What is a DBA (doing business as)?
The word DBA means ‘doing business as.’ A DBA is any registered name that a business or individual person uses to operate a business that is not its legal name.
The legal of a business differs depending on its business structure. The legal name is the company’s name for limited liability companies (LLCs) and incorporations. The legal name is the business owner’s own name for sole proprietors.
A DBA only changes the name of a business and nothing else.
A DBA is also referred to as a fictitious name, trade name, or assumed name. In Maryland, a DBA is most commonly called a trade name.
For example, if you own a business, its legal name is your personal name (e.g., Justin Smith ). Justin Smith is opening a rust removal service. He knows he can’t use his personal legal name because people won’t know the services he offers. So, Justin Smith files a DBA name in Maryland for Justin’s Rust Removal and is now his business trade name. The DBA changes nothing else about Justin’s Rust Removal’s business struggle or legal entity.
Justin Smith can now operate under the new name Justin’s Rust Removal. It no longer defaults to his personal name.
DBA vs business trade name
- In Maryland, a DBA is most commonly referred to as a business trade name.
- Businesses in any industry can register a DBA. It includes sole-proprietorships, LLCs, corporations, franchises, and non-profits.
- A DBA is only a business alias. It means that a DBA and a business trade name are the same things.
Who needs a DBA?
In Maryland, all sole proprietors, LLCs, partnerships, and corporations must register a DBA if they wish to operate a business under a trade name that isn’t the business’s legal name.
A DBA benefits all types of business. Also, the benefits are dependent on your business entity and personal preferences.
- New businesses. Maryland requires all new businesses to file a DBA if they wish to operate using a business trade name.
- Sole proprietors. The name of a business default to the owner’s personal name because they share the same entity with the company.
- LLCS. LLCs regularly expand and operate businesses with different names. In Maryland, your LLC must file for a DBA name if you wish to operate a company using any name that isn’t your company’s legal name.
- Corporations. Maryland mandates that corporations that want to operate a business using a name that is not their company must file a DBA name. Regularly, corporations use DBAs when they open and operate businesses in different industries.
- Franchises. Franchises use DBAs to operate under a name that is not the LLC name. For example, if you purchase a Hardee’s franchise, it is formed as an LLC and listed as “789 Business LLC”. To shorten the business’s name from its numerical listing, you must file a DBA. It alerts Maryland that you’re now the owner of a Hardee’s franchise, too.
A DBA benefits small business owners and startups the most. A DBA gives a person the freedom to name a business what they wish without the over-complicated and expensive process of forming an LLC just to name the business.
Why do you need a DBA?
- DBAs help small business owners avoid complicated processes. A DBA is a straightforward and cost-effective way for a sole proprietorship to operate a business using a trade name.
- DBAs benefit LLCs and corporations, too. A DBA gives an LLC the legal right to operate various businesses without forming a separate LLC for each company they purchase and operate. For example, if Holly’s Produce opens a vegan restaurant named Vegging with Veggies. The LLC must register the DBA name Vegging with Veggies in Maryland.
- DBAs address the privacy concerns of sole proprietors and co-partnerships. Unless they register a trade name in Maryland, sole proprietors and general partnerships must put their own names on public-facing material.
- A DBA separates your personal assets from your business assets. A DBA does not offer any legal protections or liability protection. However, a DBA does prove that your business assets and personal assets are independent of each other, which does decrease personal liability.
- A DBA simplifies business banking. Financial institutions require that you file a DBA to open a separate business bank account. Opening a separate business bank account also protects your personal assets and credit scores.
- A DBA makes branding simple in Maryland. The business name you choose is the first thing a potential customer or client notices. Your trade name is your brand name and how you market your services. For example, without a DBA, clients would not know that Justin Smith operated a rust removal service. Instead, his Maryland DBA allows him to use Justin’s Rust Removal as his trade name legally.
How to set up a DBA in Maryland
Step 1 – Maryland trade name search
In Maryland, a business trade name must be unique and meet the state requirements.
You will visit the Maryland Business Express website and search the database for the availability of a trade name.
Step 2 – File your Maryland DBA
You can file your Maryland DBA online or by mail. You will register your DBA through the Maryland State Department of Assessments & Taxation office.
Department of Assessments and Taxation
301 W. Preston Street, Room 801
Baltimore, MD 21201
Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation – 410-767-1350
Step 3 – Pay Maryland DBA filing fees
The DBA cost in Maryland is $25. Maryland does offer expedited services for the additional fee of $50.
A DBA in Maryland expires after five years. The cost for renewal is the same as when you initially registered your DBA name.
Maryland allows you to renew your DBA any time during the six months before its expiration date.
Maryland DBA name restrictions
- Business entity suffixes such as LLC, incorporation, Inc, etc., unless it is your actual business structure.
- Any words related to financial institutions, such as bank, banc, trust, etc.
- Any word or words that could confuse your company with a governmental agency (FBI, CIA, Department of Justice)
Forms needed to file a DBA in Maryland
Maryland DBA tax considerations
A DBA only changes the name of your business in Maryland. So, there are no tax considerations.
The IRS does not require you to get a separate employer identification number or tax ID for a DBA in Maryland.
How much does a DBA filing cost in Maryland?
The DBA cost in Maryland is $25. The state does offer expedited services for an additional $50 fee.
You renew your Maryland DBA every five years. The cost for renewal is the same as DBA registration – $25.
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 the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation 4-6 weeks to process a DBA. The state does offer expedited services for an additional $50 fee.
In Idaho, you can register as many trade names as you want. You must follow the same process with each one and must be approved by the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation.
You can make amendments to your Maryland DBA by completing the Trade Name Amendment Application and submitting it to the State Department of Assessments and Taxation. The cost to make changes to your Maryland DBA is $25. You can use the state’s expedited services for an additional $50.
It takes the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation 4-6 weeks to process changes to your DBA.
State Department of Assessments and Taxation
301 W. Preston, Room 801
Baltimore, MD 21201-2305
You must complete and submit the Trade Name Cancellation Application to the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation.
The cost to cancel or withdraw your Maryland DBA is $25. You can only file it by mail or in person.
State Department of Assessments and Taxation
301 W. Preston, Room 801
Baltimore, MD 21201-2305
The business trade name you decide on for your business is critical to your branding strategy in Maryland.
You need to pick a distinctive and unique fictitious business name that represents your business and lets potential customers know what you’re selling.
A DBA name in Maryland must be unique and meet state requirements.
It is always ideal to check the availability of a web domain (URL) to keep marketing simple. If the URL is available, reserve it so you can prevent others from using the web domain you want for your business.