What is a DBA (doing business as)?
The term DBA means ‘doing business as.’ It is any registered name that a company or individual uses to do business under that isn’t its legal name.
The legal name for a business varies depending on its structure. For LLCs, the legal name is the company’s name. The legal name defaults to a business owner’s personal name for sole proprietors.
A DBA can also be referred to as a fictitious name, trade name, or assumed name. A DBA only changes the name of your business and nothing else.
For example, if you purchase a business, its name defaults to your personal legal name (e.g., Frank Roberts). Frank Roberts wants to open a beer garden. He understands that he can’t use his legal name because no one would know the type of experience that Frank Roberts offers. So, he registers a DBA to change the business name to Frank’s Foam. A DBA changes nothing else about the business structure of Frank’s Foam.
Frank Roberts now has the freedom to name and operate his business using a business trade name rather than his own name.
DBA vs business trade name
- A business trade name, or DBA, is how companies operate under a specific name that is not the legal name.
- In Georgia, any individual or company who conducts business under a different name than their legal name must file a DBA.
- A company name is the legal name of the business.
- Companies in any line of business can register a DBA. It includes sole-proprietorships, limited liability companies, corporations, limited partnerships, franchises, and non-profits.
- A DBA is only an alias and must be associated with a legal entity.
- A DBA and a business trade name are the same things.
Who needs a DBA?
In Georgia, all sole proprietors, LLCs, partnerships, and corporations must file a DBA if they wish to use any other business trade name that isn’t the legal name.
A DBA benefits businesses of all sizes in a variety of ways. The benefits also depend on your business entity and personal preferences.
- New businesses. Georgia requires that all sole proprietorships and general partnerships file a DBA with the Clerk of Superior Court in the county they do business within if they wish to use a trade name.
- Sole proprietors. A sole proprietor and the business they own share the same legal entity. It means they also share a name unless you file a DBA.
- LLCs. Limited liability companies regularly expand and operate businesses with different names. An LLC in Georgia must file for a DBA name if they want to operate a business using any name that isn’t the company’s name.
- Corporations. A DBA gives corporations the freedom to operate businesses in various industries and any type of business. In Georgia, a corporation that intends to run a business using a trade name that isn’t the company’s name must register a DBA.
- Franchises. Franchises use DBAs every day. For example, if you invest in a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise. Dunkin’ Donuts is a limited liability company (LLC). A new franchise would be listed as “444 Business LLC”. To change the franchise from its numerical listing to a simplified Dunkin’ Donuts, you will need to file a DBA to alert Georgia that you are now part of the Dunkin’ Donuts franchise.
Small business owners, startups, and entrepreneurs have the creative freedom to name their businesses by registering a trade name. Without a DBA, small companies would have to navigate the expensive and complicated process of forming an LLC to simply change the name of their company.
Why do you need a DBA?
- DBAs help small businesses avoid the complication of forming an LLC. A DBA allows business owners to name their company without the complicated and cost-heavy process of creating an LLC.
- LLCs and corporations benefit from DBAs. A DBA allows an LLC to own and operate various businesses without forming a separate LLC for each company they manage. For example, Tim’s Produce LLC opens a pizza spot named Toppings. Tim’s Produce LLC registers a DBA name in Georgia to operate a pizza spot under a trade name.
- A DBA addresses privacy concerns. Without a DBA, sole proprietors and co-partnerships must use their personal legal names on public-facing material.
- Business banking is simplified with a DBA. A DBA helps to protect the business owner and their personal assets and credit scores. Also, most banking institutions require that companies file a DBA before opening a business bank account using the new name. However, a DBA does not offer legal protection or liability protection by itself.
- A DBA makes branding and marketing easier. Your brand name is what catches the attention of potential customers and clients. The registered DBA name on signage and flyers enlightens your audience to what the business does and sells. For example, had Frank Roberts not filed a DBA, no one would know that he has opened a beer garden.
How to set up a DBA in Georgia
Step 1 – Georgia trade name search
A business trade name in Georgia must be unique and meet the state requirements.
