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

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by Team
Last updated: June 13th, 2024
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When starting a business in Kentucky, there are many important decisions and things to learn. The process can be intimidating, with lots of legal jargon and acronyms thrown at you. This article will highlight the importance of a DBA in Kentucky. We will explain what a DBA means, if your business needs one, and the steps required to get one in Kentucky.

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What is a DBA?

The abbreviation DBA (doing business as) refers to a company or an individual that operates under a made-up business name.

A company can choose a more appealing trade name than its official title by opting for a DBA. This method allows a business to conduct its operations under a different name while remaining legally responsible for its actions under its legal name.

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.

The process generally involves:

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

Kentucky DBA name registration

Choose your name

A “doing business as” name in Kentucky is often called an “assumed name.” These names need to be unique.

Please take a look at Kentucky’s guidelines for naming your business. When selecting an assumed name, it’s important to avoid the following:

  • Terms that may confuse your business and a government agency (e.g., FBI, Treasury, State Department).
  • The term “cooperative” without obtaining proper approval.
  • Restricted terms such as “Bank,” “Attorney,” or “University” may necessitate additional documentation and the involvement of a licensed individual, such as a doctor, in your business.

Read the state statute that covers naming guidelines for more details.

Check name availability

Head to the Kentucky Secretary of State’s website to check if your name is taken or is too similar to another Kentucky business.

Once you have confirmed that your name isn’t already in use and meets the naming requirements, we suggest buying the web domain of your new name. Even if you are not ready to launch your website, it prevents others from buying the domain and will be a useful marketing tool in the future.

Register your name

The steps to registering your assumed name certificate in Kentucky vary depending on your type of business.

Sole proprietors must file a Certificate to Do Business Under an Assumed Name with your county clerk. You must file in any county where your business conducts or transacts business.

If your business is a more formal business entity, such as an LLC, corporation, or partnership, you must file your DBA with the Kentucky Secretary of State.

Sole proprietors

As you must file with your county clerk, the registration process may vary slightly from county to county. You can find contact information on the Kentucky County Clerk’s association.

Many counties do not provide a bespoke certificate of assumed name form, but all registrations must meet the criteria outlined by the Kentucky state statute. These criteria are:

  • The form must include the new name
  • The form must include the name and address of the individual assuming the name.
  • The form must be filed in the county where the business will operate.

There is a generic form available.

You can return the form by mail or in person to your county’s County Clerk’s office.

LLCs, corporations, and partnerships

At the moment, there is no way to file online, and all filings must be sent by mail or delivered in person.

  1. Download and print the “Certificate of Assumed Name (Domestic or Foreign Business Entity)” form.
  2. Provide the assumed name you wish to use.
  3. State the full legal name of your business entity and its type. Check with your local government to see if other filings are required at the county level.
  4. Specify the date when the assumed name will take effect.
  5. Confirm the state and county where your business is being organized.
  6. Provide the business mailing address.
  7. Mail the form and filing fee to the Division of Business Filings at the Office of the Secretary of State.

Mailing address:

Office of the Secretary of State
Division of Business Filings
P.O. Box 718
Frankfort, KY 40602

Alternatively, you can submit the form in person at: 

Office of the Secretary of State
Division of Business Filings
Room 154, Capitol Building
700 Capital Avenue
Frankfort, KY 40601

The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Pay your filing fees

Sole proprietors

The county clerk sets the fees. Generally, the fee ranges from $10 to $50. 

For instance, in Jefferson County, the fee is $20, while in Fayette County, the fee is $28.

It is recommended to contact the county clerk’s office in your county to confirm the exact fee and any other requirements for registering a DBA.

LLCs, corporations, and partnerships

The DBA filing fee for registering in Kentucky is $20.

The fee should be paid through checks payable to the “Kentucky State Treasurer.”

Renew, amend, or withdraw your DBA

Sole proprietors

  • To keep your DBA current, it is necessary to renew your Certificate of Assumed Name every five years. Renewal entails following the same process as the initial registration.
  • If you wish to modify your DBA, you must complete a new registration form.
  • If you withdraw your assumed name, you can submit a form comparable to the original registration document. This form must specify the business’s assumed name, actual name, location, and initial filing date.

LLCs, corporations, and partnerships

  • To ensure that your DBA remains valid, it is necessary to renew your Certificate of Assumed Name every five years. This can be accomplished by mailing the “Certificate of Renewal of Assumed Name” form. The fee for a renewal is $20.
  • To modify your assumed name, you must file a new registration. If you wish to alter your business address or owner name, the Amended Certificate of Assumed Name form must be completed. The filing fee is $20.
  • If you want to cancel your assumed name, fill in the “Certificate of Withdrawal of Assumed Name” form. This form carries a fee of $20.

Obtain an EIN

Business owners must obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS to identify their business entity for tax purposes.

  • It is important to note that a DBA does not create a separate legal entity.
  • If the business is a sole proprietorship without employees, the owner can use their Social Security number as their tax id instead of obtaining an EIN.
  • However, an EIN must be obtained if the DBA hires employees or wants to establish a separate business bank account.

Open a business bank account

After obtaining your new DBA and EIN, you should open a dedicated business bank account.

Doing so offers numerous advantages, such as separating personal assets from business expenses and streamlining transactions such as check and credit card payments.

Useful links

Advantages and disadvantages of a DBA

There are many advantages to registering a DBA: 

  • Flexibility: A DBA name can be changed or updated more easily than a legal business name, giving business owners more flexibility to adapt to changes in their products, services, or market conditions. Business owners can also use multiple DBA names to target different markets or products.
  • Separation of personal and business finances: A business bank account can be opened once you have a DBA, which allows you to use your startup’s name on bank transactions. This enables you to receive and issue checks under your company name.
  • Increased marketing opportunities: A well-chosen DBA name can be more descriptive and memorable than a legal name. This assumed name can help to increase brand recognition and improve marketing and advertising opportunities.
  • Cost-effective alternative: Compared to other business structures, such as Limited Liability Companies (LLCs), registering a DBA is typically less expensive and less complex, making it a cost-effective alternative for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

 There are a few disadvantages to registering a DBA:

  • Limited Liability Protection: Unlike other business structures, such as LLCs, 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?

  • Sole proprietors: These individuals own businesses alone 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.
  • General 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 other than 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 brand if they want to diversify.

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 yours or your company’s.
  • 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 legal name.
  • You are a single-owner LLC that does not need to perform business using a name other than your name or the name of your LLC.


What other names are used for a DBA? 

A DBA is often called an assumed name, trade name, or fictitious business name. 

In Kentucky, it is referred to as an assumed name.

Do I need to advertise my DBA in Kentucky? 

Advertising your DBA in a local newspaper is not mandatory, but there are benefits to letting the local community know about your new business name.

How long will it take to receive my DBA?

It takes 3-7 business days to process a DBA. The state does not offer expedited services. Sole proprietors can ask their county clerk how long it takes for processing.

Can I file online?

No, at the moment, you have to file by mail or in person. 

What’s the difference between a DBA and a business license? 

A DBA is a legal term used to register a business name. In contrast, a business license is a permit the government requires to operate a business in a specific location.

What’s the difference between a DBA and a trademark?

A DBA is a name used to conduct business under a different name than the owner’s or entity’s legal name. At the same time, a trademark is a symbol or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of goods or services of one company from another.

Find out how to register a DBA in your state

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