What is a DBA (doing business as)?
The acronym DBA means ‘doing business as.’ It is the term for any registered name a business uses that is not their legal name.
The legal name of a company depends on its structure. It is the name of the company for LLCs and corporations. For sole proprietorships, the legal name is their own name.
A DBA can also be called a fictitious business name, trade name, or assumed name. In Delaware, it is primarily referred to as a business trade name.
A DBA only changes the name of a business and nothing else.
For instance, when you open a business, it will default to your legal name (e.g., Kay Jones). Kay Jones is opening a convenience store. She doesn’t want the name of her business to become Kay Jones. So, she files a DBA in Delaware to change the business name to Kay’s Korner. Kay’s Korner becomes the name of her convenience store. Nothing else about the business structure of Kay’s Korner changes. Registering the DBA allows the business owner to operate using a trade name.
DBA vs business trade name
- In Delaware, a DBA is most commonly called a trade name.
- Filing a DBA is how a business operates under a name that isn’t their legal name.
- A DBA works as an alias.
- A DBA is not a legal business entity.
- A DBA must be associated with a legal entity.
- A DBA and a business trade name are the same things.
Who needs a DBA?
Delaware requires that all businesses that wish to operate using a trade name file a DBA. It includes all sole proprietors, LLCs, partnerships, and corporations.
Registering a DBA is a good idea for businesses and is dependent on the owner’s needs, state and local requirements, and business structure.
- New businesses. If you wish to use a trade name in Delaware, you must file a DBA. DBA names in Delaware must be unique and meet state requirements.
- Sole proprietors. A sole proprietor shares the name with their business unless they file a DBA. It is because a sole proprietor and their business are the same legal business entity.
- LLCs. In Delaware, LLCs must file a DBA if they wish to expand and operate separate businesses that do not want to use the company’s name. In the absence of a DBA, every new business your LLC buys and operates would have to use the legal name of the LLC regardless of the line of business.
- Corporations. Corporations utilize DBAs regularly. It is because they operate businesses in a variety of industries. A corporation has to do business under the name of their company unless they file for DBA names.
- Franchises. Franchises use DBAs all of the time. For instance, if you purchase a Dollar General franchise. Dollar General is an LLC. The new franchise would be listed as “907 Business LLC”. A DBA must be filed to change the franchise from the numerical listing to Dollar General Store. It alerts the state of Delaware that you’re ‘doing business as’ the franchise.
A DBA gives a small business owner the creative freedom to name their company.
DBAs also help startups and entrepreneurs avoid the costly and complicated process of forming an LLC or corporation to just use a different name for their business.
Why do you need a DBA?
- DBAs help keep things simple. A DBA only changes the name of a business. However, they help small businesses in other ways, too. DBA registration is a straightforward and low-cost way that a sole proprietor can use to operate utilizing a trade name as the business’s name without having to form an LLC or corporation.
- Limited liability companies (LLCs) and corporations benefit from a DBA. Delaware requires that LLCs and corporations file for separate DBA names for every business they wish to operate using a name other than the company’s name. For example, Joe’s Coffee Beans LLC wants to open The Morning Rise’s coffee shop. The LLC must file a DBA to change the name. The Morning Rise remains owned by Coffee Beans LLC.
- A DBA helps alleviate privacy concerns. If you do not register a DBA in Delaware as a sole proprietor, you will have to use your personal legal name on public-facing materials. A DBA allows you to use your trade name on signage rather than your legal personal name.
- Business banking is made easier with a DBA. Financial professionals recommend that all new businesses and startups open a separate business bank account from their personal one. It protects your personal assets and credit scores. Also, most banking institutions require new owners to register a DBA name before opening a bank account in the company name. A DBA does not offer any legal protection on its own.
- Registering a DBA name makes branding simple. You draw in customers using the best branding and marketing tools available. Your signs, flyers, and business cards tell your customers or clients about the products or services you sell. You must file a DBA to use the trade name that best advertises your business. For example, if Kay Jones had not filed a DBA, her customers wouldn’t know or understand that she runs a convenience store.
How to set up a DBA in Delaware
Step 1 -Delaware trade name search
In Delaware, all trade names are unique and meet the business name requirements.
