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What is a DBA?

April 20, 2016

“DBA” stands for “Doing Business As”, and can be abbreviated DBA, dba, d.b.a. or d/b/a. It is also known as an assumed name, fictitious name, or trade name. An individual or a business entity can obtain one or more DBAs.

If you are conducting business in your own name, you are a sole proprietor. If you want to do business under a name other than your legal name, then you can register a DBA. “Doing business” means using the name in the course of your business activity or transactions, such as in advertising. If for example, your name is Jane Doe, you can file a DBA under “Jane’s Famous Croissants”.

Corporations, limited partnerships, and limited liability companies (LLCs) are required by statute to conduct business under their true legal name. If you formed a corporation, limited partnership, or LLC and you want to conduct business under a name other than your entity’s true legal name, then you must register a DBA. If for example, you formed a LLC called Doe Bakery, LLC, you can file a DBA under “Jane’s Famous Croissants”.

The benefits of registering a DBA include:

  • For sole proprietors, using a business name that helps market their products or services and create a separate business identity without having to create a legal entity. It is important to note that a DBA is not a separate legal entity like a corporation or LLC. The name is directly connected to the underlying person or entity. They are one and the same. Because of this, obtaining a DBA when you are a sole proprietor does not provide any additional liability protection.
  • For a corporation or LLC, a DBA allows the operation of multiple lines of business without having to create separate legal entities for each business.

A corporation, limited partnership or LLC must register its DBA with the Department of State. All other entities, such as general partnerships, sole proprietorships, and limited liability partnerships must register their DBA with the county clerk in each county in which the entity conducts or transacts business.

If you formed a business entity, you do not need a new Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) for your DBA. The TIN of your entity applies to your DBA. If you are a sole proprietor, your TIN is your own social security number (SSN). However, you can obtain a separate TIN for your DBA so that you do not have to use your SSN for business purposes.

A DBA does not have the same effect as a trademark. Registering a DBA does not prevent other individuals or businesses from using the same DBA. In fact, several individuals or businesses can register the same DBA. If you want to protect the name used as your DBA, you will need to file a trademark registration.