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

Last updated: March 12th, 2024
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Starting a new business in Iowa for the first time involves making numerous crucial decisions. It can be a daunting task with several legal terms and acronyms to learn. This article will emphasize the importance of a DBA (Doing Business As) in Iowa, its meaning, the circumstances under which your business requires one, and the process to obtain a DBA in the state.

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What is a DBA?

The abbreviation DBA means “doing business as” and refers to a company or individual that operates under a made-up business name. They are also referred to as “fictitious business names,” “assumed names,” and “trade names.” 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 own name.

Registering a new DBA varies by state but generally involves: 

  1. Selecting a unique business name
  2. Verifying its availability
  3. Submitting the appropriate paperwork to the government entity, such as the Secretary of State or the county clerk’s office 
  4. Paying a fee

Iowa DBA name registration

The steps to DBA filing in Iowa are different depending on what type of business entity you are.

Choose your name

First, you need to think of the name of your business. It is important to be aware of the Iowa naming regulations. When selecting an assumed name in Iowa, avoid the use of:

  • Terms that might cause confusion between your business and a government agency (e.g., FBI, Treasury, State Department, etc.).
  • Restricted words (e.g., Bank, Attorney, University) that may necessitate additional documentation and a licensed individual to be affiliated with your company.
  • You need to be aware of additional naming rules for corporations and LLCs.
  • Names in Iowa do not have to be unique, but there are many benefits to choosing a name that isn’t in use.

Check name availability

All business entities can complete name searches in the same way.

  1. Visit the Iowa Secretary of State’s website.
  2. Navigate to the “Business entities” tab under the menu “Search Database.”
  3. The Business Entities Search page will allow you to search for assumed names by name and number.
  4. Once you have checked to see if your name is in use, you can register your DBA.

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

Sole proprietors and general partnerships in Iowa must file their DBA with the County Recorder of the county where their business is situated. Also, real estate investment firms and estates must file with the county.

The Iowa Department of State is responsible for receiving the Certificate of Assumed Name filed by incorporated businesses. The following business types are considered incorporated:

  • For-profit Corporations
  • Non-profit Corporations
  • Limited Partnerships
  • Limited Liability Partnerships
  • Limited Liability Companies
  • All Foreign Filing Entities

For sole proprietors and general partnerships

If you’re a sole proprietor or a partnership, you must submit a trade name application to the county recorder’s office where you conduct your business. You must file your trade name application in all the counties where you operate.

You can locate the comprehensive list of county recorders by visiting the Iowa State Association of Counties website.

The process is similar across all counties, but there may be slightly different.

We will walk through a step-by-step in Polk County.

  1. To ensure that you have selected a unique name, enquire with your local county records to see if the proposed name of your business is available.
  2. Fill in the DBA registration form.
  3. File the trade name form by mail or in person at:
    • Polk County Administration Building, 111 Court Avenue Ste 250, Des Moines, IA 50309-2251
  4. Pay the filing fees.

For formal business entities

Incorporated business file their DBA registration forms at the state level with the Iowa Secretary of State.

  1. An incorporated business can choose between filing online using the Iowa fast-track DBA filing system or filling in the Fictitious Name Resolution Form.
  2. If you are filing using the Name Resolution Form, you have to send the completed form to the following:
    • Secretary of State Business Services Division, Lucas Building, 1st Floor Des Moines, Iowa 50319

Pay your filing fees

For sole proprietors and general partnerships

Registration costs vary by county. In Polk County, the cost is $7 for the first page and $5 for every additional page.

You will have to enquire with your county recorder to find out the filing fees in your county.

For formal business entities

The filing fee is $5. You can pay using a credit card or make checks out to the “Secretary of State.”

Iowa does offer expedited services. A two-business-day turnaround is an additional $50; a five-business-day turnaround is $15.

Renew, amend, or withdraw your DBA

Once registered, the DBA name remains valid indefinitely.

If any changes or corrections need to be made to the registration, simply file the updated form and pay a $5 fee.

There is no need to cancel a DBA name once registered.

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.

A sole proprietor with no employees does not need to file for an EIN, as they can use their 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:

  • Adaptability: An assumed name can be altered more quickly 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.
  • 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 complex, 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 protection. Business owners will be personally liable for all debts, obligations, and legal issues.
  • Increased administrative burden: To use a DBA name, businesses must follow legal procedures and regulations, which can be time-consuming and add to the administrative load.

Who needs 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.
  • 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.

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 own or your company’s name.
  • You want a trading name that is easier to market, remember, or describe your products or services.
  • You are a sole proprietorship, 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 name.


How long does it take to register a DBA?

It depends on how you file your application. If you file online using Fast Track Filing, you can register your DBA within one business day. If you file by mail, processing may take up to two weeks.

Can I reserve a name for my business?

To reserve a name, fill out an Application for Reservation of Name and submit it to the Secretary of State. If the requested name is available, it will be reserved for 120 days. Once this period expires, extending the reservation for another 120 days is possible.

Do I need to publish my DBA?

No, Iowa does not require you to publish your DBA in any local newspaper.

Can I use my DBA name for banking purposes? 

You can use your DBA name for banking purposes if you have proof of registration from the Secretary of State or the County Recorder.

Do I need a business license to register a DBA in Iowa? 

There is no general state business license requirement in Iowa, but you may need to obtain licenses and permits from the city where you will operate. Contact the City Clerk’s Office, Chamber of Commerce, or Economic Development Center for more information.

Find out how to register a DBA in your state

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