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Do You Need to Register a Fictitious Business Name?

Registering a fictitious business name is a shortcut that allows you to run a business under a particular name without having to create a new, registered business entity that has that name. This registration process is usually referred to as filing for a DBA ("doing business as"), and is sometimes referred to as filing for an assumed name.

Headers: For Sole Proprietors Although laws vary somewhat from state to state, in general, you can form a sole proprietorship and open for business with minimal paperwork, as long as you are doing business under your own name: John Smith Excavating, Jane Doe Plumbing, etc. But once you decide that you want to operate your business under a name that is not your own: Deep Dig Excavating, Clean Drains Plumbing, you must file a DBA. It is illegal to open a bank account, collect fees, or run advertising using a fictitious business name unless you have legally registered the name.

Headers: For Legal Entities: LLCs, Corporations, Partnerships, etc. In the process of registering your business as a legal entity, you also register your company name for legal business use. Why then would you need to file for a fictitious business name? There are two common reasons: First, if you sell a service or product and its name is different than the name of your company, you may want to file a DBA if the public begins to assume that the name of that service or product is the name of your company. Then, you can create a website using the name of the product or service, you can advertise using the name of the product/service as your company name, etc. The second common usage is for companies that run multiple businesses with different names, such as a convenience store chain that names each store for the town or intersection where it is located, or a business that builds multiple websites that each showcases just one of the company's products or services.

How to Register for a Fictitious Business Name

In most states, fictitious business name registration is recorded at the county level. If, instead, your state requires registration either through the Secretary of State, or another state agency, you will be able to find that information on your state's website.

The registration process is simple. You perform a name search, using the county or state agency database. Once you have established that the name you plan to register is not already in use, you submit a registration form and filing fee that is usually between $10 and $50, and the registration is completed.

In some states, an additional verification step is involved: After you have determined that the name does not appear in the county or state database, you are required to publish a notice in a local newspaper of your intention to use the name, and you must then swear out an affidavit that the public notice was paid for and run.

Unlike many other business filings, the registration of a fictitious business name is both easy and inexpensive. Doing business as a fictitious entity can increase awareness of your brand and simplify your paperwork and bookkeeping.


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Want more information about registering a company? Visit our Guide. Check out incorporation fees by each state.

Tip: Did you know that Delaware and Nevada are top two incorporation states?

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do you need to register a fictitious business name?