The business term DBA means ‘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 in South Carolina for sole proprietors, and a fictitious business name for LLCs and incorporations.
For instance, if you open a business, the legal name will be your name (e.g., Jolie Williams). Jolie Williams wants to open a veterinary hospital. She doesn’t want the business’s name to be her own name. So, Jolie Williams files a DBA to change her business name to Jolie’s Compassion Clinic. And, it is now the name of the business.
The DBA changes nothing else about Jolie’s Compassion Clinic.
The DBA only gives Jolie Williams 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?
South Carolina does not require sole proprietors, LLCs, or incorporations to file a DBA to use an assumed business name.
However, a DBA benefits many businesses in a variety of other ways. The advantages of a DBA depend on your business structure and personal preferences.
- New businesses. South Carolina does not mandate that new businesses must acquire a DBA before operating using a different name.
- Sole proprietors. A business and its owner are the same legal entity. Therefore, they share a name unless you file a DBA in most states.
- 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. South Carolina does not require information to 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 Dicky’s Barbeque Pit. Dick’s Barbeque Pit is an LLC. So, a new franchise would be listed as 1254 Dicky’s Barbeque Pit LLC. To change the franchise from its numerical listing to just the name Dick’s Barbeque Pit, a franchisee must file a DBA. Nothing else about the franchise changes.
In most states, a DBA allows small business owners or 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 to use a new name.
Why do you need a DBA?
- A DBA benefits a small business or startup Registering a DBA in South Carolina only changes the name of a company. When you file a DBA, it is a cost-effective and straightforward way for sole proprietorships to operate using an assumed business name without the over-complicated and expensive process of forming a separate LLC.
- A DBA benefits your LLC or corporation. An LLC would have to form separate companies for every business it purchases and operates without a DBA. For example, Cara’s Plastic LLC wants to open a bottling company. In most states, the LLC would have to register a DBA to use an assumed name that is not the company name.
- A DBA protects the privacy of sole proprietors and general partnerships. DBA allows business owners to use an assumed business name on public-facing material instead of using their full personal legal name.
- A DBA simplifies business banking. Most financial institutions require companies to file a DBA before opening a business bank account, regardless of the state requirements of DBA registration. A separate business banking account is the safest way to operate for a new business. It is 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 name and your brand name are the same things. Your business name, or brand name, is what lets your audience know what you’re up to. The assumed business name on your signs represents you as a business. For example, had Jolie Williams not filed a DBA in her state, her clients would not know she opened a veterinary hospital.
How to set up a DBA in South Carolina
Step 1 – South Carolina business name search
Your South Carolina business name must be unique and meet the state requirements.
Before registering a DBA, you will have registered a business name with South Carolina.
A DBA does not prevent other businesses from using the same assumed business name.
You will search the Existing Business Entity database for DBA name availability.
Step 2 – File your South Carolina DBA with the County Clerk
You will need to contact the County Clerk in the jurisdiction you primarily conduct business. Every office has different forms and fees, and most require picking up the Certificate of Assumed Name form in person.
You can find a complete list of South Carolina Clerks of Court.
Step 3 – Pay South Carolina DBA filing fees
The DBA cost in South Carolina varies depending on your local County Clerk.
Contact your local South Carolina Clerks of Court for appropriate forms and fees.
South Carolina requires sole proprietors and most partnerships to have the Certificate of Assumed Name form notarized.
Most County Clerk Offices provide free notarization.
How to file a South Carolina business DBA for an LLC, corporation, or LLP
- For-profit Corporations
- Non-profit Corporations
- Professional Corporations
- Professional Associations
- Limited Partnerships
- Limited Liability Partnerships
- Limited Liability Companies
- All Foreign Filing Entities
Step 1 – South Carolina business entity searchYour South Carolina business name must be unique and meet the state requirements. Before registering a DBA, you will have registered a business name with South Carolina. A DBA does not prevent other LLCs or incorporations from using the same fictitious business name. You will search the Existing Business Entity database for DBA name availability.
Step 2 – File a South Carolina DBA with the Secretary of StateYou will complete the Adopting a Fictitious Name form and submit it online with the South Carolina Secretary of State. South Carolina Secretary of State address: 1205 Pendleton St Columbia, SC 29201 (803) 734-2170
Step 3 – Pay South Carolina DBA filing feesThe DBA cost for LLCs, incorporations, and LLPs is $10. Your South Carolina DBA expires every five years and requires renewal. The fictitious business name renewal fee is $10.
South Carolina DBA name restrictions
In South Carolina, 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)
- Business suffixes (LLC, Corp, Incorporated, etc.) unless it is your business’ actual structure.
Forms needed to file a DBA in South Carolina
South Carolina DBA tax considerations
- In South Carolina, 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 South Carolina?
Sole proprietors and partnerships
The DBA cost in South Carolina for sole proprietors and partnerships depends on the county in which you file for an assumed business name.
You may have additional costs for a notary public.
LLC, corporation, or LLP
The DBA cost for LLCs, corporations, and LLPs is $10.
You will need to renew your South Carolina fictitious business name every five years. The renewal fee is $10.
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.
The processing time for an assumed business name for sole proprietors and partnerships depends on the County Clerk’s Office where you primarily conduct business.
It takes South Carolina 24 hours to process a DBA for LLCs, corporations, and LLPs.
You can’t make changes to an existing assumed or fictitious business name.
You will need to register a new DBA name in South Carolina to amend the Certificate of Assumed Business.
Sole proprietors and partnerships
You will need to call the local County Clerk’s office to withdraw your South Carolina assumed name.
LLC, corporation, or LLP
All other business structures must complete the appropriate form with the South Carolina Secretary of State.
In South Carolina, you can register as many DBA as you want and can track.
You must follow the same process with each one and they must be approved.
- A DBA and a trademark are two different things.
- A DBA allows businesses to use an assumed business name that is not their legal name.
- A trademark is a type of intellectual property registration that protects a business’ brand.
- A sole proprietor is not required to register a DBA in South Carolina. However, a trademark does protect your brand name in both the state and country.