Do I Need to File a DBA?

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Do I Need to File a DBA?

A person or a company may want to conduct business under a name which is different from their legal name.

In such cases, this is known as “Doing Business As“, or DBA for short.

The term DBA is used by the majority of states, however, each state has a different technical name. Here are the most common:

  • Assumed Name
  • DBA
  • Doing Business As
  • Fictitious Name
  • Trade Name
  • Trading As

DBA Confusion

Most people are extremely confused when it comes to DBAs.

And most people make a lot of mistakes regarding DBAs, such as filing them incorrectly, and most often, filing them when they are not even needed.

Why is there so much confusion around DBAs?

We feel it’s because of 3 main reasons:

1. Most websites that sell DBA filing services fail to educate their readers or they just don’t care to.

2. There’s a lot of crap on the internet and there’s a handful of websites that just have no idea what they are talking about.

3. And frankly, it takes a lot of work breaking down and explaining DBAs. We’ve taken our best shot in this article, and we hope you find it helpful.

The 1st “Big Mistake” with DBAs

When most people register a DBA they think they “formed” a business and have protected their personal assets from liability, when in fact, they have not.

If someone files a DBA (which is owned by them), by default, they’ve chosen to operate as a Sole Proprietorship and have simply filed a “nickname” for themselves.

A Sole Proprietorship has no separate existence from its owner, so any person choosing to operate a business under their own name (or a DBA owned by them) is automatically a Sole Proprietorship.

Using the “nickname” analogy, let’s say John Smith registers a DBA called “John’s Painting Company”. John thinks he has an actual “company”, but he doesn’t. He has simply created a “nickname” for himself (his Sole Proprietorship).

So if someone sues “John’s Painting Company”, it is actually John Smith himself who is being sued personally. There is no actual “company”. John Smith and his “company” are legally one and the same.

Most people who think the above are usually at the beginning stages of researching how to start a business and they haven’t fully thought about, or understood, the differences in liability protection between a Sole Proprietorship and an LLC. For this reason, we also recommend reading LLC vs Sole Proprietorship.

A DBA “Sits on Top of”

The easiest way to think of a DBA is that it’s a “nickname”.

It’s a nickname that “sits on top of” either a person (like a Sole Proprietorship) or a legal entity (like an LLC or Corporation).

To better help understand this point, a DBA is often referred to as a Fictitious Name, meaning, it’s not a separate legal person or company. It rather “points to”, or represents, an actual person, or an actual company.

Let’s look at two examples of how a DBA “sits on top of” either a person or a company.

1. DBA for a Sole Proprietorship:

Let’s say we have John Smith and he wants to do business as a Sole Proprietorship, but doesn’t want to do business under his name John Smith. Instead, he needs to register a DBA. So he registers the DBA name “John’s Painting Company“.

The DBA “John’s Painting Company” is a nickname that “sits on top of” John Smith.

Said another way, “John Painting Company” and “John Smith” are one and the same.

2. DBA for an LLC:

Let’s say Megan Patterson is concerned about asset protection, so instead of operating under how own name as a Sole Proprietorship, she decides to form an LLC. She forms an LLC called “MP Enterprises LLC“, but she would like do business under the name “Meg’s Flower Shop“. So her LLC registers the DBA name “Meg’s Flower Shop“.

The DBA “Meg’s Flower Shop” is a nickname that “sits on top of “MP Enterprises LLC“.

Said another way, “Meg’s Flower Shop” and “MP Enterprises LLC” are one and the same.

The 2nd Mistake with DBAs

True or false: an LLC has to file a DBA?

Answer: false.

Again, because there is so much confusion (and misinformation) in this industry about DBAs, many people think they have to file a DBA, even after they form an LLC.

While your LLC can file a DBA, it doesn’t have to.

Here’s the deciding factor:

Will your LLC operate and do business under its true and legal name? Or will your LLC operate and do business under a name that is different from what was registered with the Secretary of State?

• If your LLC will operate and do business under its true and legal name, then you don’t need to file a DBA.

For example: You form an LLC called “JDE Real Estate Management LLC” and you plan to operate the business under the name “JDE Real Estate Management LLC“.

By “operate“, we mean, this is the name on your marketing materials, your contracts and agreements, your business cards, your website, etc. Basically, anytime you are dealing with another person/company or advertising/displaying your company to the public, you are using your LLC’s true and legal name.

In this case, you don’t need to file a DBA for your LLC.

• If your LLC will not operate and do business under its true and legal name, but instead, wants to operate and do business under a different name, you will need to file a DBA for your LLC.

For example: You form an LLC called “JDE Real Estate Management LLC“, and you want to operate the business under the name “JDE Management“.

In this case, you will need to file a DBA and register the name “JDE Management” (which will be owned by JDE Real Estate Management LLC).

As another example: You form an LLC called “Christine’s Restaurant LLC“, but you want to operate under the name “Christine’s Restaurant” (without the “LLC”), then you’ll need to file a DBA and register the name “Christine’s Restaurant” (which will be owned by Christine’s Restaurant LLC).

