A Doing Business As (DBA) certificate provides a business owner with the legal right to operate a business under a different name than one's own full legal name. According to the U.S. Government (business.gov), almost all local counties, towns and cities require business owners to register a DBA name, except for municipalities located in the states of Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi and Tennessee. A DBA may also be known as a fictitious business name or an assumed name.
Persons in the United States who use their full legal name as a business name in a partnership or a sole proprietorship do not need to register an assumed name with their local county government. A sole proprietor owns a business alone and files business losses and gains on his personal income tax form, while a partnership, such as a law firm, may use the legal name of all partners. With a corporation, the business takes on the legal name registered with the state.
A person who registers a DBA certificate can enforce contracts under her business name instead of her personal name, which offers a certain degree of liability protection against lawsuits. In addition, a DBA certificate allows business owners to open a bank account in the name of their business and to receive checks written out to their company. Registering a DBA prevents other individuals from using the same business name, which can help with branding and marketing.
Applicants must apply for a DBA certificate by submitting an application form with their local office of the town, city or county clerk. A local clerk and a notary will issue and verify the certificate. Registrants have to pay a fee to their local municipality for the registration of a fictitious business name. The local clerk will run a proposed business name through a database in order to make sure that someone else has not already taken the name.
The cost of a DBA certificate varies depending on the policies of a filer’s county or city. For example, Henrico County, Virginia, charges $10 for the filing of a fictitious business name, while the town of Brookline, Maryland, charges $75 for the filing of a DBA. Cook County, Illinois, the county containing the city of Chicago, charges $50 for an assumed business name certificate. A DBA certificate lasts a set number of years depending upon the policies of a registrant’s local town, county or city, after which point the registrant must renew the name.