How to File a DBA in Illinois

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What is a DBA (doing business as)?

DBA stands for ‘doing business as.’ It is a term for any registered name a business uses that is not their legal name. 

A legal name differs depending on the business structure. For LLCs and corporations, the legal name is the name of the company. The legal name for sole proprietors defaults to the owner’s personal name.

A DBA is also referred to as a fictitious business name, trade name, and an assumed business name. Filing a DBA only changes the name of the business and nothing else. Illinois primary refers to a DBA as an assumed business name.

For instance, if you own a business, it defaults to your legal name (e.g., Lisa Smith). Lisa Smith wants to open a bodega in her neighborhood. She understands that she can’t use her legal name because no one would know what Lisa Smith sells or does. So, Lisa Smith registered a DBA to change the business name to Lisa’s Loaves, and that is now what her business is known as. It changes nothing else about the structure and makeup of Lisa’s Loaves. 

The DBA allows Lisa Smith to operate using a different name. And, it no longer defaults to her own name.

DBA vs assumed business name

A DBA is most often referred to as an assumed business name in Illinois. It is how businesses operate under a specific name that is not the legal name. A DBA and an assumed business name are the same things.

Illinois law requires all companies and sole proprietors to register an assumed business name and include businesses in every industry. That includes sole-proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs, corporations, franchises, and non-profits.

Who needs a DBA?

In Illinois, the law requires all sole proprietors, LLCs, partnerships, and corporations to file a DBA if they want to operate and sign legal documents under any other name that is not their legal name.

A DBA benefits you and your business in a variety of ways. Also, it depends on your business entity and your personal preferences.

  • New businesses. In Illinois, all businesses are required to register an assumed business name. It is also recommended business practice that all new companies register a DBA.
  • Sole proprietors. Without a DBA, the business name for a sole proprietor defaults to their personal legal name because they share the same entity with their company. 
  • LLCS. Illinois requires all LLCs to register a DBA when purchasing and operating a new business. Without a DBA, every company that an LLC operates would do so under the same name as their LLC.
  • Corporations. Any corporation that has intentions to operate using any other name than the corporation name must file a DBA in Illinois. The most common way that corporations use DBAs is when they open and run a business in various industries.
  • Franchises. Franchises use DBAs to operate under a name that isn’t their company name. An example is if you purchase a Taco Bell franchise, it is formed as an LLC and listed as 567 Taco Bell LLC. To shorten the name to just Taco Bell, you must file a DBA in Illinois.

DBAs especially give small business owners and startups creative freedom when it comes to choosing their business’ new name. It also keeps small companies from taking on the burden of the heft fees and the complicated process of forming an LLC

Why do you need a DBA?

  • DBAs help avoid the complexity and cost of forming an LLC or a corporation. DBAs are a cost-effective and hassle-free way for a sole proprietorship to operate using an assumed business name.
  • DBAs benefit LLCs and corporations. LLCs and incorporations require DBAs so that they are not made to form separate LLCs every time they purchase a new type of business. For instance, Jay Beverages LLC opens a unique soda shop called Jay Sprays. To operate under an assumed business name, Jay Beverages must register a DBA in Illinois.
  • DBAs help to protect your privacy. Sole proprietors and partnerships benefit from DBAs because without one, they would have to use their personal legal name on public-facing material.
  • DBAs are proof that your assets are separate from your business. Alone, DBAs don’t offer any legal protections. However, they do prove that your personal assets are independent of your business. 
  • DBAs make business banking easier. Banking institutions require you to register a DBA when opening a business bank account. It is also best business practice to separate your personal bank account from that of your business. It protects your assets and credit scores in the case that the company fails. However, a DBA does not offer any liability protection.
  • DBAs make branding easier and legal in Illinois. Your business name is the first thing that catches a customer’s attention. Without a DBA, Lisa’s loaves would be Lisa Smith. In Illinois, you must register a DBA before legally using a brand name.

How to set up a DBA in Illinois for sole proprietorship or general partnership

Step 1 – Name check

Illinois requires all sole proprietorships and general partnerships to register a unique assumed business name that meets the state requirements.

You must make sure that an assumed business is not already in use in Illinois. You can search the Illinois Secretary of State name check database. For sole proprietors, you must refer to the county you intend to operate within.

You must have a DBA to legally do business in Illinois under any name that is not your legal name. It is best to have more than one name preference in case your first choices are not available.

Step 2 – Filing the certificate of assumed name with your county clerk

The next step is to file a Certified of Assumed Name with the county clerk in the county that you intend to do business in. Every county in Illinois has its own specific requirements for filing the paperwork at the county clerk’s office. However, most counties do offer online filing options

Example – Cook County

You will search the Cook County assumed name database

Once the name has been selected, you will complete the Assumed Business Name Application and submit it to the Cook County Clerk  You can submit it online, by mail, or in person.

