When a business operates using a name that is different from the owner’s name or from the legal name of the partnership, LLC, or corporation, it is said to be “doing business as,” or “DBA,” another name. A DBA is a pseudonym, though some states refer to the paperwork required as a “fictitious name filing.” To operate under a different name, companies need to submit an application indicating the name to be used and verify that another business is not already using the name.
In North America, the common designation for doing business as is “DBA” or “d/b/a.” In other countries, “trading as” is more common, with “t/a” the abbreviation.
Not all companies require DBA filings, however.
Sole proprietorships are the most common DBA filers. However, if you run a sole proprietorship and use your own name, such as Sue Smith’s Styling Salon, you don’t need to submit a DBA form. You are doing business as yourself. It’s a non-issue.
However, if your business intends to use a name different from your own, such as City Styling Salon or The Final Cut, you will need to file DBA forms to make it clear to the state, and your customers, who is behind the business. That is the reasoning behind such forms – making sure customers know the name of the business owner.
The same is true if your partnership, LLC, or corporation wants to do business under a name different from its legal name. This frequently happens with franchisees, which can’t all operate under the parent company’s or brand’s name. For example, a Delaware Wendy’s franchisee might do business as Brandywine Burgers. Or if a new business unit is formed within a corporation with a slightly different mission or product line, a DBA could be filed to indicate the different name and the unit’s relationship to the parent company. This would be the case if, say, the Veggies R Us corporation decided to spin off its ice cream business, naming it The Cream of the Crop. The Cream of the Crop would need a DBA filing since the name being used is different from its parent corporation.
Most DBA filings are submitted at your county courthouse and can cost anywhere from $25-$100, typically.
For more information about where to file, check here.