How to add a DBA to an LLC

Written by Tyler Davis – CPA, updated on

You’ve just completed your limited liability company (LLC) formation.

But there was a minor hiccup. You didn’t quite come up with a good business name at that point.

Or you’ve divested into a new field, and the original name no longer works for you.

So what are your options then? Set up another business entity?

Not necessarily. You have another way to operate under a brand name, different from your company legal name called DBA — doing business as name.

Table of contents

  1. What is a DBA for an LLC?
  2. How to add a DBA name to your LLC in 3 steps
  3. Conclusion
  4. FAQs about DBA registration

What is a DBA for an LLC?

A “doing business as” (DBA) is a legally registered alternative name for your LLC.

In some states, a DBA can have other monikers such as:

  • Assumed name
  • Trade name
  • Fictitious business name

All terms do the same thing — grant you an ability to operate your business under a name, different from the one you have listed on your company registration documents (such as articles of organization).

DBA doesn’t equal company incorporation. Establishing an LLC requires a different registration process than getting a DBA.

Self-employed people operating as a sole proprietorship register a DBA for conducting business under a name different from their personal one. Think “Cool Web Designs” rather than “Joanne Smith's Designs.”

LLCs owners add DBA registration for other reasons such as:

  • To operate several product/services lines
  • To make distinctions between different business locations
  • As part of a company rebranding effort

Foreign LLCs will also need to add a DBA in a state where their legal company name is already taken by another business.

Can I add a DBA to my LLC later?

Yes. You don’t need to apply for a DBA when forming your company.

In fact, there are two separate registration Secretary of State divisions have for LLC registration vs. DBA application. You’ll have to file distinct forms and pay different state filing fees.

How to add a DBA name to your LLC in 3 steps

Adding a DBA to your LLC is relatively simple. You’ll need to make your choice, then file state forms.

If your LLC is registered in multiple states, you’d have to repeat the registration process in each one.

Here’s how to add a DBA to your LLC:

  1. Conduct a business name search with a state agency
  2. Prepare and complete a DBA filing form
  3. File your registration document with a state agency

Let’s zoom in on each.

1. Conduct a business name search

Similar to LLC formation, you’ll first have to verify if your DBA name isn’t taken by any other business.

Go to your local Secretary of State website and use a business name lookup tool (the same one you’ve used for LLC name search) to check availability.

Repeat the above for each state where your LLC does business (if you plan to get DBAs there too!).

Most states apply the same naming rules to DBAs as to legal company names.

Some states, for example, prohibit the use of words that could mislead a person into thinking that your LLC operates as:

  • A governmental business entity (e.g., the FBI) or a financial institution (e.g., bank, union, trust)
  • A professional services company, when it’s not (e.g., using the words accountant, lawyer, or doctor, when you don’t provide such services)

Also, you can’t register similar-sounding names in certain states.

For example, operate your coffee shop as “Stardust” or “Blue Glass Coffee Company.”

You need to come up with a sufficiently different name.

2. Prepare and complete a DBA filing form

Usually, your LLC will need to submit a DBA filing with the Secretary of State office for the state (or states).

But in some states, DBA registration can also be handled by local:

  • Division of Corporations (e.g., in Florida)
  • County-level authorities (e.g., in New York)
  • Clerk of Superior Court offices (in Georgia)

Typically, the local SOS website will direct you to the proper state business authority, where you can download a DBA application form.

Information needed

Depending on your state, you’ll need to provide the following details:

  • Company name
  • Assumed (DBA) name you want to use
  • Type of business entity
  • Registered agent details (optional)

Then you’ll have to file the completed form with a state or county clerk and pay a filing fee.

3. File your registration form with a state agency

Most states (with several exceptions) process DBA applications electronically through e-biz portals. But you can always mail in or hand in a paper form too.

Filing Receipt of New York DBA registration process
Filing Receipt of New York DBA registration process. Source: New York Department of State.

Tip: Once you register your DBA name, keep a copy of the receipt for your filing, and ensure your LLC keeps up with any renewal fees or filings (if applicable).

Depending on the state, DBA name registrations have to be renewed annually, biannually, or every five years. You’ll have to verify that locally.

How much does it cost to add a DBA to an LLC?

To add a new DBA to an LLC, expect to pay a state filing fee of $10-$35 per registered name. That’s the standard ballpark.

Yet, in some cases, DBA registration fees may be higher. For example, in New York, where you have to pay a dual state + county fee, a DBA can cost up to $100.

Conclusion

DBA registration for your LLC helps legally link your business structure with an alternative brand name you’re using. Whether you need a DBA now or later depends on your business model, but it never hurts to be prepared!

FAQs about DBA registration

Here you’ll find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs).

Can a single-member LLC have a DBA?

Yes. A single-member LLC can have a DBA just like any other business entity. Frequently new business owners register their company under a personal name. But then, as their business grows, they decide to “upgrade” to a more brandable corporate name and add a DBA.

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Last updated: Feb 2024
Tyler Davis

Article by:

Tyler Davis

CPA

Tyler Davis is a CPA and real estate professional. Tyler enjoys working on the tax implications of real estate transactions, evaluating development and investing opportunities, and writing on current tax events. He worked for PwC in tax for five years where he advised on the tax implications of M&A transactions and provided tax provision support for Life and P&C Insurance companies. In his free time, Tyler is an avid golfer.

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