Important: The above example of “Christine’s Restaurant” is not possible in all states. Some states will accept a DBA filed under the same name as an LLC; others will not. Because some DBAs are filed at the county-level (not at the state-level), there are over 900 jurisdictions in which DBAs can be filed in the US and the rules vary widely. For this reason, we cannot tell you if your state or county will allow this. If after reading this entire article, you decide that you want to form an LLC and registered an “identical” DBA name (minus the “LLC”), you’ll need to call your state or county where you’re doing business to make sure your DBA filing will be approved. Thank you for your understanding.

Which should you choose… to DBA or not to DBA?

Unless your LLC really needs to do business under a different legal name than what you registered with the state, then we recommend against registering a DBA and just doing business under the LLC’s full and legal name.

The reason for this recommendation is that DBAs can lead to a lot of hassle, confusion, and extra costs.

For example:

  • The DBA is an extra filing, meaning extra paperwork and extra state fees (although they’re usually not very expensive).
  • Most states require you to renew your DBA, by filing paperwork and paying a state or county fee every year (or every few years).
  • Many states require you to publish a “public notice” of your DBA registration in the newspaper. This can be expensive, depending on what state and county your DBA will be registered.
  • If your state does not handle DBA filings, but instead they are handled at the county-level, you need to register your DBA in each county where you will do business. This could mean multiple filing fees, multiple newspaper publication fees, and multiple annual/renewal fees.
  • Having a DBA can often confuse the business owner when it comes to obtaining an EIN, opening an LLC bank account, and filing taxes, thus leading to a lot of mistakes in how things are setup, registered, and organized.

Having said all that, there are still a few reasons why someone with an LLC would still want to register a DBA. The examples below are not “all-inclusive” (these aren’t all the reasons why), but these are the most common reasons that we run across.

Dropping the “LLC” – When a business owner forms an LLC, but wants to operate and do business under the identical name (minus the “LLC”), then filing a DBA without the “LLC” in the name will be needed.

Remember: There are 900 jurisdictions in which DBAs can be filed. Some states/counties allow LLCs and DBAs to exist with the “identical” name; others do not. You’ll need to call your state or county where you’re doing business to make sure your DBA filing with an “identical name” will be approved.

Multiple Businesses – It can sometimes occur that a business owner forms 1 LLC, but then runs multiple businesses (sometimes called “micro businesses”) all under that 1 “LLC umbrella”. In this example, you can register a DBA for each of the businesses. However, if your businesses begin to grow (or your businesses are exposed to liability), it may be a better idea to form a separate LLC for each business for better asset protection.

Multiple Stores – Like the example above, some business owners run a few stores. They may have 1 LLC which owns all the locations, but they want each store name (and each store sign) to be different. In this example, you’d register a DBA for each store. However, just like the above example, it may be wise to form separate LLCs instead of operating all your stores under one LLC (for better asset protection).

Franchise Owners – When a business owner buys into a franchise, the franchisor (via the franchise agreement) grants certain trademark name rights to the franchisee. And to protect their personal assets, it’s common that franchisees will set up an LLC. However, they need to do business under the name of the franchise. So for example, if you bought into the Dunkin’ Donuts franchise, you would form an LLC first (for example, “TRE Holdings LLC“), then you would register a DBA with your state (or county) called “Dunkin’ Donuts”. Keep in mind though, the only reason you can use the name “Dunkin’ Donuts” is because you have a right to do so via your franchise agreement. On the other hand, if you register a DBA that infringes upon a company’s trademark rights, they have the right to sue you (even though the state approved your DBA filing).

How to Register a DBA

As mentioned earlier, there over 900 jurisdictions in which a DBA can be registered.

For that reason (and also because we don’t focus on DBAs; we focus on LLCs) we haven’t included links to all 900 jurisdictions. That would be nuts!

If you want to file your DBA yourself, we first recommend you call the Secretary of State’s Office (in the state where your LLC will be registered) and asking them if DBAs are filed at the state-level or at the county-level.

You can find your Secretary of State’s contact information and website address here:
https://www.llcuniversity.com/50-secretary-of-state-sos-business-entity-search/

If DBAs are handled at the state-level, just ask the representative where you can find the filing forms and instructions.

If DBAs are handled at the county-level, then you’ll need to call your county clerk’s office and ask them for their filing forms and instructions.

Matt Horwitz
Founder & Educator, LLC University®
Forming an LLC shouldn't be so complicated. Our step-by-step guide will make the process a breeze – and no complex legal jargon! LLC University® teaches people how to form an LLC for free in all 50 states. We hope you find our free guides and resources helpful in your business journey.
Disclaimer: Nothing on this page shall be interpreted as legal or tax advice. Rules and regulations vary by location. They also change over time and are specific to your situation. Furthermore, this comment section is provided so people can share their thoughts and experience. Please consult a licensed professional if you have legal or tax questions.

