How to File a DBA in Iowa

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What is a DBA (doing business as)?

The word DBA means ‘doing business as.’ A DBA is any registered business name that an individual or company uses to operate under that isn’t its legal name.

The legal name of a company differs depending on its legal entity. 

For LLCs, the legal name is the company name. And, for sole proprietors, it is the owner’s personal name.

A DBA is often referred to as a fictitious business name, assumed name, or trade name. In Iowa, DBAs are most commonly called trade names.

For example, if you’re the sole proprietor of a business, its legal name defaults to your personal name. (e.g., Kristy Jones). Kristy Jones wants to open a bakery but does not want to use her own name as the business’s name. So, Kristy Jones registers the DBA name Kristy’s Krust, which becomes the business name. The DBA changes nothing else about the company. 

Registering a DBA in Iowa allows Kristy Jones to operate her business under this business trade name. In the absence of a  DBA, Kristy Jones’ business name would be Kristy Jones.

DBA vs business trade name

  • In Iowa, a DBA is most commonly called a trade name. 
  • A DBA name is how companies do business under a specific name that is not the company’s legal name.
  • A DBA and a trading name are the same things.
  • Iowa requires all businesses that wish to operate using a trade name to register a DBA.

Who needs a DBA?

All sole proprietorships and general partnerships must file a DBA with the county recorder in the jurisdiction that you plan to do business.

An incorporated business must file for a DBA name with the  Iowa Secretary of State.

A DBA benefits a business in a variety of ways and is dependent on the business structure and the owner’s preference.

  • New businesses. In Iowa, new businesses and startups must register a trade name if they wish to operate under any name that isn’t the legal name. 
  • Sole proprietors. The business name for a sole proprietor defaults to the owner’s personal name. It is because they share the same legal entity with their company. 
  • LLCS. Iowa requires LLCs to register a DBA name when operating a new business that isn’t a part of the LLC. Without a DBA, every individual business that a limited liability company owns and operates would have the same LLC name.
  • Corporations. Incorporated companies in Iowa must file a DBA in order to operate businesses using a name that isn’t the company name. Corporations most commonly utilize DBAs to run a company in a different line of business.
  • Franchises. A franchise uses a DBA to operate under a name that isn’t the parent company’s name. For example, if you buy into an In-N-Out Burger franchise, it is formed as an LLC. Its listing would be 528 In-N-Out Burger LLC without a DBA. Registering a DBA in Iowa shortens the name to just In-N-Out Burger.

Small business owners, startups, and entrepreneurs benefit from DBAs. It gives them the creative freedom to use a different name for their business without taking on the hefty cost and complication of forming a separate LLC just to name a business.

Why do you need a DBA?

  • A DBA helps small businesses to eliminate the need to form an LLC. A DBA is only a business name. However, it removes the hassle and expensive process of creating an LLC just to change your company’s name.
  • Incorporated businesses benefit from DBAs. A DBA allows an LLC or corporation to operate various businesses without forming separate companies for each type of business they purchase and operate. For example, Mark’s Meat LLC opened a burger shop called Big Burgers. In Iowa, an LLC registers a DBA name to run the burger shop using a trade name.
  • A DBA addresses privacy concerns. In Iowa, sole proprietors and co-partnerships must use their own personal names on public-facing material such as flyers and business cards when they don’t have a registered name.
  • A DBA proves that business assets and personal assets are separate. A DBA doesn’t offer any legal protection by itself. However, a DBA does provide 
  • A DBA protects personal assets and credit scores. DBAs prove that personal assets are separate from a business. DBAs alone do not offer any legal protections. However, a DBA does prove that personal assets are independent of a company’s.
  • A DBA simplifies business banking. Most banking and financial institutions require new businesses to register a DBA name in order to open a business bank account. However, DBAs do not offer liability protection.
  • A DBA makes branding easier. Customers notice a brand name before anything else. For example, Kristy’s Krust would have to go by Kristy Jones without a DBA, and her customers would not know what she sold. A DBA makes that straightforward and cost-effective. 

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

Step 1 – Iowa trade name search

Iowa doesn’t require businesses to have unique trade names. However, the state will alert you if someone else shares the same business name. 

It is still best to use a new name that is unique. All business trade names must meet state requirements.

You will first want to visit the Iowa Secretary of State’s website and search for the availability of your desired DBA name.

Step 2 – File a DBA in Iowa with the county recorder

Sole proprietors and partnerships must file a trade name application with the county recorder’s office where you operate.

You will need to file your trade name application in the county or counties you do business.

You can find the complete list of county recorders by searching the Iowa State Association of Counties website.

Example – Polk County

In order to make sure you choose a unique DBA name, search both the Iowa state business name database and local county records.

After choosing a DBA name, you must fill out the Trade Name Registration form. You will then submit it to the county recorder in Polk County either in-person or by mail.

Filing address:

Polk County Administration Building

111 Court Avenue Ste 250

Des Moines, IA 50309-2251

Polk County Recorder’s Office – (515) 286-3160.  

Step 3 – Pay Iowa filing fees

The DBA cost in Iowa is $7 for the first page and $5 for every additional page. It is a one-time cost for an Iowa DBA.

DBAs in Iowa do not expire and don’t require renewal. 

How to file an Iowa DBA for an LLC, LLP, or corporation

Incorporated businesses file for a DBA with the Iowa Secretary of State. It applies to the following incorporation:

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

Step 1 – Iowa business entity search

Iowa doesn’t restrict companies from registering the same name. However, it is best practice to choose a trade name that is unique to you.

Search the  Iowa Department of State’s website to check the availability of the DBA name you wish to use.

Step 2 – File an Iowa fictitious name resolution

Iowa requires that incorporated businesses file a DBA with the Iowa Secretary of State. 

An incorporated business can file the Fictitious Name Resolution form in person or file online using fast track filing

Filing address:

Iowa Secretary of State

Business Services Division

Lucas Building, 1st Floor

Des Moines, IA 50319

Step 3 – Pay Iowa filing fees

The DBA cost for an incorporated business is $5 and is a one-time fee.

A DBA in Iowa does not require renewal.

Iowa DBA name restrictions

Iowa has DBA registration name restrictions on names. An assumed name can’t include the following:

  • Any words easily confused with governmental agencies, such as FBI, Treasury, Secretary of State.
  • Restricted words such as a bank, attorney, or university unless a licensed person is on staff.

Forms needed to file a DBA in Iowa

Iowa DBA tax considerations

In Iowa, when you register a DBA name, it does not affect the tax status of your business. A DBA only changes the name of your business and nothing else.

Also, the IRS does not require you to have a separate employer identification number or tax ID for your DBA.

How much does a DBA filing cost in Iowa?

The cost for trade name registration for sole proprietors in Iowa is $7 for the first page and $5 for every additional page.

For LLCs and corporations, the cost is $5. 

DBAs in Iowa do not expire and don’t require a renewal fee.

Iowa does have expedited services. For a two-day turnaround, it is an additional $50, and for a five-business-day turnaround, it is $15.

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

It takes Iowa 1-2 weeks to process DBA paperwork. Iowa does offer expedited services for an additional cost.

You can have as many DBAs in Iowa as you can afford and keep up with. You must follow the same process and procedures with each one.

To withdraw a DBA in Iowa, you fill out the same trade name registration form and check the dissolve trade name box. Iowa does not charge for withdrawing a DBA.

Iowa allows you to make changes to an existing DBA without additional fees. 

Iowa only requires you to fill out a new trade name registration form and check the boxes that apply. You only have to check the boxes that apply – Add/Withdrawal Name(s) of Partners box or the Change of Address box.

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