How to File Your DBA in Dallas

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New procedures established during the COVID-19 pandemic require a business owner who wants to file or record an assumed name with the Dallas County Clerk’s office to complete the appropriate application online. The correct terms for the filing are assumed name, or Doing Business As (DBA). To file, the owner must be present, present a valid government-issued ID and have the appropriate form ready. It must be acknowledged by a deputy or notarized before coming to the office.

Business Types that May File With the County

The types of businesses that file for an assumed name with Dallas County include a sole proprietorship, a general partnership or joint venture, estates, real estate investment trusts and any other type of business entity that is not required to file with the Texas Secretary of State. The owner should file an assumed name certificate with the county clerk in each county in which the business has an office or will maintain one. If the entity does not maintain a business office in Texas, they should file the assumed name certificate in each county in which the entity does business.

Fees for DBAs

The filing fee to record a DBA is $24, and 50 cents for each additional partner, or owner, after the first owner. There is a $2.00 acknowledgement fee if the deputy performs the acknowledgement rather than a notary. The Dallas County Clerk does not accept personal checks; an owner should pay only with a money order, cashier’s check or credit card.

Steps Before Filing

Before filing an application for an assumed name, an owner should choose the name of their business and then a name search wtih the County Assumed Names records to make sure the name of the business is available. If the name of the business is already taken, that will show in the Dallas County database. When an unincorporated business, such as a general partnership and an incorporated business like an LLC, have very similar names, neither business automatically obtains the exclusive right to the name. If the problem persists, the court will decide in favor of one party.

An owner who wants to see if a name is available should search all the variations of the business name. For example, the name Dandz should be searched with “d and z,” “dandz,” “z&z,” and “d&z.” If the owner is unfamiliar with how to search variations for a business name, they should consult an attorney or a professional with the Dallas Metropolitan Small Business Development Center.

Name Already in Use

When an owner finds that another entity is already using the name of their business, they should consult an attorney about what they can do to protect the name of their business and the business’ goodwill. Goodwill is the value of the company’s brand. There is no law that prevents another entity from filing the same assumed name or using the name to create a new entity. More than one owner can have the same assumed name on file.

Incorporated Assumed Names

To file for an assumed name for an incorporated business, the business should file the recording with the Texas Secretary of State, not with the Dallas County Clerk of Court. This is a change in the rules as a result of HB 3609, effective September 1, 2019. An incorporated assumed name certificate is necessary for corporations, limited partnerships, limited liability companies, limited liability partnerships and foreign filing entities.

An owner can also bring a completed form for recording at the County Clerk’s office after the form has been filed with the Secretary of State. The owner should send the original, a self-addressed stamped envelope and the fee of $24 in the form of a check or money order to the Dallas County Clerk’s Office.

What an Assumed Name Does

An assumed name certificate informs the public that an entity is doing business under a certain name. Filing an assumed name does not establish actual use of the assumed name for the purpose of establishing priority of use. It also does not give the entity the right to use the name when such use is contrary to the common law or statutory right of competition, unfair trade practices, common law copyright or similar laws.

Length of Time DBA Is in Effect

An assumed name certificate is effective for a term of 10 years from the date the certificate is filed. It can be renewed by filing a new certificate within six months of the expiration date of the original certificate. A registrant may abandon the assumed name certificate before the expiration date by filing an abandonment of the certificate.

Withdrawal Notice of an Assumed Name

A business owner's name can be withdrawn or removed from the record by sending an original withdrawal form, a self-addressed stamped envelope, and a fee of $24 for the first owner’s signature and 50 cents for each signature after that. When all the owners appear in person with valid government picture IDs, the County Clerk deputy can take a deputy acknowledgment. There is an additional $2 fee for this. This can take the place of a notary acknowledgment, but if there is no deputy acknowledgment, all signatures must be notarized.

Texas Penalties for Failure to File

The civil penalties for failure to file an assumed name certificate include the inability to maintain a Texas court action or proceeding arising out of a contract or act in which a person used an assumed name until an original, new or renewed certificate was filed. The failure to file an assumed name certificate does not impair the validity of a contract or prevent the person from defending an action or proceeding in a Texas court.

In an action or proceeding brought against a person who failed to file an assumed name certificate, the court may award expenses to the plaintiff or other party bringing the action. These expenses include attorney’s fees and the cost to locate and effect service of process on the defendant.

A person can incur criminal penalties for failure to file an assumed name certificate if they conduct business or render a professional service in the state under an assumed name and intentionally violate the Texas Business and Commerce Code provisions relating to assumed business or professional name. An offense is a Class A misdemeanor. The penalty for this offense is up to one year in jail and a fine up to $4,000.

Penalties for Signing Documents Without Authority

A person can also incur criminal penalties if they knowingly or intentionally sign and present for filing, or cause to be presented for filing, a document authorized or required to be filed that indicates that the person signing the document has authority to act on behalf of the entity, but the person actually lacks that authority. The person will incur a criminal offense if the paperwork they file contains a material false statement or is forged. This offense is known as tampering with a governmental record.

Such an offense is also a Class A misdemeanor, except when the person who committed the offense had the intent to defraud or harm another. In that case, the offense is the more serious state jail felony. The penalty for a state jail felony is between 180 days and two years in jail and a fine up to $10,000.