Last updated January 18, 2021
How to File a DBA
(Fictitious Name) in Pennsylvania
Quick Start Guide
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A person or company may want to conduct business under a name which is different from their legal name.
In such cases, this is known as a Fictitious Name registration or “Doing Business As” (DBA).
In Pennsylvania, the official name is Fictitious Name.
Is a Fictitious Name (DBA) necessary in Pennsylvania?
Fictitious Name filings (DBAs) are the most commonly misunderstood filings and people often make a lot of mistakes.
Before proceeding with this lesson, make sure you have read Do I need a DBA for my business?
Do I need to publish in the newspaper?
Some Fictitious Names need to publish an ad in the newspaper.
However, this is only required when a Sole Proprietorship or General Partnership registers a Fictitious Name.
This is not required when a legal entity registers a Fictitious Name (and they fill the form out correctly). Legal entities include an LLC, Corporation, LP, LLP, etc.
Note: We have more details about the newspaper publication requirement for Fictitious Names below.
Pennsylvania Fictitious Name Filing
PA Fictitious Name Form: Registration of Fictitious Name (DSCB:54-311)
PA Fictitious Name Filing fee: $70 (one-time fee)
Method of payment: Check or money order
Make payable to: “Department of State”
Approval Time: 7-10 business days
Steps to Filing a Fictitious Name in Pennsylvania
We’ve broken this lesson into 3 large sections:
- Search your Pennsylvania Fictitious Name
- File your Registration of Fictitious Name Form
- Advertise your Fictitious Name in the Newspaper
The video below includes an overview of registering a Fictitious Name in Pennsylvania as well as instructions on how to complete the filing by mail. However, please note that this video was made before we upgraded and revamped this lesson. For that reason, we recommend both watching the video as well as reading all the content on this webpage. The video is easy to digest and has a lot of helpful information, but the written content is more comprehensive and up-to-date.
Step 1. Search your Pennsylvania Fictitious Name
Before registering your Fictitious Name in Pennsylvania, you need to make sure the name does not conflict with an existing legal entity, such as an LLC or Corporation.
LLCs and Corporations have rights to their names and you cannot infringe upon those rights. If you do, the state will reject your filing.
For example, if you want to register a Fictitious Name called “Jill’s Flower Shop”, but there is already a “Jill’s Flower Shop LLC“, the state will reject your filing.
However, if you find an existing Fictitious Name already registered, you can still register an identical Fictitious Name, since Fictitious Names do not have rights to their name.
For example, if you want to register a Fictitious Name called “Quick Delivery Guy“, and you find an already registered “Quick Delivery Guy“, you can still file your Fictitious Name and the state will approve it.
Having said that, some people may not want their Fictitious Name to be exactly the same as someone else’s name, so in those cases we recommend coming up with a new name or adding or changing a word to make your Fictitious Name more unique.
Once you’ve thought of a few potential Fictitious Names, you should search them on the Pennsylvania database to make sure they are unique.
Pennsylvania Business Name Database:
Tips when searching your Fictitious Name:
1. It’s best to search for only part of your Fictitious Name (if you have a longer name) to make sure you see all of the results. For example, if your desired Fictitious Name is “Smith Cycle Shop“, it’s best to just search “Smith” or “Smith Cycle”. This will help you find anything that is potentially similar to your name.
2. Leave out punctuation like commas, periods, apostrophes, quotes, hyphens, etc. The state ignores these during the search.
3. You don’t have to worry about capitalization since the state ignores it. You can search using uppercase letters or lowercase letters.
4. By default, the “Type of Search” will be set to “Starting with”. This is fine, you can leave this as-is.
Once you’ve found a Fictitious Name that is unique and available to use, you’re now ready to submit the Registration of Fictitious Name Form to the state.
Step 2. File your Fictitious Name Registration Form
PA Fictitious Name Filing fee:
$70 (one-time filing fee)
Download the PA Fictitious Name Registration Form:
Tip: You can either print the form, fill it out by hand (use a black pen), then sign; or, you can type in the form on your computer, then print and sign. When printing, use regular white paper (8.5″ x 11″).
