How to file a DBA in Washington

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The definition of the abbreviated term DBA is ‘doing business as.’ A DBA is any 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 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. It is most commonly called a trade name in Washington.

For instance, if you open a business, the legal name will be your name (e.g., Ashley Thomas). Ashley Thomas wants to open a swimming school. She does not want her business’s name to be her own name. So, Ashely Thomas files a DBA Washington state to change her business name to Ash’s Big Splash. The trade name is now the name of her business.

The Washington DBA changes nothing else about Ash’s Big Splash. It only gives Ashely Thomas the ability to run a company using a trade name.

DBA vs business trade name

  • A trade name, or DBA, 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 trade name are the same things.

Who needs a DBA?

In Washington, 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.

A DBA benefits many businesses. The advantages of a DBA depend on the business structure and the personal preferences of the owner(s).

  • New businesses. In Washington, new businesses must acquire a DBA before operating using a different name. Washington State 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 hey share a name unless you file a DBA in Washington.
  • LLCs. In Washington, an LLC is required to register DBAs. 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. Washington 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 Waffle House franchise. Waffle House is an LLC. It means a new franchise would be listed as 5483 Waffle House LLC To change the franchise from its numerical listing to Waffle House, you must file a DBA in Washington. 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 DBA keeps things cheap and simple for small businesses and startups. Registering a DBA in Washington only changes the name of a company. Registering a DBA  is a cost-effective and straightforward way for sole proprietorships to use a trade name without the over-complicated and expensive process of forming a separate limited liability company.
  • A DBA will benefit your LLC or incorporation. Washington requires that all LLCs file a DBA. Also, an LLC would have to form separate companies for every business it buys in the absence of a DBA. For example, Jacobson’s Glass LLC wants to open a high-end kitchenware store that is a separate business from the company. The LLC will file a DBA in Washington to change the name to Classy Glass. The DBA changes nothing else about the high-end kitchenware store.
  • A DBA addresses the privacy concerns of sole proprietors and general partnerships. A Washington DBA allows business owners to use a trade name on public-facing material rather than their full legal name.
  • A DBA keeps business banking 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 personal liability protection.
  • A DBA is your brand name in Washington state. The name of your business, or brand name, is that people notice before anything else. A Washington DBA name lets your audience know what you’re offering. For example, had Ashley Thomas not filed a DBA in Washington, no one would understand she opened a swimming school.

How to set up a DBA in Washington

Step 1 – Washington trade name search

In Washington, a business trade name must be unique and meet the state requirements.

Registering a DBA name in Washington does not prevent others from using the same trade name.

You will visit the Washington Department of Revenue’s Business Lookup website and search for name availability.

Step 2 – File your Washington DBA with the Department of Revenue

You will file your Washington DBA online using the Washington Department of Revenue’s website or by completing the Business License Application and submitting it by mail.

You can file your Business License Application in person. Check the Department of Revenue’s website for the office closest to you.

The DBA application will ask for specific information including:

  • The ownership structure of your business.
  • Your Unified Business Identifier (UBI)
  • The date your business opened.
  • Your estimated gross annual income.

Mailing address:

State of Washington

Business Licensing Service

P.O. Box 9034

Olympia, WA 98507-9034

Phone number: 1-800-451-7985

Step 3 – Pay Washington DBA filing fees

The DBA cost in Washington state is $24. Your trade name does not expire or require renewal.

You pay your DBA filing fees by cash, money order, and credit or debit card.

Washington DBA name restrictions

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

Forms needed to file a DBA in Washington

Washington DBA tax considerations

  • In Washington, a DBA just changes the name of a business.
  • 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 Washington?

The DBA filing fee in Washington is $24. It does not expire or require renewal.

The cost includes $19 processing for your Business Licence Application, and a $5 trade name fee.

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 Washington 10 business days to process a DBA registration.

It can take up to 2-3 weeks for approval if it requires a city or state endorsement.

You can make changes to your Washington state DBA online using the Washington Department of Revenue’s website.

You can also make amendments to your Washington DBA by completing the Business License Application and checking the change trade name box.

You can submit the hardcopy application in person or by mail.

Washington does not charge a processing fee for changes to your DBA name.

You can withdraw your Washington DBA online using the Washington Department of Revenue’s website.

You can also cancel your Washington DBA by emailing [email protected] or by fax and requesting cancelation.

Business Licensing Service fax number: 360-705-6699

  • In Washington, you can register as many trade names as you wish and can pay for them.
  • You must follow the same registration process with each.
  • The Washington Department of Revenue must approve all DBAs
  • DBA registration and a trademark are different things.
  • A DBA allows you to use a fictitious business name that is not the legal name of the company.
  • A trademark is an intellectual property registration that will protect your business’ brand name.
  • A trademark protects your brand name.
  • A trademark is recommended for some businesses in Washington because registering a DBA does not prevent others from using the same one.

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