A “doing business as” (DBA) name, also called a “fictitious name” in Florida, is an alternative name that a sole proprietor or other business entity may use in the course of doing business. But to remain compliant with state laws, you are required to register any fictitious names with the state of Florida.
This guide will help you learn everything there is to know about choosing a fictitious name, associated state laws and statutes, and how to file and renew your fictitious name as needed.
What is a Florida “doing business as” (DBA) name?
DBA names go by several different names, depending on which state you’re located. Some places simply refer to them as is, while others might call them “assumed names” or “trade names.” In Florida, they are referred to as “fictitious names.”
A DBA name is simply an alternative name for your business. If you wish to do business under a name other than the one you registered your business with, you will need to register your fictitious name — even if the only difference between your DBA name and business name is the leaving off of a designator or something similar.
There are primarily two categories that businesses seeking DBA names fall into:
- Sole proprietorships or partnerships are not required to register with the state, and so they do not establish a business name in the same way a limited liability company (LLC) or corporation would during the initial business registration process. For a sole proprietorship or partnership to do business under any name that is not the personal names of the owners, a DBA name is required.
- While LLCs, corporations, and other business types establish a business name when they register their business with the state, there are times when these businesses may wish to operate under a different name. Their legal name is required to include a business-type designator (such as “LLC” or “Inc.”), and they might want to drop that from the name they use. They might also wish to use one or more DBA names to distinguish different parts of their business or product lines.
It’s important to note that registering a DBA name is not the same as registering a business. A DBA name is not a business type, and it does not change your business’s tax structure in any way. It also does not establish copyright or trademark. In fact, in Florida, registering a DBA name doesn’t even prevent anyone else from using the same name. However, there are several benefits that come with using a DBA name, such as:
- Being able to open a bank account under your assumed business name
- Being able to do business under a shorter or catchier name for better marketing success
- Avoiding potential legal complications down the road resulting from the confusion of the business name
How do I choose a Florida DBA name?
There are many factors to consider when choosing a fictitious name. A good name should be memorable, encapsulate the essence of your business neatly, and remain compliant with state laws.
It’s also a good idea to do a search and see if the name you want is already in use. You can search existing fictitious names in Florida on the Division of Corporations website.
To comply with Florida naming laws, your fictitious name cannot include words or abbreviations that suggest it is a business type other than the one it is registered as. For example, if your business is an LLC, you cannot include the word “Corporation” in your fictitious name.
How do I register a Florida DBA name?
The process for registering a DBA name, or fictitious name, in Florida is handled through the Florida Department of State’s Division of Corporations website, also known as Sunbiz.org. A form may be completed online or via paper and mailed with the associated filing fee.
Among the information needed to fill out the form are the chosen fictitious name, the business address, the principal county of business, and the names and addresses of owners.
Prior to registering, you must advertise the name at least once in a newspaper located in the county where your principal business is located. No proof needs to be submitted, but you will certify that this has been done during the registration process. You can find specific publication instructions in the statutes.
- You can obtain a printable form to file by mail from the Forms and Fees section on Sunbiz.org.
- At the bottom of the Fictitious Name page, click on the “Fictitious Name Registration (PDF)” link.
- Enter all required information carefully, and review it for accuracy.
- Print and sign the form.
- Make a check for the $50 filing fee payable to the Florida Department of State. If you selected the options for a Certificate of Status ($10) or a Certified Copy ($30), include those amounts in the check, as well.
- Mail the signed form and check to:
- Fictitious Name Registration
- P.O. Box 6327
- Tallahassee, FL 32314
- You will receive an acknowledgment letter in the mail after your registration has been filed, along with any requested certificates.
- Your signature on the form will certify that you have advertised the name at least once in a newspaper located in the county where your principal business is located.
- From Sunbiz.org, navigate to “Start a Business” and “Fictitious Name.”
- Make sure you have all of the information needed.
- Click on the link to “Register a Florida Fictitious Name.”
- You will see a disclaimer. Make sure you read it carefully. It includes information such as the fact that fictitious names are not required, registration does not satisfy workers’ compensation exemption requirements, and so on.
