When you conduct business under a name different than your own, you are using a DBA which is short for "doing business as." Each state has its own DBA laws, some of which refer to a DBA as a fictitious business name, assumed name or trade name. The purpose for using a DBA is to have your customers identify your product and services with your unique business name. When you no longer use your DBA, you should take appropriate steps to cancel any active registration for the DBA.
DBA Registration Basics
DBA registration is done according to state law, except in New Mexico, Mississippi and Kansas where there are no DBA registration laws. In Arizona and Alabama, DBA registration is optional, but is mandatory in all other states. Your DBA will either be registered with a state agency, a county clerk or the county court. Most jurisdictions provide a DBA registration form that requires you to disclose the identity of the true owners of the DBA who will be responsible for all business activities while using the DBA. An active DBA registration in any jurisdiction, such as in a state or county will prevent any other person or business from registering the same DBA in that jurisdiction.
Duration of the DBA
A DBA registration remains in effect only for a limited time, the duration of which varies from state to state. The typical length of time for a DBA to remain in effect is five years from the date of registration, such as in California and Vermont, and Texas DBA registration law permits the DBA to remain in effect for twice as long -- 10 years. In Colorado, a DBA registration is limited to one year for a business operated as a sole proprietorship; however, a corporation that registers a DBA keeps it registration in effect for the same length of time as the corporation remains in good standing with the state. All state DBA registration laws give you the ability to renew or extend your DBA registration, as well as the option to let it expire or cancel it if you are no longer using it.
Cancelling a DBA
If you cease doing business using your registered DBA while it is still in effect, you should takes steps to cancel the registration. This will require you to file the appropriate document with the same state or local government office where your registration was filed. In some states, such as Utah, you are required to cancel the registration if you want to form a corporation or limited liability company using the same name as the DBA.
Cancelling Multiple Registrations
In a state that only requires a DBA registration with a state-level agency, your DBA registration is effective throughout the state. To cancel the registration, a filing with the same state-level office will be sufficient. Many states require a DBA registration to take place at the local, county-level office, which means the registration is effective only in that county. If you do business in more than one county, a registration will be necessary in those counties as well. To completely cancel your DBA in these situations, you must file the appropriate cancellation document in each county.
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Register Your Fictitious or "Doing Business As" (DBA) Name
- Vermont Secretary of State: Getting Started with a Trade Name or Sole Proprietorship
- Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk: Fictitious Business Name
- Gwinnett Superior Court: Trade Name Registration
- Texas Secretary of State: Form 503 — General Information (Assumed Name Certificate)
- Colorado Secretary of State: Business FAQs
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