Return document method:
You can have your Fictitious Name approval returned to you either by regular mail or by email (you must select one or the other).
Enter your mailing address in the first section or enter your email address in the second section.
Fee exemption for veterans/reservists:
If you’re a Veteran or Reservist, first, thank you for your service!
And great news, due to Act 135 of 2016 (which became effective on January 2nd, 2017), you don’t have to pay the $70 filing fee.
Your Fictitious Name Registration is free ($0).
If you qualify as a Veteran or Reservist, please check off the box at the top. You must also include proof of your status as a Veteran or Reservist when you mail the completed form.
One of the following documents are needed as proof:
- Federal DD-214 Form
- Federal NGB-22 Form
- Copy of a valid Federal Veterans’ Administration Card
- Copy of a valid Department of Defense-issued Military Identification Card
A Veteran is someone who served in the United States Armed Forces, including a reserve
component or the National Guard, and who was not dishonorably discharged or released from service.
A Reservist is a member of the United States Armed Forces reserve component or National Guard.
#1. The Fictitious Name is:
Enter your desired Fictitious Name exactly as you would like it.
#2. Business purpose:
In this section, you need to let the Pennsylvania Bureau of Corporations know about the purpose of your business.
You can enter a few words about your business (such as “Coffee shop”, “Real estate investing”, “Life coaching”, etc.) or a short sentence (such as “Management training for the logistics industry”).
#3. Principal place of business:
Enter your principal place of business in Pennsylvania.
This address must be a physical street address located in Pennsylvania. PO Boxes are not allowed.
For most filers, this address is usually a home address or an office address.
#4. Name and address (if owner is a person):
If your Pennsylvania Fictitious Name is owned by a person, such as yourself, then you will be completing #4 (and leaving #5 blank).
Enter your first and last name as well as your address.
The address doesn’t have to be located in Pennsylvania, although it certainly can be. It can be located in any state.
And the address doesn’t have to be a physical street address (although it can be). PO Box addresses (in Pennsylvania or any other state) are allowed to be listed in #4.
#5. Name and address (if owner is a company):
If your Pennsylvania Fictitious Name is owned by a company, such as an LLC or Corporation, then you will be completing #5 (and leaving #4 blank).
Note: There are two “half sections” in #5. This is if a Fictitious Name is owned by 2 companies. This is rarely the case, so most filers will just enter their company in the “1st half” of #5.
AGAIN: Make sure to leave Number 4 blank. If you mistakenly enter a person’s name in Number 4, your LLC will need to advertise in the newspaper.
Name: Enter the full name of the company which will own this Fictitious Name. Make sure to include the company’s designator (ending), such as “LLC”, “Corp”, “Inc”, etc.
Form or Organization: Enter the type of organization. For example, enter “LLC” for an LLC (Limited Liability Company), “Corporation” for a Corporation, and so on.
Organizing Jurisdiction: Enter the state in which your company was formed. Enter “Pennsylvania” if your company was formed in Pennsylvania or enter another state if your company was formed outside of Pennsylvania.
Principal Office Address: Enter the principal office address of your company. This address must be a physical street address. It cannot be a PO Box address. This address can be located in Pennsylvania, but it doesn’t have to be. This address can be located in any state.
PA Registered Office (if any): If the company that owns the Fictitious Name was formed in Pennsylvania, then enter the address of your Pennsylvania Registered Office. This address must be a physical street address located in Pennsylvania. This address cannot be a PO Box address.
If the company that owns the Fictitious Name was formed outside of Pennsylvania, then please leave the “PA Registered Office, if any” line blank.
#6. No rights to the Fictitious Name:
Nothing needs to be entered in #6.
It simply states that no rights are given to a Fictitious Name registered in Pennsylvania. Meaning, you cannot prevent other people from using the identical name in the state.
If you would like to prevent others from using the identical name in the state, then we recommend you hire a Pennsylvania lawyer and file a Pennsylvania trademark. This will give you protection throughout the state of Pennsylvania.
If you would like to prevent others from using the same name in the entire country, then we recommend you hire a trademark or intellectual property lawyer and file a Federal trademark.
