To apply for a DBA name, you’ll need to find and follow your state’s guidelines and procedures. For example, the state of Delaware requires businesses to file DBA names with each county where they do business.
We’ve put together this guide as a resource to help you understand the steps and guidelines set out by the state of Delaware. Learn how to obtain and maintain a suitable DBA name for your business in Delaware.
What is a Delaware “doing business as” (DBA) name?
A Delaware DBA name is also called a “trade name” or “fictitious name.” It does not affect how your business is taxed, nor does it create a separate entity for a business. A DBA name is not a requirement for every business. You only need a fictitious name if you want to operate under a different name than your legal business name.
Naturally, to avoid businesses inventing fictitious names to engage in fraud and misrepresent themselves, the state requires business owners to register their DBA names.
There are two categories of businesses who take advantage of the benefits of a DBA name:
- Sole proprietorships and partnerships: Without a DBA, sole proprietorships and general partnerships are required to operate under the legal names of the owners. But that may not inspire legitimacy for some. As a sole proprietor, Jane Doe can only do business as Jane Doe, not, say, Jane’s Lawn Services. A DBA name allows sole proprietors and partnerships to create a unique and catchy name for their businesses.
- Corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs): Corporations and LLCs can register their companies under a distinct name during the formation process. But they may still wish to operate under a different name at some point. They may want to launch a new product line or desire to drop the “LLC” or “Corporation” designator from their name and use a shorter version for marketing. Creating a DBA allows them that flexibility without having to launch a new legal business.
Below are additional benefits that business owners can gain from registering a DBA name:
- Ability to choose a name that will resonate with customers: If you are a sole proprietor with an online store that sells jewelry or a freelance photographer, it may be easier for customers or clients to find you if you can advertise your products or services under a DBA name that clearly conveys what you offer. With a DBA name, you can advertise as “Wendy’s Accessories” or “Wendy’s Photography” rather than under your name.
- Freedom to conduct transactions under the DBA name: It’s important for all business structures to have a separation of finances between the owner and the business. This may be easier to do with a corporation or an LLC because it’s part of the formalities of the structures. But for sole proprietors, the only way they can open a bank account under a business name that’s not their own name is to register for a DBA name. A business account under a DBA name they can use to receive and issue payments will help them create that separation.
- Avoiding legal liabilities: You must register a DBA name before you use one to represent your business in most states. If you do any business under a DBA name before registering, it can be considered fraud, and you can be asked to pay penalties.
- Compliance: A DBA name allows business owners to use a business name legally without forming an LLC or corporation.
- Flexibility: A DBA name can be used to comply with state laws that require businesses to operate under unique names. If a company’s business name or DBA name is already in use in another state, a DBA name will allow a company to expand its operation under another name in that state without needing to form another entity.
Read on to find out how to obtain and maintain a DBA name in Delaware. This guide will provide a detailed overview of all of the relevant information you need to know.
How do I choose a Delaware DBA name?
A DBA name is mostly used by businesses to create brand recognition. A DBA name not only allows you to select a unique name that communicates and represents the nature of your business. It also allows you to select a trade name that shows your brand’s personality, which could be funny or quirky.
However, even though you’d want to choose a Delaware DBA name that’s distinct and memorable, it needs to meet the state’s name requirements.
Here’s what you need to remember when choosing a DBA name for your business:
- Your DBA must not carry any business entity suffix (e.g., “LLC,” “Incorporated,” “Ltd.”) unless your company is that type of business entity.
- Your DBA must not include the word “Bank,” “Trust,” or “Savings” unless your company is registered and authorized as these institutions. But the state concedes that you can use the word “Bank,” “Trust,” or “Savings” if it’s not misleading and used in a way where it’s clear that it’s not referring to any banking establishment.
In Delaware, as with most states, multiple businesses can operate using the same DBA name. But to stand out and create a recognizable brand, you are encouraged to come up with a trade name that’s catchy, unique, and isn’t already in use by other local businesses.
To ensure that your preferred DBA name isn’t already being used, you can perform a name search using Delaware’s trade names database. This guide provides detailed instructions on how to perform a comprehensive search.
It’s also a good idea to check the United States Patent and Trademark Office website to see whether your desired DBA name is trademarked at the federal level. At the state level, you can contact the Delaware Division of Corporations at (302) 739-3073 to see if there are any state trademarks on your name. You can also register your own Delaware trademark by filing the State of Delaware Application for Registration of Trademark or Service Mark with a payment of $35.
How do I register a Delaware DBA name?
The state of Delaware requires businesses to register their DBA names in every county where they operate. But the process is handled by the state, so the steps and forms are the same for all three counties. Below is the step-by-step procedure for registering a Delaware DBA name.
