Updated November 2, 2020:

DBA company documents allow a business owner to create a business using a fictitious name, whether that business is a sole proprietorship, limited liability company (LLC), or a corporation. The documents are especially useful when it comes time to set up bank accounts in the name of the fictitious business or enter into legal agreements and contracts with other businesses.

Most states require an individual to register the DBA in order to be recognized by customers and establish that no other businesses with that name are in existence in the state. This helps avoid confusion in the minds of consumers. An example of a DBA would be John Doe doing business as (d/b/a) “John’s Ski Shop” or (d/b/a) “J.D.’s Donuts.” Another term for a DBA is a trade name.

How to Register a Trade Name

Registering a DBA or a trade name is a very simple process and often one of the first steps taken after a business has been formed. The following information is usually required:

  • DBA or trade name
  • Date when company was formed
  • Type of business conducted, i.e. what goods or services are offered
  • Name of individual or legal entity that owns the business
  • Signature of notary public to authenticate the document

A trade name registration is usually good for five years, and can easily be renewed after that time. Check with your Secretary of State’s Office for specific requirements. Depending upon the state where the business is located, a DBA registration can have other names, such as:

  • Assumed Name Statement
  • Assumed Business Name Certificate
  • Business License Application
  • Fictitious Business Name Statement

Reasons to Use a DBA

DBAs are very common and business owners have different motivations for creating a fictitious name for their company:

  • Ability to create a memorable name that attracts business. A catchy name often works to set a business apart from the competition. Consider all the fun names that exist for beauty salons like “New Wave Hair Designs” or “Better Bangs for Your Buck Salon.”
  • Desire to create clarity as to the purpose or goods/services offered. Using the above example, if John Doe only used his name, consumers would not be able to quickly assess the purpose of the business, whereas “J.D.’s Donuts” immediately lets the consumer know what to expect when doing business with the company.
  • Desire for ownership to remain anonymous. It can be annoying enough to field a continuing array of solicitations from companies offering things during business hours, but many people don’t also want to receive calls and advertising at home as well.

DBAs and Bank Accounts

Having a DBA is especially useful when setting up a business bank account. It’s a good idea to differentiate business bank accounts from personal accounts. Many banks actually require a DBA in order to open a business bank account, and it is a necessity in order to deposit or cash checks collected under the fictitious business name. DBA documents are required when setting up a business bank account, so be prepared.

  • Photo ID or passport photo. These help to establish that the names found on all documentation matches the name of the individual opening the account.
  • State-issued DBA certificate. This certificate provides the bank with official documentation that the business is registered to do business in the state.
  • Business licenses or permits. If the jurisdiction in which the business requires special licenses or permits, these should be presented when opening an account. Examples are contractor licenses, liquor licenses, resale permits, and health permits.
  • Tax ID information. Depending on the type of business, this could be a Social Security Number (SSN), Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (INIT), or Employer Identification Number (EIN).
  • Articles of Incorporation/Articles of Organization or Partnership Certificate. Depending on the type of business, the names of all of the owners in the partnerships, members of the LLC, or officers of the corporation must be included. If these names are not on the official documents, they must be presented in a separate, authenticated document. Articles of Incorporation are usually only required if the registered business will be conducting business under more than one name using a DBA for each different name

In today’s business world, companies devote a lot of effort and capital to creating a memorable brand. A DBA allows the business to build upon the goodwill and degree of integrity that consumers associate with the name that appears on websites, packaging, signage, and other marketing collateral.

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