Note: We do not have guides or information on trademarks (neither at the state level or the federal level), and we don’t recommend you attempt to file one yourself. The filings are complicated and it’s easy to make a mistake, so for that reason, we recommend hiring an attorney who specializes in trademark filings. You can find trademark lawyers on Avvo: https://www.avvo.com/intellectual-property-lawyer.html
#7. Authorized parties:
This section is optional and is used to prevent business fraud (someone making a filing on your behalf without the proper authorization).
By entering a person’s name or a company name in #7, you are telling the state that this is the only person/company who is authorized to make a filing on behalf of this soon-to-be-registered Fictitious Name.
If you would like to put a name on file, please enter a person’s first and last name, or enter a company name.
If you’re not sure who to give authority to, then you can just leave this section blank.
Enter today’s date at the top, in the following format: “7th day of July, 2020”
If your Fictitious Name is owned by a person:
If your Fictitious Name is owned by a person (and you completed #4, but not #5), then you will just need a signature (or signatures if there are multiple owners who are people) above the “Individual Signature” line. You’ll just need a signature. You don’t need to write out the person’s/your name.
If your Fictitious Name is owned by a company:
If your Fictitious Name is owned by a company (and you completed #5, but not #4), then you will need to enter the company name above “Entity Name”, sign your name above “Signature”, and enter your title above “Title”.
If your company is an LLC, your title will either be “Member”, “Managing Member”, or “Manager”. If you’re not sure what your title is, please read this article: LLC Officer Titles.
If your company is a Corporation, your title will likely be “President” or “Chief Executive Officer”.
Payment and Mailing Instructions:
Mail the completed form along with a check or money order payable to “Department of State” for $70 to:
Bureau of Corporations
PO Box 8722
Harrisburg, PA 17105-8722
Note: For those who are qualified as a Veteran or Reservist, you do not need to send any payment. Your filing is free ($0). Don’t forget to include proof of your status as a Veteran or Reservist when you mail the completed form.
Fictitious Name Approval time:
The Pennsylvania Bureau of Corporations will review and process your Registration of Fictitious Name within 7-10 business days.
If your Fictitious Name filing is rejected:
If your filing is rejected, you will receive an explanation letter in the mail or by email (depending on what you selected at the top of the form). You’ll then need to refile (using a different name) and include the original rejection letter. If you include the original rejection letter, you don’t have to pay the $70 fee again. The rejection letter will serve as a $70 “credit”.
If your Fictitious Name filing is approved:
If your filing is approved, the state will mail or email (depending on what you selected at the top of the form) your Fictitious Name approval letter as well as a stamped and approved copy of your Registration of Fictitious Name. These items will be sent back to you within 7-10 business days.
Step 3. Advertise your Fictitious Name Registration
We’ve broken this advertising section into 11 sub-sections:
- Penalty for not advertising
- What are the costs?
- Names owned by people vs names owned by companies
- Advertising after filing is approved
- Ad only needs to appear once
- Obtain proof of publication
- Don’t send proof of publication to the state
- How to call the newspapers and publish your ads
- Example ads for Notice of Fictitious Name
- Pennsylvania legal newspapers
After your Fictitious Name filing is approved, you are required to advertise a Notice of Fictitious Name.
- The advertisement must be made in two newspapers of general circulation
- The newspapers must be in the same county where your principal place of business is located (#3 on the Registration of Fictitious Name form)
- One of the newspapers must be a legal newspaper
- If there is no legal newspaper in your county, then you’re allowed to publish in just 1 newspaper of general circulation
The contents of the advertisement must contain the following:
- The Fictitious Name
- The address of your principal place of business
- The names and addresses of any persons or companies who own the Fictitious Name
- A statement that the application for registration of a Fictitious Name was filed under Pennsylvania law (54 Pa.C.S. Section 301 et. seq.)
Penalty for Not Advertising Your Fictitious Name
If you do not advertise your Notice of Fictitious Names, Pennsylvania courts may see this as being the same thing as non-registration.
In this case, your business won’t be allowed to maintain any action in the courts against parties it did business with under its Fictitious Name.
This means you can’t ask for payment, demand performance of a contract, or seek damages.
