Before your business, regardless of its entity type (sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation, etc.), does business under any name other than its legal name, it’s required by Georgia law to file a DBA name in the county where the business is located. You’ll need to do the same for every county where you intend to do business.
This guide will take you through the steps and considerations to get a DBA name in Georgia. We will explain how to choose a name, the process to register your DBA name, and how to maintain compliance for your DBA name.
What is a Georgia “doing business as” (DBA) name?
A “doing business as” (DBA) name simply refers to the name the business operates under that is different from its legal name. It is also often called a “trade name” or “fictitious name.” In Georgia, a DBA name is referred to as a “trade name.”
- A DBA name can be useful for a number of reasons:
- If you are starting a sole proprietorship or partnership, a DBA name will allow you to use a business name that is different from your personal legal name or names. For example, Joe Smith could then do business as “Joe’s Landscaping.”
- A limited liability company (LLC) or corporation may have several lines of business and desire to operate each under a different name. You could set up your business’s legal name with something generic and file a DBA name that is more specific for each entity. For example, “Joe Smith Restaurants, LLC” could file separate DBA names for “Joe’s Place,” “Smith’s Bar and Grill,” and “Joe Smith on the Green.”
However, a DBA name is not its own legal entity and will not afford you the same protections as an LLC or corporation. It will not make an impact on your taxes, which will be done through the legal entity you registered as or your personal taxes, depending on your structure. It is only a legal alias for your business.
DBA names provide several benefits to companies that utilize them. These include:
- If you want to expand your business but don’t want to take on the expense of choosing another business structure and maintaining compliance, creating separate DBA names can help you grow.
- As a sole proprietor or partnership, your business name would be your legal name or names, which might make it hard to attract customers. Setting up the DBA name “Joanna’s Catering” would help customers know what the business is doing.
- A company might sell the same or similar products to different audiences. Maintaining two separate DBA names would help them keep everything separate and target those specific customers.
- Setting up a DBA name allows you to open a bank account under that name, which can help keep finances separate.
Keep reading through this guide to learn more about how to set up and maintain your Georgia DBA name. We’ll dive into the details on how to choose a name and how to maintain compliance. We’ll also answer some common questions around setting up a DBA name.
How do I choose a Georgia DBA name?
Choosing a DBA name for your business is an exciting step, but there’s a lot to consider before settling on your final choice. The right name can aid in your business success; however, the wrong name can create extra work and even legal issues.
First, think about the logistics of your name. You don’t want anything that will be hard to spell since that will make it more difficult for customers to find you or share information about you. Your business will grow, and you want a name that can grow with you. At the same time, a name that helps customers identify what your business does will help you get started.
Second, make sure to spend some time researching your top choices. As you research, you might find someone else already using that name. That may or may not mean you need a new name, but you need to know what is already out there.
While you are researching names, make sure to conduct a name search on the Georgia Secretary of State’s Corporations Division database. Several businesses can operate under similar names. However, that can create confusion — especially if those other businesses are your competition.
While the state of Georgia does not require your DBA name to be unique, it does have certain naming requirements you must adhere to:
- A business may not use business suffixes like “LLC” or “Corp.” in their name unless they are set up as those types of entities.
- You may not include words that would create associations with public entities, banking, or insurance industries without additional approvals. This includes words like “Insurance,” “Fidelity,” “Banking,” “Trust,” “Savings and Loan,” “University,” or “College.”
It’s best to try and find a name no one is using. When using the portal, try to use as few words as possible; that way, you will get the most results showing similar names.
While you are checking names, you may also want to do a trademark search using the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website to make sure your desired DBA name isn’t trademarked by someone on the federal level. To see if it’s trademarked at the state level, check the George trademark database.
How do I register a Georgia DBA name?
When you are ready to register your DBA name, there are specific steps you need to follow to comply with Georgia law:
- Obtain the DBA name application from the office of the Clerk of Superior Court in the county your business is located. While the rules for filing a DBA name are set by the state, each Superior Court will have its own form, which may vary slightly from county to county. It’s important to locate the court where your business resides to fill out the correct form. If you plan to do business outside of your county, you’ll need to register a DBA with the Clerk of the Superior Court in each county you will do business in.
- Enter the name you wish to use for your business.
- Briefly describe what your business will do.
- Check the box regarding what type of business entity it is.
- Provide the appropriate names and addresses for the partners or owners involved.
- Provide the date and your signature.
