How to Add a DBA to Your LLC? (A Complete Guide)

Jon Morgan
Published by Jon Morgan | Co-Founder & Chief Editor
Last updated: June 20, 2024
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Adding a DBA (Doing Business As) to your LLC can be a strategic move to enhance your company's visibility and reach.

As a seasoned business consultant with years of experience, I aim to share my expertise and provide step-by-step instructions for successfully adding a DBA to your LLC.

With thorough research and consultations with legal experts and industry professionals, I have compiled this complete guide to help you navigate the process seamlessly.

This guide outlines the necessary steps, legal considerations, and best practices to ensure a smooth transition and compliance with the relevant small business regulations.

Quick Summary

  • To add a DBA to your LLC, follow these steps: Choose a business name, file a DBA application with the state, and comply with local, state, and federal regulations.
  • Research and ensure the chosen DBA name is unique and complies with naming requirements.
  • According to the Chamber of Commerce, around 65.3% of small businesses in the U.S. reported profitability in 2022, highlighting the potential for financial success with proper planning and execution.
  • Speaking from personal experience, I know that navigating the complexities of DBA registration can significantly impact your business's legal standing and public perception, warranting careful consideration and strategic planning.


Steps to Adding a DBA to Your LLC

A businessman forming a strategy on how to add a DBA to an LLC

Adding a Doing Business As to your LLC involves straightforward steps to operate your small business under a different name.

Here are the steps you’ll need to follow:

1. Choose A Business Name

To transact business under a DBA, your business must have a name. You have to follow the business name search requirements of the state.

The LLC name must be unique and can't be used by other existing business entities. From my experience, it's best to perform a name search before adding a DBA under an LLC name.

Some states allow you to reserve a DBA name for a certain amount before you start using the name in commerce. This ensures that no one else takes the name you want.

Whether the LLC conducts business as a sole proprietorship or limited liability partnership, it can conduct business under an assumed name as long as it follows the naming requirements.

Across states, the requirements for a DBA name stipulate that a legal business entity mustn't use any words, abbreviations, or symbols that could confuse the public into thinking it is a different small business.

Additionally, terms connected to a state agency, such as "police" or "court," cannot be used in a DBA name.

2. File A DBA With The State

After choosing your business name, the next step is to file a DBA application with your state's Secretary of State office (or whatever county agency oversees businesses in your state).

I filed a number of these and found that the document simply confirms the existence of a small business and its trade name, as well as some basic information about the company, such as the company's address and contact information.

Before starting the DBA filing process, gather the required documents and information.

These typically include:

  • Your LLC's business legal name and information
  • The desired DBA name
  • Your LLC's identification number is usually obtained from the Ohio Secretary of State's office
  • Any relevant licenses or permits associated with your business

You will also be asked to confirm that it is a limited liability company. Additional personal information, such as a home address, the owner's full name, and your LLC's offices, will be required.

"To register multiple assumed names, each must have its own separate registration. If statewide registration is not available, each assumed name must be registered individually in every county or municipality where it will be utilized."

- Delina Yasmeh, J.D./Tax LL.M, Distinguished Expert in Mergers & Acquisitions

3. Complete the Required Forms

The next step is to complete the necessary forms to add a DBA to your LLC. In Ohio, the required form may vary depending on the county in which your business is located.

You must complete a "Fictitious Name Registration" or "Assumed Name Certificate" form, which can usually be obtained from the county clerk's website.

Also, remember that these forms and filing fees will differ from state to state.

Approximately, according to the Chamber of Commerce, 65.3% of small businesses in the U.S. were profitable in 2022, illustrating the potential for success with the right business model and name [1].

4. Pay the Filing Fee

A filing fee may be associated with filing for a DBA in Ohio. I found that the fees can vary depending on the county and its specific requirements.

Contact the county clerk or check their website to determine the fee amount and acceptable payment methods.

Keep in mind that 78% of small business owners finance their ventures with personal funds, yet according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, up to 33% encounter financial difficulties due to inadequate capital [2].

This emphasizes the critical importance of meticulous financial planning and budget management, especially when integrating a DBA into your LLC.

5. Submit the Forms to the Appropriate Agency

Once you have completed the required forms and gathered all the necessary documents, submit your DBA application to the appropriate government agency.

The DBA filing method will also vary, so some states will allow DBA registration through either mail, phone, or email, while others will only allow one or two options.

Along with the completed forms, you may be required to provide a copy of the application to a local newspaper for publication.

The county clerk's office will provide instructions on the specific newspaper and publication requirements [3].

How to Know Where to Register a DBA?

Top view of a person working in his work station

A fictitious name registration must be completed with a county or state agency where the assumed name will be used in every state [4].

You must do it in some jurisdictions at the state and local levels.

From my experience, the U.S. Small Business Administration website can assist you in searching for specific contact information for your state and the requirements for the filing process.

Once you have filed your DBA form, you will be issued a certificate of assumed name (or something similar), proving that your business uses this name.

You should keep a copy of this document in your company's legal documents. Additionally, most states require businesses to display their DBA name in a specific format on all business materials or in local newspapers.

Across states, the requirements for a DBA name stipulate that a legal entity mustn't use any words, abbreviations, or symbols that could confuse the public into thinking it is a different business.

Additionally, terms connected to a state agency, such as "police" or "court," cannot be used in a DBA name.

Why Would An LLC Use A DBA?

An LLC would use a DBA to help establish a distinct brand identity, facilitate branding or marketing purposes, and create a recognizable presence in the market.

