What is a dba?
If a business wants to operate with a name that is different from the name used to form the business, it may have to register the new name (called a trade name). This is often called filing for a dba, or doing business as. For example, if “ABC Company LLC” wants to do business as “Best Dry Cleaners in Town,” then the owners may have to file a dba.
When you need a dba
Under Tennessee law, dbas are available principally to corporations, LLCs, LPs, and LLPs. Sole proprietorships and general partnerships are expected to operate under the name of the proprietor or the names of the partners.
That said, most county offices in Tennessee will assist a smaller company that wants to operate under a different name while avoiding both consumer confusion and potential legal liability. Even if it is not required, registering a different name with a dba allows the company to open bank accounts in the new name, write contracts with the name, and otherwise conduct business using the trade name.
Choosing a name
When choosing a name, keep in mind that Tennessee prohibits a corporate name that implies that a company transacts business for which authorization is required but for which the company has no such authorization. For example, you can’t name a business something that implies it performs medicine when, in fact, the owners aren’t licensed medical professionals.
Tennessee also prohibits names that imply false affiliations with fraternal, veterans, service, religious, charitable, or professional organizations unless those affiliations are real. Finally, names implying a governmental affiliation are also prohibited unless that affiliation is legitimate.
Setting up a dba in Tennessee
A dba filing begins with searching for the relevant name to make sure that the name is not already in use. You can’t use a business name that is already registered with the Secretary of State.
Tennessee dba filing & registration
The requirements for filing a dba vary depending on the type of business that is seeking a trade name, but in general, the paperwork will want to know: the company’s true name, its principal place of business, a statement of intent to transact business under the name in question, and the assumed name to be adopted.
Getting a trade name registered by filing a dba doesn’t change how your company is taxed.
Ready to get a dba in Tennessee? LegalZoom can help you get started with filing the paperwork for your dba. We can also get you in touch with a business attorney or tax professional to help you make specific decisions about your business.
Find out more about DBA State Requirements