How to Register a DBA in Missouri (Step-by-Step Guide)
Starting a new business for the first time involves making many key decisions. It can be overwhelming for small business owners with many acronyms and legal terms to get to grips with. This article will focus on a DBA, what a DBA means, a step-by-step guide to applying for one in Missouri, the advantages of a DBA, and who would need one.
What is a DBA?
The DBA acronym, meaning “doing business as,” refers to a company or individual conducting business operations under a fictitious name. It can be viable if a business wants to use a more marketable trade name than its official title. A DBA allows a business to 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 name.
Sole proprietors, general partnerships, and corporations often choose to register for a DBA if they want to use a different name that better represents their products or services or if they want to use a more creative and catchy name.
The process for registering a DBA varies by state. Generally, the process involves
- Selecting a unique business name
- Verifying its availability
- Filing the appropriate forms with the relevant government agency, such as the Secretary of State or county clerk’s office.
- Paying a filing fee associated with the registration process.
Missouri DBA name registration
Choose your name
The first step to registering your DBA is to choose a name. Business names in Missouri do not need to be unique, but there are many benefits to having a unique name. There are some restrictions on what you can use in your name:
- Unless this is your business type, you cannot use any business entity suffix, such as Corp, LLC, etc.
- Many financial terms, such as bank, credit union, etc., are restricted and can only be used with the requisite license.
Once you have chosen a name that meets these rules, you can search for your name.
Check name availability
Names don’t need to be unique in Missouri, but there are countless benefits to having a unique name.
You can search the Missouri online business filing page to see if your proposed name is in use. You can also search by active businesses, as your proposed name may have been used in years gone by.
After selecting a name for your business, purchasing the corresponding web domain is a good idea, even if you don’t plan on launching a website immediately. This will prevent others from using the same domain name. Having a website can be an excellent way to market your business.
Keep in mind that business names do not necessarily need to be unique. You might consider registering your name as a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to protect it. By doing so, you will have exclusive rights to use the name for your business.
Register your name
Your fictitious name can be filed online or by mail.
The form is the same as the form to amend or renew, so you must tick the “New Registration” box.
The form will ask for basic information such as:
- Business name and address
- Owners name and address
- Charter number
If you choose to hand your forms in person or by mail, the address is:
600 W. Main St., Rm. 322
Jefferson City, MO 65102
Pay your filing fees
The DBA filing fees are $7.
You can pay by either check or money order if you mail in your application.
If you complete your application online, you can pay by credit card.
Renew, amend, or withdraw your DBA
- Your fictitious business name will expire five years after its registration date. You can renew it using the same form that you used to register the name, and you can also renew it online. Renewing costs $7.
- If you need to make changes to your DBA, for example, if you move locations or change ownership, you must amend the DBA. This can be done using the same form you used to register the name. Any changes you make will cost $7.
- If you want to withdraw your DBA, you can do this online at the Missouri business online portal or by filling in a withdrawal form.
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 as their tax id.
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.
Advantages and disadvantages of a DBA
There are many advantages to registering a DBA:
- Brand flexibility: A DBA name can be more versatile than a legal business name. It can be changed if needed, allowing businesses to adapt to product or market changes. A business owner can use multiple DBA names to market different products or services, which can help expand their reach and target new customers.
- Improved financial management: By opening a business bank account under a DBA name, business owners can use their business name on bank transactions, making it easier to keep one’s personal and business finances separate.
- Better marketing opportunities: A well-chosen name can be more memorable and descriptive than a legal name, making it easier for customers to recognize and remember the brand.
- Cost-effective option: Compared to other business structures, such as incorporating or forming an LLC, registering a DBA is often less expensive and more manageable, making it a cost-effective option for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
There are a few drawbacks to registering a DBA name:
- Limited legal protection: Unlike other business structures like Limited Liability companies or corporations, DBAs do not provide personal liability protection. The business owner is then personally responsible for all debts, obligations, and legal issues associated with the business. The business owner’s assets could be at risk if the company is sued.
- 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 independently without creating a separate legal entity can benefit from a DBA. It allows them to use a different name for marketing their products or services and adapt to market changes more easily.
- Partnerships: Joint ventures between two or more individuals who want to operate under a different name than the partners’ names can use a DBA to represent their partnership and increase brand recognition.
- Corporations: A business specializing in web design and development may file a DBA such as “Web Design Solutions” to differentiate its services from other web design businesses. Additionally, if a company has a subsidiary that offers recruitment services under the name “Casting Solutions LLC” but they also want to provide printing services, it can form a DBA named “Printing Services” to distinguish the two activities.
- Limited liability companies (LLCs): LLCs can file a DBA to conduct business under a different name or brand while enjoying the benefits of a flexible business structure that limits personal liability and protects 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 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 name or your company’s name.
Is there an option for an expedited service?
There is currently no option for expedited services.
Do I need to advertise my new name in a local newspaper?
It is not a state requirement to advertise your DBA in Missouri. However, there are many benefits to letting a community know of your business.
Does my DBA mean I have a business license?
A DBA does not change the legal structure of your company. It does not give you a business license. It allows you to operate under a different name. If you need a business license, you will need to apply for that independently.
Do I need to file with my county clerk as well?
There is no need to file with the county clerk as well. Filing is done at the state level in Missouri.
How long does it take to process my new DBA?
It takes between 5 and 10 business days to process a Missouri DBA.
Is there a difference between a fictitious name, an assumed name, and a DBA?
No, they are all the same thing. Different states refer to them by different names. In Missouri, it is known as a fictitious name.
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