How to file a DBA in Virginia

The abbreviated business term DBA means ‘doing business as.’ A DBA is any registered name that a company or individual uses to do business under that is not the legal name.

The legal name of a company is different depending on the structure. For LLCs and corporations, it defaults to the company’s name. For sole proprietors and co-partnerships, the legal name is the full personal name of the individual(s) that owns the company.

A DBA is often referred to by other terms, including a fictitious name, assumed name, or business trade name. In Virginia, it is referred to both a fictitious name and an assumed name.

For instance, if you open a business, the legal name will be your name (e.g., Ray Jackson). Ray Jackson wishes to open a tabletop gaming shop. He does not want the name of his business to be his own name. So, Ray Jackson filed a DBA in Virginia to change his business name to Ray’s Roll and Play. The assumed business name is now the name of his business.

The Virginia DBA changes nothing else about Ray Jackson’s business. The DBA just gives Ray Jackson the freedom to operate his business using an assumed name.

DBA vs fictitious or assumed business name

  • A fictitious or assumed name is how businesses operate using a name that is the business’ legal name.
  • The only difference between a DBA name and a business trade name is that a DBA is only an alias.
  • A DBA must be associated with a separate legal business entity.
  • A DBA and a fictitious business name mean the same thing.

Who needs a DBA?

In Virginia, all sole proprietors, partnerships, corporations, LLCs, LPs, and LLPs register a DBA name if they wish to operate a business using any name other than its legal name.

Most businesses benefit from a DBA. The benefits of a DBA depend on the business structure and the personal preferences of the owner(s).

  • New businesses. In Virginia, all new businesses must acquire a DBA before operating using an assumed or fictitious name. Virginia DBA registration is a recommendation for all new businesses.
  • Sole proprietors. A business and its owner are the same legal entity. It means that they share a legal name unless a DBA is registered in Virginia.
  • LLCs. In Virginia, an LLC must register a DBA when operating a business using any name other than the LLC’s name. Without a DBA, every new business an LLC purchases and manages would do so under its full legal name. Also, registering an assumed name allows an LLC to expand and operate part of its company outside of the LLC name.
  • Corporations. Often, corporations purchase and operate businesses in various industries. Incorporations must file a DBA to do business using a different name regardless of the type of business in Virginia.
  • Franchises. Most franchisees use DBAs. For example, if you buy a Motel 6 franchise. Motel 6 is an LLC, which means that a new franchise is listed as 4865 Motel 6 LLC. To change the name of the franchise you purchased from its numerical listing to Motel 6, you would have to register a DBA in Virginia. The DBA changes nothing else about the franchise.

A DBA allows 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?

  • Small businesses and startups benefit from a DBA. A Virginia DBA only changes the name of a business. Registering a DBA is a straightforward way for sole proprietors to use an assumed name without the over-complicated process of forming a separate limited liability company to just use a new company name.
  • An LLC or incorporation benefits from a DBA. An LLC would have to form separate companies for every business it buys in the absence of a Virginia DBA. For example, Merideth’s Paint LLC wants to start a house painting service. It is a separate business from the LLC. It must file a DBA in Virginia to change the name to Strokes of Color. The DBA changes nothing else about the house painting service.
  • A DBA reduces the worry for privacy concerns of sole proprietorships and general partnerships. A Virginia DBA allows business owners to use an assumed business name on public-facing material rather than their full personal names.
  • A DBA uncomplicates business banking. 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 personal liability protection.
  • A DBA is your brand name in Virginia. The business name you land on will act as your brand name. The DBA name lets your potential customers know what you’re offering them. For instance, Ray Jackson opened a tabletop gaming shop.

How to set up a DBA in Virginia

Step 1 – Virginia fictitious name or assumed name search

When you file a DBA in Virginia, it does not prevent others from using the same fictitious or assumed business name.

However, it is recommended that a business choose a unique name. All DBA names must meet state requirements.

You will search the Virginia State Corporation Commission website and check for fictitious or assumed business name availability.

Step 2 – File your Virginia DBA with the State Corporation Commission

You will file your Virginia DBA online using the State Corporation Commission website, or by filling out the business structure-specific form and submitting it by mail.

Your LLC, corporation, LP, and general partnership will complete the Certificate of Assumed or Fictitious Name Business Conducted by an Entity.

The DBA registration form will ask for specific information including:

  • The person or company operating under the DBA.
  • The assumed or fictitious business name you’re using.
  • Your SCC ID number or address.

Sole proprietors complete the Certificate of Assumed or Fictitious Name Business Conducted by an Individual.

The DBA registration form will ask for specific information including:

  • The name of the sole proprietor operating using the DBA.
  • The assumed or fictitious business name you are registering.

Mailing address:

State Corporation Commission

Clerk’s Office

P.O. Box 1197

Richmond, VA 23218-1197

Virginia State Corporation Commission:

804-371-9733
1-866-722-2551

Step 3 – Pay Virginia DBA filing fees

The DBA cost in Virginia is $10 for all business structures. Your fictitious or assumed business name does not expire or require renewal.

Virginia DBA name restrictions

In Virginia, a DBA name can’t contain any of the following:

  • Business entity suffixes such as LLC, incorporation, Inc, etc., unless it is your actual business structure.
  • The words architecture, engineering, or designing without the proper governmental approval.

You can find a full list of Virginia DBA name restrictions.

Forms needed to file a DBA in Virginia

Virginia DBA tax considerations

  • In Virginia, filing a DBA name just 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 Virginia?

The DBA filing cost in Virginia is $10 for all business structures. Your Virginia DBA does not expire or require renewal.

Virginia offers a next-day expedited service for your assumed or fictitious business name for $100.

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

It takes Virginia 2 to 3 business days to process a DBA registration.

You can pay for next-day expedited services for an additional $100.

You must file a new DBA registration form online using the Virginia State Corporation Commission website, or by completing the appropriate form and submitting it by mail.

State Corporation Commission

Clerk’s Office

P.O. Box 1197

Richmond, VA 23218-1197

You will pay the same $10 DBA registration fee.

You can withdraw your Virginia DBA by completing the Certificate of Release of Assumed or Fictitious Name form and submitting it by mail.

  • In Virginia, you can register as many assumed or fictitious business names as you need and can pay for them.
  • You must follow the same process when you register for every DBA.
  • The Virginia State Corporation Commission must approve all DBA names.
  • A DBA and a trademark are two different things.
  • Registering a fictitious or assumed business name in Virginia does not protect others from using the same one.
  • 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 trademark does protect your brand name in both the state and the country.

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