DBA is short for "doing business as." A DBA designation, also known as a fictitious name, is used by a partnership, sole proprietorship or an LLC when that business entity is operating under an alternative name. Whether or not your general partnership needs a DBA depends on the name you are currently using to transact business.
General partnerships, along with sole proprietorships, are business entities that do not need to be registered with your state's Secretary of State or County Clerk's office in order to conduct business. As a result, a general partnership may be required to file for a fictitious business name if the partnership is operating under a name other than the given name of the partners.
When You Need a DBA
Most states hold that a general partnership does not need to file for a fictitious name as long as a general partnership is operating under the name of the partners or the partners' names and a brief description of the business. Check with your Secretary of State or County Clerk to see what variations of your name are permissible in your state without a DBA. Additionally, you may consider filing for a DBA if you want to operate your partnership under your own name as well as a fictitious name.
If you and your partner have the last names Smith and McCullin, you would be permitted to call your general partnership "Smith and McCullin" without the need to register a DBA designation. If you wanted to call your business "Smith and McCullin Bakery," you would be required to file for a DBA designation in some states depending on the rules of your state. If you wanted to call your business, "Smith and McCullin Sunrise Bakery," you would be required to file for a DBA designation in all states.
Filing a DBA
In general, to file for a fictitious name, most states require you to give the names of all partners, a general description of your business and your desired fictitious name. Many states also require that you place an advertisement announcing the name change, and pay a small filing fee. The requirements for registration vary by state, so be sure to check with your Secretary of State or County Clerk.