Having a DBA name is a great way to launch new product lines or services, as it allows for flexible branding. In addition, it does not affect taxes. This is because a DBA name is an alternative name for your registered business structure, not a separate business entity.
In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of getting a DBA name in Hawaii and how to maintain it long term.
What is a Hawaii “doing business as” (DBA) name?
A DBA name, which can also be called an “assumed name,” “fictitious name,” or “trade name,” enables businesses to conduct business under a different name than their formal business entity name. Multiple businesses can have the same trade name within the state, and it doesn’t necessarily provide legal protection for businesses. For instance, businesses using a trade name are still subject to trademark infringement laws, so it is important to keep that in mind when choosing a name.
In Hawaii, DBA names are commonly referred to as “trade names” and relate to entities and businesses. It is not a business entity type but gives businesses an opportunity to use a different name than their business’s official name. For example, a corporation that is registered with the name “Acme, Inc.” could have a trade name of “Acme Manufacturing Co.”
A trade name can be used in a variety of business structures, such as a sole proprietorship, partnership, and corporation. For sole proprietorships and partnerships, they might choose to have a trade name to avoid using the person’s legal name. For corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs), they might choose a trade name to drop a designator (“LLC,” “Co.,” “Inc.,” etc.) from their name.
The following business entity types may register for a trade name in Hawaii:
- Sole proprietorship
- Limited liability company (LLC)
- Limited liability partnership (LLP)
A registered trade name offers a couple of advantages to businesses:
- Use a different name: Registering a DBA name allows businesses to operate under a different name than the owner’s name or the formal business name.
- Open a business bank account: When combined with a federal tax ID number, a trade name enables businesses to open a business bank account.
In this guide, we’ll provide a detailed overview of how to obtain and maintain a DBA name in Hawaii. Although Hawaii does not legally require businesses to register a trade name before they can use it, registering a DBA name can help dissuade other businesses from using that name.
How do I choose a Hawaii DBA name?
Deciding on a business name is a great opportunity to establish a unique brand and connect with clients and customers. Crafting a brand starts with establishing the right name. When deciding on a name, you should envision the future of your business and think long term. Although you likely have a business name if you’re considering a DBA name, crafting the right DBA name can help you market your business.
On top of that, ensuring that your business email matches your trade name further distinguishes your brand. All businesses should register a domain name right away. By registering early on, you can prevent other businesses from taking the same name.
Here are additional benefits of a domain name:
- Promote your brand online
- Add legitimacy to your business
- Protect your business from others using your name online
It’s important to note that registering for a trade name with the State of Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs does not give you ownership of the trade name. Registering the trade name might serve the purpose of helping dissuade others from using the name, but it doesn’t legally prevent them from doing so. In Hawaii, ownership of a trade name is acquired mainly by adopting and using it in the marketplace in order to acquire common law ownership rights.
That being the case, the Application for Registration of Trade Name does encourage you to check the online business name database, the telephone directory of each island, the city directory, and the Department of Taxation to see if your desired trade name is already in use. After all, whoever is using the name will already likely have established its use under common law.
During the registration process, Hawaii will only check to see that no business’s name is “substantially identical” during registration. It’s still your responsibility to you to make sure no one else is already using a trade name that’s similar to yours. Registering your trade name doesn’t prevent someone else from suing you if they already have a similar name in use.
As mentioned above, the search engine for businesses in Hawaii is a good place to start. Entering a name here will yield the record type (trade name, entity, trademark, etc.), file number, and status (active, expired, canceled, etc.).
Although obtaining a trade name in Hawaii is not all that difficult, there are some things to know before completing the application:
- A trade name may not infringe on anyone’s ownership rights to a business name that is reserved in Hawaii.
- The name should not be substantially identical to any other registered name.
- The application must be completed in legible, printed black ink, or typewritten if you choose to complete the mail-in version.
- So, if registering a trade name is optional and doesn’t give you ownership rights to that name, it’s fair to ask: Why bother registering?
One reason is that registering lets others know that you’re claiming that DBA name; it puts it in the system. Another is that going through the registration process could alert you if someone else is already using that name or one very close to it.
How do I register a Hawaii DBA name?
As mentioned above, Hawaii does not require a business to register a trade name; ownership is acquired by adopting and using it. However, Hawaii does still offer the option to register your trade name officially with the state. In Hawaii, it costs $25 to file for a trade name until Jan. 1, 2021, when the fee will automatically readjust to $50. For an additional fee of $20, you can have an expedited review of the trade name. The Certificate of Registration can be completed online or by a printable form that must be completed in black ink.
Businesses that choose to mail in the completed form should send a check made payable to the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs and the completed form to:
Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
Business Registration Division
P.O. Box 40
Honolulu, HI 96810
Follow these step-by-step instructions to register your trade name in Hawaii:
- Search the Hawaii name registrar: Check the Hawaii business registrar to make sure that your trade name is not taken by another business. You’re also encouraged to check the telephone directory of each island, the city directory, and the Department of Taxation.
- Go to the section of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs where you can register a trade name: In Hawaii, you can submit an application to register your trade name online or use a printable form.
- Provide the applicant’s name.
