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

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by LLC.org Team
Last updated: June 13th, 2024
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Starting a new business can be a daunting task. There are countless decisions to make, forms to fill in, and administration to stay on top of. One of the most important decisions is naming your business. A well-thought-out name can capture an audience and bring in early customers. This article will look at a DBA. We will unpack what a DBA means, when and if you may need one, and finally, a step-by-step guide to applying for a DBA in Ohio.

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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.

It involves:

  1. Choosing a unique name
  2. Verifying its availability
  3. Filing the proper forms with the relevant government agency, such as the Secretary of State or the county clerk’s office
  4. Paying the associated costs.

Ohio DBA name registration

In Ohio, there is a difference between “trade name” and “fictitious name.”

A trade name is a name used in business or trade to designate the business and to which the use asserts a right to exclusive use. On the other hand, a fictitious name is a name that does not include the surname of the individual owner or the names of all partners in a partnership and is not the true name of the corporation, limited liability company, or limited partnership.

Ohio law requires that new business names be “distinguishable upon the records in the office of the Secretary of State” from other previously registered names. It is important to register a trade name as operating under a fictitious name provides no protection or ownership of the name.

Trade names must be unique, while fictitious names don’t have to be. The state protects trade names from being used by other businesses in that state, whereas fictitious names are not.

1
Choose your name

When thinking of your name, you must adhere to the state rules when thinking of your name. A list of rules can be found on the Ohio Secretary of State webpage’s guide to name availability page.

The rules state names:

  • It must be unique and distinguishable from any other business registered with the state.
  • It cannot contain certain restricted words or phrases, such as “bank,” “trust,” “insurance,” or “attorney.
  • It must not suggest an unlawful purpose or be misleading to the public.
  • Must comply with Ohio’s trade name laws, which regulate the use of fictitious names by businesses.
  • Business owners are responsible for ensuring that their chosen name does not infringe on any existing trademarks or service marks.

2
Check name availability

Once you have confirmed that your name meets the Ohio naming regulations, you must confirm that it is unique.

Visit the Ohio Secretary of State’s business name search page, where you can search for your new DBA name to confirm it isn’t already in use.

We suggest you check if your name is available as a website address (URL). Even if you’re not thinking of making a website right now, it’s smart to grab your URL so nobody else can use it later.

3
Register your name

You can register your DBA online or by filling in the form and returning it by mail.

You will need to fill in the following:

  • The new DBA name and legal information about the business.
  • The structure of the business.
  • The general nature of what the business does.
  • The type of name being filed (trade name or fictitious business name).
  • The names and addresses of the business owners.

If you are mailing in your form, you will need to send it to the following:

Secretary of State
PO Box 670
Columbus, OH 43216

4
Pay your filing fees

The filing fees are $39.

If you opt for an expedited service, there are three options:

  • For a fee of $100, your forms will be processed in 2 business days.
  • For a fee of $200, your forms will be processed in 1 business day. This service is only available to walk-in customers who hand deliver the documents.
  • For a fee of $300, your forms will be processed in 4 hours. This service is only available to walk-in customers who hand deliver the documents.

5
Renew, amend, or withdraw your DBA

6
Obtain an EIN

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

  • It’s important to understand that having a DBA doesn’t 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 getting an EIN.
  • However, if the DBA hires employees or wants to establish a separate business bank account, they must obtain an EIN.

7
Open a business bank account

Once you have your new DBA and EIN, it’s recommended that you open a dedicated business bank account.

This provides several benefits, including separating personal assets from business expenses and making transactions like check and credit card payments more efficient.

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: 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?

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.

FAQs

Can I reserve a name?

Yes, names can be reserved for a fee of $39. You need to fill in this form to reserve a name.

Do I need to advertise my new DBA in a local newspaper?

Advertising your DBA in a local newspaper in Ohio is unnecessary. There are many benefits to advertising your new business, but the state does not mandate it.

Do I need to apply for any additional licenses?

It is important to remember that a DBA does not give you a business license. If you need additional licenses, you must apply for these independently from applying for your DBA.

Do I need to file locally?

Ohio DBAs are managed at the state level. There is no need to inform your local county of your new name.

How long will it take for my DBA to be processed at regular speed? 

Without paying for expedited service, processing your DBA will take 3-7 business days. 

Find out how to register a DBA in your state

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