How to file a DBA in Michigan

What is a DBA (doing business as)?

The term DBA stands for ‘doing business as.’ It is a registered business name that an individual or company operates under that is not the legal name.

The legal name of a business is different depending on its business entity. For LLCs, the legal name defaults to the company name. And, for sole proprietors, it is the owner’s personal name.

A DBA is often referred to as a fictitious or trade name. In Michigan, it is most commonly called an assumed name.

For example, if you’re the sole proprietor of a business, its legal name defaults to your personal name. (e.g., Tim Johnson). But Tim Johnson wants to open a car wash. He doesn’t want the business to have his legal name, so Tim Johnson registers his DBA name as Tim’s Car Wash. It becomes the business name, but it doesn’t alter the business in any other way. The DBA allows Tim Jones to conduct business under this assumed business name. Without a DBA, his business name would be Tim Johnson.

DBA vs assumed business name

  • Most often, a DBA in Michigan is referred to as an assumed business name. A DBA name is how companies do business under a specific name that is not their legal name.
  • A DBA and an assumed business name are the same things.
  • Michigan doesn’t require sole proprietors to file a DBA on the state level. However, state law mandates that sole proprietors and partnerships file a DBA on the county level.
  • The Michigan Secretary of State requires setting up a DBA if your business is incorporated.
  • And a foreign corporation or business entity that desires to use an already registered name will be required to file for an assumed business name, also known as a DBA.

Who needs a DBA?

In Michigan, sole proprietors and partnerships must file for a DBA in the county where they conduct business under an assumed business name that is not their legal name.

DBAs benefit businesses in different ways. It is dependent on the business structure and personal preferences.

  • New businesses. In Michigan, most businesses are required to register an assumed business name. Also, it’s a recommended business practice that all new companies register a DBA.
  • Sole proprietors. In the absence of a DBA, the company name for a sole proprietor default to their personal legal name. It is because they share the same entity with their company.
  • LLCS. In Michigan, all LLCs must register a DBA name when purchasing and operating a new business outside of their primary LLC. Without a DBA, every business that an LLC owns and operates would share the LLC name.
  • Corporations. Any corporation that has intentions to operate using any other name than the corporation name must file a DBA in Michigan. Corporations commonly use DBAs because they open and run businesses in different industries.
  • Franchises. Franchises use DBAs to operate under a name that isn’t their company name. For example, if you purchase a Red Lobster franchise, it is formed as an LLC and listed as 921 Red Lobster LLC. To shorten the name to just Red Lobster, you must file a DBA in Michigan.

DBAs benefit small business owners because it allows them the creative freedom to name their business. It saves them money and time that would go into creating an LLC or corporation to merely change the company’s name.

Why do you need a DBA?

  • DBAs eliminate the hassle of forming an LLC for small businesses. DBAs are just a business name, but they do more than make branding easier. When you file a DBA, you’re removing the hassle and costly process of forming an LLC to simply change the business’s name.
  • LLCs and corporations benefit from DBAs, too. DBAs allow LLCs to operate different businesses without forming separate LLCs for each company they buy and operate. An example is if Jacks Produce LLC opens a restaurant called From the Farm. The LLC registers a DBA name in Michigan to run the deli under an assumed name.
  • DBAs help with privacy concerns. Sole proprietors and co-partnerships must use their personal names on public-facing material when they don’t register a DBA name.
  • DBAs prove that personal assets are separate from a business. DBAs alone do not offer any legal protections. But, DBAs do provide that personal assets are independent of a company’. It protects personal assets and credit scores in the case a business fails.
  • Banking is made easier with a DBA. Most banking institutions require new businesses to register a DBA name to open a business bank account.
  • DBAs and branding go hand-in-hand. The first thing that customers see is your business name. Without a DBA, Tim’s Car Wash would be Tim Johnson. In Michigan, you must register a DBA before legally using an assumed name.

How to set up a DBA in Michigan for a sole proprietorship, general partnerships, or co-partnership

Step 1 – Michigan assumed name check

Michigan law requires all sole proprietors and partnerships to choose a unique DBA name that meets the state requirements.

