What is a DBA (doing business as)?
The term DBA means ‘doing business as.’ A DBA is any registered name that a business or persona utilizes to do business under a name that is not the legal name.
The legal name of a business is different depending on its business structure. For a limited liability company (LLC), the legal name defaults to the company’s name. And for sole proprietors, the legal name is the name of the person that owns the company.
A DBA is also referred to as a fictitious name, a trade name, and an assumed name. In Kentucky, a DBA is most commonly referred to as an assumed business name.
For instance, if you open a business, the legal name will be your personal name (e.g., Olivia Jackson). Olivia Jackson wants to open a stationery shop. She doesn’t want the name of the business to be Olivia Jackson. So, she files a DBA to change the name of her company to Olivia’s Love Letters. Olivia’s Love Letters is now the name of the business. Nothing else about the business changes.
The DBA just gives Olivia Jackson the freedom to operate under her assumed business name in Kentucky.
DBA vs assumed business name
- In Kentucky, a DBA is most commonly called an assumed name. It is the legal name under which your company does business and is required by the state.
- Companies in any industry can register a DBA. It includes sole-proprietorships, LLCs, corporations, franchises, and non-profits.
- A DBA is an alias.
- A DBA and an assumed business name are exactly the same things.
Who needs a DBA?
All corporations, limited liability companies (LLCs), limited partnerships, and limited liability partnerships must file a DBA in Kentucky.
Also, registering a DBA is a best business practice before using a new name for a variety of reasons.
- New businesses. Kentucky requires all new businesses that intend on using a name other than its legal name to file a DBA.
- Sole proprietors. A business and its owner are the same entity. It means that they share a name unless you file a DBA.
- LLCs. In Kentucky, a DBA is a requirement for all LLCs that wish to operate using a name that is not the LLC’s legal name. Without a DBA, every new business an LLC owns and operates would do so under its legal name. Also, registering an assumed name in Kentucky allows an LLC to expand and operate part of their company outside of their legal name.
- Corporations. Regularly, corporations own and operate different types of businesses in various industries. In Kentucky, a corporation must file a DBA to do business using a different name from the corporation’s legal name.
- Franchises. Most franchises utilize DBAs. For example, if you buy a Subway franchise. Subway is an LLC, and a new franchise would be listed as “370 Business LLC”. To change the franchise from its numerical listing to just SUbway, you will need to file a DBA to alert Kentucky that you’re now ‘doing business as’ the franchise you’re now an owner of.
A DBA allows small business owners and startups the creative freedom to name their businesses. DBA also gives small businesses the benefit of avoiding the costly and complex process of forming and registering an LLC just to change the business’ name.
Why do you need a DBA?
- A DBA keeps things simple for small businesses. DBA registration only changes the name of your business. A DBA accomplishes other things, too. Filing a DBA is an easy and cost-effective way for sole proprietors to use an assumed name without the complication of forming an LLC or incorporation.
- LLCs and corporations benefit from DBAs. In Kentucky, an LLC or corporation must file a DBA if they intend on using a name that is not the company’s legal name. Also, an LLC would have to form separate DBAs for every business it buys without a DBA. For example, Cal’s Coffee Beans LLC wants to open a coffee shop named Best Coffee. The LLC would file a DBA in Kentucky to change the name, but Best Coffee would remain owned and operated by Cal’s Coffee Beans.
- A DBA protects the privacy of sole proprietors and general partnerships. A DBA gives business owners the freedom to use an assumed business name on public-facing material rather than using their own name.
- Business banking is made safer and more straightforward with a DBA. It is always safest to open a bank account for a new business separate from your personal business account. It is recommended to protect your personal assets and credit scores. Most financial institutions require businesses to file a DBA before opening a business bank account in the business name. A DBA offers no legal protection or personal liability protection.
- A DBA simplifies branding. Your brand name is what catches the attention of customers and clients. The company name listed on your signs and flyers lets people know what you offer. For example, had Olivia Jackson not filed a DBA, no one would know he opened a coffee shop.
How to set up a DBA in Kentucky for sole proprietorship
Step 1 – Kentucky assumed name search
A DBA name in Kentucky must be unique and meet the state requirements.
You will search the Kentucky Secretary of State’s website to check the availability of the assumed name you wish to use.
Step 2 – File the DBA in Kentucky with the county clerk
A sole proprietor in Kentucky must create and submit a Certificate to Do Business Under an Assumed Name. You file the form with the county clerk in which you conduct business.
