How to Register a DBA in New Jersey (Step-by-Step Guide)
Starting a business in New Jersey can be a daunting task. There are countless legal terms to learn and plenty of acronyms to become familiar with. New business owners often feel overwhelmed. This article will focus on a DBA. We will look at what DBA means, if and when you might need one, and a step-by-step guide to applying for one in New Jersey.
What is a DBA?
The term DBA is short for “doing business as” and refers to companies or individuals who operate under a name different from their legal name.
Registering for a DBA is an option for companies that want a more marketable trade name. This allows a business to market itself under a different name while still being responsible under its legal name.
For instance, if Jane Smith owns a sole proprietorship that makes handcrafted pottery, she can register a new DBA name, such as “Handcrafted Pottery by Jane,” to market her products and services instead of using her own name.
Sole proprietors, partnerships, and corporations often register for a DBA if they want to use a fictitious name that better describes their services or products. The process for registering a DBA varies by state.
- Choosing a unique name
- Verifying its availability
- Filing the proper forms with the relevant government agency, such as the Secretary of State or the county clerk’s office
- Paying the associated costs
New Jersey DBA name registration
DBAs are known as trade names or alternate names in New Jersey.
One thing to be wary of is the way you apply for your name depends on what type of business entity you are.
General partnerships, sole proprietors, and informally structured business files with the County Clerk in the county where their business is located. These are known as trade names.
LLCs, corporations, and formally structured business files at the state level. These businesses file with the New Jersey Division of Revenue and Enterprise Services. These are known as alternate names.
Choose your name
The first thing to do is think of a new name. Alternate names in New Jersey need to be unique and follow a specific set of guidelines.
Names must avoid using:
- Words and phrases that could confuse your business with a government agency.
- Financial terms related to banking and insurance unless you have licenses associated with these industries.
- Any business entity suffixes such as inc. or LLC unless that is your business type.
- Sporting terms like “Olympia,” “Olympic committee,” and “little league.”
Check name availability
Once you have confirmed your name meets the guidelines, the next step is to search to see if the name is in use, as all names need to be unique.
How you search for businesses in New Jersey is the same for formal and informal businesses.
Use the Business Name Search feature on the State of New Jerseys Division of Revenue and Enterprise Services.
Once you have confirmed your name is not in use, we recommend buying the web domain of your new name. A website is a great marketing tool for businesses, and even if you are not ready to launch your website, buying the domain prevents others from using it.
Register your name
Sole proprietors and general partnerships
Informal businesses must file their Trade Name Certificates with the county clerk to conduct business under a different name.
These businesses must file in each county where they do business.
Your county contact information is on the Constitutional Officers Association of New Jersey.
Each county has a slightly different way of registering trade names, so we cannot offer a generic step-by-step guide. Filing is relatively similar across all counties, and we will walk you through filing in Middlesex County.
- Download a Certificate of Trade Name form.
- Fill in the form with the following:
- Trade name
- Business address
- Description of business
- Owner’s name and address
- Your form must be mailed or walked in, as online filing is not offered. The filing address is:
Middlesex County Administration Building
75 Bayard Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
The following businesses are considered incorporated in New Jersey:
- For-profit Corporations, Non-Profit Corporations
- Professional Corporations, Professional Associations
- Limited Partnerships, Limited Liability Partnerships
- Limited Liability Companies
- Any Foreign Filing Entities (companies registered outside of New Jersey)
These companies must file with the New Jersey Department of Treasury, Revenue and Enterprise Services Division.
- State-level filings can be registered either online at the New Jerseys Business Charter Amendment Service website, or the registration of alternate name forms can be completed and posted.
- The form will ask for the following:
- Business ID number
- Date of incorporation
- Business to be conducted under the alternate name
- Any previous uses of an alternate name
- If you are filing manually and need to mail or walk in your forms, you need to go to:
NJ Division of Revenue
33 West State Street, 5th Fl.
Trenton, NJ 08608
Pay your filing fees
Sole proprietors and general partnerships
Each county sets filing fees.
In Middlesex county, the fees are:
- $50 if already notarized
- $58 if being notarized in the county office
- $2 per copy
- $12 per certified copy
The fee for formal businesses is $50 for the regular service.
You can expedite your form for $15 for corporations, non-profits, and LPs and $25 for LLCs. The expedited service will process your forms in 8.5 hours.
Renew, amend, or withdraw your DBA
Sole proprietors and general partnerships
Renewal, amendment, and withdrawal of your trade name are handled by each county individually. We recommend contacting your county clerk to determine the specific process for each.
In Middlesex County, to withdraw your trade name, you must file a dissolution of a business certificate. The fee is $25 if the form is notarized or $31 if your form needs to be notarized in the clerk’s office.
- Your New Jersey alternate name is valid for five years. It needs to be renewed six months before its expiry date. This can be done online or by filling out this form.
- To renew, the cost is $25 for corporations and $50 for other business entities.
- Amending your name must be done online or by filling out a new registration of alternate name form.
- You can withdraw your name by completing the Termination of Corporate Alternate Name form.
- The fee for withdrawing is $75.
Obtain an EIN
The IRS issues an EIN (Employer Identification Number) for tax purposes.
It is important to remember that your DBA doesn’t establish a legal entity.
You do not need to apply for an EIN if you are a sole proprietor with no employees. Sole proprietors can use their Social Security Number as a tax ID.
If you intend to hire employees or open a business bank account using your new DBA name, you may need to file for a new EIN.
Obtaining an EIN can be completed online or via mail application.
Open a business bank account
With your EIN, you can open a new business bank account using your new name.
Opening a business bank account makes accepting check and credit card payments easier and helps segregate personal and business finances.
- New Jersey business name search
- New Jersey list of county clerks
- Middlesex County certificate of trade name form
- Middlesex County dissolution of a business certificate
- New Jersey C-150G registration of alternate name form
- New Jersey C-150R renewal of alternative name form
- New Jersey C-150B Certificate of Termination of Corporate Alternate Name
- New Jersey Business Charter Amendment Service website
Advantages and disadvantages of a DBA
There are 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. Business owners can also use multiple names to target different markets or products.
- Segregation 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 business name. It also allows you to separate your personal assets from business costs.
- Increased marketing opportunities: A well-chosen name can be more descriptive and memorable than a legal name.
- 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 business owners 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.
- Increased legal and administrative burden: Using a DBA name requires registering the name with the relevant government agency and following all legal requirements, which can be time-consuming.
Who needs a DBA?
The following groups can benefit from registering a DBA:
- Sole proprietors: Individuals who own businesses 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 legal 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.
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.
Can I reserve a name in New Jersey?
You can reserve a name before filling out the trade name forms. The length of time you can reserve depends on the type of business. There is a fee associated with reserving a name.
Can I file online if I am a general partnership or sole proprietor?
Contact your county clerk to see if you can register online. A list of clerks can be found here: New Jersey list of county clerks.
How long is the processing time?
Processing times depend on what type of business you operate. For formal businesses, the processing time is ten business days unless you opt for the expedited service, which takes 8.5 hours but costs an extra fee.
What is the difference between a trade name and an alternate name?
There is no difference. They are both DBA names. Trade names are what informal businesses file, whereas formal businesses apply for an alternate name.
Do I need to advertise my DBA in a local newspaper?
New Jersey does not mandate advertising your new business name in local newspapers, but there are many benefits to advertising your new name.
Do I need to apply for a business license?
You may need to apply for extra licenses depending on your business type. A DBA does not give you a business license. It merely allows you to conduct business under a different name.
Find out how to register a DBA in your state
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