Here are other key reasons why an LLC would use a DBA: 

  • It can help the LLC operate under a different name, providing flexibility and potential benefits
  • DBA may aid in expanding the LLC's customer base by appealing to different target markets or entering new geographical areas
  • It also helps an LLC separate its business activities, maintain legal compliance, and protect its assets

Overall, a DBA can offer strategic advantages for an LLC seeking to maximize its business opportunities.

It is crucial to understand that adding a DBA to an LLC does not create a separate legal entity.

From a legal standpoint, the liabilities and responsibilities of the LLC remain unchanged when operating under a DBA.

The LLC remains responsible for any debts, obligations, or legal actions associated with its business activities, regardless of the name used.

Adding a DBA does not offer personal liability protection for the LLC's members. The limited liability protection typically associated with an LLC only extends to the company's assets, not the personal assets of the business owner.

Thus, members should still adhere to appropriate legal and business practices to safeguard their personal assets.

Importance of Complying With Local, State, and Federal Regulations

When using a DBA, it is essential to comply with local, state, and federal regulations regarding fictitious name registrations. Each jurisdiction may have specific requirements and procedures for registering and using a DBA.

According to my experience, in most cases, the LLC must prominently display its actual legal name on all official documents, contracts, and communications, along with the DBA. This helps maintain transparency and ensures compliance with legal paperwork and regulatory requirements.

Follow all relevant laws, licensing requirements, and industry-specific regulations, regardless of the name used by the LLC. Failing to comply with these regulations can lead to legal consequences, fines, or loss of business privileges.

Additionally, maintain accurate and up-to-date records of the LLC's business address and contact information. This will be essential for legal compliance and effective communication with government agencies, customers, and partners.

Renewal and Expiry

DBAs are valid for different amounts of time in different states.

For instance, in California, the law requires that you renew your DBA every 5 years. However, this period can differ from state to state, which means it's crucial to be aware of your specific state's requirements.

Failure to renew your DBA on time can lead to a lapse in your right to do business under that name, potentially opening the door to legal complications and confusion for your customers.

Here's how to renew a DBA step-by-step:

  1. Check Your Expiry Date: Start by confirming your DBA's expiration date with your state or local registration office. This information is often available online but can also be confirmed by a phone call or visit to the office.
  2. Prepare Your Documentation: Depending on your jurisdiction, renewing your DBA may require similar documentation to your initial registration. This might include your current DBA certificate, proof of business address, and identification.
  3. Submit Your Renewal Application: Complete any required forms for renewal, which may be available online or through your local registration office. Ensure that your business information is up-to-date and accurately reflected in your renewal application.
  4. Pay the Renewal Fee: Like the initial registration, renewing your DBA will likely involve a fee. This fee varies by location, so check the current amount with the registering authority.
  5. Publish Your Renewal (If Required): Some states require that you publish your DBA renewal in a local newspaper, similar to the initial registration process. This step provides public notice of your continued claim to the DBA name.

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FAQs

Is a DBA a Business License?

A DBA is not a business license, but it is an essential step in registering your LLC, especially if you are a sole owner. Business licenses are typically issued by the local government where your business is located and allow you to operate your business within that jurisdiction.

Is DBA A Public Record?

A DBA is a public record. This means anyone can search for and view the name of your business. However, when you register DBAs under an LLC, they become attached to the LLC's fictitious names. This protects your personal information and keeps your private affairs separate from your business dealings.

Is an Employer Identification Number Required for a DBA?

An Employer Identification Number is not required for a DBA unless that business entity intends to hire employees or open business bank accounts. The IRS website provides more information on EINs and their uses.

Do I Need a DBA for a Sole Proprietorship?

You do not need a DBA for a sole proprietorship. However, some states (such as California, for example) require sole proprietorships to register a fictitious company name with the state to conduct business under a name other than the name of a business owner.

Can a Limited Partnership Have a DBA?

A limited partnership can have a DBA. This includes sole owners, general partnerships, limited partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs), and corporations.

Can Multiple Businesses Use the Same DBA?

Multiple businesses can use the same DBA if a single person owns them or you are registered as a sole proprietorship. However, if you are registered as a limited liability company under a fictitious business name, your DBA can't be used by any other business entity in your state.

Can a Company Have Multiple DBA Names?

A company can have multiple DBA names. Assumed names can be your name, a combination of last names (usually used by a general partnership), or a completely made-up name. However, all DBAs must file a registration form with the state where the company operates.

Does a Corporation Need a DBA?

A corporation doesn't need a DBA, provided it has already registered with the state. If a corporation or an LLC plans to use a different legal name than the one signed when filing the registration documents, DBA usage will be necessary.


References:

  1. https://www.chamberofcommerce.org/small-business-statistics/
  2. https://www.bls.gov/bdm/us_age_naics_00_table7.txt
  3. https://www.ftb.ca.gov/about-ftb/newsroom/tax-news/november-2019/guide-to-dbas.html
  4. https://www.sjgov.org/department/assessor/recorder-county-clerk-information/county-clerk/fictitious-business-names

About The Author

Co-Founder & Chief Editor
Jon Morgan, MBA, LLM, has over ten years of experience growing startups and currently serves as CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Venture Smarter. Educated at UC Davis and Harvard, he offers deeply informed guidance. Beyond work, he enjoys spending time with family, his poodle Sophie, and learning Spanish.
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Growth & Transition Advisor
LJ Viveros has 40 years of experience in founding and scaling businesses, including a significant sale to Logitech. He has led Market Solutions LLC since 1999, focusing on strategic transitions for global brands. A graduate of Saint Mary’s College in Communications, LJ is also a distinguished Matsushita Executive alumnus.
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