You may be asking yourself, what exactly is a DBA? The abbreviation stands for “doing business as” and refers to using a fictitious name (rather than your legal name) when running a business. For example, if you run a business called “Jimmy Jenkins Auto Repair”, a DBA is unnecessary. But if your business is “Jim’s Auto Repair” or “Jenkins and Sons Auto Repair”, you would need a DBA. The idea behind the legal paperwork is public transparency. If you don’t form a corporation or LLC for your business and you’re using a fictitious name, you could get nabbed for fraud, so a DBA is a cheap way to make it all legal. So how do you file for a DBA?
For starters, you want to check the local laws. DBAs could be controlled by the state, but it’s much more likely you’ll have to file with the county, so call the county clerk’s office to establish the steps you’ll need to take to file. It will probably go something like this:
- Once you’ve chosen a business name, you’ll need to make sure it isn’t taken. If it is registered as a corporation or LLC in your area, you’re going to have to find a new name. Oddly, if your business name is already registered as a DBA, chances are you can still use it. In general, a DBA doesn’t guarantee the exclusive use of a name, it just sets up a legal paper trail (which could be useful in a lawsuit).
- Fill out the correct forms and file a certified copy with the County Clerk/Recorder. This service can cost you anywhere upwards of $10, but it tends to be under $100, even if you use an online service to file for you.
- Publish a statement in a local newspaper (in the area you’ll be doing business). The amount of time required to notify the public before you start doing business under your DBA name varies by region, but it tends to be in the range of 30-40 days prior.
- File your published statement with the County Clerk/Recorder. This way all of your legal ducks are in a row. You may also need to file with a local government agency, so check with the county clerk.
- Open a business bank account under your DBA name. This is not technically a must, but you cannot legally do it without your DBA Certified Copy. In fact, you won’t even be able to cash a check made out to your business without this documentation.
A DBA makes doing business as an individual much easier and more affordable. But it can also be a useful tool for someone who already owns a corporation or LLC. If you plan on expanding your business by forming an umbrella corporation and then opening several related businesses (think chains or a series of websites), you can avoid the hassle and expense of creating a new legal entity for each one by simply assigning them all their own DBA. Just remember, although a DBA can save you a lot of time and money, it does not guarantee the exclusivity of your chosen name, so be sure to consider the pros and cons before you select this approach to naming your business.
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