91 Comments

  1. Karen Alexander March 28, 2018

    Just reading the extensive information on DBA s and how they are set up. I have an LLC for one of my business is and I want to set up another business doing something entirely different. In the state of Colorado DBA(trade name) on the state level I will have to do a DBA if I have read the information clearly with the secretary of state in Colorado. Under the DBA(trade name)in Colorado I don’t have to published. the DBA( trade name)name in the newspaper. What are your suggestions because I prefer to file another LLC for another business for better protection of my assets

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz March 28, 2018

      Hi Karen, you don’t have to publish an ad in the newspaper for a Colorado LLC either. From what we see, most people who are starting a 2nd business form another LLC instead of filing a DBA (owned by an individual). This offers better liability protection and it keeps the 2 businesses separate, and therefore more organized. If you file a DBA owned by yourself this would be a Sole Proprietorship. I think you already have a lot of clarity, but if it helps, you may want to also read LLC vs Sole Proprietorship. Hope that helps!

      reply
  2. Karen Alexander March 28, 2018

    Just reading different articles on DBA’S. Was confusing to me because I am not using my first name and my last name for my business. I am using a name for my business to represent my brand for my Ministry.
    Not my fist and last name. Reading the different articles on DBA’S just didn’t make any sense to me but I figured it out on my own it would be better for me to make sure that I am protected under the LLC guidelines and it’s not best to have businesses under one umbrella because if someone sues me they can take everything that I have
    In the state of Colorado, what do you suggest s I do .Should I get another LLC to start another business for better protection of my assets?

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz March 28, 2018

      Hey Karen, I hear you, DBAs can be a little confusing at first. We can’t tell you exactly what to do, but it’s most common to form another LLC when starting another business. It offers better liability and asset protection.

      reply
  3. Karen Alexander March 28, 2018

    Thanks again. 😀

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz March 28, 2018

      You’re welcome!

      reply
      • Lewis September 25, 2018

        Hi Matt,

        Should I start DBA publication while filing for DBA registration? or I have to complete DBA registration then do publication? Thanks! Lewis

        reply
        • Matt Horwitz October 20, 2018

          Hey Lewis, we recommend waiting for the DBA filing to be approved first.

          reply
  4. Kelley May 5, 2018

    This article is great, but has left me a little bit confused. I have an LLC (one person, no partnership) in PA. I want to add a DBA because I’m finding name I’ve chosen for the LLC is too narrow and the general public is thinking I offer only 1 type of service. So I need a DBA make with a broader scope so people know I can offer more than that the current LLC name indicates. From reading your article, I think I just need to register the fictitious name in PA and attach is to my existing LLC, correct? I’m thinking I might also have to tweek things at the bank for the ability to receive payments under the DBA name also. Am I on the right track?

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz May 16, 2018

      Hi Kelley, correct and correct! You can file a Registration of Fictitious Name in Pennsylvania, which will be owned by your PA LLC. And once the Fictitious Name is processed, bring that documentation to the bank and add that name to your existing bank account. Hope that helps!

      reply
      • Kelley May 16, 2018

        Very much, so. Thank you! :-)

        reply
        • Matt Horwitz May 16, 2018

          Awesome :) You’re welcome Kelley!

          reply
      • Kelley June 7, 2018

        My hair is falling out because my bank has no idea how to handle my DBA and are telling me I need to open all new business accounts. I’ve dug in my heels and am refusing. What can I give them to show they just need to attach the DBA to existing accounts?

        reply
        • Matt Horwitz June 18, 2018

          Kelley, bummer to hear. Thanks really stinks. Can I ask which bank this is with? In my experience, most people at banks don’t understand how LLCs and DBAs actually function. I mean the Fictitious Name approval clearly shows its owned by the LLC, so there’s not much else documentation wise. The only thing I’m thinking at this time is to try another bank. I know that’s work, but do you have a TD Bank near you? I’ve had great luck with TD bank. I recommend calling ahead of time and speaking with the branch manager about opening a business bank account. Then set an appointment to meet with them and open the account.

          reply
  5. Karen Alexander May 5, 2018

    Good morning. I have found the best solution to my needs for my business. Thank you for replying to question. Have a great day.

    reply
    • Kelley May 6, 2018

      Karen, I’m awaiting Matt’s reply to my above question. Glad to hear you’ve been able to resolve your business question. :-)

      reply
    • Matt Horwitz May 16, 2018

      You’re welcome Karen :) Glad to hear!

      reply
  6. Nasim June 6, 2018

    Hi,

    I have registered a LLC in Delaware and will operate an online store under this LLC but with a different name from the LLC, so I would need to register a DBA at Delaware, right? I addition, I live in New York, so I have to file for foreign entity registration in New York. Do I also have to file a DBA in New York or is having the DBA registered in Delaware enough?

    Thank you for the helpful article.

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz June 17, 2018

      Hi Nasim, you’re welcome! Correct, you’ll need to file a DBA for your LLC in Delaware. After registering as a Foreign LLC in New York, I’d also file a DBA there too. Hope that helps.

      reply
  7. Zvi July 28, 2018

    This article is just what I was looking for but I still can’t figure out an answer to my question. I have a non-trademarked LLC say “Xyz LLC.” I want to trademark multiple brands, eg: XyzKids, XyzSports, etc. These brands will of course be “doing business” under my parent “Xyz LLC” company. My question is, is it enough to trademark these brand names at a federal level or do I have to ALSO register each one as a DBA at the state-level or county-level?

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz August 14, 2018

      Hi Zvi, a DBA and a Trademark are two different things. A DBA (aka “Doing Business As” or “Fictitious Name”) is registered at the state level or at the county level. Registering a DBA allows your LLC to do business under a name other than its legally filed name in either that state or county. However, a DBA doesn’t give you any exclusive rights over that name in your state or county (let alone in the rest of the United States).

