The abbreviated acronym DBA means ‘doing business as.’ A DBA is a registered business name that an individual or company operates under that is not the company’s 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 own name.
A DBA is also often referred to as a fictitious name, assumed name, or trade name. In North Carolina, it is most commonly called an assumed business name.
For example, if you’re the sole proprietor of a business, its legal name defaults to your personal name. (e.g., Rue Jackson). Rue Jackson wants to open a shoe store. She doesn’t want the business to have her own name. So, Rue Jackson registers her DBA name in North Carolina as Rue Shoes. That now becomes the business name, but it doesn’t change the business in any other way.
The North Carolina DBA allows Rue Jackson to operate her business under this assumed business name in North Carolina. Without a DBA, her business name would be Rue Jackson.
DBA vs assumed business name
- A DBA name is how companies do business under a unique name that is not the legal name.
- An assumed business name, or DBA, is how businesses operate using a name that is the business’ legal name.
- The only difference between a DBA name and an assumed business name is that a DBA is only an alias.
- A DBA must be associated with a legal business entity.
- A DBA and an assumed business name are the same things.
Who needs a DBA?
North Carolina requires that all sole proprietors, partnerships, corporations, LLCs, LPs, and LLPs file a DBA if they conduct business using any name other than the full legal name.
A DBA benefits your business in numerous ways. The benefits are dependent on your business structure and personal preferences.
- New businesses. North Carolina mandates that new businesses acquire a DBA before operating using a different name. Registering a DBA is recommended for all new businesses.
- Sole proprietors. Without a DBA, the company name for a sole proprietor defaults to their own name. It is because they share the same entity with their company.
- LLCS. In North Carolina, all LLCs must file a DBA when operating a new business outside of their primary LLC. Without a DBA, every new company an LLC owns and would do so under the LLC’s legal name.
- Corporations. A DBA gives corporations the freedom to operate businesses in a variety of industries and any type of business. In North Carolina, a corporation that intends to operate a business using an assumed business name that isn’t the company’s name must register a DBA.
- Franchises. Franchises utilize DBAs to operate under a name that isn’t their company name. For example, if you invest in a Pinkberry store, it is formed as an LLC and listed as 565 Pinkberry LLC. To shorten the name from its numerical listing to just Pinkberry, you must file a DBA in North Carolina.
A DBA benefits small business owners and startups the most because it gives them the creative freedom to name their business. And, registering a DBA saves business owners from the hefty cost and complex process of forming a separate LLC just to name their business.
Why do you need a DBA?
- A DBA keeps things simple for small businesses and startups. A DBA only changes the name of a company. DBA registration in North Carolina is a cost-effective and straightforward way for sole proprietors to use an assumed business name without the complication of forming a separate LLC or incorporation.
- Your limited liability company or corporation will benefit from filing a DBA in North Carolina. All LLCs in North Carolina must file a DBA if they intend to use a business name that isn’t the company’s legal name. Without a DBA, an LLC has to form separate LLCs for every line of business it buys. For example, Jack’s Farm Suppy LLC wants to open a pet food store. The LLC must file a DBA to change the name to Pet Cafe, but the business would remain owned and operated by Jack’s Farm Supply LLC.
- A DBA protects the privacy of sole proprietorships and general partnerships. In North Carolina, sole proprietors and co-partnerships must use their personal names on public-facing material unless they register a DBA name.
- A DBA makes banking safer and more accessible. Most financial institutions require companies to file a DBA before opening a business bank account. It is a best business practice to open a bank account for a new business because it separates your business banking account from your personal business account. It is recommended to protect your personal assets and credit scores. A DBA offers no legal protection or liability protection.
- A DBA simplifies branding in North Carolina. Your brand name, or company name, is what catches the attention of potential customers and clients. A DBA helps alert your audience as to what you’re offering. For example, had Rue Jackson not filed a DBA, no one would know she opened a shoe store.
How to set up a DBA in North Carolina
Step 1 – North Carolina assumed business name search
An assumed business name, or DBA, in North Carolina, should be unique and meet the state requirements.
Registering a DBA name in North Carolina does not prevent others from using the same name. However, when you register a DBA, you want to choose a unique name that suits you and your business.
You will search the Assumed Name Database to help you develop a unique DBA name that is not already in use.
Step 2 – File the DBA in North Carolina with the County Register of Deeds
You will file your North Carolina DBA with the county or counties you do business.
The state of North Carolina regulates DBAs, so the steps are similar from county to county.
You will want to call your local county for any further instructions. You can find a complete list of County Register of Deeds using the North Carolina Association of Registers of Deeds website.
Example – Mecklenburg County
Once you’ve decided on a DBA name, you will complete the Assumed Business Name Certificate and submit it in person or by mail to the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds.
Register of Deeds
720 East Fourth Street
Charlotte, NC 28202
Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds: 704-336-2443
Step 3 – Pay North Carolina
The DBA cost in North Carolina is $26. DBAs do not expire in North Carolina and do not require renewal.
You can pay your DBA filing fees in North Carolina using a credit card or debit card. Your local County Register of Deeds will advise if they allow cash payments if you file in person.
North Carolina requires that you get the Assumed Business Name Certificate notarized by a notary public before submitting the form.
North Carolina assumed business name restrictions
North Carolina has DBA name restrictions. An assumed business name can’t include the following.
- Business entity suffixes, including LLC, Incorporated, Corp, etc., unless the business is actually an LLC, corporation, etc
- You can find a complete list of restricted words online using the North Carolina Secretary of State website.
Forms needed to file a DBA in North Carolina
North Carolina DBA tax considerations
- In North Carolina, filing a DBA just changes the name of your business.
- A DBA has no effect on the status of a business entity for tax purposes.
- You do not have a separate employer identification number because a DBA is not a separate legal entity.
- Federally, the IRS does not require that you have a separate tax ID number.
How much does a DBA filing cost in North Carolina?
The DBA cost in North Carolina is $26. The state does not offer expedited services.
While the Secretary of State regulates DBAs, you will want to call your local County Register of Deeds for county-specific instructions.
A North Carolina DBA does not expire, so it does not require renewal.
North Carolina does require that you have your Assumed Business Name Certificate notarized before submitting it. You will have an additional cost, depending on the notary public.
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 North Carolina 10-15 business days to process a DBA. You will want to call your local County Register of Deeds to estimate a better processing time.
You will complete the assumed business name amendment form and submit it by mail or in-person with the County Register of Deeds in the county you do business.
The cost to make changes to your North Carolina DBA is $26.
You can withdraw your North Carolina DBA by completing the assumed business name withdrawal form and submitting it to the County Register of Deeds in the county you operate a business.
The cost to withdraw your North Carolina DBA is $26.
You can register as many DBA names as you can afford and keep up within North Carolina.
You must register each fictitious business name with the County Register of Deeds.