You will not be able to legally enforce a contract entered into by your Fictitious Name until after you publish your Notice of Fictitious Name, however, the court has the option of imposing a $500 penalty if you do so in an “untimely manner”. And “untimely manner” is not specifically defined, so it’s up to the judge to decide what is “untimely” and what is not.
Going to court is already expensive and time-consuming enough. Having to go to court multiple times will certainly increase your legal fees with your lawyer, and having to take care of the publication requirement (and hoping you receive Proof of Publication in a “timely manner”), will likely add to your stress levels.
We recommend taking care of your advertising requirements immediately after your Fictitious Name is approved by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Corporations.
What are the costs for advertising a Fictitious Name?
The advertising costs will vary depending on the county in which you need to publish.
Since there are 67 counties in Pennsylvania, the fees can vary quite a bit. But usually counties with smaller populations are cheaper than counties with larger populations.
In smaller counties, the fees can range from $25 to $80.
In larger counties (like Philadelphia County), the newspaper fees can be upwards of $200.
Some newspapers charge a flat-rate and some newspapers charge “per line”.
You’ll need to call the newspaper(s) to check on the exact cost. You can find that information below in our list of newspapers.
Does Fictitious Name ownership affect the advertising requirement?
Yes, it does.
The advertising requirement has often been an area of confusion.
For many years, the state took the stance that Fictitious Names owned by people and companies need to advertise in the newspaper.
This is no longer the case.
Only Fictitious Names owned by people need to advertise. This includes Fictitious Names owned by Sole Proprietorships and General Partnerships.
Fictitious names owned by companies, like LLCs and Corporations, don’t need to advertise.
The state has made this more clear in their revised Guide to Business Registration in Pennsylvania:
“An entity which includes an individual party shall “officially publish” notice that it has filed or intends to file an application for registration of the fictitious name. In other words, if there is an individual listed in Box 4 of the Registration of Fictitious Name form [DSCB:54-311], advertising is required.”
Advertising can be done before or after your filing is approved
The laws in Pennsylvania allow you to publish your Notice of Fictitious Name in the newspaper either before the Fictitious Name filing is made, or after the Fictitious Name filing is made.
However, we don’t recommend advertising your Fictitious Name until it is approved by the state.
The reason for this is there is a chance your Fictitious Name will be rejected. If that’s the case, you’ll need to re-publish your newspaper ad, and you’ll have to pay the newspaper fee again.
Your ad only needs to appear once
Unlike newspaper publication requirements in other states (like New York, which requires a notice to be run for 6 weeks), the requirement in Pennsylvania is that your notice of Fictitious Name just needs to appear once.
Said another way, if the newspaper prints every day, your notice just needs to appear for one of those days.
And the same thing applies to a newspaper which prints once per week. Your notice just needs to appear once for one of those weeks.
Make sure you get “Proof of Publication”
Depending on the county in which you publish, the newspaper will send you some type of document as “proof” that your ad has run.
This will often come in the form of either an Affidavit of Publication or a Certificate of Publication.
Make sure to request this from the newspaper at the time you send them your ad text (or when you are placing your order by phone).
Some newspapers include this in their publishing fee, and others charge a few extra dollars for it.
Proof of Publication doesn’t need to be sent to the state
Once you receive back your Affidavit of Publication or your Certificate of Publication, you do not need to send this to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Corporations.
Instead, you just need to keep the Affidavit of Publication or Certificate of Publication on file with your business records.
Said another way, just keep a printed copy with your business paperwork or scan the document and save on your computer or hard drive.
It’s a good idea to have a few copies (both physical and digital) which can serve as “backups”.
How to call the newspapers, get instructions, and publish your Notice of Fictitious Name
Publishing in the newspaper is a bit of an “old school” process.
Here’s what you’ll need to do:
1. See our list of newspapers below. If there is just 1 newspaper listed, you only have to publish in 1 newspaper. If there are 2 newspapers listed, you need to publish in 2 newspapers.
2. Call the newspaper during normal business hours of Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm. Say “I’d like to publish a Notice of a Fictitious Name. Can I speak with legals or someone who can help me?”
