If the owners of a company want to do business using a name that is different from the original name used to form the business, they must register the secondary name. For sole proprietorships and partnerships, the original name is the actual name of the owner or partners.
This secondary name doesn’t replace the original name but acts as an additional, legal name for the business. This name is known by several terms such as trade name, fictitious business name, and assumed name. The process for filing this name is often called filing for dba registration or doing business as.
For example, if John Smith, owner of a sole proprietorship, wants to do business as “Best Carpet Cleaner” rather than "John Smith," then he has to file a dba.
When you need a dba
Under Maryland law, a domestic entity is required to record its name by filing for a trade name with the State of Maryland’s Department of Taxation and Assessment.
Foreign corporations (corporations not organized under the laws of Maryland) can file for an assumed name, and are required to file for dba when they wish to operate within Maryland but find their current name is not available. This is because Maryland law prohibits the use of a name that is identical to one already registered by a business and in use.
Setting up a dba in Maryland
The first step in the filing process is for the business entity to determine whether the name you want to file with the Department of Taxation and Assessment is available. You can search the Charter Record Search database to see if the name you want is available.
Keep in mind that certain names and phrases are prohibited under Maryland law. For example, corporations cannot register names that contain words or phrases that imply organization for a purpose other than that which is stated in their formation documents (e.g., corporate bylaws, articles of incorporation). The name must also be different from any name already registered with the state.
In Maryland, a corporation’s name must include a corporate designation such as “incorporated,” “corporation,” or “limited.” That said, no trade name can include a word or phrase that implies the business is an entity it is not; for example, a partnership cannot use the term “incorporated.”
Maryland dba forms
Corporations filing for an assumed name can find the relevant application here. Other entities can file for a trade name using the application found here.
Maryland dba filing & registration
Required information for filling out these forms will vary slightly from entity to entity, but generally requires the name of the entity as it currently exists, the principal place of business, and the assumed business name that will be used. Sole proprietorships and partnerships will need to provide the names and addresses of all owners of the business entity.
Getting a trade name registered by filing a dba doesn’t change how your company is taxed.
If you’re ready to file a dba, LegalZoom can help you get started today. We can help you file the paperwork with your state and can get you in touch with an attorney or tax professional to answer specific questions.
Find out more about DBA State Requirements