You will need to search Delaware state records to ensure that the exact trade name you wish to use is available on the state level.
Step 2 – Filing a DBA in Delaware with the County Clerk
Delaware requires that you file your DBA name request with the county or counties you wish to operate within.
While you file the DBA with the counties you do business; The secretary of state of Delaware handles dBAs. It means that the DBA process is similar from county to county.
All three Delaware counties use the same trade name registration form. The Registration of Trade, Business & Fictitious Name Certificate is filed at the county clerk’s office and must be submitted by mail or in-person.
New Castle County
Leonard L. Williams Justice Center
500 North King Street, Suite 500, LL1
Wilmington, DE 19801-3746
Kent County Courthouse
38 The Green
Dover, DE 19901
Sussex County Courthouse
1 The Circle, Suite 2
Georgetown, DE 19947
The Registration of Trade, Business & Fictitious Name Certificate must be notarized by a notary public.
Step 3 – Pay Delaware filing fees
The DBA cost in Delaware is $25 per county. If you wish to operate within more than one county, it is an additional $25 for each.
A DBA does not have an expiration date in Delaware and doesn’t require renewal.
Delaware DBA name restrictions
The state of Delaware does have a DBA name restriction. A trade name can’t include:
- All businesses entity suffixes unless it is the type of company. (LLC, Incorporation, Corp)
- The word bank, or any variation that could mislead the public about what kind of business you’re doing.
Forms needed to file a DBA in Delaware
Delaware DBA tax considerations
Filing a DBA only changes the name of your business. There are no tax implications when you register a new name in Delaware. Also, you don’t have to have a separate tax ID number.
How much does a DBA filing cost in Delaware?
The DBA filing cost in Delaware is $25. It is an additional $25 for every county you wish to operate.
A DBA in Delaware does not expire and does not require renewal.
You can make changes to your DBA in Delaware by filling out the Supplemental Change Form. The supplemental paperwork costs $25 to file.
The Registration of Trade, Business & Fictitious Name Certificate must be notarized, and the cost is dependent on the notary public.
Professional DBA filing services
- ZenBusiness: ZenBusiness is an affordable solution for entrepreneurs, such as affordable LLC formations, and incorporations. ZenBusiness does offer a stand-alone registered agent service for $99 a year.
- Swyft Filings: Swyft Filings is a quality DBA service. They assign a registered agent to every client, making them a customer favorite. Swyft Filings offers a DBA obtainment package that costs $99 plus state fees.
- LegalZoom: LegalZoom does it all. The purpose of its design is to be a “one-stop-shop” for small businesses and their legal needs.
- MyCompanyWorks: MyCompanyWorks doesn’t have the experience that other professional DBA obtainment services have. However, they’ve served thousands of businesses successfully. MyCompanyWorks offers one DBA filing package for $99 plus state fees. You can add a couple of extras for additional fees.
- CorpNet: Corpnet’s biggest draw is that they have the best customers. It is hard to find a bad review about their DBA obtainment services.
- MyCorporation: MyCorporation has served over a million businesses over the last 20+ years. Their customer reviews reflect their longevity and success. The cost of MyCorportation DBA services is $99 plus State Fees. The expedited rush service is an additional $100.
- BizFilings: BizFilings offers entrepreneurs and small businesses services, such as LLC filing and incorporation services. The starting price of $99 plus state fees for BizFilings DBA obtainment services is pretty standard. However, it doesn’t include a namecheck in states that require them. Alabama does.
A DBA doesn’t change your business structure and is not a business entity. You do not need a separate Employer Identification Number.
It takes Delaware 7-10 business days to process a DBA name request.
You can withdraw a DBA in Delaware at no cost for you. All you do is fill out the Termination Affidavit Form and submit it to the county you registered your DBA.
In Delaware, you can have as many DBAs as you can afford and keep up with. You must follow the same process and procedures for each DBA.
A DBA and a trademark are two separate things.
A DBA allows a company to use a trade name instead of the legal name of a business.
A trademark is an intellectual property registration and protects branding and marketing.
You can trademark a DBA to protect a brand name from state to state. However, it is an expensive and complicated process.