How to Register a DBA in Hawaii (Step-by-Step Guide)

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by Team
Last updated: June 13th, 2024
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When starting a business in Hawaii, several decisions must be made. The process can be intimidating because of the numerous legal terms and acronyms to get to know. This article will discuss the importance of a DBA (Doing Business As) in Hawaii, what a DBA means, when or why you would need one, and the process of securing it.

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What is a DBA?

The DBA acronym, meaning “doing business as,” refers to a company or individual conducting business operations under a fictitious name. They are often called assumed names, trade names, or fictitious business names.

A DBA means a business can use a different name while still being legally accountable for the business under its legal name.

For instance, if John Smith operates a sole proprietorship that sells handmade candles, he can register a DBA name, such as “The Candle Co. by John,” to promote his products and services instead of using his own name.

The process for registering a new DBA varies by state. Generally, the process involves

  1. Selecting a unique business name
  2. Verifying its availability
  3. Filing the appropriate forms with the relevant government agency, such as the Secretary of State or county clerk’s office
  4. Paying a DBA filing fee

Hawaii DBA name registration

In Hawaii, businesses are not legally required to file a DBA to operate under a name different from their legal name. 

Registering a DBA serves as notice to other business owners in the state that the name is already in use. There is no legal requirement to file a DBA. It is purely voluntary.

Choose your name

In Hawaii, DBA names are often referred to as trade names. When selecting the name of your business in Hawaii, there are certain terms you should avoid including without proper authorization or certification.

  • Words that could potentially be confused with a government agency (e.g., FBI, Treasury, State Department)
  • Terms related to financial institutions (e.g., bank, banker, banking, etc.) without approval from the State Commissioner of Financial Institutions
  • Terms requiring state approval or certification before being included in a trade name, including:
    • Certified public accountant
    • Cooperative
    • Escrow
    • Escrow depository

For a full list of naming requirements, visit the Hawaii Administrative Rules.

Check name availability

Hawaii recommends visiting the Hawaii Business Express website and searching for the desired DBA name to determine if it is already used. 

It is recommended to search local phone directories and check with the Department of Taxation to confirm if the name has been previously used.

Names in Hawaii do not have to be unique, but there are many benefits to filing a unique name.

Once you have chosen your name and checked its availability, we recommend buying the web domain. Even if you aren’t ready to launch your business website, buying the domain will stop others from being able to use it.

Register your name

The application can be submitted online through the Hawaii Business Express website or by completing a paper form.

The application will require you to provide your new DBA name and details about your business, including:

  • Section 3: The applicant’s status, which may be a corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, LLC, LLP, or other.
  • Section 6: Whether the trade name was created by the applicant or assigned to them.
  • Section 7: The type of business for which the trade name will be used.

If you are filing by mail, send your completed forms to:

Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
Business Registration Division
P.O. Box 40
Honolulu, Hawaii 96810

You can also email your completed forms and credit card information to [email protected].

Pay your filing fees

The filing fee in Hawaii is $50, and payment can be made in cash or by credit card.

If you are in a hurry, there is an expedited service for an additional $20.

Renew, amend, or withdraw your DBA

  • After five years, a DBA in Hawaii will expire and require renewal.
  • To renew, you must complete a new Application for Registration of Trade Name and pay the $50 filing fee.
  • To withdraw your name, you can cancel online.

Obtain an EIN

An EIN (employer identification number) is issued by the IRS to all companies that have employees. It is used for tax purposes.

It is important to remember that a DBA doesn’t change your legal status, so if you had an EIN before, there is no need to apply for a new one, and you can continue using yours.

If you are a sole proprietor with no employees, you do not need to file for an EIN, as you can use your social security number.

However, you should apply for an EIN if you hire employees or plan to open a business bank account. This can be done online or in person and is an easy process.

Open a business bank account

Once you have registered your name and received your EIN, you can open a business bank account.

A bank account makes it easier to separate your personal assets and finances related to your business. It also makes it easier to accept check and credit card payments.

Useful links

Advantages and disadvantages of a DBA

There are many advantages to registering a DBA:

  • 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 names to target different products and markets, increasing the scope and customer base.
  • Clear financial separation: Filing for a DBA allows business owners to establish a business bank account under the company name instead of a personal account. This separation allows for more transparent financial records, prevents confusion, and protects personal assets.
  • 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.
  • Cost-effective: DBA registration is usually less expensive than forming limited liability companies (LLCs). It is a more affordable option for small business owners 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 legal protection or personal liability protection, meaning that the business owner is personally responsible for all debts, obligations, and lawsuits related to the business. It exposes the owner to the risk of personal bankruptcy, as the owner is solely responsible.
  • Legal and administrative burden: Using a DBA name requires registering the name with the relevant government agency, which can be time-consuming. The legal and administrative burden increases with multiple DBAs, requiring the owner to maintain and update legal documents periodically.

Who needs a DBA?

  • Sole proprietorships: Individuals who own and operate their business without creating a separate legal entity.
  • General partnerships: Joint ventures between two or more individuals who want to operate under a different name than the partners’ names.
  • Corporations and LLCs: Business entities that want to use a name different from their legal name or diversify business under multiple names. LLCs can also file a DBA to conduct business under a different name or brand.

Why or why wouldn’t you need a DBA?

A DBA would be needed if:

  • You wish to operate your business under a name different from your personal or your company’s name.
  • You want to use a more memorable, descriptive, or marketable name for your products or services.
  • Your business is a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or LLC that plans to conduct business under multiple names.
  • You want to test new products or markets without altering your legal name.

A DBA may not be necessary if:

  • You operate your business under your personal or your company’s legal name.
  • You are a single-owner LLC that does not need to do business under a name different from your personal name or the name of your LLC.


How can I change my DBA name? 

You can either submit a paper form or complete the process online to change your trade name. There is a fee of $10 for this service.

Can a Hawaii DBA get an EIN?

DBAs do not need a separate employer identification number (EIN) as they do not constitute a distinct business entity. 

Is my DBA protected in Hawaii?

Some laws stop DBAs from being too similar, but your registered name is not protected.

How long does it take to process a DBA in Hawaii?

The current processing time is between 7-10 days. 

Do I need to publish my DBA in a local newspaper in Hawaii?

No, you do not need to advertise your DBA in Hawaii.

Is a DBA the same as a business license in Hawaii?

No, a DBA is different from a business license in Hawaii. A DBA is a business name registration, while a business license is a permit to operate a business in Hawaii. You may need to obtain a business license and register your DBA.

Find out how to register a DBA in your state

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