How to Register a DBA in Georgia (Step-by-Step Guide)
When you start a new business venture in Georgia, there are many things to consider. Legal jargon and acronyms can be overwhelming, but staying on top of them is important. This article highlights the importance of understanding a DBA (Doing Business As), including its definition, when to use one, and the procedure for obtaining one in Georgia.
What is a DBA?
The abbreviation DBA is short for “doing business as” and refers to a company or an individual that operates under a made-up business name. By opting for a DBA, a company can choose a more appealing trade name than its official title, which can help make its brand more marketable.
For example, a sole proprietor who sells handmade instruments, like Steve Clarke, may register a DBA name like “Handmade guitars by Steve” instead of his name.
Registering a new DBA varies by state but generally involves:
- Selecting a unique business name
- Verifying its availability
- Submitting the appropriate paperwork to the government entity, such as the Secretary of State or the county clerk’s office
- Paying a fee
Georgia DBA name registration
Choose your name
Your name must be unique in the state and meet Georgia’s business name requirements.
We have outlined a few words and phrases that you are not allowed to use:
- Business entity suffixes, such as LLC, Incorporated, Corp, etc., unless the business is structured as such.
- Words related to banking, unless approved by the Department of Banking and Finance.
- The words “college” or “university” without approval from the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission.
- Words related to insurance without approval from the Georgia Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner.
- Language that suggests the company is organized for an illegal purpose.
- Obscene language.
Check name availability
- Georgia Corporations Division has a useful business name search portal. This will allow you to search to see if any other businesses are using your proposed name.
- As this is statewide, it should cover every business in Georgia. However, we recommend double-checking with the county where you will file your DBA.
Once you have confirmed your name is unique, we recommend seeing if you can buy the domain. Having a business website is an excellent marketing tool, and buying the domain will stop others from being able to do so.
Register your name
- Names are registered with the county where you conduct business.
- Obtain the application form from the Clerk of Superior Court office in your business’s county.
- Although the state has established rules for filing a DBA name, each Superior Court may have its form, which can differ slightly between counties.
- Use the Georgia Superior Court website to find out where you need to register.
- Identifying the court where your business is situated is crucial to complete the proper trade name application form.
- If you intend to conduct business outside your county, you must register a DBA with the Clerk of the Superior Court in the counties where you plan to operate.
- Generally, the trade name registration forms require the following:
- Desired trade name
- Nature of the business
- Names and addresses of company owners
- Notarized signatures of company owners
In Fulton County
To apply in Fulton County, you will need to fill out a Register a Business to Be Conducted Under a Trade form and file it by mail or in person.
If you are mailing your forms in Fulton county, direct them to:
Office of the Clerk of Superior Court
Attention: Recording Division
136 Pryor St. SW
Atlanta, GA 30303
Pay your filing fees
As applications are on a county-by-county basis, the costs will vary depending on where you file.
If you file in Fulton County, the filing fee is $171. This is about average for the state.
Remember that your forms must be notarised in Georgia, which may incur an extra cost.
You must also advertise your new trade name in a local newspaper, which usually costs a fee.
Publish your DBA
- After submitting your application, Georgia law mandates that you publish your new trade name in the newspaper that publishes legal advertisements by the sheriff.
- You must advertise once a week for two consecutive weeks and include the names of all individuals, firms, or partnerships that will operate under the trade name.
- Keep a copy of the Publisher’s Affidavit to prove the notice was published. The county clerk’s office can provide specific information about your county, and the local newspaper can assist you.
Renew, amend, or withdraw your DBA
- Renewal of trade names is not necessary for Georgia as DBAs do not expire.
- If you intend to modify your trade name, complete a new registration form with the required amendments and pay a fee.
Obtain an EIN
An EIN (employer identification number) is given to companies that have employees by the IRS.
As a DBA does not change the legal setup of your company, if you already have an EIN, you do not need to apply for another.
If you are a sole proprietor with no employees, you can use your Social Security Number as your tax ID.
If you are going to open a business bank account, you need an EIN.
Open a business bank account
When you receive your new name and EIN, you can open a business bank account.
A business bank account brings many benefits. You can separate your personal and business finances, making accepting checks and credit card payments much easier.
Advantages and disadvantages of a DBA
There are many advantages to registering a DBA:
- Brand flexibility: A DBA name can be more versatile than a legal business name. It can be changed if needed, allowing businesses to adapt to product or market changes. A business owner can use multiple DBA names for marketing different products or services.
- Improved financial management: By opening a business bank account under a DBA name, owners can use their business name on transactions, making it easier to separate one’s personal and business finances.
- Better marketing opportunities: A well-chosen name can be more memorable and descriptive than a legal name, making it easier for customers to recognize and remember the brand.
- Cost-effective option: Compared to other business structures, such as incorporating or forming an LLC, registering a DBA is often less expensive and more manageable, making it a cost-effective option for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
There are a few drawbacks to registering a DBA name:
- Limited legal protection: Unlike other business structures like LLCs or corporations, DBAs do not provide personal liability protection. The business owner is then personally responsible for all debts, obligations, and legal issues associated with the business. The business owner’s personal assets could be at risk if the company is sued.
Who needs a DBA?
- Sole proprietors: These individuals own businesses without creating a separate legal entity. A DBA can help them use a different name for marketing their products or services and provide them with more flexibility to adapt to market changes.
- Partnerships: Joint ventures between two or more individuals who want to operate under a different name than their names.
- Corporations: Business entities that want to use a name different from their legal name or conduct business activities under multiple names. For instance, a corporation with a subsidiary that sells software named “Tech Solutions LLC” but wants to sell hardware can file a DBA for “Tech Hardware” to distinguish the two business activities.
- Limited liability companies (LLCs): These flexible business structures allow owners to limit personal liability and protect their assets. LLCs can also register a DBA to conduct business under a different name or brand.
Why or why wouldn’t you need a DBA?
You would need a DBA if:
- 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 or entering new markets without changing your legal name.
When a DBA may not be necessary:
- Operating under the legal or personal name: A DBA may not be necessary if you operate under your or your company’s legal name.
How long does it take to process my DBA?
Applications can take several weeks to be processed. Processing times vary by county.
Do I have to file with the state as well as the county?
You only file with your county; they will refer your registration to the state.
Can I use my Georgia DBA name in other states?
No, a Georgia DBA registration only allows you to use the fictitious name in Georgia. If you want to use the name in other states, you must register the name in each state where you plan to conduct business.
Do I need to update my DBA registration in Georgia if there are changes to my business information?
Yes, you need to update your DBA registration in Georgia if there are changes to your business information, such as a change of address or ownership. You can do this by filing a change of information form with the Georgia Secretary of State.
Can I register multiple DBAs for the same business in Georgia?
Yes, you can register multiple DBAs for the same business in Georgia as long as each name is unique and you file a separate Fictitious Name Registration for each name.
Do I need a separate DBA registration for each location where I conduct business in Georgia?
No, you do not need a separate DBA registration for each location where you conduct business in Georgia. However, you must include all business locations on your initial registration form and ensure that the name you register is appropriate for all your business locations.
Will registering a DBA protect my business name in Georgia?
No, registering a DBA does not provide trademark protection. You should consider registering a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to protect your business name.
Find out how to register a DBA in your state
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