Updated: Dec 20, 2022
DBA is short for Doing Business As, also known as a fictitious business name (FBN). A DBA is used when a person, or entity, is conducting business under a name different from its legal name. For example, Dan Garner opened a donut shop on Main Street doing business as Dan’s Donuts. In order to protect the consumers, Dan must file a DBA or FBN statement with his county so customers know who the legal owner (and legally responsible party) of the business is. Here's what you need to know...
Most states or counties require either an application or registration for a business to use a DBA or fictitious business name. Most DBA or FBN Statements are filed by sole proprietors or partnerships (see Common Business Structures post here). In our example above, if Dan changed his business name to Dan Garner’s Donuts, he would most likely not need to file a FBN or DBA Statement because the business name is a combination of his first and last name and a description of his product.
If you are a Corporation or LLC, you have already registered your business name so you would not need a FBN or DBA statement as long as you conduct business under the business name you filed. For example, if Dan’s Donuts filed as an LLC but wanted to open a second location called “Delicious Dan’s Donuts”, he would need to file a FBN or DBA Statement since the names do not match.
Why create a fictitious business name?
As a sole proprietor business owner, having a fictitious business name helps give the owner some separation from your business and allows more creativity with the business name.
Does this protect my business name from being used by anyone else?
Unfortunately, registering your business name does not provide protection against another person using the same name. Some states will refuse registration of very similar names, but you have to live in Alaska or North Dakota to get exclusive rights to your business name upon registration as of this publishing.
How do I find out if, what and where I need to file?
Each state has their own regulations and requirements - most states will require the filing at the state level, but some require it at the county or local level, or both. Visit this IRS website and select your state to be provided a list of requirements.
A few states also require businesses to publish their DBA or fictitious business name in a newspaper or legal publication for a set timeframe so the general public is made aware of the business owner.
You may also be required to renew your DBA fictitious business name statement every one to ten years, depending on your state.
For my San Diego startups, here is the link to the County Recorder.
P.S. Please support your local mom and pop donut shops!