Naming your business is an important branding exercise, but if you choose to name your business as anything other than your own personal name then you’ll need to register it with the appropriate authorities.
This process is known as registering your “Doing Business As” (DBA) name.
What is a “Doing Business As” Name?
A fictitious name (or assumed name, trade name or DBA name) is a business name that is different from your personal name, the names of your partners or the officially registered name of your LLC or corporation.
It’s important to note that when you form a business, the legal name of the business defaults to the name of the person or entity that owns the business, unless you choose to rename it and register it as a DBA name.
For example, consider this scenario: John Smith sets up a painting business. Rather than operate under his own name, John instead chooses to name his business: “John Smith Painting”. This name is considered an assumed name and John will need to register it with the appropriate local government agency.
The legal name of your business is required on all government forms and applications, including your application for employer tax IDs, licenses and permits.
Do I Need a “Doing Business As” Name?
A DBA is needed in the following scenarios:
- Sole Proprietors or Partnerships – If you wish to start a business under anything other than your real name, you’ll need to register a DBA so that you can do business as another name.
- Existing Corporations or LLCs – If your business is already set up and you want to do business under a name other than your existing corporation or LLC name, you will need to register a DBA.
Note: Not all states require the registering of fictitious business names or DBAs.
How to Register your “Doing Business As” Name
Registering your DBA is done either with your county clerk’s office or with your state government, depending on where your business is located. There are a few states that do not require the registering of fictitious business names.