You will need first to search the Georgia state records and county records to check the availability of a DBA name.
You can find a complete list of county clerk offices using the Georgia Superior Courts website.
Step 2 – Filing a DBA in Georgia with the county clerk
In Georgia, you file a DBA with the county clerk to do your primary business. However, the Secretary of State does regulate DBAs, which means that the process from county to county is similar.
Example – Fulton County
To file a DBA in Fulton County, you must search the State of Georgia’s trade name search to check the availability of your unique DBA name.
You will fill out the Application to Register a Business to Be Conducted Under a Trade and submit it by mail or in-person.
Clerk of Superior Court
Attention: Recording Division
136 Pryor St. SW
Atlanta, GA 30303
Fulton County Clerk for Superior Court – (404) 613-5371
Step 3 – Publish notice of your trade name registration
DBA registration in Georgia includes publishing notice of your trade name registration with an approved local newspaper once a week for two consecutive weeks.
Example – Fulton County
Fulton County Daily Report – (404) 521-1227
Step 4 – Pay Georgia filing fees
The DBA cost in Georgia varies from county to county.
The DBA filing fee in Fulton County is a one-time $172, which is about average for the state.
DBAs in Georgia do not expire and do not require renewal.
Georgia requires that you get the Application to Register a Business to Be Conducted Under a Trade Name notarized before submitting it by mail or in-person.
The price of notarization varies depending on the public notary you use.
Georgia DBA name restrictions
Reviewing the Georgia state name rules will save you time and energy when choosing your trade name.
Business trade names in Georgia cannot include the following:
- Business entity suffixes (LLC, Incorporated, Corp, etc.) unless the business is actually an LLC, corporation, etc.
- Any words that imply or insinuate the business are organized for illegal purposes.
- Any words that are considered obscene language.
- The words college and university unless approved by the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission.
- Bank, trust, savings & loan, etc., unless approved by the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance.
- Insurance, surety, assurance, etc., unless approved by the Georgia Office of Insurance and Safety Commissioner.
If you have any questions about DBA name rules in Georgia, you can find the complete list using Georgia’s Name Availability Standards website.
Forms needed to file a DBA in Georgia
- State of Georgia’s trade name search
- Georgia’s Name Availability Standards
- Georgia Superior Courts website
- Fulton County Clerk of Superior Court
- Cobb County Clerk of Superior Court
- DeKalb County Clerk of Superior Court
- Application to Register a Business to Be Conducted Under a Trade Name
- Affidavit to Cancel Registered Trade Name
Georgia DBA tax considerations
- In Georgia, a DBA just changes the name of a business and nothing else.
- A DBA has no effect on the status of a business entity for tax purposes.
- The IRS does not require you to have a separate tax ID number.
How much does a DBA filing cost in Georgia?
In Georgia, you register a DBA name with the county clerk in which you do business. County filing fees may differ.
In Fulton County, the DBA cost is $172. It is a one-time fee because DBAs in Georgia do not expire.
If you need to make changes to your DBA registration form, you must fill out a new Application to Register a Business to Be Conducted Under a Trade Name. The cost is $172 plus a $2 cross-referencing fee of $2.
You will have additional costs related to your Georgia DBA, including notarization and publishing your public notice. The fees will vary depending on the services you use.
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.
You must withdraw or cancel your DBA through the Superior Court county clerk in which you filed it.
In Fulton County, you would fill out the Affidavit to Cancel Registered Trade Name form and submit it. The fee for withdrawing or canceling your DBA in Georgia is $172 plus a $2 cross-referencing fee.
You do not have to have a separate EIN for your Georgia DBA. DBAs and business entities are different things.
A DBA only changes the name of your business.
It takes Georgia up to four weeks to process trade name applications. It is recommended that you file in person if you require a time-stamped hard copy.
There is no limit on how many DBAs you can have in Georgia as long as you can pay for them and keep up with the information.
You must register each one with the Superior Court clerk in which you plan to operate.