A DBA ("doing business as") is also known as a fictitious business name. A corporation's legal name is established by filing incorporation documents with the secretary or department of state where the business operates. A corporation is not required to file a DBA, but a corporation can file a DBA if the shareholders of the company choose to do so.
A corporation that wishes to use a different name from the company's legal name must file a DBA. Corporations typically use a DBA when the company operates businesses in multiple industries. For example, a corporation that currently sells auto parts, but wants to open a division devoted to selling airplane parts may decide to use a DBA for the new division. Using a DBA for business does not affect a corporation's limited liability status.
Corporations that decide to use a DBA for business are required to register the DBA in every city or county where the business is located. Failure to properly register a corporation's business name in every city or county where the company operates will result in fines and penalties. The DBA used by a corporation may not contain a corporate identifier in the business name such as "incorporated," "corporation," "limited," or "company." Furthermore, a corporate identifier may not be used as an abbreviation in the corporation's DBA.
The place where a corporation will file the company's DBA will vary based on the state of incorporation. In certain states, a corporation will file its DBA with the secretary or department of state, whereas other states will require a corporation to file a DBA with the city or county where the company operates. Conduct a business name search with the secretary or department of state, or with the county where the corporation operates. This ensures that no other company has a name that is too similar to the corporation's proposed DBA. Complete a DBA registration form by providing the proposed DBA name of the corporation, the legal name of the corporation and the nature of the company's business activities. The fee for a corporation to file a DBA will vary based on the state or county where the company operates.
A corporation may be required to renew the company's DBA every five years, depending on the state or county where the DBA is filed. The city or county where the corporation operates may require the company to publish the DBA name in a newspaper that operates in the same county as the business. The DBA name may be required to appear in the newspaper for three or four consecutive weeks, depending on the county or city where the DBA filing occurs.