DBA Definition

DBA stands for “doing business as,” which in Texas is also termed the “assumed name.” The DBA is the alternate name under which you will operate your business, as compared to the formal business name registered with the state or your own individual name.

If you are an individual and want your business to operate under a different name, you can send in a DBA to the municipality's clerk's office where your company is located.

If you have a business that wants to do business with a different name than its officially incorporated legal name, then you will also need to file a DBA.

Filling Out the Paperwork for DBA in Texas

When you are preparing to file for a DBA, you need to first know what exactly you are applying for. The DBA is not the legal name of your business, but rather is a trade or fictitious name that your business uses.

The business cannot be sued through its DBA, as the DBA does not refer to a legal entity. Because of this, your business will need to use its legal name, not the DBA, when engaging in transactions and entering into agreements.

You will need to first make sure that the legal business name you want to use is available and officially registered with you. You will need to register with the Texas secretary of state and can also check with them to see if any other businesses have registered under your desired name as well.

After registering your legal name, then you can register for a DBA. You need to first have your legal name registered and fully processed. The DBA will allow you to operate publicly with a name that is different from your legally incorporated one.

Unlike the legally registered name, DBAs can overlap. You can use a DBA similar or even identical to another Texas business, and other businesses can use a DBA similar to yours, as well.

Many businesses will try to get a DBA when they can't use the DBA name as their legal official name, often because another business has registered for the legal name that they want.

DBAs are also often used in franchising. The legal name may be generic, but the DBA would reflect the state and locality it's operating in.

Although your DBA can be the same as another business' DBA, it still helps when your DBA is unique. You should check to see if your hoped-for DBA is already in use. Having similar DBAs, while allowed, may possibly lead to trademark problems and also confuse customers.

Check to see if the DBA is trademarked by doing a search. Remember that trademark laws protect a person's DBA if it is registered as a trademark. You can use the Texas secretary of state's website to do a search by getting an account, with a $1 fee per search.

Registering your DBA is similar by a municipality in Texas. You will need to prepare an ownership certificate if you are an individual, as well as a filing fee that varies but is usually around $9. You can check DBAs by going in person to the local clerk for the municipality and, for a fee, they will do a name search.

For businesses hoping to get a DBA:

  • You will need to use Form 503.
  • You can get Form 503 either at the Texas state website or through your local municipal clerk.
  • Form 503 requires companies filing for a DBA to show proof of the current legal name and registration of the company, as well as other information such as its address.
  • You can then apply for a maximum of a 10-year DBA.
  • You will also need to describe which municipalities you expect the business to operate and sign in.
  • There is a PDF version of this form online for download.

Submitting the Application in Texas

Once you've completed the necessary paperwork, you'll need to take it to a licensed notary who will:

  • Act as an unbiased third party
  • Verify your identity
  • Verify that you're acting of your own free will
  • Verify that you understand the document and what it means

Your paperwork must have your signature on it before a notary will be able to accept and verify it. Having your application notarized is a requirement in every county in the state of Texas. You have two options for getting this done:

  • Have it notarized before you file the application
  • Have it notarized by a county representative at the same time that you file the application

Once the paperwork has been properly notarized, you'll need to submit it to the office of the secretary of state by mailing everything in to P.O. Box 13697, Austin, TX, 78711-3696. You'll also need to send in your payment for the $25 processing fee. The secretary of state accepts payment for this fee in the form of either a check or a money order, and it should be sent in the same envelope as your application.

Next, you'll need to submit a copy of your paperwork to your local county clerk's office. This will need to be done in either:

  • The county in which you have registered your company's principal place of business
  • If your company's principal place of business is outside of Texas, a registered office that is physically present in the state

If you need to locate your local county clerk's office, you can run a search on the secretary of state's official website.

If you decide to mail your paperwork in, be sure to keep either a digital or hard copy for your records. It can't be stressed enough that you need to remember to include your payment when you mail your application in. This simple mistake can cause delays if you forget. If you still have questions about your application, it can be a good idea to submit your paperwork in person. The staff at your local county clerk's office will normally be able to check your paperwork for errors before submitting it for processing.

Once the county clerk's office has approved your paperwork, you're going to want to keep a record as proof. This is a simple matter of ordering a copy of the approved paperwork and keeping it in your files for future reference. This way, if any issues come up down the road, you'll have an official copy of your paperwork to be used in your defense.

Most counties will charge you for ordering a copy of this paperwork, but it's a good idea to pay the fee and get your copies. It's always better to know you have proof of your approval should anything come up in the future rather than saving a little money and exposing yourself to a potential risk.

Finally, you'll need to make sure you keep up with renewing your DBA when the time comes. Your DBA certificate will be valid for 10 years after the date you filed it. You don't have to wait until the renewal date is right on top of you, though. You're able to renew your DBA within six months of the renewal date, so you have plenty of time to get things taken care of.

In the event that you no longer wish to use your DBA name, it's not just a simple matter of not using it anymore. You'll need to file a Form 504, otherwise known as a "certificate of abandonment." In the event that your sole proprietorship is disbanded or otherwise ceases operations under your registered DBA name, you'll be required to submit what is known as a "Statement of Abandonment of Use of a Business or Professional Name."

This paperwork needs to be submitted to every county that your company has done business in under the registered DBA name. It is worth noting that some counties will charge a small fee for filing this form while others won't charge anything.

Finally, you need to be aware that you can't make changes or amendments to your DBA certificate. If you want or need to change your company's name, you'll need to go through the entire process again.

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