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What is DBA?

By Garry Crystal
Updated May 17, 2024
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Doing Business As (DBA) is the use of an invented name to trade under in business. This allows a person to legally do business under a different name, without have to create a completely new business entity. It allows someone to advertise, accept payments, and represent himself under a name that is not his own. Filing for DBA is very inexpensive and easy to accomplish.

The exact rules of the name a business can use vary from state to state and from country to country, so before proceeding, individuals should check with the local business authority. In some places, people can either use part of their name or their full name and a description of the services they provide. If someone intends to use more than one person in the title of the business or if he is just using his first name — like John’s Hardware — then he must file for a DBA.

This filing allows the person to use a typical business name without the need for a legal entity, such as that used in a corporation, a partnership, or a limited liability company (LLC). It also allows someone to open up a business phone listing and a business checking account under the business name. It is the least expensive way to do business under a legal business name.

One of the main benefits of this set up is the cost saving aspect. If someone intends to open a chain of businesses, he can set up a corporation with a general name and then file a DBA for all the other businesses in the chain. It is a very expensive process to file and maintain one business at a time, but the DBA costs a fraction of the price when filing and can help the person control costs as he expands his business.

The filing process varies by location. In some US states, an individual must register the assumed name with the Secretary of State or some other state agency. Registration is also handled in some states at the county level, and each county may have different forms and fees for registration.

The process is typically quite simple: the person must first search through a database to make sure the name is not in use. He can then submit a form with a filing fee. Some places may also require that the business owner publish in a newspaper that he is now doing business under an assumed name. The correct use of a DBA can be turned into a successful branding tool for very little cost. The most important thing for the individual to remember is to pick a great and memorable name.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon157852 — On Mar 04, 2011

Is this the same as Fictitious Business Name?

By anon152208 — On Feb 13, 2011

I am a sole proprietor with a current business name. I want to expand my services that would require a new name. Is a DBA name possible in this situation? I live in Utah.

By anon127580 — On Nov 16, 2010

How to use a DBA to run a 501(c)3 under the "umbrella" of another 501(c)3?

By leiliahrune — On Jul 08, 2010

@anon7612 - In most cases, you would need a DBA and need to be licensed and bonded. It depends on the state or country and whether or not you’re actually working as an employee for a contractor. Having a DBA just means that you are “doing business as,” like stated above. However, there are other reasons to have a DBA rather than just to say you own your own business.

It’s wise to have one if you’re not working under another contractor simply because of the fact that it is more professional. You should check with your county clerk’s office in order to determine whether your situation warrants a DBA or not.

By anon7612 — On Jan 30, 2008

Is it a requirement with the IRS for a subcontractor to have a dba??

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