To remain compliant with Michigan state laws, you are required to register any DBA names with the state (for business entities) or with the local county clerk’s office (for sole proprietorships or partnerships).
This guide covers what you need to know about choosing a DBA name for your small business, associated state laws and statutes, and how to complete and renew your assumed name as needed.
What is a Michigan “doing business as” (DBA) name?
A DBA name is simply an alternative name for your business. Any time you wish to do business under a different name — whether different from your registered business name or from your personal name in the case of a sole proprietorship or partnership — you must register it to remain in compliance and avoid legal consequences. This is true even if the only difference between your DBA name and business name is leaving off a designator or something similar.
There are primarily two categories that businesses seeking DBA names fall into:
- Sole proprietorships or partnerships: To do business as a sole proprietor or a partnership, you are not generally required to register with the state at all. However, if you want to conduct business under a name other than your personal name or the names of yourself and your partners, you need a DBA name to do so. In Michigan, these forms are filed at the county level, and you must file in every county in which you will do business.
- LLCs, corporations, and other business types: These entities establish a business name when they register their business with the state. However, 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 “Corp.”), 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. In Michigan, the associated forms for DBA names for these business entities are filed at the state level.
It’s important to note that registering a DBA name is not the same as registering a business. When you register a business, you file the Articles of Organization or Incorporation or a similar document with the state and, at that time, designate an official business name, which includes a designator. All of the laws that pertain to your business are determined by this registration and not your DBA name.
DBA names are not a type of business. DBA filing does not establish your business or change your business’s tax structure in any way. It also does not establish copyright or trademark and does not offer you any legal protection from liability. In fact, in Michigan, registering a DBA name doesn’t even prevent anyone else from using the same name. Those protections can be had by filing other paperwork.
That said, there is still a multitude of benefits that come with using a DBA name, such as:
- Being able to open a bank account under your assumed name. Many banks require that the business name on your bank account be registered as your business’s legal name or DBA name.
- Being able to do business under a shorter or catchier name for better marketing success. Many businesses like the ability to drop their designator or shorten their full name in other ways. For example, a business with the legal name “Simon & Jones Business Advisers, LLC” might wish to use the name “Simon & Jones” or “S & J Business Advisers” when conducting business.
- Avoiding potential legal complications resulting from the confusion of the business name. For example, if your business is an LLC, but you conduct business under an unregistered assumed name, this may void any limited liability. However, if you have that assumed name legally registered as a DBA name for your LLC, all of the LLC’s protections still apply.
How do I choose a Michigan DBA name?
Coming up with a business name is no easy task. There are many factors to consider, ranging from aesthetics and marketing to legal considerations and compliance. To break it down for you, here are some of the most important factors to consider as you choose your Michigan assumed name:
- Memorability: You want it to stick in the minds of potential clients or customers so that they’ll head your way when the time comes.
- Suitability: Consider spending some time brainstorming or making word clouds to narrow down your options. You need to land on a name that clearly indicates what your business is about.
- Uniqueness: While Michigan law does not require that your DBA name be unique from other DBA names, it must be distinguishable from the legal names of corporations, LLCs, and other business entities in the state. You can search existing business names on the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) website.
- Legalities: To comply with Michigan naming laws, your assumed name cannot suggest it is a business type or is conducting business of a nature other than what is stated on the initial business registration.
Note that just because you register a DBA name with the state, this does not mean it is protected or that another business cannot also use it. If you would like additional protection of your business name, you should look into trademark and copyright laws.
You may also want to search business names in nearby states if you are concerned about keeping your business name unique.
How do I register a Michigan DBA name?
How you register your DBA name in Michigan depends on whether you are a registered business entity, such as a corporation or LLC, or you are a sole proprietor or partnership.
If you are registering a DBA name (assumed name) for a sole proprietorship or partnership, this is handled at the county level, and you must file with every county in which you will conduct business. Contact your local County Clerk for more information as to how to proceed.
If you are an existing business that has filed the Articles of Incorporation or Organization with the state, you will need to file a Certificate of Assumed Name with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. This can be done online or via mail.
The information you will need to fill out during the filing process includes the chosen assumed name, the legally registered name of the business, the business’s identification number that was assigned by the Bureau, and the contact information of the filer.