      On the other hand, a Trademark under the federal law means any word, name, symbol, or device (or a combination of any or all four) used to identify and distinguish the goods or services of a business. Trademark registration is done at the federal level and is overseen by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO).

      So when you say a “non-trademarked LLC”. That’s not really the best way to think of it. You wouldn’t trademark an LLC name (like “XYZ Brand LLC”), but rather, you’d trademark a product or service (assuming that would be “XYZ Brand”).

      Going back to your question, it seems you need to do both. You need to register the DBA if your LLC will be doing business under a different legal name and you need to register a Trademark if you want national protection of your brand/product/service.

      HOWEVER… that is assuming your LLC is doing business under those DBAs. If you just have a product or a brand that your LLC sells, that doesn’t necessarily mean your LLC is doing business under those names. And in that case, you wouldn’t need to register a DBA.

      Hope that helps!

      reply
      • Zvi August 16, 2018

        Thanks! How does one determine “If one just have a product or a brand that the LLC sells, which wouldn’t necessarily mean the LLC is doing business under those names?”

        For example, if Apple sold iphones that ONLY said “iphone” on it (no mention of apple) and all the information about this product was on iphone.com (and not apple.com/iphone) would they only then have to register “iphone” as a DBA?

        In other words, to avoid registering a DBA for a brand under the parent LLC, would it be enough to only add the LLC name on the brand package in small letters?

        reply
        • Matt Horwitz August 17, 2018

          Hey Zvi, it would be a lot easier to help point you in the right direction if you could use your real-world scenario. All this intangible stuff is challenging enough to explain/think about it… but it’s more difficult in theoretical situations. Thanks for understanding.

          reply
      • Chariti August 22, 2018

        Hello :) Ok, so I too want to brand a product. My company is XYZ LLC and my brand will be another name, we’ll call it ABC. I will trademark my brand name ABC, but I don’t have to file a DBA? If my website is http://www.ABC.com and I sell my ABC product there, don’t I have to file a DBA? Geeze, this is confusing!! :)

        reply
        • Zvi August 22, 2018

          That’s the same question I had. Supposedly, you wouldn’t have to register a DBA if your website was XYZ.com/ABC like Apple’s iPhone website is apple.com/iphone and NOT iphone.com but I’d love to hear another answer too.

          reply
        • Matt Horwitz August 31, 2018

          Hi Chariti, LLCs, DBAs, and Trademarks can quickly get confusing. I know. Do you have the website live yet? If you could share the website link and the actual name of the DBA it would be a lot easier to point you in the right direction. It’s quite challenging to address the question in a broad hypothetical scenario. Thanks.

          reply
  8. David July 30, 2018

    Hello, so it looks like I made the mistake and filed a DBA when I didn’t have too. I formed an LLC and will be conducting business with its registered name. My questions is, is there anything I should do or someone I should notify about that error? Or would there not be any issues having filed the DBA.

    Thank you,

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz August 14, 2018

      Hi David, there usually won’t be any issues with just leaving a DBA name “open” and unused, however, we recommend “closing the loop”. How to cancel/close your DBA name will depend on the state. In some states, DBAs are filed with the Secretary of State. In other states, they are filed with the County Clerk (or similar office). So you’ll need to call either your state or county’s office and ask how to cancel/close your DBA. It’s often called a Withdrawal or Cancellation of DBA (or something similar). Hope that helps!

      reply
  9. Angela August 1, 2018

    Hi, I have been in business for two years. When I opened my business, I looked online for any info that would help me open my business legally. I wanted to find out if I had to obtain a state license and I could not find any paperwork to fill out & send to the state but now that I am reading this website I am working if I made some mistakes. I thought Sole Proprietors like myself didn’t need to file a DBA, only LLC. My business name is not my legal name. Will I need to file for a DBA and be penalized since it has been two years since I opened? thanks!

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz August 15, 2018

      Hi Angela, DBAs, Sole Proprietorships, and LLCs can get a little confusing since as a Sole Proprietor, you can do business under your first + last name or you can do business using a DBA. And if you form an LLC, you can do business under the filed legal name of the LLC or you can do business using a DBA. So if you formed an LLC, you don’t have to file a DBA (but you can). Does that help? I couldn’t fully understand what you ended up doing, so I answered generically. What is your business name? And did you also form an LLC? If so, what’s the name of your LLC? Thanks.

      reply
  10. Ebony Cavanaugh August 6, 2018

    Hello I have a question. I have a colleague that formed an LLC to operate home health services and they changed their mind. I have been offered the XYZ, LLC and now I am in the process of getting paperwork business cards and everything to start seeing patients and get the company registered with a PECOS number which is something to do with billing medicare. My question is that as a healthcare provider I am not allowed an LLC my company has to be a PLLC. I went and submitted forms and now I am waiting approval of WXYZ, PLLC. Can the PLLC be over the LLC? xyz,LLC powered by WXYZ, PLLC is how all of the business cards look. Is that allowed or do I need to do something different. Will there need to be two different EIN numbers or can they share the number since I technically own both?