Most county clerk offices in Kentucky do not provide the Certificate to Do Business forms. You can find a generic form that serves as an example of meeting the state criteria.
You can find a complete contact list for the county clerk’s in Kentucky using the Kentucky County Clerk’s Association website.
Example – Fayette County
You will first search the Kentucky business name database and county records for the availability of your DBA name.
Fayette County does not provide the certificate of assumed name form. However, there is a generic form to guide you through the criteria.
You will want to pay extra attention to the following:
- The assumed name you wish to use.
- The real name and address of the person or business assuming the name.
- You will file the completed form with the county clerk’s office in which you operate.
Fayette County Clerk’s Office
162 East Main Street
Lexington, KY 40507
Step 4 – Pay Kentucky filing fees
The DBA cost in Kentucky for sole proprietors is $46.
You must renew your DBA every five years.
The registration process and filing fees are the same upon renewal.
How to file a Kentucky business DBA for LLC or Incorporation
LLCs and corporations are required to file a DBA in Kentucky. The process for filing is different and applies to the following:
- For-profit Corporations
- Non-profit Corporations
- Professional Corporations
- Professional Associations
- Limited Partnerships
- Limited Liability Partnerships
- Limited Liability Companies
- All Foreign Filing Entities
Step 1 – Kentucky business entity search
A DBA name for an LLC or incorporation must be unique and meet the state requirements.
You will search the Kentucky Secretary of State’s website for DBA name availability.
Step 2 – File a Kentucky Certificate of Assumed Name
Your LLC or corporation must register the DBA with the Secretary of State.
You will file the Certificate of Assumed Name by mail or in-person at the Kentucky Secretary of State’s office.
Room 154, Capitol Building
Office of the Secretary of State
700 Capital Avenue
Frankfort, KY 40601
Office of the Secretary of State
PO Box 718
Frankfort, KY 40602-0718
Kentucky Secretary of State – 502-564-3490
Step 3 – Pay Kentucky filing fees
For LLCs and corporations, the Kentucky DBA filing fee is $20.
A DBA in Kentucky expires every five years. An LLC in Kentucky must renew its DBA name either online or by completing and submitting the Certificate of Renewal of Assumed Name by mail.
The cost for DBA renewal in Kentucky for LLC is $20.
Kentucky DBA name restrictions
In Kentucky, an assumed name can’t contain any of the following:
- Words that people could confuse your business with a governmental agency (FBI, Treasury, CIA)
- The term cooperative unless approved.
- Restricted words such as a bank, attorney, or university will require additional forms and a licensed person on staff.
You can find additional DBA naming guidelines by reading the state statute.
Forms needed to file a DBA in Kentucky
- Kentucky Secretary of State’s website
- DBA Naming Guidelines
- Kentucky County Clerk’s Association
- Certificate to Do Business Under an Assumed Name Generic Form
- Fayette County Clerk’s website
- Certificate of Assumed Name for LLCs and Corporations
- Certificate of Renewal of Assumed Name
- Amended Certificate of Assumed Name
- Certificate of Withdrawal of Assumed Name
Kentucky DBA tax considerations
In Kentucky, a DBA only changes the name of your business. It has no effect on the status of a business entity for tax purposes.
The IRS does not require that you get a separate tax ID.
Also, you do not have to have a separate employer identification number for your DBA.
How much does a DBA filing cost in Kentucky?
For sole proprietors in Kentucky, the filing fee is $46. You will pay the same DBA registration fee upon renewal every five years.
The filing fee for LLCs and corporations is $20. Your Kentucky DBA will expire after five years, and the renewal fee is the same as registration.
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.
It takes Kentucky 3-7 business days to process a DBA. The state does not offer expedited services.
Sole proprietors and partnerships must fill out a new registration form and pay the $46 processing fee to change or amend a Kentucky DBA.
LLCs and corporations must fill out the Amended Certificate of Assumed Name and pay the $20 processing fee to make changes or amendments to a Kentucky DBA.
For sole proprietors, withdrawing or canceling your Kentucky DBA requires you to create and complete an assumed name certificate similar to the DBA registration form.
You can find a generic form here. It will include the information on your previous registration form as well as the date the original DBA was filed.
You will file the new form with the county clerk’s office, where you primarily do business.
LLCs and corporations fill out and submit the Certificate of Withdrawal of Assumed Name to the Kentucky Secretary of State.
The processing fee is $20.