- Check if your desired DBA name is available. Use the trade names search database and follow these instructions.
- Select each county where you do business.
- Fill out the registration form.
- Have the registration form notarized. A notary is also available in each of the prothonotary’s offices.
- The notarized certificate and payment of $25 (per name in each county you wish to register in Delaware) can be delivered in-person or mailed to:
New Castle County
Leonard L. Williams Justice Center
500 North King Street, Suite 500, LL1
Wilmington, DE 19801-3746
Kent County Courthouse
38 The Green
Dover, DE 19901
Sussex County Courthouse
1 The Circle, Suite 2
How do I manage ongoing DBA name compliance in Delaware?
Unlike some states, Delaware does not ask business owners to publish their DBA names in an approved newspaper to complete the registration process. You’re also not obligated to renew your DBA name certificate.
But if you sell or change your DBA name, the state of Delaware requires you to fill out and submit a Supplemental Certificate with the prothonotary in each county you are registered. It’s also mandatory that you submit this form if your company made any changes with regards to its officers or status. An amendment certificate has a fee of $25, which you can send as a check or money order addressed to the State of Delaware.
If you don’t want to use your DBA name anymore and want to cancel your registration, you need to file a Termination Affidavit Form. Fill out the form and submit it to each prothonotary’s office where you are registered; you don’t need to pay a fee for discontinuing your registration.
Delaware DBA FAQs
How much does it cost to register a Delaware DBA name?
The cost to file a Registration of Trade, Business, & Fictitious Name Certificate is $25. But in the state of Delaware, you have to register with every county where you operate. This means that if you operate a hair salon in New Castle, you’d only need to register in that county. However, if you are a wedding photographer who has clients all over the state, you’ll have to register with all three counties. So, for the photographer, the cost will be $75.
The fee for a Supplemental Certificate, which you need to file for any change involving your business name, status, and officers, is also $25. Both applications can only be submitted in person or by mail with the prothonotary office in each county.
What is the processing time to register a Delaware DBA?
In Delaware, DBA applications are done through the three county courthouses. There are no guidelines available for a timeline on the application process. There are only two ways to submit an application: in person or by mail. If you submit in person, you will most probably be informed by the receiving clerk of the approximate time that you’ll receive a decision on your application.
However, if you submit by mail, you’ll have to factor in the mailing process. Make sure you do your due diligence and search through the trade name database and submit an application with a unique name. This will help make your application time faster because it will eliminate the need for changes and back-and-forth communication.
Do I need a DBA name for my Delaware business?
A DBA name is not mandatory unless you’re operating under a name other than your legal business name. However, business owners of less formal business structures, such as sole proprietorships and partnerships, usually find having a DBA name practical. It creates legitimacy for their businesses, and it allows them to apply for bank accounts under their DBA names instead of their legal names.
Even LLCs and corporations can take advantage of using trade names. A DBA name authorizes them to drop the “LLC” and “Corporation” designators, making it easier for them to advertise with the shorter version of their business name. They can also use a DBA to operate under an entirely different name.
It’s also worth noting that in the state of Delaware, you are required to register a DBA name if you plan to use another name aside from your legal business name. Otherwise, it can be seen as fraudulent activity, and you will be penalized if you represent your business under any other name.
If I register a DBA name in Delaware, can another business use the same name?
Generally, DBA names are not exclusive, which means there is a possibility that multiple businesses are using the same name.
If you want to protect your DBA name and your brand, consider getting it trademarked at either the state or federal level. A trademark is the most effective way to make sure you’re the only business with that name.
Can a business in Delaware have multiple DBA names?
Yes, the state of Delaware and its counties do not limit the number of DBA names a business can have. A separate DBA name is usually used by business owners to differentiate between the products, services, and areas of their operations.
For example, a business owner with two unrelated product lines, such as jewelry and skin care, might decide to register a DBA name for each line. A DBA name dedicated to each product line will allow the business owner to develop different branding and marketing for each product.
Is a DBA name the same thing as a fictitious business name in Delaware?
Yes. In Delaware, a DBA name is also called a fictitious name or a trade name. They are the same things.
Do I need a DBA name in Delaware if I use my own name for a sole proprietorship?
As the owner of a sole proprietorship, you are the business. So, your official business name is your legal name. You will need a DBA name if you plan to operate under any other name. In the state of Delaware, you can be penalized, and it can be considered fraud if you do business under any other name without a DBA name.
Will using a DBA name affect how my business is taxed in Delaware?
A DBA name does not create a new business entity. It only allows you to operate under another name that’s not your legal business name. It will not affect how your business is taxed at the local, state, or federal level in any way.
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