A lot of new clients frequently ask me, “What is a DBA?” which is almost always followed up with, “Do I need one?” So what is a DBA? A DBA (“Doing Business As”) is also known as a Fictitious Business Name statement, and it is a name that you select to “do business as,” that is anything other than your company’s legal name. If you are a legally formed entity – think LLC (limited liability company), corporation, LLP (limited liability partnership), LP (limited partnership), or any other registered entity with your state’s Secretary of State – then you will need a DBA if you are conducting business as anything other than the name you registered with the Secretary of State when you initially formed your business entity. This is also known as your company’s “legal name.” For example, if you are an ice cream company, and you choose the name The Great Ice Cream Company, LLC with your state’s Secretary of State, then you must do business as The Great Ice Cream Company, LLC, otherwise you must get a DBA.
What Is a DBA? Do I Need One?
If you are a sole proprietor, you will need a DBA if you are doing business as anything other than your legal name. For example, my name is Kristen Roberts. If I were running my law practice, Trestle Law, as anything other than my legal surname or full name in combination with the services I offer, then I would need a DBA. For example, I likely wouldn’t need a DBA if I decided to open “The Law Offices of Kristen Roberts.” However, since I operate my business as Trestle Law, I would need a DBA – and I have one.
DBAs are not registered at the state level, but at the county level. Generally speaking, you fill out the necessary paperwork, take it to your local county recorder’s office, pay the fee, take the completed forms to a local newspaper (or sometimes you can do this online), and publish it for a number of weeks. You will then receive notice that your DBA has been approved.
Visit Your County Recorder for More Info.
Overall, DBAs should not be overly confusing, but the rules will vary from state to state and county to county. If you are still unsure as to whether you need a DBA or are still asking yourself, “What is a DBA?” I highly recommend you talk with an attorney in your area. Most (including my firm) offer DBA services for very low costs.