What is a DBA (doing business as)?

The acronym DBA stands for ‘doing business as.’ A DBA is any registered name that a business or person does business under that is not its legal name.

The legal name of a company is different depending on its structure. The legal name is the company name for a limited liability company (LLC) or corporation. And, for sole proprietors, the legal name of their business is their personal name.

A DBA is also referred to as a fictitious business name, trade name, or assumed name. The only business aspect a DBA changes is your business name.

For example, if you purchase a business, its name defaults to your legal name (e.g., Richard Jones). Richard Jones wants to open a building supply store. He understands that he can’t use his legal name because no one would know the services that Richard Jones offers. So, Richard Jones registers a DBA to change the business name to Richard’s Rocks. A DBA changes nothing else about the business structure of Richard’s Rocks.

The DBA now gives Richard Jones the freedom to operate under a trade name instead of his legal name.

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How to set up a DBA in Massachusetts

Step 1 – Massachusetts business certificate name search

Massachusetts requires that all DBA names be unique and meet the state requirements.

In Massachusetts, you must search city records in the city where you plan to do business. You can find the complete list using the Massachusetts City and Town Directory.

In Massachusetts, you must file a DBA to legally do business using any name that is not the legal name. The best plan of action is to have more than one name preference if your first or second choices are not available.

Step 2 – Registering a Massachusetts DBA

A Massachusetts business certificate name, or DBA, is filed with the town clerk where your company operates. The DBA process is similar from city to city. You will need the DBA name you wish to use, the business address, and contact information.

Example: In the city of Boston, a business certificate registration form in Massachusetts must be filed by mail or in person. You can search the Boston City Clerk’s office business DBA certificate records.

Filing address:
City Clerk’s Office
1 City Hall Square, Room 601
Boston, MA 02201

Step 3 – Pay Massachusetts filing fees

You must include the Massachusetts filing fee of $65 when you file the business certificate. It is an additional $35 for non-Massachusetts residents. You can pay your filing fees using a check, money order, cash, or credit card. You must pay your fees for your Massachusetts DBA at the office of the city clerk.

Notarization: City Clerks in Massachusetts require notarization of the business certificate name form. City Clerk’s offices have notary publics and can notarize your paperwork as long as you have a valid ID.

Massachusetts DBA name restrictions

Always review Massachusetts trade name requirements before filing a DBA. Business trade names can’t 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 is organized for illegal purposes.
  • Words like bank, attorney, or accountant may require additional paperwork and a licensed person on staff.

Forms needed to file a DBA in Massachusetts

Massachusetts DBA tax considerations

In Massachusetts, a DBA only changes the name of a business. It has no effect on the status of a business entity for tax purposes, and you don’t need a separate tax ID number.

How much does a DBA filing cost in Massachusetts?

The filing fee for the business certificate in Massachusetts is $65. For non-Massachusetts residents, it is an additional fee of $35. It must be done by mail or in person.

A DBA is good for four years in Massachusetts. You will need to renew after it expires.

You can change the address connected with your DBA name using the Change of Location form. The fee is $50.

Massachusetts allows you to withdraw your business certificate for a $50 fee.

Professional DBA filing services

  • LegalZoom: LegalZoom does it all. Its design aims to be a “one-stop-shop” for small businesses and their legal needs but its DBA filing service is top-rated.
  • Swyft Filings: Swyft Filings assigns a registered agent to every client, making them a customer favorite. Swyft Filings offers a DBA obtainment package that costs $99 plus state fees.
  • 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 name check in states that require them. Alabama does.

DBA vs business trade name

  • A business trade name, or DBA, is how companies operate under a specific name filed. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, any individual or company who conducts business under any other name must file a DBA.
  • A company name is the legal name of the business.
  • Companies in any industry can register a DBA. It includes sole proprietorships, limited liability companies, corporations, limited partnerships, franchises, and non-profits.
  • A DBA is only an alias. Thus, a DBA and a business trade name are the same things.
  • A DBA must be associated with a legal entity.

Who needs a DBA?

Massachusetts requires all sole proprietors, LLCs, partnerships, and corporations to file a DBA if they wish to operate under any other business trade name that is not their legal name.

A DBA benefits you and your business in a variety of ways. It is also dependent on your business entity and preferences.

  • New businesses. Massachusetts law requires DBAs for a new business owner who wants to operate using a business trade name.
  • Sole proprietors. A sole proprietor and the business they own are the same entity. It means they share a name unless a DBA is filed.
  • LLCs. In Massachusetts, an LLC that wants to use a business trade name must file a DBA. Also, when an LLC expands and wants to operate part of it under a name that is not the name of its company, it requires a DBA.
  • Corporations. DBAs allow corporations to run a business in a variety of industries. Corporations that intend to operate a business using a name that is not their company must file a DBA in Massachusetts.
  • Franchises. Franchises use DBAs, too. For example, if you invest in an Outback Steakhouse franchise. Outback Steakhouse is an LLC. A new franchise would be listed as 678 Outback Steakhouse. To change the franchise from its numerical listing to Outback Steakhouse, you will need to file a DBA to let Massachusetts know that you’re part of the franchise.

DBAs allow small business owners the creative freedom to choose their business trade name. Also, it helps small businesses so that they do not have to take on the heavy fees and complications of having to form an LLC for just a name change.

Why do you need a DBA?

  • DBAs eliminate the complications of forming an LLC. DBAs are about more than just the name of signage. DBAs eliminate the difficulties of forming an LLC. Registering a DBA is a simpler and cost-effective way for a sole proprietorship to use a business trade name.
  • DBAs benefit LLCs and corporations. A DBA allows LLCs to own and operate different businesses without forming a separate LLC for every company they purchase. For example, if Marc’s Meat LLC opens a food truck called Burgerville. To operate the deli under a business trade name, Marc’s Meat LLC registers a DBA in Massachusetts to operate the food truck under the business trade name.
  • DBAs help with privacy concerns. Sole proprietorships and partnerships have to use their personal legal names on public-facing material without a DBA.
  • DBAs make business banking more straightforward. DBAs protect business owners and their personal assets and credit scores. Business owners should open a separate business bank account apart from their personal bank account. Most banks require a DBA before opening a bank account using the business trade name.
  • DBAs make branding and marketing easier. Branding is how companies catch the attention of potential clients and leads. The business trade name on signage and business cards alerts the audience to what the business does and sells. For example, had Richard Jones not filed a DBA, no one would understand that he runs a building supply store.


How do I choose a DBA name in Massachusetts?

The business trade name, or DBA name, you choose to operate under is a critical branding tool that is inexpensive. Pick a unique name that meets Massachusetts guidelines and represents you, your business, and alerts potential customers as to what you’re up to. Massachusetts general law requires your DBA name to be unique from any other business entity on record with your city clerk.

Do I need an EIN for a DBA in Massachusetts?

You don’t have to have a separate EIN. DBAs and business entities are two different things. A DBA only changes the name of a business.

How long does it take to process a DBA in Massachusetts?

It takes one to four weeks for Massachusetts to process a DBA. Massachusetts does not offer expedited services. In Massachusetts, DBAs are handled by city clerks and not the secretary of state.

How many DBAs can I have?

Massachusetts puts no limit on how many DBAs you can have. You must register each one with the city clerk in which you plan to operate.