DBA is a shortened abbreviation that stands ‘doing business as.’ A DBA is a registered name that a company or individual uses to do business under that is not their legal name.
The legal name of a company is different depending on the structure. For a limited liability company (LLC), it defaults to the company’s name. And for sole proprietors, the legal name is the complete personal name of the individual that owns the company.
A DBA is often referred to by other terms, including a fictitious name, assumed name, or trade name. A DBA is commonly called an assumed business name for sole proprietors and partnerships in Rhode Island and a fictitious business name for incorporations.
For instance, if you open a business, the legal name will be your name (e.g., Matt Roberts). Matt Roberts wants to open a sporting goods store. He doesn’t want the business’s name to be his own name. So, he files a DBA Rhode Island to change his business name to Matt’s Bats and Stuff. Matt’s Bats and Stuff is now the name of the business.
The DBA changes nothing else about Matt’s Bats and Stuff changes. It only gives Matt Roberts the freedom to operate using an assumed business name.
DBA vs assumed business 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 just an alias.
- A DBA must be associated with a separate legal business entity.
- A DBA and an assumed business name are the same things.
Who needs a DBA?
In Rhode Island, all sole proprietors, partnerships, corporations, LLCs, LPs, and LLPs register a DBA name if they plan to conduct business using any name other than its legal name.
A DBA benefits many businesses. The advantages of a DBA depend on your business structure and personal preferences.
- New businesses. Rhode Island law states that new businesses must acquire a DBA before operating using a different name. Rhode Island DBA registration is recommended for all new businesses.
- Sole proprietors. A business and its owner are the same entity. Therefore, they share a name unless you file a DBA in Rhode Island.
- LLCs. In Rhode Island, a DBA is a requirement for all LLCs. Without a DBA, every new business an LLC purchases and manages would do so under the official and legal name. Also, registering an assumed business name allows an LLC to expand and operate part of their company outside of their company name.
- Corporations. Often, corporations purchase and operate businesses in various industries. Rhode Island requires that all corporations file a DBA. Incorporations must file a DBA to do business using a different name from the corporation’s legal name.
- Franchises. Most franchisees utilize DBAs. For example, if you buy a Le Peep franchise. Le Peep is an LLC, and a new franchise would be listed as “4831 Business LLC”. To change the franchise from its numerical listing to Le Peep, you must file a DBA to let Rhode Island. Nothing else about the franchise changes.
DBAs allow small business owners and startups the creative freedom to name their businesses. A DBA also gives small businesses the benefit of avoiding the cumbersome process of forming and registering a separate LLC just to use a new name.
Why do you need a DBA?
- A small business or startup can keep things simple with a DBA. Registering a DBA in Rhode Island only changes the name of a company. Filing a DBA is a cost-effective and straightforward way for sole proprietorships to use an assumed business name without the complication of forming a separate LLC.
- DBAs benefit your LLC or corporations. Rhode Island requires that all LLCs file a DBA. Also, an LLC would have to form separate DBAs for every business it buys without a DBA. For example, Johnathon’s Meat Packing LLC wants to open a steakhouse. The LLC would file a DBA in Rhode Island to change the name to Medium Rare Meats. The DBA changes nothing else about the business.
- DBAs protect the privacy of sole proprietors and general partnerships. DBAs allow business owners to use an assumed business name on public-facing material instead of using their full personal legal name.
- DBAs make business banking safer and more accessible. Most financial institutions require companies to file a DBA before opening a business bank account. It is safest 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 personal assets and credit scores. A DBA by itself offers no legal protection or liability protection.
- A DBA works as your brand name in Rhode Island. Your business name, or brand name, is how an audience knows what you offer. The assumed business name on your signs notifies potential customers of what you’re selling. For example, had Matt Roberts not filed a DBA in Rhode Island, no one would know he opened a sporting goods store.
How to set up a DBA in Rhode Island for a sole proprietorship or general partnership
Step 1 – Rhode Island assumed name search
All DBA names in Rhode Island must be unique and meet the state requirements.
You will visit the Rhode Island Department of State’s website and check for DBA name availability.
