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

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by Team
Last updated: June 13th, 2024
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If you’re starting a new business in Illinois, it’s important to understand the various legal requirements and terminology. One essential factor to consider is obtaining a DBA (Doing Business As) if you plan to operate under a name that differs from your legal business name. This article summarizes what a DBA entails, its significance, and the steps to obtain one in Illinois, making the process more manageable for new business owners.

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What is a DBA?

The DBA acronym refers to a company or individual conducting business operations under a fictitious business name. It can be viable if a business wants to use a more marketable trade name than its official title.

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 name.

The process for registering 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 filing fee associated with the registration process.

Illinois DBA name registration

Choose your name

It’s worth noting that in Illinois, the term used for DBA names is specifically “assumed names.”

Illinois law states that assumed business names must comply with specific naming requirements, including:

  • Not containing words that could confuse your business with a government agency (Treasury, State Department, etc.)
  • It is important to obtain approval from the Secretary of Financial and Professional Regulation before using words like trust, trustee, or fiduciary that may imply or indicate that your company is operating as a corporate fiduciary.
  • Not indicating the corporation is in the banking or insurance business without authorization from the state Commissioner of Banks and Real Estate.
  • Not using any word or phrase restricted by any other state statute.

State officials have the discretion to turn away a name for other reasons that aren’t in the guidelines.

Review the state statute that covers professional corporation naming guidelines to learn more about Illinois naming guidelines.

Check name availability

As a general partnership or sole proprietorship

Before registering, verifying that the chosen name is not already in use within the state is crucial. You can consult the Illinois Secretary of State name check database. For sole proprietors, county-specific regulations apply.

As a corporation or LLC

The Illinois requirements vary slightly between sole proprietors and LLCs and corporations. These requirements apply to the following entities:

  • For-profit and non-profit corporations
  • Limited liability partnerships
  • Limited liability companies
  • All foreign filing entities

These must complete a name search with this database to ensure they are unique.

Register your name

Sole proprietorships and general partnerships must file with their county clerk’s office. In contrast, LLCs and corporations file with the Illinois secretary of state.

As a general partnership or sole proprietorship

To proceed, you must file a Certificate of Assumed Name with the county clerk where you plan to conduct your business.

Each Illinois county has unique requirements for filing the necessary documents with the county clerk’s office. Many counties provide online filing options.

In Cook County

For instance, you must search the assumed name database in Cook County to confirm your name is not in use.

You must complete the Assumed Business Name Application and present it to the Cook County Clerk through online, mail, or in-person submission.

Filing address:

Cook County Clerk
Vital Statistics PO Box 641070
Chicago IL, 60664-1070
ATTN: Assumed Name Unit

As a corporation or LLC

In Illinois, LLCs and corporations must establish a DBA with the Illinois Secretary of State, but the forms and regulations vary depending on the type of business entity.

If you are filing by mail, send the completed forms to the following address:

LLC filing address:

Department of Business Services
Limited Liability Division
501 S. Second St., Rm. 351
Springfield, IL 62756

Corporation filing address:

Secretary of State
Department of Business Services
501 S. Second St., Rm. 350
Springfield, IL 62756

Pay your filing fees

As a general partnership or sole proprietorship

The fees for sole proprietors are $50 and are non-refundable.

In addition to these fees, some counties ask for your forms to be notarized. Notarization also incurs extra costs, which can vary depending on the notary public you choose.

As a corporation or LLC

Illinois’s state fees for LLCs, corporations, and non-profits are subject to yearly variations. The fees are determined based on the year-end digits of the registration period, as follows:

  • $150 for each year or part thereof ending in 0 or 5
  • $120 for each year or part thereof ending in 1 or 6
  • $90 for each year or part thereof ending in 2 or 7
  • $60 for each year or part thereof ending in 3 or 8
  • $30 for each year or part thereof ending in 4 or 9

Advertise your DBA

As a general partnership or sole proprietorship

Once you file a county DBA application, you must advertise it in a local newspaper within 15 days.

  1. This advertisement must be published once a week for three consecutive weeks.
  2. After this period, the newspaper will provide you with proof of publication.
  3. You must submit this certificate and an original advertisement clipping within 50 days of your initial application.