Step 3 – Publish the new business name

Illinois requires all sole proprietors, general partnerships, LLCs, and corporations to publish a Copy of Legal Notice of Assumed Business Name in an approved local newspaper in which they operate. It must happen within 15 days of DBA registration. And, it must be published once a week for three consecutive weeks. 

You can get a list of approved publications and newspapers from your county clerk’s office.

The proof of publication must be submitted to your County Clerk’s office within 50 days of your DBA application. Your local newspaper will provide you with a notarized Certificate of Publication along with the clipping of the published legal notice. 

You will return the certificate and the newspaper clipping to your county clerk’s office.

Step 4 – Pay filing fees

For sole proprietors, the DBA cost is $50 and is non-refundable. You can pay your fees using cash, money order, or credit card. 

If you are mailing your application and filing fees, you must send it to the county clerk’s office in which you intend to operate in.

Cook County

Cook County Clerk

Vital Statistics P.O. Box 641070

Chicago IL, 60664-1070

ATTN: Assumed Name Unit

LLCs filing address

Department of Business Services

Limited Liability Division

501 S. Second St., Rm. 351

Springfield, IL 62756 

Corporation filing address

Secretary of State

Department of Business Services

501 S. Second St., Rm. 350

Springfield, IL 62756 

How to file an Illinois business DBA for an LLC or corporation

Illinois DBA requirements for LLCs and corporations differ slightly from those for sole proprietors. They apply to the following:

  • For-profit Corporations
  • Non-profit Corporations
  • Limited Partnerships
  • Limited Liability Partnerships
  • Limited Liability Companies
  • All Foreign Filing Entities

Step 1 – Name search

You need to check the Illinois Secretary of State name database to check to see if the name is already in use.

Step 2 – File the Illinois application to adopt an assumed name

Illinois requires LLCs and corporations to set up a DBA with the Illinois Secretary of State. The forms and rules are different between LLCs and corporations.

There are different forms depending on if you are an LLC or corporation

You can also file an Application to Adopt an Assumed name by mail or in person. The forms also differ depending on if it’s an LLC or corporation

Step 3 – Publish the new business name

LLCs and corporations follow the same rules as sole proprietors when it comes to publishing a Copy of Legal Notice of Assumed Business Name. 

Step 4 – Pay filing fees

The filing fees in Illinois for LLCs, corporations, and non-profits are a bit more complicated and vary from year to year.

  • $150 for each year or part thereof ending in 0 or 5 
  • $120 for each year or part thereof ending in 1 or 6 
  • $90 for each year or part thereof ending in 2 or 7 
  • $60 for each year or part thereof ending in 3 or 8 
  • $30 for each year or part thereof ending in 4 or 9

Notarization

In Illinois, some counties require notarization of paperwork and the notarized Certificate of Publication. You will need a notary public to officially sign your paperwork. The newspaper you published will provide you with a notarized Certificate of Publication and a clipping of your posted legal notice.

Illinois DBA name restrictions

In Illinois, your assumed business name can’t contain any of the following:

  • Words that are easily confused with governmental agencies such as FBI, Treasury, Justice Department. 
  • Words that imply or indicate that your company is in the business of a corporate fiduciary without prior approval from the Secretary of Financial and Professional Regulation. It includes words like trust, trustee, or fiduciary. 
  • Words that indicate a business or corporation is in the business of banking or insurance without prior approval from the Commissioner of Banks and Real Estate.

The state of Illinois can reject an assumed business name for reasons that aren’t listed. It is at their discretion.

Forms needed to file a DBA in Illinois

Illinois DBA tax considerations

DBAs in Illinois only change the name of a business. It has no effect on the status of a business entity for tax purposes.

How much does a DBA filing cost in Illinois?

The filing fee for sole proprietorships in Illinois is $50 and is non-refundable. 

DBAs for LLCs and corporations vary in pricing depending on the year.

  • $150 for years that end in 0 or 5 
  • $120 for years that end in 1 or 6 
  • $90 for years that end 2 or 7 
  • $60 for years that end in 3 or 8 
  • $30 for years that end in 4 or 9

You will have additional costs of publishing the Copy of Legal Notice of Assumed Business Name in your approved local news publication. It depends solely on what that newspaper charges for advertising.

Notarization comes with additional costs, too. And it varies from one notary public to another.

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.

FAQs

Illinois state law requires all businesses to file a DBA. It includes sole-proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs, corporations, franchises, and non-profits.

You don’t have to have a separate employer identification number (EIN). DBAs are not a separate business entity.

The IRS does not require that you have a tax ID number.

A DBA name is the first thing a potential customer knows about you. You should choose one that suits your business and the message you want to get across. 

Then, you check to see if the name is available in the Illinois Secretary of State database. It must meet the requirements and not include restricted words.

It is always good to check and see if a domain (URL) is available with the same DBA name. It makes branding and marketing easier.

In Illinois, you can have as many DBAs as you are willing to pay for, and that is approved. However, keep in mind that business name registration is required for every new business.

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