- Select the box indicating acknowledgment of the disclaimer and click “Begin Fictitious Name Registration.”
- Carefully fill out all of the registration information in the form and review it for accuracy.
- Sign the form electronically and select “Continue.”
- You will be directed to pay the associated $50 filing fee. If you opt for a Certified Copy, you will pay an additional $30 and an additional $10 for a Certificate of Status, both of which are optional. Payment can be made by credit card (Mastercard, Visa, Discover, or American Express).
- You will receive filing confirmation by email within 24 hours.
- You will certify that you have advertised the name at least once in a newspaper located in the county where your principal business is located.
How do I manage ongoing DBA name compliance in Florida?
It is important to make sure you maintain legal compliance for businesses using fictitious names in Florida. Remember to comply with the advertisement requirement before registering your DBA name. Florida requires that you advertise your fictitious name registration in a local newspaper at least once in the county where you will primarily conduct your business.
Your initial fictitious name registration is good for five years, after which point it expires on Dec. 31 of the fifth year and must be renewed. Renewal may be done online through Sunbiz.org or via mail and must accompany a $50 renewal fee.
If you wish to make changes to your fictitious name registration, you can do so by using a cancellation/re-registration form and paying a $50 fee. This particular form can only be submitted by mail.
- How much does it cost to register a Florida DBA name?
Registering a DBA name in Florida requires payment of $50, whether done online or via mail. A Certificate of Status costs an additional $10, and a certified copy costs $30. Additional fees may be incurred when securing a website domain name to go along with your new DBA name.
Every five years, Florida requires that you renew your DBA name registration. This costs another $50. Changing or updating your registration incurs the same fee, as well.
- What is the processing time to register a Florida DBA?
Processing times can vary and are dependent on whether you file online or by mail. If you file online, you can expect to receive confirmation within 24 hours that your filing has been accepted. If you file by mail, you will need to allow for additional time for your paperwork to reach the Division of Corporations office, be processed, and for them to mail confirmation back to you.
As a general rule, filing online is faster.
- Do I need a DBA name for my Florida business?
No, DBA names are not strictly required unless you are doing business under a name other than the business’s legal name. When you register your business with the state, you will indicate a chosen name at that time on the associated paperwork. However, business names are often required to include type-designators, such as “LLC” for limited liability companies or “Corp.” for corporations. These designators are a legal part of your official business name. If you want to do business under a shorter version of your official name with the designator dropped, you are required to file a DBA name for the modified version of the name.
Sole proprietorships or partnerships are not required to register with the state to conduct business. However, if one of these is your business type and you’d like to do business under a name different from your personal name, you will need to file a DBA name.
- If I register a DBA name in Florida, can another business use the same name?
Yes. Filing a DBA name “does not grant you ownership or rights to the name; or prohibit someone else from using or registering the same fictitious name.”
- Can a business in Florida have multiple DBA names?
There is no limit to how many DBA names a business may have. It’s not uncommon for some businesses to have several. For example, consider a clothing design business that may want to market their children’s clothing line under a different name from their women’s line and so on. DBA names can be very useful to distinguish different portions of your business and keep those parts separate from each other.
- Is a DBA name the same thing as a fictitious business name in Florida?
In Florida, a DBA name is referred to in the paperwork as a “fictitious name.” Other states may call it strictly a “DBA name,” while others might use words like “assumed name” or “trade name” to refer to DBA names. They all mean the same thing.
- Do I need a DBA name in Florida if I use my own name for a sole proprietorship?
As a sole proprietor, while you are free to conduct business under your legal name, this isn’t always the best option. Suppose you want to open a bookstore — would you like your personal name to be on the front of the shop as the store’s title? Many sole proprietors desire a separate name for their business for obvious reasons. Registering a DBA name is a way to make this happen.
- Will using a DBA name affect how my business is taxed in Florida?
No. A DBA name is nothing more than an alternative name for your business. It does not establish a business type or entity. As such, it has no effect on how your business is taxed at the state, local, or federal level. That is determined by your registered business type and associated laws.