DBA

Below are frequently asked questions about DBAs/Fictitious Business Name Statements. If you have a question and don't see the answer below, please feel free to submit your question and we will add it below.


What is a DBA?
A DBA "doing business as" or FBNS "fictitious business name statement" is a declaration to the public that a business intends to use a business name (also known as an assumed name or trade name) that implies multiple owners or does not include the full legal name of the owner. In some states this statement needs to be filed with a local government agency and published in a newspaper of general circulation in the area in which the owners intend to conduct business.
How do I know if I need a DBA?
Because a DBA is designed to inform the public, one would need to be filed for any business name that does not fully disclose the identity of the owners. For instance John Smith & Associates would to need to file a DBA because their business name implies additional owners. ABC Auto Repair would obviously need one as well. However, John Smith Auto Repair would not need to file a DBA as this business name contains the full legal name of the owner. A corporation, LLC or other business entity registered with the State would file a DBA for any business name other than the one on their Articles of Incorporation.
Why do I need a DBA?
Besides being required by law and a service to the public, you will need a DBA Certified Copy to open a bank account and accept checks written to your business.
What are the requirements for a DBA?
A DBA statement must generally be filed before using your business name in the operation of your business, and in some cases within 30-40 days of your first business transaction. In some states a DBA needs to be refiled every 5 years or within 40 days of an address change. A business name may not imply that it is a registered organization unless it actually is. For example, John Smith cannot file a DBA for ABC Auto Repair, Inc. unless he has first incorporated with the proper state agency.
What protection does filing a DBA afford my business?
In most states, DBAs, unlike corporations or LLCs, do not guarantee exclusive use of a name. In most cases, the State or County will file any correctly prepared fictitious business name statement, regardless of name conflict. However, a DBA does establish a paper trail that could be useful in a lawsuit.
What are the steps involved in filing a DBA?
The actual process varies from state to state but in California, for example, a DBA/Fictitious Business Name Statement needs to be filed with the County Clerk/Recorder's Office. The DBA then needs to be published in a newspaper of general circulation for four consecutive weeks in the area where the business will be conducted. After that, proof of publication needs to be refiled with the County Clerk/Recorder's Office within 30 days of publication.
What business entities are available?
A Sole Proprietorship:
A sole proprietorship is the simplest form of business where one individual conducts the business. The business owner is personally liable for all the obligations of the business.
A General Partnership:
A General Partnership is an association of two or more persons doing business. All partners are personally liable for the obligations of the partnership.
Joint Venture:
A Joint Venture is two or more entities under a contractual agreement to conduct a specific business enterprise with both parties sharing equal responsibility. The venture is usually for one specific project.
A Business Trust:
A Business Trust is a trust created for the primary purpose of operating or engaging in a business. It must have a business purpose and actually function as a business.
Co-partners:
A Co-partnership is an association of two persons doing business. Both partners are personally liable for the obligations of the business.
Husband and Wife:
A Husband & Wife is an association of two persons doing business who happen to be married. Both partners are personally liable for the obligations of the business.
A Corporation:
A corporation is a legal entity which exists separately from its owners. A corporation limits the owners from personal liability. Formation documents are required to choose this option.
A Limited Partnership:
A Limited Partnership is a business arrangement operated by general partners with unlimited personal liability and funded by limited or silent partners who are partially liable.
An Unincorporated Association Other than a Partnership:
An Unincorporated Association Other Than A Partnership is an association that doesn't fit into any of the other entities.
A Limited Liability Company:
A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a legal entity that has the option of being taxed like a partnership, but shields personal assets from business debt like a corporation. Filing at the state level is required.
Do I have to refile if I move?
You will need to refile your DBA within 40 days of any change to your business address. Changes to the residential addresses of owners/partners do not need to be refiled.
Can I have more than one business name?
Yes, you can have as many business names per DBA as you want. This is useful in registering any acronyms or short names your business may use on a day-to-day basis.
How long does a DBA last?
A DBA needs to be refiled every 5 years or within 40 days of an address change.
What is required for a renewal?
Unfortunately, a renewal does not simply mean you have previously filed the name. In order to constitute a true Renewal the original DBA needs to have been filed between October 26, 2013 and December 10, 2013 and there can be no changes to any of the original information; same business address, same business entity, no additional owners/partners, etc. If in doubt, you should file it as a new filing.
When can I begin using my DBA name?
You can legally begin using your DBA name once you receive the Certified Copy.

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