Step 2 – File your Rhode Island DBA with the City Clerk
Sole proprietors and partnerships will file Certificate of Assumed Business Name with the city clerk in the jurisdiction where your primary conduct business.
You can visit the State of Rhode Island’s website for a complete list of city clerks.
Example – City of Providence
You will need to complete the Certificate of Assumed Business Name and submit it in person to the Providence City Clerk.
You cannot mail a DBA registration to the Providence City Clerk or file it online.
Step 3 – Pay Rhode Island DBA filing fees
The DBA cost in Rhode Island is $10. You will have an additional $1 fee for each certified copy.
You will need your Certificate of Assumed Business Name notarized. If not done before submitting the form, the city clerk’s public notary will notarize it for an additional $5 fee.
Your Rhode Island DBA does not expire or require renewal.
Rhode Island requires that all sole proprietors and partnerships have the Certificate of Assumed Business Name notarized by a notary public.
If you do not get the form notarized before submitting it, the City Clerk’s office will do so for a $5 charge.
How to file a Rhode Island business DBA for an LLC, corporation, or LLP
LLCs and corporations are required to file a DBA in Rhode Island.
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 – Rhode Island business entity search
All fictitious business names in Rhode Island must be unique and meet the state requirements.
You will first visit the Rhode Island Department of State’s website and check for DBA name availability.
Step 2 – File a Rhode Island DBA with the Secretary of State
You will file your Fictitious Business Name Statement with the Secretary of State online using Rhode Island’s Business Services Online Filing System or by completing the structure appropriate Fictitious Business Name Statement and submitting it by mail.
- Fictitious Business Name Statement for Corporations
- Fictitious Business Name Statement for LLCs
- Fictitious Business Name Statement for LPs
Division of Business Services
148 W. River Street
Providence, RI 02904-2615
Step 3 – Pay Rhode Island DBA filing fees
The Rhode Island DBA filing fee for LLCs, corporations, and LLPs is $50. Rhode Island fictitious business names do not expire and do not require renewal.
Rhode Island DBA name restrictions
In Rhode Island, a fictitious or assumed business name can’t contain any of the following:
- Words that people could confuse your business with a governmental agency (FBI, Treasury, State Department)
- Restricted words such as a bank, attorney, or university will require additional forms and a licensed person on staff.
Forms needed to file a DBA in Rhode Island
- Rhode Island Department of State’s website
- State of Rhode Island’s website
- City of Providence Assumed Name Records
- Rhode Island Business Database
- Rhode Island’s Business Services Online Filing System
- Rhode Island DBA Withdrawal Form for Corporations
- Rhode Island DBA Withdrawal Form for LLCs
- Rhode Island DBA Withdrawal Form for LPs
Rhode Island DBA tax considerations
- In Rhode Island, a DBA only changes the name of a company.
- A DBA has no effect on the status of a business entity for tax purposes.
- You do not have to have a separate employer identification number because a DBA is not a separate legal entity.
- The IRS does not require that you have a separate tax ID number.
How much does a DBA filing cost in Rhode Island?
Sole proprietors and partnerships
The DBA filing fee in Rhode Island for sole proprietors and partnerships is $10. Expect an additional $1 charge for every certified copy you request.
You will need to have your Certificate of Assumed Business notarized. The City Clerk’s notary public will notarize it for a $5 fee.
LLC, corporation, or LLP
The DBA cost for LLCs, corporations, and LLPs is $50. A Rhode Island fictitious business name does not expire and does not require renewal.
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 Rhode Island 5-7 days to process a DBA registration. Rhode Island does not offer any expedited services.
You cannot make changes to your existing assumed or fictitious business name. You will need to register a new DBA in Rhode Island to amend the Certificate of Assumed Business.
Sole proprietors and partnerships
You will need to call your local City Clerk’s office to withdraw your Rhode Island assumed business name.
You can find a complete list using the State of Rhode Island’s website.
LLC, corporation, or LLP
You will need to file a Statement of Abandonment of Use of a Fictitious Name with the Rhode Island Secretary of State.
The processing fee for canceling your fictitious name is $50.
In Rhode Island, you can register as many DBA as you want and can track.
You must follow the same process with each one and be approved by the Rhode Island Secretary of State.