Updated November 17, 2020:

Business owners add a DBA to an LLC when they need to conduct business using a different name than their company's legal name. This could be necessary if your business expands to a new state where your original LLC name is already taken. To add a DBA, you must file the required paperwork and gain approval from the appropriate state agency.

To form an LLC, you need to file articles of organization in your respective state. You must choose your business' legal name, which has to be easily discernable from other entities that are already operational in the state. Your name must also include the abbreviation “LLC” or the words “Limited Liability Company.” 

What Is a DBA?

Companies that want to conduct business with a different name than that of the LLC must file a DBA, which stands for “doing business as.” If your legal name is “Deena's Nails” and you want to call yourself “Amazing Nails by Deena,” then you need to have a DBA on file. 

The process for registering a DBA may differ slightly by state, but the general process includes registering the fictitious name with your local county or state agency. Once the DBA is successfully registered, the business has the legal right to conduct business under either the official name or the new fictitious name within the jurisdiction of the county or state where it's registered.

When Do You Need a DBA?

Businesses who want to receive checks in the company name would need to have a DBA on file. Taking the time to set up the DBA proves you're serious about not commingling your personal and business income and expenses. This is important when it comes to filing taxes. It's very important for small business owners to file a DBA. Without the legal right to use a fictitious business name, you could be opening your business up to fines, criminal charges, and even lawsuits. 

How to Add a DBA to an LLC

  1.  Identify what documentation is required and where you must file the DBA registration. 
    • Some states like Mississippi, New Mexico, Alabama, and Kansas don't require business owners to file their fictitious business name. 
    • Other states have different rules on where it must be filed, which is why you need to research the specifics of the particular state you plan to do business in.  
    • Check with the U.S. Department of Commerce for specific state requirements on where to file. In some states, it's Secretary of the State, while others are with the local County Clerk.
  2. Run a search to see if the name you've chosen is already registered. If it's unavailable, the registering agency will ask for your backup names and run those until it finds one that is not already taken.
  3. Once the name search comes back clean, fill out the documentation, which asks for the following:  
    • LLC legal name
    • Approved DBA name
    • Your personal information (name and address)
    • Business address
  4. Present the signed and dated form and pay the filing fees. 
  5. Keep in mind that DBAs aren't perpetual but are active for a specific amount of time, often four to five years.

Setting Up a DBA in Florida

  1. Like other states, Florida doesn't allow a business to have the same name as or a name very similar to another business. 
  2. When choosing your fictitious name, be mindful that it can't contain “corporation” or any derivative of that entity type. 
  3. Filing a fictitious business name requires that you publish a statement in the local newspaper that announces your intent to do business under a fictitious name.
  4. Be sure you have all the information necessary when you fill out the DBA registration form. In Florida, you need the following:
    • Registration name
    • Business address
    • Each owner's name and personal address
    • Federal employer ID number for corporations
    • Publication certification 
  5. In Florida, DBAs expire after five years.

DBA Usage and Things to Consider

  • For LLCs that want to do business in a new state, start by conducting a business name search. 
  • Businesses whose legal names are too similar to an existing business in the new state will only be allowed to operate the LLC with a DBA. Don't do business under the legal LLC or you could face fines. Although you're operating under a DBA, legal documents are still signed using the LLC name, noting it's doing business as "X."
  • For each new state the LLC plans to do business in, a new DBA must be registered before conducting business there.  

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