The process for filing online is as follows:
- From the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs website, select “Online Services” from the upper-right menu.
- Under “Corporations, Securities & Commercial Licensing Bureau,” select “Corporations Online Filing System (COFS).”
- You should then sign in with the CID and PIN used when you registered your business. From there, you can access the Certificate of Assumed Name form, complete it online, submit it, and pay the associated fee by credit card ($10 for corporations or limited partnerships and $25 for LLCs).
To file by mail instead, do the following:
- Find the Certificate of Assumed Name form and fill it out in its entirety.
- Print the form and sign it.
- Make a check payable to the State of Michigan in the amount of $10 for corporations and limited partnerships or $25 if you are an LLC.
- Mail the completed form and check to:
Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs
Corporations, Securities & Commercial Licensing Bureau
P.O. Box 30054
Lansing, MI 48909
How do I manage ongoing DBA name compliance in Michigan?
As a business owner, it is vital that you stay on top of state laws and filings and make sure your business is always compliant. In Michigan, if you want to do business under a name other than your official business name, you are required to file a DBA form before doing so.
Once you file, the filing is good until December of the fifth year from the initial filing date. At that time, you may file again (within 90 days of the expiration) to continue using the assumed name. The form and fees are the same as for the initial filing.
If you need to correct or update any information in your filing, you can do so online or by mail using the “Certificate of Correction” form. A fee of $10 applies for corporations and limited partnerships and $25 applies for LLCs.
To terminate your use of an assumed name, you should file a “Certificate of Termination,” which can also be done online or through the mail. The same fees apply.
If you want to stay on top of compliance, ZenBusiness can help your Michigan business manage requirements and handle all state-specific details on your behalf.
Michigan DBA FAQs
How much does it cost to register a Michigan DBA name?
Registering a DBA name in Michigan requires payment of $10 or $25, depending on your business type. If you are a sole proprietor or your business is a partnership, different filing fees at the county level will apply. Additional fees may be incurred when securing a website domain name to go along with your new DBA name. You may also opt to pay fees to expedite the process. $100 is charged for 24-hour service, and higher prices may be paid for same-day, one-hour, or two-hour service.
Every five years, Michigan requires that you renew your DBA name registration. This costs another $10 or $25. Changing or updating your registration incurs the same fees, as well.
What is the processing time to register a Michigan DBA?
The processing time can vary and depends on whether you file by mail or online. Online filing is generally faster as a rule. Paperwork submitted via mail is first delivered to a remote location for receipts processing before making its way to the Corporations Division for review. So, you must account for both mailing time and processing time.
You may choose to deliver documents in person and/or pay for expedited service, however, if needed, as described above.
Do I need a DBA name for my Michigan business?
No business is required to have a DBA name. With the exception of partnerships or sole proprietorships, when you register your business with the state, you will indicate a chosen name at that time. 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 register a DBA name for the modified version of the name.
Sole proprietorships or partnerships are not required to register, but if one of these is your business type and you’d like to do business under a name other than your personal name, you will need to file a DBA name.
If I register a DBA name in Michigan, can another business use the same name?
Yes, unfortunately, registering a DBA name does not secure it or make it your own. Any business may also register and use the same DBA name. If you would like to protect the name you wish to use, you will need to look into trademark protection.
Can a business in Michigan have multiple DBA names?
Yes, businesses can typically utilize multiple DBA names to differentiate distinct areas of their operations. Consider, for example, an IT company that has a store offering home computer repair, but it also does consulting for businesses. They may wish to do business under a distinct name for each type of service.
Is a DBA name the same thing as a fictitious business name in Michigan?
In Michigan, a DBA name is the same thing as a fictitious name, although the official terminology is “assumed name.”
Do I need a DBA name in Michigan if I use my own name for a sole proprietorship?
If you have a sole proprietorship, you are only legally permitted to conduct business under your own legal name. However, if you want to utilize a name other than the one on your Social Security card, you will need to register it as a DBA name to remain in compliance.
Will using a DBA name affect how my business is taxed in Michigan?
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.
If you still have questions or would like additional guidance on business formation in Michigan, contact ZenBusiness today. Not only can we help expedite the process, but our experts can take the stress out of running and growing your Michigan business.