3. Ask them the following (and take notes):
a.) “How would you like my ad text? Do you have a fill-in-the-blank form or would you like me to email you the full ad text?“
Note: If they want the full ad text, just use our example ad in the next section below.
b.) “Will you automatically send me proof of publication after the ad runs or do I need to request and pay extra for that? How much extra will that cost and how should I pay for that?“
c.) “How would you like me to send payment? Should I mail you a check or can I pay by credit card over the phone?“
d.) “Approximately how long will it take for me to receive my proof of publication? It will be returned via regular mail, correct? Should I give you my address over the phone or would you prefer that I email it to you?“
Example Ads for Notice of Fictitious Name
Note: If your county has a fill-in-the-blank form, you don’t need to use the example ads below. However, if your county wants you to send them the full ad text, then feel free to use our ad text below. Just make sure to replace the bold terms with your information.
Notice of Fictitious Name Example (when owned by an individual):
Note: If your Fictitious Name is owned by 2 or more people, you must list the names and addresses of all owners.
Pennsylvania Legal Newspapers
(and general circulation newspapers)
Note: In most counties, the legal newspaper is called a Legal Journal or Legal Reporter, however, the following names may also be used:
- Jurist or The Jurist
- Law Journal
- Law Review
- Law Reporter
- Legal Bulletin
- Legal Intelligencer
- Legal Record
- Legal Register
- Legal Report
- Report, Reports, or Reporter
They all refer to the same thing though; and that is a legal newspaper which is administered by that county’s Bar Association.
Adams County Legal Journal
Adams County Bar Association
Pittsburgh Legal Journal
Allegheny County Bar Association
Armstrong County Legal Journal
Armstrong County Bar Association
Beaver County Legal Journal
Beaver County Bar Association
The Beaver County Times
Bedford County Legal
Bedford County Bar Association
Berks County Law Journal
Berks County Bar Association
Blair County Legal Bulletin
Blair County Bar Association
Bradford County Law Journal
Bradford County Bar Association
The Daily Review
Bucks County Law Reporter
Bucks County Bar Association
Bucks County Courier Times
Butler County Legal Journal
Butler County Bar Association
Cambria County Legal Journal
Cambria County Bar Association
There is no Legal Journal in Cameron County, PA, so you only need to publish in 1 general circulation newspaper:
Cameron County Echo
Carbon County Law Journal
Carbon County Bar Association
Times News Online
Centre County Legal Journal
Centre County Bar Association
Centre Daily Times
Chester County Law Reporter
Chester County Bar Association
Daily Local News
There is no Legal Journal in Clarion County, PA, so you only need to publish in 1 general circulation newspaper:
The Clarion News
Clearfield County Legal Journal
Clearfield County Bar Association
The Progress News
There is no Legal Journal in Clinton County, PA, so you only need to publish in 1 general circulation newspaper:
There is no Legal Journal in Columbia County, PA, so you only need to publish in 1 general circulation newspaper:
Press Enterprise Online
Crawford County Legal Journal
Crawford County Bar Association
Cumberland County Law Journal
Cumberland County Bar Association
Dauphin County Reporter
Dauphin County Bar Association
Delaware County Legal Journal
Delaware County Bar Association
The Delaware County Daily Times
There is no Legal Journal in Elk County, PA, so you only need to publish in 1 general circulation newspaper:
The Daily Press
Erie County Legal Journal
Erie County Bar Association
Fayette County Legal Journal
Fayette County Bar Association
There is no Legal Journal in Forest County, PA, so you only need to publish in 1 general circulation newspaper:
The Titusville Herald
Franklin County Legal Journal
Franklin County Bar Association
Chambersburg Public Opinion
There is no Legal Journal in Fulton County, PA, so you only need to publish in 1 general circulation newspaper:
Fulton County News
Greene County Reports
Greene County Bar Association
Calls are handled by Bar Member, Christine Nicole Nash of Chambers & Pratt, PC
There is no Legal Journal in Huntingdon County, PA, so you only need to publish in 1 general circulation newspaper:
The Daily News