- Have your application notarized.
- To file the application, you will need to mail the original notarized application to the appropriate Clerk of Superior Court. Make sure to include the filing fee required with the application. Filing fees vary by county, so be sure to check with your county clerk’s office to get your exact filing fee.
- Once you have filed your application, Georgia law requires that you advertise the new trade name in the paper in which the sheriff’s legal advertisements are printed. You must advertise once a week for two weeks. The advertisement must include the names of each person, firm, or partnership that will be under the trade name. The clerk’s office will be able to provide you with any details for your county, and the local newspaper will also be familiar with the process.
How do I manage ongoing DBA name compliance in Georgia?
Once you have filed and obtained your official DBA name and done the required advertising, you are ready to do business. However, it’s possible you may need to renew your Georgia DBA name, but when and if you need to renew will vary by county. Make sure to read up on the specific requirements in your county. If you can’t find them, the Superior Court will be able to answer your questions.
If you need to change your DBA name, you will need to fill out a name change form. Here again, each county will have a slightly different process and filing fee associated with the form. Once you have completed your registration, here are a few tips to make the name change even less of a headache:
- Make sure to provide the amended name paperwork to your bank. Until you do, the bank will not be able to process payments made under the new name.
- Make sure you notify your customers so that they don’t wonder where you went and end up doing business elsewhere. Post the information at your physical locations and use your online presence — including your website and social media. If you have a mailing list, make sure to notify everyone on it, as well. If your budget allows for advertising, make sure to use that to reach a wider audience. The more times you reach your customers, the more likely it is that they will remember the change.
- Remember to update your forms, letterhead, business cards, and any signage or existing advertising.
Georgia DBA FAQs
- How much does it cost to register a Georgia DBA name?
Filing your DBA registration application will include a filing fee. You should also expect filing fees with any changes you make to your DBA name, such as a renewal, name change, or closing your business. However, because each county Superior Court handles its own application process, the filing fees will vary by county. You will need to locate the appropriate court in your county and ask for all of the fees associated with filing a DBA name.
In addition to the filing fees, be prepared for the costs of advertising. Georgia does require that DBA name registrations advertise once a week for two weeks in the paper that the county sheriff uses to advertise.
- What is the processing time to register a a DBA name in Georgia?
Processing time will vary by county. The general rule of thumb is to file at least 30 days before you intend to do business. Depending on the options available in your county, if you can file online, the processing time is typically faster than filing with a paper application.
- Do I need a DBA name for my Georgia business?
DBA names are only required in Georgia when you’re doing business under a name that differs from your business’s legal name. However, there are many advantages to using one, including creating a stronger brand, being able to distinguish between lines of business, and having multiple operations under one legal entity structure.
If you decide to do business under another name than your legal business entity, you will be required to register a DBA name. For example, if you have chosen an LLC structure for your business, and you want to drop the “LLC” from your business name, you would need to use a DBA name to maintain compliance with state law regarding LLCs.
- If I register a DBA name in Georgia, can another business use the same name?
DBA names are not exclusive. Another business could, therefore, come in with the same or a similar name. If you want to protect your business’s brand, the most effective way to do that would be to obtain a trademark because a DBA name will not override the trademark.
See the Georgia Secretary of State page for state trademarks to see about applying for a trademark that applies within the state of Georgia. For federal trademarks, see the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
- Can a business in Georgia have multiple DBA names?
Yes, Georgia does allow for a business to obtain multiple DBA names. You will need to file a separate application for each DBA name you wish to use, and you will need to file it in every Georgia county where you intend to do business under the DBA name. A business will typically use this option to differentiate between lines of business.
- Is a DBA name the same thing as a fictitious business name in Georgia?
Yes, the terms “DBA name,” “fictitious name,” and “trade name” are all used interchangeably. However, the official term by Georgia statute is “trade name.”
- Do I need a DBA name in Georgia if I use my own name for a sole proprietorship?
No, a sole proprietorship conducting business under the owner’s legal name is not required to register a DBA name. However, Georgia law prohibits you from using any other name unless you obtain a DBA name. If you do not obtain the DBA name registration, there are penalties and fees that can be assessed.
- Will using a DBA name affect how my business is taxed in Georgia?
Using a DBA name will not affect your business taxes. Registering a DBA name will not establish a new business entity. Your business will continue to be taxed according to the legal entity you use (for example, an LLC, corporation, or sole proprietorship) at the local, state, and federal levels.