.

For example, let's say Mary Smith is a sole proprietor of a catering company she runs out of her house. Mary wants to name her business Seaside Catering instead of using her business's legal name, Mary Smith. In order to use Seaside Catering, Mary will need to register that name as a fictitious business name with a government agency. Which government agency, depends on where she lives. In some states, fictitious names are registered with the state government; in others, you register fictitious names with the county clerk's office; and in others, there are no laws requiring businesses to register a fictitious business names.

Beware! Filing a DBA does NOT protect you from personal liability the way incorporating does. When we file your LLC or corporation with the Delaware Division of Corporations, it creates a whole new entity, which is separate in most legal respects from its owners.

Check your state's DBA requirements here.

More By Devin Scott


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There is 1 comment left for Do I Need a DBA?

Leviticus Bennett says: Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Thanks for the clear explanations as to what a DBA is. My uncle started a business as a sole owner, so it sounds like the title is in his name. I think he'll file a DBA to change it to the company's name.

HBS Staff replied: Friday, March 31, 2017

Glad to help! Thanks for reading our blog.

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