You search the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs database to check an assumed name’s availability.

Also, it is always an excellent plan to check if a domain name (URL) is available for use so that marketing and branding are more straightforward.

Step 2 – File a DBA in Michigan with the county clerk

For sole proprietors and partnerships operating in Michigan, they must file a Certificate of Persons Conducting Business Under Assumed Name with the county clerk in which they conduct business.

You can find a complete database of county clerks by searching the Michigan State Association of County Clerks website.

Example – Oakland County

It is best to check both the county assumed name records and the state database for DBA availability.

Once you’ve selected an available DBA name, you then complete the Certificate of Persons Conducting Business Under Assumed Name form and submit it to the Oakland County Clerk. It can be submitted by mail.

Mailing address:

Oakland County Clerk’s Office

Attn: Vital Records

1200 N. Telegraph Dept. 413

Pontiac, MI 48341-0413

Step 3 – Pay Michigan filing fees

The filing fee for a DBA in Michigan is $10. The costs can be paid by exact cash, money order, check, credit card, or debit card.

Sole proprietors pay filing fees when they submit the application to the appropriate county clerk’s office.

How to file a Michigan business DBA for an LLC, LLP, or corporation

The requirements for a new DBA for LLCs or corporations are different 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 – Michigan business entity search

Michigan requires that incorporated businesses want to use a DBA name to file the forms with the Michigan Department of State. It must be unique and meet the requirements.

You can name search using the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs database to see if a DBA name is already used.

Step 2 – File a Michigan certificate of assumed name

LLCs and corporations set up their DBA with the Michigan Secretary of State. The DBA form will ask for the DBA name, the type of business, and additional information about your business.

You can file online with the Michigan Corporations Online Filing system.

Or, you can file the Certificate of Assumed Name by mail or in person.

Office address:

2501 Woodlake Circle

Okemos, MI

Mailing address:

Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs

Corporations, Securities & Commercial Licensing Bureau

Corporations Division

P.O. Box 30054

Lansing, MI 48909

Step 3 – Pay Michigan filing fees

The pricing for a DBA for corporations and L.P.s in Michigan is $10. And, for limited liability companies, it is a $25 fee.

The costs are payable using exact cash, money order, check, credit card, or debit card to the Michigan Secretary of State.

Michigan DBA name restrictions

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

  • Any words that are easily confused with governmental agencies, such as FBI, Treasury, Department of Justice.
  • Any words imply that a business is a banking, insurance, surety, or trust company without approval from the specific agencies.
  • Bank
  • Industrial Bank
  • Deposit
  • Surety
  • Security
  • Trust
  • Trust Company
  • Michigan has an extensive list of other restricted words.

Forms needed to file a DBA in Michigan

Michigan DBA tax considerations

When you register a DBA name in the state of Michigan, it does not affect the tax status of your business. A DBA only changes the name of a company.

How much does a DBA filing cost in Michigan?

The filing fee for a DBA in Michigan is $10 for sole proprietors. A DBA is good for ten years in Michigan and must be renewed after it expires.

For corporations and L.P.s, the filing fee is $10. And for LLCs, the filing cost is $25.

Sole proprietors and corporations can discontinue a DBA by filling out the Certificate of Discontinuance of Business Under an Assumed Name and paying a $10.

LLCs must pay $25 to cancel a DBA and submit a Certificate of Termination of Assumed Name.

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

For DBA filers in Michigan, it takes 1-2 weeks to process the paperwork. Michigan does not offer expedited services.

The assumed name you use to operate under is the most essential branding tool you have, and it’s inexpensive.

Choose a unique name that shows customers who you are, what your business is about, and gives customers that information at a glance.

Michigan requires your DBA name to be unique from any other business entity on record.

In Michigan, you can have as many DBAs as you can pay for and that the state approves.

Sole proprietors and corporations must fill out the Certificate of Discontinuance of Business Under an Assumed Name and pay the $10 fee.

LLCs must pay $25 to cancel a DBA and submit a Certificate of Termination of Assumed Name.

The fee for corporations and L.P.s to stop a DBA in Michigan is $10.

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