Corporations and LLCs do not need to advertise their assumed name in local newspapers.

Renew, amend, or withdraw your DBA

As a general partnership or sole proprietorship

  • DBAs do not expire for general partnerships or sole proprietors.
  • You must contact the County Clerk’s office to make changes or withdraw your assumed name.

As a corporation or LLC

  • The renewal must be done before the first day of the anniversary month of filing, which occurs every five years in a year ending in “0” or “5”.
  • Late renewals incur a penalty of $100; after 60 days, the right to use the assumed business name is lost.
  • To change or cancel an assumed name for LLCs and corporations, a fee of $25 and $5, respectively, is charged.

Obtain an EIN

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) assigns a unique nine-digit identification number called an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to identify business entities for tax purposes.

A DBA does not create a separate legal entity.

If you are a sole proprietor without employees, you are able to use your Social Security number instead of obtaining an EIN as your tax ID.

However, an EIN must be obtained if a DBA hires employees or wants to establish a separate business bank account.

Open a business bank account

Once you have obtained your DBA and EIN, opening a dedicated business bank account is highly recommended.

Doing so will enable you to separate your personal assets from your business expenses and make accepting payments via checks and credit cards easier.

Useful links

Advantages and disadvantages of a DBA

There are many advantages to registering a DBA:

  • Adaptability: An assumed name can be altered more easily than a legal business name. This allows business owners to be more adaptable to changes in the industry. With multiple DBA names, businesses can access more markets, attract customers, and increase brand recognition.
  • 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. It also makes it easier to receive cheques and card payments.
  • Enhanced marketing opportunities: A well-crafted name can be more memorable, distinctive, and eye-catching than a legal business name. A unique name can make a strong customer impression, encourage brand recognition, and increase sales.
  • Cost-effective solution: Compared to more complicated business structures, like LLCs, name registrations are generally less costly and complicated, making them a viable solution for small businesses or entrepreneurs.

While DBAs offer a range of advantages, there are a few drawbacks to consider, including:

  • Limited Legal Protection: Unlike LLCs and corporations, DBAs do not provide the same personal liability or legal protection. Business owners will be personally liable for all debts, obligations, and legal issues.

Who needs a DBA?

  • Sole proprietorships: Individuals who own and operate their business without creating a separate legal entity.
  • 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.

Why or why wouldn’t you need a DBA?

You would need a DBA if:

  • You intend to operate your business under a name other than your or your company’s legal name.
  • You want a trading name that is easier to market, remember, or describe your products or services.
  • You are a sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, or LLC and want to conduct business under multiple names.
  • You want to test a new product or market without changing your legal name.

You may not need a DBA if:

  • You are operating your business under your personal or your company’s name.
  • You are a single-owner LLC that conducts business under your name or your LLCs.


Is a DBA mandated in Illinois?

Per Illinois state law, all types of businesses, including sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs, corporations, franchises, and non-profits, are mandated to file a DBA.

What happens if I don’t register for a DBA?

You may face legal and financial consequences if you don’t register a DBA and are doing business under any name other than your legal name.

How long does it take to get a DBA in Illinois?

The time it takes to obtain a DBA in Illinois may vary depending on the county or city where the business is located.

Generally, the processing time for a DBA registration may take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. It’s best to consult with the specific county or city clerk’s office where you plan to register your DBA for more accurate information on processing times.

Can I file my DBA online in Illinois?

The ability to file a DBA online in Illinois depends on the county or city in which your business is located.

Some counties allow businesses to file a DBA registration online, while others require in-person filings. In some cases, you may also be able to file a DBA registration through the Illinois Secretary of State’s website.

Can I get a DBA in Illinois if I am under 18?

Registering a DBA requires no specific age requirements, but you must be authorized to do business.

Will a DBA provide me with liability protection?

No, a DBA does not provide liability protection to the business owner.

Do I need to register my DBA with the IRS?

No, you do not need to register your DBA with the IRS. However, you may need to update your tax information with the IRS if you use a DBA.

Find out how to register a DBA in your state

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