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

Last updated: March 12th, 2024
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When starting a business in Michigan, many important decisions must be made. On top of this, there are countless acronyms and legal terms to get to grips with. This article will focus on “doing business as “we will look at what a DBA means, who and why you might need one, and a step-by-step guide to applying for a DBA in Michigan.

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What is a DBA?

The abbreviation DBA 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. They are known as “assumed names,” “trade names,” and “fictitious business names.” 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 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. Paying a filing fee.

Michigan DBA name registration

The filing process varies for different types of businesses.

It is important to recognize that sole proprietors and general partnerships are required to file with their County Clerk’s office.

Formal business entities like LLCs, corporations, and LLPs must file at the state level with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA).

Choose your name

The first thing everyone needs to do is think of a name.

Michigan requires that all assumed names are unique and follow certain naming guidelines.

  • Avoid using words confusing your business with a government entity, such as the FBI or State Department.
  • Avoid using words related to the financial sectors. This includes words like “banking,” “deposit,” and “trust.”
  • Countless other words are “Restricted,” and many are “cautioned,” which may need extra requirements before your name is confirmed.
  • The full list can be found on the LARA website or here. 
  • For limited partnerships, an extra set of rules can be found here.
    • If a limited partnership wants to use a name different from its true name, it must file a Certificate of Assumed Name. This certificate must be filed in addition to any other required filings. The assumed name must be unique and distinguishable from other active limited partnerships, corporations, or limited liability companies.

Check name availability

After you have confirmed that your name meets the naming requirements, you need to check that it is unique.

You will need to log on to the LARA name search page. You can search by entity name, individual name, ID number, or filing number.

Once you have confirmed that your name is unique, you can register it.

After confirming your proposed name is available, we recommend checking to see if you can buy the domain name. Buying the domain stops others from being able to buy it, and a business website is now a must as a marketing tool.

Register your name

As a sole proprietorship, co-partnership, or general partnership

  • You must file the certificate of assumed name forms at the county level with the county clerk’s office of the county where your business is located.
  • If your business is across different counties, you must file in every county where you conduct business.
  • You can find the contact of your county clerk here.
  • Filing may differ slightly in each county.
Oakland County
  1. It is recommended to double-check the uniqueness of your business with the county where you do business.
  2. Oakland county has a business name search portal that we recommend using.
  3. Next, complete the Certificate of Persons Conducting Business Under Assumed Name form.
  4. Forms require:
  • Applicant contact information
  • Assumed name
  • Description of business
  • Business address

Forms need to be signed by all involved in front of a public notary.

Incorporated businesses

  • Incorporated business entities file their Certificate of Assumed Name at the state level with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. 
  • These types of business are considered incorporated:
    • For-profit Corporations, Nonprofit Corporations
    • Professional Corporations, Professional Associations
    • Limited Partnerships, Limited Liability Partnerships
    • Limited Liability Companies
    • Any Foreign Filing Entity (out of state)
  • You can file online.
  • If you want to print the DBA form and return it in person or by mail, you can print it from LARA.
  • When you file, you need to include the following:
    • Corporation name
    • Identification number assigned by the bureau
    • Proposed assumed name

If you file by mail, include a check or money order to:

Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs
Corporations, Securities & Commercial Licensing Bureau
Corporations Division
PO Box 30054
Lansing, MI 4890

If you are walking in, you can pay by check, money order, or credit card at:

2407 N Grand River Ave
Lansing, MI 48906

Pay your filing fees

As a sole proprietorship, co-partnership, or general partnership

  • Filing fees may vary by county.
  • In Oakland County, the fee is $10.

Incorporated businesses

  • The cost for corporations and LPs is $10.
  • The filing fee for LLCs is $25.
  • There are additional fees if you want your forms expedited.
    • A 24-hour service costs $50.
    • A same-day service costs $100. The forms need to be submitted by 1 pm.
    • A two-hour service costs $500. The forms need to be submitted by 3 pm.
    • A one-hour service costs $1000. The forms need to be submitted by 4 pm.

Renew, amend, or withdraw your DBA

As a sole proprietorship, co-partnership, or general partnership

Incorporated businesses

  • Your certificate of assumed name expires on December 31, the fifth year following your registration.
  • To make amendments, you must complete the registration form and pay the filing fees again.
  • You must complete a Certificate of Termination of Assumed Name to cancel your name. The cost for corporations and LPs is $10. For LLCs, the fee is $25.

Obtain an EIN

The IRS issues a nine-digit Employer Identification Number (EIN) to identify businesses for tax purposes.

  • It is important to note that a Doing Business As (DBA) name does not create a new legal entity. If the original company already has an EIN, a separate one is unnecessary for DBAs.
  • EINs are not required for all businesses; sole proprietors can use their social security number as their tax ID.
  • An EIN is necessary if a business intends to hire employees or open a bank account.

The IRS provides a free online application process for obtaining an EIN, which is typically straightforward and takes less than an hour to complete.

Open a business bank account

You can establish a business bank account under your new name by obtaining a Michigan assumed name and EIN.

This dedicated account will simplify the management of your financial records and tax filings. Additionally, having a separate bank account streamlines your business’s acceptance of checks and credit card payments.

Useful links

Advantages and disadvantages of a DBA

There are many advantages to 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. It also makes it easier to receive cheques and card payments.
  • 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 other business structures, such as 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 proprietors: Individuals who run a business alone don’t create a separate legal entity. A DBA allows them to use a different name for marketing their products or services and gives them more flexibility to adapt to changes in the market.
  • Partnerships: Joint ventures between two or more individuals who want to operate under a different name than the partners’ names. Partners can file a DBA to represent their partnership and increase brand recognition.
  • Corporations: Businesses that want to use a name different from their name or diversify their business activities under multiple names. For example, suppose a corporation has a subsidiary that sells software named “Tech Solutions LLC,” but it also wants to sell hardware. In that case, it can file a DBA for “Tech Hardware” to create a distinction 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. However, LLCs can also file 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 you plan to run your business using a name that isn’t your own or your company’s legal name.
  • If you want to create a more marketable, memorable, or descriptive name for your products or services.
  • If you are a sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, or LLC and want to conduct business under different names.
  • If you want to test new products or markets without changing your legal name.

You may not need a DBA if:

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


Does a sole proprietorship or partnership have to register in every county where it conducts business? 

Yes, you need to register with each county you do business in.

What if someone else has my name in a different county? 

If you discover another individual also uses the same name, you should research to determine how long they have used it. If they have been operating under that name for a significant period, it may be advisable to modify your assumed name to avoid confusing the public.

Is it necessary to register a DBA if I have already registered my business with the state of Michigan?

It depends on the type of business entity you have registered. You must file a separate DBA registration if you have registered as a sole proprietorship, co-partnership, or general partnership. Suppose you have registered as an LLC, corporation, LLP, or other formal business entity. In that case, you can register your DBA as part of your initial registration or file a separate registration for a DBA.

How long does it take to process a DBA? 

It takes between 1-2 weeks to register your DBA.

Does my DBA application need to be notarized? 

Yes, it does, but notarization can take place when you file at the county clerk’s office. 

Find out how to register a DBA in your state

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