How to Register a DBA in North Carolina (Step-by-Step Guide)
If you’re starting a new business in North Carolina, there are important choices you’ll have to make. It can be overwhelming due to the many legal words and forms to fill in. For those starting their first business, these might be hard to understand. This article will explain what a DBA means in North Carolina and its importance. We’ll also talk about when your business might need one and what you must do to get a DBA in the state.
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. A DBA is often called an “assumed name” or “fictitious business 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 DBA name, such as “Handcrafted Pottery by Jane,” to market her products and services instead of using her own name.
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
North Carolina DBA name registration
Choose your name
The first step is to think of the name of your business. When thinking of your name, it is important to remember the naming rules set out by the state. A full list of naming rules can be found here.
It is important to keep in mind that:
- The name should be unique.
- The name should not be confusing.
- The name should not misrepresent the purpose of the business.
- Certain words are restricted, such as those that imply the business is a bank, insurance company, educational institution, or government agency.
- Certain words require prior approval before being used, such as Architect, Architecture, Architectural, Certified Public Accountant, Engineer, Engineering, Insurance, Pharmacy, Prescription, Apothecary, Realtor, Surveyor, Survey, Surveying, Wholesale.
- The name should not use business entity suffixes such as LCC or inc. unless it is this type of business.
Check name availability
Once you have chosen your name, you need to confirm that it is unique and that you can register it.
You must check on the Secretary of States’ website and perform an assumed business name search.
After verifying that your business name meets state-level naming requirements and is not currently in use, we recommend buying the corresponding web domain. Even if you are not yet prepared to launch your website, getting hold of the domain will prevent others from buying it and will be a valuable marketing tool in the future.
Register your name
DBA filing occurs in the county or counties where you do business.
The state manages DBAs, so the process is near identical across all counties, even down to the form you submit.
- Your form will be filed with your County Register of Deeds. Use this website to find your Register of Deeds.
- Download the assumed business name certificate form from the County Register of Deeds forms page.
- Fill in the form with the following information:
- The assumed business name being registered.
- The full name and address of the person or entity registering the assumed business name.
- The type of business entity (individual, partnership, corporation, etc.) registering the assumed business name.
- The county and state where the business will operate.
- The date the assumed business name was first used in North Carolina.
- The signature of the person registering the assumed business name and the date signed.
- When you have completed the form, mail it to the County Register of Deeds. They will register your new DBA with the North Carolina Secretary of State.
Pay your filing fees
The cost is $26. The filing fees are uniform across all counties.
Renew, amend, or withdraw your DBA
- DBA renewal is not required for North Carolina business names.
- The assumed business name certificate can be changed by completing the form and returning it to the Register of Deeds office with a $26 filing fee.
- To cancel an assumed name, complete the form and send it to the Register of Deeds office with a $26 filing fee.
Obtain an EIN
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issues an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to companies that employ staff.
- If you have an existing EIN and register a Doing Business As (DBA) name, it does not alter your company’s legal structure, so you do not require a new EIN.
- Sole proprietors without employees may use their Social Security Number as their tax ID.
- An EIN is needed if you plan on opening a business bank account.
Open a business bank account
Once you get your new business name and EIN, you can open a bank account for your business.
This is useful because it allows you to keep your business and personal money separate and makes it easier to accept credit cards and checks as payment.
Advantages and disadvantages of a DBA
There are many advantages to registering a DBA:
- Enhanced flexibility: A DBA name can be altered or updated more quickly and efficiently than a legal business name, which allows business owners to adapt to shifts in their products, services, or market conditions with greater flexibility.
- Segregation of personal assets and business finances: Registering for a DBA allows a business bank account to be opened, allowing for using the business name on financial transactions instead of the account holder’s name. This allows the receipt and issuance of checks using the company name.
- Increased branding opportunities: A well-crafted name can be more descriptive and memorable than a legal name. This alias can help increase brand recognition and improve marketing and advertising opportunities.
- Cost-effective solution: Compared to other business structures, such as Corporations or Limited Liability Companies (LLCs), registering for a DBA is generally less expensive and less complex, making it a cost-effective alternative for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
There are a few drawbacks to registering for a DBA, such as:
- Limited legal protection: Unlike other business structures, such as LLCs, DBAs do not offer personal liability protection. This can mean 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 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. Partners can file a DBA to represent their partnership and increase brand recognition.
- 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. 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?
A DBA is required when:
- You wish to operate under a different name from your personal name.
- You want to use a more memorable, descriptive, or marketable name for your products or services.
- Your business is a sole proprietorship, general partnership, corporation, or LLC that plans to conduct business under multiple names.
- You want to test new products or markets without altering your legal name.
When might a DBA not be needed? A DBA may not be necessary if:
- You operate your business under your personal or your company’s legal name.
- You are a single-owner LLC that does not need to do business under a name different from your name or the legal name of your LLC.
Do I need to get my forms notarized?
To speed up the processing of forms, they no longer need to be notarized.
Do I need to advertise my DBA in a local newspaper?
Many states mandate that new business names be advertised in local newspapers, but North Carolina does not, but there are many benefits to advertising your new name locally.
How long does it take to process my DBA?
Processing a DBA request can take 10-15 business days. As your local county handles each request, it’s recommended to contact your local County Register of Deeds to get a more accurate idea of how long the process might take.
I’m in a hurry. Can I pay for expedited service?
There are no options for expedited service on the DBA forms. However, if you contact your local County Register of Deeds, they may be able to expedite the process for you.
Do I have to file with the state as well as the county?
You only file with your county; they will refer your registration to the state level.
Can I use my North Carolina DBA name in other states?
No, a North Carolina DBA registration only allows you to use the name in North Carolina. If you want to use the name in other states, you must register the name in each state where you plan to conduct business.
Find out how to register a DBA in your state
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