What Is a DBA?

Definition & Examples of a DBA

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A DBA is another name under which a business may operate. The term "DBA" (sometimes written as "d/b/a") stands for "doing business as." Some states require a business to register any DBA that it uses.

Learn when you might want to use a DBA and how to register one.

What Is a DBA?

A DBA is a name by which a company is doing business and the name it presents itself as to the public. This name may be different from the legal name, or entity name, of the business as registered with a state.

You may be required to register your DBA to let the public know who is operating a business and how to get in contact with that person. 

Alternate name: trade name, fictitious name, assumed business name

How Does a DBA Work?

There's a big difference between an official business name and the name you want to use for the public. 

For example, suppose you've created a limited liability company (LLC) for your company and named it Matthews Industries, LLC. While Matthews Industries, LLC is a perfectly fine name for a company, it doesn't tell potential customers about the services or products you provide.

On the other hand, "SuperClean Cars" is more exciting and it helps customers understand exactly what services your company offers. Therefore Matthews Industries LLC may decide to do business as SuperClean Cars. Since SuperClean Cars is not their legal business name, depending on where they're located, this might require them to register a DBA.

Basically, if you want to use a business name other than your own name or your business's legal name, you'll probably need a DBA.

Registering a DBA may be done at the state, county, or local level, depending on location. It's usually a simple process and in most cases, you can do it yourself without an attorney. Consult your state's government office to find out what rules apply where you live.

Keep in mind that registering your legal business name is different than registering your DBA. You'll register your official business name when filing legal documents to form an LLC or an S-corporation, for example. Registering a DBA might be required where you live, but it doesn't offer legal protection or ownership of your business name.

It's a good idea to include your DBA on legal documents, in addition to the business name you have registered with your state. This makes sure your business is more completely identified, to avoid confusion. If you have more than one DBA, include them all.

Do I Need a DBA?

You don't always need a DBA, but it makes sense for some business situations.

Sole Proprietors and General Partnerships

If you have a sole proprietorship or general partnership and you are doing business under your own name (or your partner's), you don't need a DBA. 

However, if your company is doing business under a name that is not the same as your personal name, you will need a DBA.

For example, if your name is Chad Martin and you have a sole proprietorship, you probably don't need a DBA to use the business name Chad Martin Plumbing, because everyone can tell who is the owner of the business. But if Chad Martin wanted to use the business name Chad's Plumbing Repair, he'd probably need a DBA, because his full name is no longer attached to the business.

Limited Liability Companies and Corporations

However, you may need a DBA if you have an LLC or corporation and it doesn't reflect the name of your establishment. For instance, if your LLC is called Strickland Enterprises, LLC and you run a restaurant called Zippy's Pizza, you would register a DBA so everyone knows that Strickland Enterprises, LLC owns Zippy's Pizza.

To be clear, if you are doing business as a limited liability company, partnership, or corporation, you have registered your business with the state where you are doing business. Your name is registered at the same time, so people can find you under this business registration. For these types of businesses, you only need a DBA if you are operating under another name. 

You can't use the terms "LLC" or "Corporation" for doing business unless you are officially registered with your state using that business structure.

Key Takeaways

  • A DBA is a name under which a company is doing business but is not its official business name.
  • You may wish to use a DBA if your legal business name doesn't adequately convey your business's offerings.
  • You may also choose to use a DBA if you want to branch out your business's offerings without launching an entirely new business.
  • If you choose to use a DBA, check with your state and locality as to whether you need to register it, and how to go about doing that.

Article Sources

  1. U.S. Small Business Administration. "Register Your Business." Accessed Nov. 17, 2020.

  2. U.S. Small Business Administration. "Choose Your Business Name." Accessed Nov. 17, 2020.