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz August 15, 2018

      Hi Ebony, this is an interesting question. You’ll need to speak with an attorney to really dive into the details. Based on what you’ve shared, and on what we can interpret from what you’ve shared, it seems like the regular LLC (which I can’t tell if you bought it personally or your PLLC bought it) will be engaging in professional activities, which would not be allowed. Generally speaking though, a PLLC can own a regular LLC, as long as the regular LLC’s activities are incidental to the PLLC’s main business activities, but don’t require a professional license to carry out. All in all, it sounds like a quite a messy situation and we recommend seeking legal counsel to properly structure your business. Hope that helps.

      reply
  11. Christina Herrera August 20, 2018

    Would I need to file 2 dba’s for the same business due to punctuation? For example, is DBA the same as D.B.A.? or would I need to register DBA and D.B.A.?

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz August 31, 2018

      Hi Christina, it’s tough to say based on a hypothetical. My guess is likely no, but I would call the state/municipality and ask them about both of your DBA names. Hope that helps.

      reply
  12. Jon August 27, 2018

    Hi – I’m about to form my first LLC and was wondering if I can form two DBAs within that LLC? Or is it better to form a second LLC and only have one DBA to each LLC? The two businesses are unique and would most likely require different licsenses.

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz October 10, 2018

      Hi Jon, you can do either one. You can have have multiple DBAs under one LLC or can have multiple LLCs. Hope that helps.

      reply
  13. Cassandra September 5, 2018

    Hi Matt!
    Thank you for the great article. I am in PA and tried to file a fictitious name (PA’s DBA) for my LLC that so I could use my real name with coaching clients and still be protected under my LLC. The application got rejected. She said that since it was my real name it wasn’t fictitious.

    I am the only owner of my LLC. Am I allowed to operate under my true name and still have all of my business via my real name be protected and run through my LLC?

    Thank you for your help!

    reply
    • T October 2, 2018

      Hi! I have this exact question, except I haven’t applied yet, but was thinking my LLC filing might get rejected for the same reason. I’m in RI. Just wondering if this question was answered yet?

      reply
      • Matt Horwitz October 25, 2018

        Hey T, I did reply to Cassandra’s question. Hope that helps.

        reply
    • Matt Horwitz October 12, 2018

      Hey Cassandra! You’re very welcome. All you need is a slight mental adjustment ;) Your coaching business is now your LLC, and technically, your an “agent” for the LLC. That gets into agency law, but the simple way to think of it is that you act on behalf of your LLC. So while yes, it’s ultimately you that your clients are dealing with (as is the case for many businesses), it’s the LLC they are paying, signing a contract with (if applicable), etc. You can update your website copyright, terms of service, disclaimer, etc. to show that the site is owned by your LLC. You can also update the ownership in your domain’s registrar and hosting account too, since you’ll want that owned by your LLC instead of you. All of this creates “separation” between you and your LLC, but again; it’s still you that people are interacting with… since LLCs (and all legal entities) need natural persons to operate on their behalf (since they are inanimate in this context). Hope that helps!

      reply
      • Cassandra November 7, 2018

        Yes, that totally makes sense (and also aligns with what the woman at the PA business office said)!

        Thank you!

        reply
        • Matt Horwitz November 23, 2018

          Cassandra, that’s awesome… glad to hear that. You’re welcome :)

          reply
  14. Lewis September 26, 2018

    Hi Matt,

    Should I start DBA publication while filing for DBA registration? or I have to complete DBA registration then do publication? Thanks! Lewis

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz September 26, 2018

      Hey Lewis, it’s most common to get the DBA name filed first, then proceed with any publication requirements. Hope that helps.

      reply
  15. karen October 10, 2018

    If a DBA is filed under an LLC at the state level MUST it also be filed in a county?

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz October 25, 2018

      Hi Karen, it depends on the state you’re in. Most states have DBAs filed at either the state level or the county level, but usually not both. What state do you want to file a DBA for your LLC in?

      reply
  16. Chi November 2, 2018

    Hi!

    Thank you for the article it’s very helpful!

    I have a question regarding the DBA. I just filed my LLC in New York State and am willing to start an online ecommerce store with another brand name. And will be doing business using this new brand name for the website, logo, branding. For this case, shd I file DBA with NY State?

    Thanks,

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz November 22, 2018

      Hi Chi, yes, you’ll want to register a DBA (called an Assumed Name in NY) owned by your LLC. The name of the form is called the New York Certificate of Assumed Name. Hope that helps.

      reply
  17. Cristina November 26, 2018

    Hi Matt,

    I came across your website when opening my own business in NYC and I would like to thank you and congratulate you for the amazing work you have done with this website. It really is very helpful!

    I am creating and LLC in the State of NY called Cris Club LLC. My website will also be under the same name (www.crisclub.com), however, I would like my logo and my app to be called Cris and here is where I get confused. Since my business and website will be under the real LLC name (Cris Club), but only the logo and app will be under “Cris”, does it mean that I need to file a DBA for that?

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz December 3, 2018

      Hey Cristina, thanks so much! It’s a bit of a gray zone. Some would say it’s not required. Others would disagree. If the public thinks they are doing business with “Cris”, it would be a good idea to register the DBA (called an Assumed Name in New York) that is owned by your LLC. Hope that helps and thanks for your understanding.

      reply
  18. Jodi November 26, 2018

    Hi Matt!
    I have a business set up under JoMar, LLC. I want a website to be JoMar Sourcing. Also I will have an Amazon store named JoMar Deals. Do I need DBA’s set up for both of these under my JoMar, LLC? I’m in Ohio.

