When you created your limited liability company (LLC), you chose a name for it. This name was included in the documents you filed to register the LLC. This is typically done by filing LLC articles of organization with the state agency that regulates businesses. Once your LLC is registered, you may conduct business under the official name of your LLC as it is registered.
Some LLCs find advantages to using a different name to conduct business. This is usually a name that is better suited for marketing and advertising purposes. If an LLC conducts business under a name other than the one that was registered for the LLC, it needs to register the other name as a DBA.
What Does “DBA" Mean?
DBA (sometimes seen as “dba") is an abbreviation for “doing business as." Using a DBA is how an LLC uses a different name to conduct business. For example, if your LLC is registered under the name “Jane Jones Enterprises LLC," but you wish to do business under the name “JJ's Computer Services," you would use “Jane Jones Enterprises LLC, DBA JJ's Computer Services."
The laws of most states refer to such a business name as an “assumed name," “fictitious name," or “tradename." Such a name is also commonly referred to as a DBA name or business name.
Why Use a DBA?
The two most common reasons for using a fictitious name are:
- Being able to operate multiple businesses under one LLC, rather than forming separate LLCs. For example, Summit Enterprises LLC might want to use “Summit Property Management" for a business that owns or manages rental properties and “Summit Yard Services" for a business that provides lawn and garden maintenance.
- Using a name for your business that you believe will give you a marketing advantage, such as by more accurately describing the nature of your business, making a local connection, or getting a favorable alphabetical position in phone book or online listings. For example, if your LLC is registered as “California Wine Outlets LLC," and you decide to open a store in Monterey, you might want to use the name “Monterey Wine Outlet" for that store, in order to present it as a local business. You would then be “California Wines Outlets LLC, DBA Monterey Wine Outlet."
Where to Register a DBA
Registration of a fictitious name is required in all states. In most states you'll register with the county or city government where the assumed name will be used, but in some states you'll register at the state level.
To help you find out what is required in your state:
- Conduct an online search for fictitious name requirements in your state. For example, search “Florida fictitious name registration" or “Texas DBA registration."
- Check with the state agency where you registered your LLC.
- Check with your city or county agency that deals with business regulation, typically the county or city clerk's office.
- Check with your local office of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
If you want to use more than one assumed name, you will need to file a separate registration for each name. Unless statewide registration is possible, the assumed name will need to be registered in each county or municipality where the name will be used.
How to Register a DBA
Once you determine where to register, you may be able to register your DBA name online. You can also obtain the proper form from the agency, fill it out with the required information, and file it with the agency. You will be required to provide the name of your LLC as it is registered and the fictitious name you want to use. Restrictions often prohibit the use of a name that is the same as, or similar to, a fictitious name that is already registered. You will probably also be required to pay a registration fee, which will typically be under $100.
You may also be required to publish some type of notice in an approved newspaper in order to start using the assumed name. If such a publication is required, you can usually find a local legal newspaper that offers much lower publication rates than a general circulation newspaper.
How to add a DBA to an LLC varies slightly from place to place, but it is a fairly easy process that typically involves filing a simple form with the appropriate government agency.