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There are many things you can do to help your business be successful. Using a DBA name is a choice many business owners make to brand and grow their company. However, it's not as simple as filing the paperwork and forgetting about it. When does your DBA expire? How long does it last? How do you renew it? Let's find out more.
DBA stands for “Doing Business As” and is used by businesses and individuals who are operating under a name that is different from their registered business name or legal personal name. A DBA is often referred to as a trade name, fictitious name or assumed name. Some states require your business to register a DBA to help protect consumers. If you are operating a sole proprietorship or partnership, the rules surrounding DBAs are somewhat less strict. Generally speaking, if your business name is not included in the DBA, it needs to be registered.
The rules for corporations and LLCs are far stricter as they must register any changes to their business name, including simple rearrangements, additions or subtractions to the name. It is highly recommended that you thoroughly research the regulations where your business operates to ensure you are not violating the law with your DBA usage.
Most states that require a DBA to be registered also require that they be renewed. The average timeframe for renewal is about five years, plus or minus a few. Some counties/cities/states require annual renewal, while others (such as Texas) don’t require renewal for up to 10 years. DBAs in other states, such as New York, never expire. It is important to keep up with your DBA renewal to ensure that you are operating your business legally, particularly if you are using your DBA on legal or financial documents.
Your expiration date may be found on your original DBA paperwork, or you can log into your state's online business portal to find this information. Most states will also email or mail a renewal reminder to your business address.
Filing and renewing a DBA are frequently done through the Secretary of State’s office at the state level. You'll typically need to fill out a form, sign it and pay a fee. Some states or counties may require the form to be notarized.
The county clerk’s office is the best place to start for registration at the county level, if required. Filing fees to register a DBA are usually between $10 and $100, depending on the location. Renewal is generally less costly than registering the DBA, plus the potential savings of not having to republish, if such a thing is required where you do business.
Some states offer a grace period past the expiration date to renew the DBA. Check to see if you fall within this grace period. Letting your DBA expire will typically require you to start the entire process over and file again, rather than renew. Once the DBA expires, it does not exist and you will have to file for a new DBA. This means that your chosen business name became available for use when your DBA expired. You'll need to conduct a business name search to find out if the name is still available or if it's been taken. If it has, you'll need to come up with a new name. Fees for filing a new DBA can be higher than a renewal, and you may have to meet publication requirements again.
By renewing your DBA before expiration, you keep your business safe, the DBA name linked to your business and you could be saving yourself steps as renewals generally don’t require publication.
If you only registered a DBA name for your business, but did not formally create an LLC or corporation, you will still need to meet your renewal obligations as detailed above. Keep in mind that you can file a DBA without creating an LLC or corporation, but you won’t receive any of the benefits that come along with forming a business. It is highly recommended that you register your business properly as a partnership, LLC or corporation and then (if needed) file the DBA to go along with it.
If you choose to file a DBA in lieu of formally creating your business, you could be missing out on legal protections, tax benefits and other perks that come along with business formation. Even if it is not required to register your DBA where you live, it is still a good idea to register it for your business to use.
A DBA can be a fun and unique way to market your business and have a positive impact on your success. If you are a sole proprietor, or a person doing business under your legal name, a DBA can add an extra layer of professionalism to your business. For all levels of business, a DBA can help to specify what that arm of the business does.
For example, if you have a registered business name of Boss & Associates Office Solutions, you could register a DBA for Boss & Associates Accounting or Boss Consulting to better market your business to those specific niches. Additionally, if you operate a business and branch out into other states, a DBA can help you localize by adding the state to your business name. A DBA can help your business to create its identity, regardless of the size.
Staying on top of your DBA renewal deadline will save you time and money and preserve your perfect business name. It's all part of running a well-oiled business that keeps you successful for years to come.
Ben Gran is a freelance writer from Des Moines, Iowa. Ben has written for Fortune 500 companies, the Governor of Iowa (who now serves as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture), the U.S. Secretary of the Navy, and many corporate clients. He writes about entrepreneurship, technology, food and other areas of great personal interest.
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