Washington state DBA registration is required by law if a business owner decides to use a company name other than his or her legal name. Filing a “doing business as” (DBA) allows a company to enter into contracts, open a bank account, and operate under a new company name.

Your Business Name

One of the most important steps in business planning is choosing a company name. Owners should select a name that accurately reflects a brand's identity, ensuring that it is properly protected and registered for long-term use. A company‘s online presence should also be considered when deciding on a business name.

Using a personal name is quite common in the cases of partnerships, solo operations, or freelancing. However, as the business grows, it may become increasingly difficult to build brand awareness and to present a professional image if you're using a personal name as your business name.

Another aspect to consider is how the name of your business may look on a website, social media outlets, and as part of a logo. Reflect on the following questions:

  • Is the company name too corporate or not corporate enough?
  • Will it appeal to the desired market?
  • Does it reflect the company's culture and philosophy?
  • Is the name unique?

It is important to select a name that hasn't already been claimed by another business. Quickly completing a web search will inform you if your desired name has already been taken, in both offline and online circumstances. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has an online search tool that allows business owners to see if a name has already been trademarked. Trademark infringement can be a costly mistake, so be sure to verify whether your name, or any variation of it, doesn't already exist.

If the goal is to eventually incorporate the business, contact your state filing office to check the status of the desired business name. If you discover that another business is already operating under your intended name, you still may be able to claim it under two conditions:

  1. The existing business and your business are located in different regions
  2. The existing business and your business offer different services or goods

What Is a DBA?

The process of registering your business name or trade name is known as doing business as (DBA). This process does not offer trademark protection and should not be confused with incorporation. Registering your DBA name is basically the process of informing the state government that you're using a business name other than a personal name or the legal name of your corporation or partnership.

In Washington state, you will need to register your DBA name when completing the registration and licensure paperwork for your business. However, if you choose to operate under your own name, then this process is not required. For example, if Harry's Hamburgers LLC wants to do business as The Hamburger House, then a DBA must be filed by the owners. Remember, Washington state law requires all businesses to file a DBA when using a business name other than an owner's legal name.

The name of your business is one of the most valuable assets of your company. Therefore, it's important to take the appropriate measures in order to protect it.

Setting up a DBA in Washington

It is a mandatory requirement to register a trade name that differs from your legal name in the state of Washington. Registration can be completed online at the Washington State Business Licensing Service website. In order to properly file your trade name, you must complete a business license application. There is a filing fee of $5 for each name that is registered.

If you discover you are blocked from registering your chosen name, then it may be necessary to select a new one. After a trade name has been registered, the registration is active until it is canceled by the business owner.

Washington DBA Forms

Be aware that there are several business-related items that will be required in order to complete the filing, including:

  • A description of the type of entity
  • The state of formation or incorporation
  • The name or trade name you are registering for
  • The name(s) and contact information of the business owner(s)

Tax Considerations

Filing a DBA and receiving a trade name does not change how your business will be taxed.

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