What is a DBA?
If a business wants to operate with a different name than the one used to form the business, it may have to register the new name (called a trade name or fictitious name). This process is often called filing for a DBA, or doing business as.
When you need a DBA
It is a crime to operate with a fictitious business name without registering it with a DBA filing. Failure to register a DBA could result in the levying of a $2,500 fine, up to one year in prison, or both. Properly filing the DBA registration also allows the company to open bank accounts, enter contracts, and otherwise operating using the new business name.
Setting up a DBA in Virginia
The first step in the DBA filing process is to determine whether a name you want to use is actually available. In order to do that, search the Commonwealth of Virginia State Corporation Commission entity search.
There are a number of restrictions on what names can be used. Businesses cannot use a DBA that misrepresents the company geographically, and cannot register a DBA that is confusingly similar to another registered business name.
Avoid names that might be perceived as deceptive or fraudulent, such as a name that implies the entity is of a certain type that it is not, e.g. including "Inc." when the entity is not a corporation.
Virginia DBA filing and registration
Foreign or domestic corporations, LLCs, and LLPs must obtain an Assumed/Fictitious Name Filing in a Virginia Circuit Court, and then file that certificate with the Clerk's Office of the Commission. You’ll also need to file the name with every county clerk’s office in the counties where the company seeks to do business.
Sole proprietorships and general partnerships need not register with the Clerk's Office of the Commission, but must register on the county level with the county clerk's office.
You’ll include a variety of information including the DBA to be registered, the name of the business, its principal place of business, the general nature of the business, and any other information requested by the court.
Getting a trade name registered by filing a DBA doesn’t change how your company is taxed.
When you are ready to file a DBA in Virginia, LegalZoom can help you. We can search the state business name database to find conflicts, file your paperwork, and even get you in touch with an attorney to help you with specific questions.