Do you need a DBA for Business?

Written by Wesley Henderson

September 19, 2020

What is a DBA for Business? And what is it not. 

“Doing Business As” or DBA is not necessary most of the time. It depends on your state and your situation as to whether you should file a DBA. We’ll help you make sense of it. Quick Answer: Yes, you need a DBA for business if you operate under a different name than the name of your LLC (or other legal entity).

A DBA is the everyday name a business uses – not it’s legal name, but the name the business operates under. A DBA is a trade name or assumed name. Before we review instances where a DBA might be useful, let’s review a few brief Maxims of the DBA

  • A DBA is not a legal entity or structure (it’s not an LLC, partnership, corporation, or anything else)
  • DBAs do not provide liability protection 
  • Businesses are not required to have a DBA 
  • Filing a DBA is required in some states, but not others
  • Make sure the name is correct and does not infringe on another company’s trademark 
  • DBAs do not protect your brand like a trademark does

Reasons to File a DBA for Business

That said, we recommend filing a DBA any time your business name is different than your LLC name. For example, Drafted Legal, LLC matches the trade name Drafted Legal. If the LLC name was Best Online Templates, LLC then we will file a DBA as Drafted Legal. You’ll also notice this on lawsuits where the defendants are named both by their entity name and their DBA. 

If you are in an LLC, we also recommend it to ensure you can preserve that connection with the LLC and maintain your liability protection. This doesn’t come up much, but you would not want a plaintiff’s lawyer arguing that the trade name is actually a separate side business run as a sole proprietorship (which you don’t want…read why you don’t want a sole proprietorship here)

Example 1

Natalie Honeycutt is a high quality calligrapher who drafts invitations for the highest level dignitaries and most expensive parties around the world. The name of her company needs to market her services. She decides to name her LLC the “Honeycutt Company, LLC.” Her DBA is “Custom Calli” for marketing purposes and identity protection. Honeycutt Company, LLC dba Custom Calli. 

Example 2

Contractor Don is doing very well in a booming housing market. He focuses on custom built homes for customers who enjoy a personal touch and a home tailored specifically to their families. The business is doing great and he has several full time employees, plus a team of independent contractors. On the side, Don loves woodwork and building things for people. Don creates custom tables and furniture for friends and family. Accordingly, he establishes a separate DBA called “Made By Hand” for his side gig, which also helps him market his creations.  

Other Examples of DBAs

  • George’s Food Service Inc. might register the DBA “George’s Catering” to better describe its business as a catering service. 
  • If Lin incorporated her business as Green Thumbs Lin’s Gardening Centre, her business might need to file a DBA in order to also operate under “Spring Flowers ‘R’ Us.”

How Do I Setup a DBA? 

Setting up a DBA is a fairly simple process in most states, but it’s important to check with your state to make sure it’s done correctly. In some states, it’s simply a matter of adding it to the LLC filing. In other states, it’s a separate filing altogether. Check your state’s secretary of state for further information. Most state websites can provide guidance. This is something you can file yourself. Of course, you can file LLCs yourself as well but it can be a little more complicated with the different structures available and what’s on the line with liability protection. This filing is more straightforward than for an LLC. 

In some states, namely California, there is no state level DBA. You will file your DBA with the county. So research your state or county requirements.

Concluding Thoughts on Your DBA for Business

Creating a DBA is essential for businesses that operate under a different name than their legal entity. If you don’t have an LLC, get one. Use Drafted Legal to protect your personal assets and your business with our industry-tailored guidance. We can file your LLC, provide you templates that hold up in court, and teach you what you need to know about business law.

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