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz December 3, 2018

      Hey Jodi! It’s a bit of a gray zone. Some would say it’s not required. Others would disagree. If the public thinks they are doing business with “JoMar Sourcing” and “JoMar Deals”, it would be a good idea to register those Fictitious Names, and have them be owned by your LLC. Hope that helps and thanks for your understanding.

      reply
  19. Stef January 4, 2019

    Hi Matt!
    This article was a goldmine, I’m so happy I stumbled upon it. =)

    I have a question regarding websites. I wish I would have found this article sooner but we already filed and have our business entity LLC and previously planned to file Fictitious Names (we’re in PA), because we wanted our main business entity ex. XYZ, LLC and then to advertise words/phrases after XYZ depending on the branch of our business we’d be utilizing ex. XYZ Resolutions, XYZ Management Services etc. since we will be marketing to 3 or 4 completely different audiences and offering different services though they are all specific to our main business XYZ, LLC. However after reading this article and then digging into PA code, we will NOT be filing FNs. We will just leave our legal name on all advertising but wanted to ask 2 questions..

    1). Is there anything wrong with adding taglines to our marketing materials, business cards etc. so it’s clear what services we offer? Even though we will be doing all business under the legal entity name? Ex:

    XYZ, LLC
    Management Services (tagline)

    XYZ, LLC
    Resolutions (tagline)

    2). We realized too late that our LLC name is not available in a website (XYZ.com), however all of the FNs were available so we already bought all the domains :( Ex. XYZResolutions.com, XYZManagement.com

    Can we not use these domains that we purchased since we aren’t registering FNs?

    If not, what do people do when their LLC legal name isn’t available as a domain, but you need a website? :(

    Please help. Thanks SO much!!

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz January 6, 2019

      Hi Stef, thank you for the kind words! Glad the article was helpful. I don’t think there are issues with using a tagline, as long as it’s clear it’s a tagline or description, and is not being use to make it look like a different company name. You can use a domain name that doesn’t match your LLC name. Most websites are like that. Just be clear throughout the website that the business and the website are owned by your LLC. Hope that helps.

      reply
      • Stef January 9, 2019

        It does help! Thank you, Matt!!

        reply
        • Matt Horwitz January 10, 2019

          You’re welcome, Stef!

          reply
  20. Martha January 7, 2019

    Hi, thanks for recommending this article! I’m planning on starting a private practice (counseling) in Colorado, and will be creating an LLC to protect my assets, using a “general entity name.” However, I’d also like to have a specialty within my private practice that goes by a different name, to reflect that specialty. So I would want to use both names, to attract different clientele, within my one practice. Would this be an example of having one business name with the LLC at the end (the general practice name) and a DBA on top of the LLC (the specialty name)? Would my assets be protected using both names? This is hard to write out, so I hope it makes sense!

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz January 7, 2019

      Hi Martha, you’re very welcome. Yes, you’re correct. That is a great use-case of why you’d want to use a DBA owned by your LLC. Your LLC would do business under it’s true, legal name in addition to doing business under its DBA name. In Colorado, a DBA is called a Trade Name. When you file the Trade Name for your LLC (after the LLC is approved), in the online filing on the Colorado Secretary of State website, it says “File a Statement of Trade Name for…”; you’d select “Report Entity” for LLC.

      Also, are you a licensed professional counselor in Colorado? If so, you’ll want to form a Professional LLC (PLLC) instead of a regular LLC. Hope that helps.

      reply
      • Martha January 7, 2019

        Hi. I’m not quite an LPC yet, two or three years to go. So is it appropriate for me to apply for a PLLC at this time? I was thinking I’d apply for an LLC now to protect my assets, and then change to a PLLC after I receive my LPC. Your thoughts?

        Also, just to be sure, will my assets be protected doing counseling using both the entity name and specialty name at the same time? For taxes, would I still be considered to be just one business?

        reply
        • Matt Horwitz January 7, 2019

          Hi Martha, you won’t be able to form a PLLC. It’s only available to licensed professionals. Colorado may have a conversion from LLC to PLLC, but I don’t recall off the top of my head (and we don’t deal with conversions a whole lot). Their office is quite friendly, so I recommend giving them a call tomorrow in order think ahead. If they do, all good. If not, you’d have to form an LLC, then form a PLLC later. Yes, it’s just one legal entity, so assets are still protected and the LLC is taxed as a Sole Proprietorship and you report the taxes on your Schedule C or other schedules.

          reply
  21. Martha January 8, 2019

    Hi Matt,
    Your very last sentence in your reply has just confused me – Is having a business as a sole proprietorship different than being taxed as a sole proprietor?

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz January 8, 2019

      Hi Martha, yes, they are different. Check out how are LLCs taxed. An LLC doesn’t have it’s own tax classification with the IRS. So, for the most part, they tax LLCs in one of four ways. If you’re the sole owner, your LLC will be taxed like a Sole Proprietorship. It basically means the income, expense, credits, and deductions for the LLC get listed in your personal federal 1040 return.

      reply
  22. Martha January 9, 2019

    Thanks, Matt, you’ve been so helpful!

