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When you form your LLC or corporation, the documents you file with the state contain your “official” or true business name. But this doesn’t have to be the name you use to do business.
A DBA, or Doing-Business-As, comes into play if your LLC’s official name is “The John Doe LLC” but you want customers to know you as “Superlative Salon” or, well, anything besides “The John Doe LLC.”
It also comes into play if you haven’t formed your LLC or corporation yet and are operating as a sole proprietor, but want to use something besides your own individual name for your business. For example: Your name is Pat Sanders, but you want to do business as “Perfect Pavers.”
n essence, a DBA is the business version of “a/k/a” (also known as). For example, International Business Machines Corporation is known as IBM.
Are DBAs mandatory? Many states require a DBA filing if you do business using a name other than the name on the corporate formation documents. Or, a name other than the owner’s, for sole proprietors and partnerships.
CT Observation: You can – or may have to – file a DBA even if you’re a sole proprietor and have not incorporated your business. For example, state law may require it, or, a bank may require a DBA to open a business checking account. Or, a prospective client may require a DBA in order to award your business a contract.
Some states also require publication of the DBA name in a newspaper. A state might require that a DBA filing be renewed periodically, but in some states, it never expires.
A business might choose to do business under an assumed name for a variety of reasons:
DBA, assumed name. The various 50 states have different names for a DBA filing. Some states call it an assumed name, while others call it DBA (doing business as) or another term. Also, “doing business” is a term-of-art that each state often defines differently.
CT Observation: You may want to do business under more than one assumed name. If so, states generally require a separate document be filed for each.
Assumed names, or DBA names, are not “exclusive” in many states. This means that two or more businesses can voluntarily file a DBA as “Perfect Pavers.”
CT Observation: If you want to legally protect your name, you’ll need to take advantage of tradename and trademark laws. For additional information on trademarks, see our Trademark Explorer services.
States primarily require DBA filings to protect members of the public who deal with businesses using names other than the official business name. These publicly available filings may be used to check credit ratings, search for security interests, etc.
CT Observation: By filing a DBA, you’re essentially telling the state and the public, “I formed my LLC as The John Smith LLC, but the public and all of my customers know us as Superlative Salon.”
Also, the number of DBAs you could file generally isn’t restricted – the sky’s the limit!
Originally published in November, 2013. Updated in 2016.
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