How to Register a DBA in Delaware (Step-by-Step Guide)
Starting a new business in Delaware requires careful contemplation of several factors. The amount of legal jargon and acronyms can be overwhelming, but it is important to be across it. This article emphasizes what a DBA means, the circumstances where you need one, and the procedure to acquire one in Delaware.
What is a DBA?
DBA is an acronym for “doing business as,” which refers to companies or individuals who operate under a name that differs from their legal name. It is often called a “fictitious business name” or “trade name.”
Registering for a DBA is a solution for companies that want a more marketable trade name. It allows a business to market itself under a different name while still being legally responsible under its legal name.
For instance, if John Smith is a small business owner offering financial services, he can register a DBA name, such as “Financial Services by John,” to market his products and services instead of using his own name.
The process for registering a DBA varies by state, but the protocol usually involves the following:
- Choosing a unique business name
- Confirming its availability
- Filing the proper DBA forms with the relevant government agency, such as the Secretary of State or the county clerk’s office
- Paying the DBA filing fees
Delaware DBA name registration
Choose your name
The first step is to choose a unique name for your business that meets Delaware’s naming conventions.
- The name should be different from any other business registered in Delaware.
- Avoid using certain elements in your trade name, such as business entity suffixes, unless that is your type of business, the term “bank,” or any variation unless authorized by the state.
Check name availability
- After choosing a name, you must confirm that it is unique.
- You can search the state records using the Delaware Courts Trade Names portal.
Once you have confirmed your name is unique and available, we recommend acquiring a domain. It can be a strategic plan to stop others from taking hold of the web address. This will allow you to create your business website, a valuable asset for promoting your brand and offerings.
Register your name
Once you’ve determined that your name is unique and available, you must file a Registration of Trade, Business & Fictitious Name Certificate with the County Clerk’s office in every county where the company operates.
If you do business in all three counties, you must register in each.
Provide the following information on the form:
- A trade name
- The business address and phone number
- The person, firm, or association involved
- The names and addresses of all owners, members, and partners that comprise the business
- The nature of the business
File the form at the appropriate address:
New Castle County
Leonard L. Williams Justice Center
500 North King Street, Suite 500, LL1
Wilmington, DE 19801-3746
Kent County Courthouse
38 The Green
Dover, DE 19901
Sussex County Courthouse
1 The Circle, Suite 2
Georgetown, DE 19947
Pay your filing fees
After submitting the registration form, you must pay a filing fee of $25 per county.
If you want to register and operate in all three counties, it will cost you $75.
The only extra cost you may incur is the cost of the notary on the initial form, which is set by the individual notarizing your form.
Renew, amend, or withdraw your DBA
Obtain an EIN
The IRS gives business entities an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for tax purposes.
It’s important to remember that a DBA (Doing Business As) doesn’t establish a separate legal entity.
If a sole proprietor with no employees intends to use their Social Security number as a tax ID, they may do so. Still, a DBA that hires employees or operates with a separate business bank account needs an EIN.
Obtaining an EIN can be done online or via mail application.
Open a business bank account
Once you have obtained your EIN, you can create a business bank account using your newly registered business name.
A separate bank account allows you to differentiate your business finances from your personal assets. It also allows you to accept checks and credit card payments more readily.
Advantages and disadvantages of a DBA
Choosing to register a DBA offers a range of benefits to business owners:
- Customizable name: A DBA can be altered more quickly than a legal business name, allowing business owners to change their name according to their evolving products and services or market conditions. It also allows multiple DBA names to target different products and markets, increasing the scope and customer base.
- Brand recognition: A well-crafted DBA name is often more descriptive and memorable than a legal name. It helps in brand recognition, business promotion, and marketing and advertising the products or services easier. Registering a DBA name safeguards the brand name by preventing others from using it, establishing brand loyalty among customers.
- Cost-effective: DBA registration is usually less expensive than other business structures like LLCs. It is a more affordable option for small businesses and entrepreneurs that want to create a unique identity without spending too much money.
However, there are a few downsides to registering a DBA:
- Personal liability: DBAs do not provide personal liability or legal protection, meaning that the business owner is personally responsible for all debts, obligations, and lawsuits related to the business.
Who needs a DBA?
The following groups can benefit from registering a DBA:
- Sole proprietors: These individuals run their businesses without forming a separate legal entity. A DBA allows them to use a different name for marketing their products or services, giving them more flexibility to adapt to changes in the market.
- General partnerships: Joint ventures between two or more individuals who want to operate under a different name than the partners’ names. Partners can file a DBA to represent their partnership and increase brand recognition.
- Corporations: Companies often need to use a different name than their legal name or take on multiple names for different business activities. For instance, if a company has a subsidiary that offers landscaping services under “Green Solutions LLC” but they also want to get into selling gardening supplies, it can file a DBA for “Garden Supplies” to distinguish between the two business activities.
- Limited liability companies (LLCs): LLCs are flexible business structures that allow owners to limit their liability and protect their assets. However, LLCs can also file a DBA to conduct business under a different name or brand.
Why or why wouldn’t you need a DBA?
Here are some reasons why you might need a DBA:
- Operating under a different name: If you plan to use a name that differs from your legal or company name, then a DBA may be necessary. This can make marketing your products or services easier, help customers remember your name, and create a unique brand identity.
- Multiple business names: Corporations, LLCs, sole proprietorships, and partnerships that operate under multiple business names may need a DBA to keep their branding and legal structures distinct.
- Test new products or markets: A DBA can be useful for testing new products or entering new markets without changing your legal name.
A DBA might not be necessary if:
- Operating under the legal or personal name: A DBA may not be necessary if you operate under your or your company’s legal name.
- Single-owner LLC: A single-owner LLC that does not conduct business under a name that isn’t the owner’s or the LLC’s legal name may not require a DBA.
Is a DBA the same as a trade name?
A DBA is known as a trade name in Delaware. They are also referred to as assumed names and fictitious business names.
Does a DBA protect my personal assets?
A DBA doesn’t protect your assets. It is just a name for your business. If you want to protect yourself, we recommend forming an LLC.
What is the processing time?
In Delaware, DBA applications are processed at county courthouses. No timeline guidelines are available. Submit via mail or in person.
Can I file a Delaware DBA online?
No, you must file your trade name in person or by mail.
What are the consequences of not registering for a DBA in Delaware?
If you do not register for a DBA in Delaware, you may be subject to fines, penalties, or legal action. You may not be able to open a bank account, obtain a business license, or enter into contracts using your DBA name.
Do I need to publish my DBA registration in Delaware?
No, Delaware does not require publishing your DBA registration in a local newspaper.
Find out how to register a DBA in your state
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