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz January 10, 2019

      You’re welcome Martha :)

      reply
  23. Candice January 16, 2019

    Hi Matt,

    I am forming my first Single-Member LLC in New York and I have a couple of questions that I hope you can help clarifying for me.

    1. Choosing a name. If my LLC name is accepted in NY state (CANDY’S ART, LLC) but someone acquires a federal trademark with the same name (CANDY’S ART), does that mean they can force me to change my LLC name?

    I am slightly confused because it seems that although my LLC can be accepting on the state level, the state doesn’t cross reference with any county or federal entities to make sure I’m not infringing on someone else’s name.

    What steps would you take as far a obtaining a name to make sure you won’t have to change it later on? Do you recommend I get my LLC approved first on the state level. (CANDY’S ART LLC) or register for a federal trademark to make sure the name is available under the goods/services I need it for, then get the LLC approved on the state level?

    2. LLC Protection. Even though I understand that an LLC offers Limited Liability Protection from my personal assets in “most” situations. I also keep seeing that their are ways to lose my protection and my company can be looked at as an “alter ego”. Can you explain to me in what situations an LLC could lose it’s protection? Is it common to lose LLC protection?

    Thanks in advance!

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz January 16, 2019

      Hi Candice,

      1. If you want national protection on your business name, then you’ll want to speak to an IP/trademark attorney to discuss your options. In addition to a trademark already being filed, the international class (or classes) it’s filed under are important to look into. There may be a cross-over with your name, or there may not be. If you do end up going the trademark route, it’s typical to form the LLC first, then file the trademark. This way, the mark is owned by the LLC, instead of you personally.

      2. This is a conversation best had with an attorney. At some point we may write something about this, but for now, it’s too complex to get into via the comments.

      Hope that helps and thank you for your understanding.

      reply
  24. Jenny January 22, 2019

    Hi
    I have an LLC in Minnesota. Lets say it is called ABCD Ranch. Do I need to do a DBA if I want to say ABCD Ranch Kennels and ABCD Ranch Beef or ABCD Ranch Meats, etc?

    Thank you!

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz January 23, 2019

      Hi Jenny, it’ll be best practice to run this by an attorney. You’ll want to look at the context of how you’re using those names. Could the public be lead to think that’s the business name and that’s who they’re doing business with? If so, a DBA may be needed. Hope that helps.

      reply
  25. Jade January 24, 2019

    Wish I would have found this info first. Very helpful, but since I did not and have already submitted and received an EIN I now have a few questions. I did include a DBA name on my application (not register or anything), but after reading this I can live without a DBA and all the headaches. My question becomes…do I need to send a letter to the IRS to remove the DBA or as long as I don’t use it then it won’t be an issue? I just don’t want to complicate things when it comes to taxes. Also is the letter “LLC” required to be included after a company name if I do have an LLC (I did not include “LLC” after my company name)?

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz January 28, 2019

      Hi Jade, just to make sure I understand, so you formed and LLC and then applied for you EIN. On the EIN application, did you select “limited liability company” or “sole proprietorship”. If you select limited liability company, do I understand you that you entered your LLC name, but left out the designator “LLC”. And you also entered a DBA name as well?

      reply
      • Jade January 29, 2019

        Yes, exactly.

        reply
        • Jade January 29, 2019

          Oh and yes I did select “limited liability company” when applying for an EIN.

          reply
          • Matt Horwitz February 7, 2019

            Hi Jade, okay, thanks for the info. Having the DBA name won’t do anything if you’re not going to use it. However, if your LLC name is missing the designator “LLC”, you’ll want to get that in there. You can mail a letter to the IRS to let them know. Check out change LLC name with IRS. You can also include a letter with that to clarify. Just tell them you forgot to include “LLC” the first time. Make sure include a copy of your approved LLC filing too.

            After that is taken care of, it’s a good idea to call the IRS business line and ask for an EIN Verification Letter (147C). It’s a nice “proof” form of your EIN showing the correct LLC name if you need it. Hope that helps.

            reply
  26. jose January 25, 2019

    Thank you for this information!

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz January 28, 2019

      You’re welcome Jose!

      reply
  27. Dawn January 29, 2019

    Hi Matt,

    I am presently DBA and sole proprietor with and EIN. I set up this way because I really had no assets personally or in the business. Additionally, I just started up a second business that is not earning much of anything presently. However, now I believe I need an LLC. It seems I have done the opposite of pretty much everything you suggested. Where should I start?

    Thanks, Dawn

    reply
  28. harry January 30, 2019

    Hi Matt,

    First of all Thank You for all the help you are providing. Your website is wonderful, very accurate and with detailed explanation and examples.

    I have set up a LLC in CA and used my personal address during the filing. I was under the impression that I can file a DBA with UPS business address to keep my address private, but just learned that personal address will always be public information on secretary of state website. I am thinking of dissolving the LLC and opening a new one, or creating one in a different state all together. What do you recommend?