Indiana County Law Journal
Indiana County Bar Association
Calls are handled by Bar Member, William Darr of Barbor, Sottile & Darr PC
Jefferson County Legal Journal
Jefferson County Bar Association
There is no Legal Journal in Juniata County, PA, so you only need to publish in 1 general circulation newspaper:
The Lewistown Sentinel
Lackawanna County Jurist
Lackawanna County Bar Association
The Times-Tribune of Scranton and Lackawanna Counties
Lancaster County Law Review
Lancaster County Bar Association
Lawrence County Law Journal
Lawrence County Bar Association
New Castle News
Lebanon County Legal Journal
Lebanon County Bar Association
Lebanon Daily News
Lehigh County Law Journal
Lehigh County Bar Association
Lehigh Valley Live (The Express-Times)
Luzerne County Legal Register
Luzerne County Bar Association
Wilkes Barre Law & Library Association
Lycoming County Report
Lycoming County Bar Association
Lycoming County Law Association
There is no Legal Journal in McKean County, PA, so you only need to publish in 1 general circulation newspaper:
The Bradford Era
Mercer County Law Journal
Mercer County Bar Association
There is no Legal Journal in Mifflin County, PA, so you only need to publish in 1 general circulation newspaper:
Monroe County Legal Reporter
Monroe County Bar Association
Montgomery County Law Reporter
Montgomery County Bar Association
There is no Legal Journal in Montour County, PA, so you only need to publish in 1 general circulation newspaper:
The Danville News (an edition of The Daily Item)
Northampton County Reporter
Northampton County Bar Association
Lehigh Valley Live
Northumberland County Legal Journal
Northumberland County Bar Association
Calls are handled by Bar Member, Debra Moyer of Wiest, Muolo, Noon, Swinehart & Bathgate
There is no Legal Journal in Perry County, PA, so you only need to publish in 1 general circulation newspaper:
Perry County Times (Penn Live)
The Legal Intelligencer
Philly.com (The Inquirer)
215-854-5834 (direct line to “legals”)
800-341-3413 (use menu prompts)
Pike County Legal Journal
Pike County Bar Association
The Pike County Legal Journal is now published by Bailey Design and Advertising
The Pike County Courier
There is no Legal Journal in Potter County, PA, so you only need to publish in 1 general circulation newspaper:
Potter-Leader Enterprise (Tioga Publishing)
Schuylkill County Legal Record
Schuylkill County Law Library
Schuylkill County Courthouse
570-628-1235 (Courthouse phone number)
There is no Legal Journal in Snyder County, PA, so you only need to publish in 1 general circulation newspaper:
The Snyder County Times
Somerset County Legal Journal
Somerset County Bar Association
There is no Legal Journal in Sullivan County, PA, so you only need to publish in 1 general circulation newspaper:
The Sullivan Review
There is no Legal Journal in Susquehanna County, PA, so you only need to publish in 1 general circulation newspaper:
There is no Legal Journal in Tioga County, PA, so you only need to publish in 1 general circulation newspaper:
The Wellsboro Gazette (Tioga Publishing)
There is no Legal Journal in Union County, PA, so you only need to publish in 1 general circulation newspaper:
The Daily Item
There is no Legal Journal in Venango County, PA, so you only need to publish in 1 general circulation newspaper:
The Derrick (The News-Herald)
There is no Legal Journal in Warren County, PA, so you only need to publish in 1 general circulation newspaper:
Warren Times Observer
Washington County Reports
Washington County Bar Association
There is no Legal Journal in Wayne County, PA, so you only need to publish in 1 general circulation newspaper:
Westmoreland County Law Journal
Westmoreland County Bar Association
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Westmoreland)
There is no Legal Journal in Wyoming County, PA, so you only need to publish in 1 general circulation newspaper:
Wyoming County Press Examiner
York County Legal Record
York County Bar Association
York Daily Record
PA Department of State: fictitious names
PA Code 17-208: advertising of fictitious names
Statutes of Pennsylvania: chapter 3, fictitious names
PA Department of State: a guide to business registration
Statutes of Pennsylvania: title 15, section 102, definitions
PA Department of State: business fee exemption for veterans and reservists
Statutes of Pennsylvania: title 45, section 307, penalty for failure to advertise