Which Businesses Need a DBA?

Every business has a legal name. If a company does business under another name, that is called a "Doing Business As" (DBA) name. Learn which companies need a DBA and why.

Which Businesses Need a DBA?

In the US, a DBA lets the public know who the actual owner of a business is. The DBA is also called a fictitious business name or assumed business name. The need for a DBA name is tied closely to the type of business structure your business operates under. Whether your company needs a DBA depends on several factors, including how you want to conduct business, your business entity type, and other factors.

Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships

If the business structure in which you conduct business is a sole proprietor or general partnership, you will need to file a DBA if your company has a different name than your own personal name. As a business entity, sole proprietorships and general partnerships are unincorporated ways to conduct business. They do not need to file legal entity formation papers or a business entity name with the state. However, they still need to acquire the necessary business licenses and permits.

In some cases, you do not need to file a DBA if your business name is a combination of your name and a description of your product or service. The business owner and the business are the same entity, which means they have the same name unless they file a DBA.

If you are uncertain about whether or not you need to file a DBA, get in touch with your local clerk's office and ask them if it is necessary. You can also consult your legal advisor.

Corporations and Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)

If you have filed to become a corporation or LLC, you have already registered your business name, and you do not need a DBA. However, you will need to get a DBA if you plan to conduct business using a different name from the name filed with your LLC/corporation paperwork.

DBAs and Business Strategy

Whether you're going solo or looking to expand, your DBA can help establish your brand and set your company apart from the competition. In terms of business strategy, a fictitious name can help in the following ways:

  • It is the easiest way to register your name. When it comes down to it, filing a "doing business as" name is the easiest way for sole proprietorships to register their business name and establish their companies as entities separate from themselves.
  • You can operate multiple businesses. Registering a DBA allows businesses to operate multiple firms under one ownership without forming a separate business entity each time they expand. Note that if your business grows to other states, you'll need to file a foreign qualification in each new state to avoid steep penalties. Your business' legal name in the states where you qualify will be the name on your company's certificate of authority. If you want to use a different name, you'll have to register a DBA in that state.
  • DBAs keep your business compliant. While a DBA doesn't provide you with legal protections, it further separates you from your business. In the unlikely scenario that your business is sued, you could offer up your DBA as evidence that your business and its assets are an entity separate from you and your assets.
  • You want a creative or distinctive company name. Your brand name is the public's first impression of your business. Ideally, your business's name should reflect your product or service and give people a reason to become paying customers. A DBA can help you do that.
  • Your bank asks for a DBA to open a business account. Separating your business and personal finances will protect your personal assets in case of a lawsuit and make your bookkeeping and taxes that much easier.

Outsource Your DBA Management to Harbor Compliance

The rules, requirements, forms, and fees associated with filing a DBA differ in each state and county. In some states, sole proprietors and general partnerships file DBA forms in one office, while corporations, LLCs, and other statutory entities file DBA forms in another. The DBA forms may differ as well. The time it takes to process a DBA also varies. It is best to learn how your state or county operates.

If you are looking to outsource your DBA filings, Harbor Compliance can help. With our Managed DBA services, you can expect:

  • Worry-Free Compliance. Forget navigating state websites, agonizing over government forms, and tracking renewal due dates. Leave the paperwork to us.
  • Responsive Service. Our one-day onboarding, precision file preparation, and expedited filing options set the bar for prompt, responsive service.
  • Total Solutions. In addition to DBA management, our specialists can manage entities, business licensing, tax registration, and more.

With Harbor Compliance, you're partnering with a team of compliance specialists who understand your goals and can manage the regulatory tasks to get you there. Contact us today to learn more.

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