    Thanks,
    Harry

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz February 8, 2019

      Hi Harry, you’re very welcome :) Please take a look at what is doing business in California. California is very strict about its “doing business” laws. Meaning, if you formed an LLC in another state, it would then need to be registered as a foreign LLC in California. So that will cost you more, and can be a headache for some. If you’re looking for privacy, you could consider hiring a filing company to form an LLC in Wyoming (as an example) and then your Wyoming LLC owns an LLC in California. You’d want to use a Commercial Registered Agent (see California LLC Registered Agent) and one in Wyoming, too. And most often, you’ll need a filing company to file initial filings and annual reports so you don’t have to sign publicly-accessibly documents. Hope that helps.

      reply
  29. Doug February 6, 2019

    Hi Matt,
    Thank you for the great information, but I am still a little confused. So here is the information.

    My goal is to protect my wife and I, and to do the taxes correctly. and figure out if I need a DBA. I set these up a year ago, but the CPA never said anything about a DBA. This is the first tax returns this way.

    1. State of Colorado,
    2. 5 rental properties… each one with its own E.I.N and is a Multi Member LLC.
    3. 1 Multi Member LLC with EIN that is the management company of all the LLC’s
    4. Examples: A LLC, B LLC, C LLC, D LLC, E LLC, ABCDE Management LLC.
    5. One charge card and one checking account under ABCDE management company
    4. The tenants write their check to the ABCDE Management Company LLC
    5. Pay all bills out of the ABCDE Mgmt. LLC account.
    6. I track all expenses and rents separately by each individual LLC, A, B, C, D, E LLC
    7. Do my taxes in each individual LLC including a return for the Management LLC, 8. The management LLC is just a few expenses for itself. No income.

    Thank you Matt

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz February 12, 2019

      Hi Doug, you’re welcome. We understand your setup, but you didn’t ask any question lol ;) If you’re asking if you need a DBA, you didn’t mention anything that sounds like it. A DBA is needed for an LLC if you want your LLC to operate under a name that is different than its true and legal name. Hope that helps.

      reply
    • Doug Anderson February 13, 2019

      Matt
      Thank you for your reply. I have been a little confused on previous reply’s as they appeared to be directed to others as it asked what State I was in, but it was in the bullet points. (Colorado)My question was “Do I need a DBA” and then I listed all the information. In all honesty, I wonder if all this is worth it, as many say a beginner lawyer could brake the vail. As they sue everyone anyway. Sorry for the confusion Matt.
      Doug

      reply
      • Matt Horwitz February 13, 2019

        Hey Doug, thanks for clarifying. It didn’t sound like you need a DBA from what you mentioned. And I hear you, however, hard to say. There isn’t a black and white answer to this stuff. Thanks.

        reply
  30. Sachin February 8, 2019

    Hi Matt,

    First of all, thank you for your super informative website! It is truly packed with a lot of relevant information and I’m sure it is proving to be very helpful to a lot of budding entrepreneurs. I’ll be sure to recommend it to others in need.

    My question about DBA is as follows .. I am about to form a single-member LLC for a Life Coaching Business. Even though the LLC will have a name (let’s say XYZ LLC), given the nature of the coaching profession (where the coach is the face of the business), people are more adept & likely to identify with my name rather than the company’s. Does this mean I should file for a DBA as ‘my name’? Does doing this introduce any risk (such as losing some liability protection)? Do people in this situation usually have a website in their personal name or the company name?

    Thanks so much!

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz February 14, 2019

      Hey Sachin, thanks so much! We really appreciate you! Registering a DBA for your LLC wouldn’t affect the liability protection of the LLC, since it’s still just the LLC operating. The DBA is just a “nickname” for the LLC. And while coaches are the “face of the business”, this wouldn’t require the filing of a DBA. You’ll want to make it clear to customers that they are engaging with your LLC. So the website should clearly show the LLC name and in particular, any contracts or agreements should be made with the LLC and not yourself personally. And payments should be make to your LLC, not you personally. Hope that helps.

      reply
      • Sachin February 14, 2019

        Hey Matt – that absolutely helps! Thank you. Just wanted to confirm it’s ok to have the website domain as my name (sachinxyz.abc), but have the LLC name at the bottom/copyright notice and in any disclaimers, contracts or agreements.

        reply
        • Matt Horwitz February 14, 2019

          Awesome! Yes, you’re correct.

          reply
  31. Dusty Lowry February 8, 2019

    I have an existing LLC, a consulting company, we have also established a band and would like to cover it under the LLC, for insurance purposes. Do we need to establish a dba for the Band – UNDER the LLC if so how do we go about doing so….as a mini business under the Main LLC???

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz February 14, 2019

      Hey Dusty, if an LLC will operate and do business under a name that is different than its true and legal name, then a DBA should be in place. So based on what you said, yes, you would file a DBA (owned by your LLC) for your band name. How to file the DBA depends on the state. Sometimes they are filed at the state level (with the Secretary of State’s office, for example) and other times they are filed at the county level (with the County Clerk’s office, for example). Hope that helps.

      reply
  32. Jan February 15, 2019

    Hi Matt,
    Great info here!
    If you file for a DBA for your LLC (the DBA for one branch of your business), can you still do business under your original LLC name?
    Thanks!

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz February 15, 2019

      Thanks Jan! Great question. Yes, an LLC with a DBA (or DBAs) can do business under the DBA name (or names) or its original LLC name. Hope that helps!

      reply

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