- Enter the applicant’s mailing address: The address should include the city, state, and ZIP code.
- Select type of registration (registration or renewal): Check if this is the first time you are registering this trade name or if you are renewing the trade name. In the case of a trade name renewal, you will need to provide the certification number.
- Input the status of the applicant: Remember to check the status of the applicant. This is your business’s entity type, which can include sole proprietor, corporation, partnership, LLC, LLP, unincorporated association, or other.
- List the state or country of incorporation, formation, or organization: If the applicant is an entity, they must list the state or country in which they are incorporated, formed, or organized.
- Write the trade name: Remember to ensure that the trade name is not already taken in the registrar.
- Check whether the applicant is the originator of the name or if it was the assignee.
- Input the nature of the business: Make sure to describe the nature of business in which the trade name is being used.
- Certify the application: If the trade name only applies to an individual, only they need to sign the application. In the case of a corporation, the authorized officer of that corporation must sign the document. Limited and general partnerships will need a general partner to sign the form, while an LLC must have the manager or a member (depending on the structure) of the company. Lastly, LLP trade name registration forms must be signed by a partner.
- Set the term dates: Add the dates for the five-year time period in which the trade name will be active in the state of Hawaii.
- Pay the fees to complete the registration: Applications can be completed for $25 until Jan. 1, 2021, and checks need to be made payable to the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. In addition, you will be required to pay a state archive fee of $1.
- Submit the application.
How do I manage ongoing DBA name compliance in Hawaii?
If you do not use your trade name in a year (365 consecutive days), the Certificate of Registration can be revoked. If the trade name hasn’t been used for a year, someone can petition to have the trade name registration rights revoked. At this point, a director can grant or deny the petitioner’s request.
Once the trade name is registered, it will be valid for five years in Hawaii. The state will not remind you to renew your trade name. Please note that it will be your responsibility to re-register the trade name before the end of the five years. In fact, renewals must be received before the expiration date of the registration. You can re-register your trade name up to six months before the expiration of the trade name. If a business would like to renew their trade name, they can do so online or by completing this form.
If you would like to cancel the trade name, you can file a request for cancellation. This form can be emailed, faxed, or mailed.
Hawaii DBA FAQs
- How much does it cost to register a Hawaii DBA name?
As of this writing, an application can be filed for $25. On Jan. 1, 2021, the application fee will return to $50. For dishonored checks, a $25 fee will be added.
All in all, the fees for registering a trade name in Hawaii include:
State archive fee of $1
An optional expedited service fee of $20
- What is the processing time to register a Hawaii DBA?
Filing online is always a faster option. In addition, you can pay an expedited service fee of $20 to get your trade name registered as quickly as possible.
- Do I need a DBA name for my Hawaii business?
DBA names are not required by law. That being said, a DBA name, or trade name, allows businesses to use an alternative name to their legal business name. By using a trade name, you can use a unique name to brand and market your business. When you choose a trade name, you do not have to pay any additional taxes and can obtain a potentially shorter name for a small fee.
For many businesses, registering a DBA name can prove advantageous. In the case of an LLC, choosing a DBA name can help eliminate the “LLC” in the title. The same goes for corporations. By obtaining a trade name, they will be able to choose a name that fits their personal brand.
- If I register a DBA name in Hawaii, can another business use the same name?
Registering your trade name will not prevent other businesses from legally using your DBA name in Hawaii. Although trade names can offer advantages in Hawaii, they are not to be confused with trademarks.
At the federal level, a trademark can protect your business across the nation. A trademark from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) prevents similar businesses (those in your industry) from using any of your trademarked names. Trademark lawsuits can prove quite costly, which is why it’s recommended to check the trademark database. In Hawaii, there is also a state trademark, which costs $25 to complete online. Like the trade name application, the trademark filing fee will return to $50 on Jan. 1, 2021.
- Can a business in Hawaii have multiple DBA names?
Yes. All businesses can have multiple DBA names. Typically, businesses that use multiple DBA names do so to differentiate between different products or services. One of the major perks of a DBA name is that it offers flexible branding for businesses.
For example, a skin care business might have a general DBA name for their business, but they can add more DBA names for a new serum, moisturizer, or sunscreen. By having multiple DBA names, the skin care company is able to not only differentiate themselves among other skin care brands but also better market their products.
- Is a DBA name the same thing as a fictitious business name in Hawaii?
Although a DBA name and “fictitious business name” can be interchangeable, certain states use specific terms. In Hawaii, a DBA name is referred to as a “trade name.”
- Do I need a DBA name in Hawaii if I use my own name for a sole proprietorship?
If you would like to conduct business under your legal name, you do not need a DBA name in Hawaii. In fact, as mentioned above, DBA names are not a legal requirement at all in Hawaii.
- Will using a DBA name affect how my business is taxed in Hawaii?
No. A DBA has no effect on your tax status whatsoever. A DBA name, or trade name, acts as an alternative name only. For this reason, it doesn’t require any separate filings or tax IDs.
Using a trade name can help some businesses with their branding and marketing. Talk to the business experts at ZenBusiness today about other ways to help you start, run, and grow your small business.