This guide describes the steps for registering and maintaining a Minnesota DBA name. It also shows how ZenBusiness can simplify the business formation process even further.
What is a Minnesota “doing business as” (DBA) name?
In Minnesota, a DBA name is called an “assumed name.” Elsewhere, you may see a DBA name referred to as a “fictitious name,” “fictitious business name,” or “trade name.” All of these phrases refer to the same concept. A DBA name is like a nickname for your business, providing a shorter, sweeter, and simpler way to refer to it than the legal business name. When you register an assumed name with the state, you are allowed to conduct your business under that name — there’s no need to include the full business name.
An assumed name doesn’t have any influence over the business entity’s structure, tax requirements, or reporting obligations. It also doesn’t provide any sort of copyright or trademark protection.
According to the state, “The filing of an assumed name does not provide a user with exclusive rights to that name. The filing is required for consumer protection in order to enable consumers to be able to identify the true owner of a business.” If you want exclusive rights to your business name, you will have to look into federal or state trademarks.
So, why might you bother with a Minnesota DBA name? This usually makes the most sense for certain business entities, notably:
- Sole proprietorships and partnerships: Sole proprietorships and partnerships legally go by the name of their owner or owners. This isn’t ideal for branding purposes. It can also feel like a violation of privacy for the owners.
- Corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs): Like sole proprietors or partnerships, corporations and LLCs may register an assumed name for branding and marketing reasons.
In fact, if you want to use a name other than your legally registered full business name for any purpose, you have to have a Minnesota assumed name. According to state law, you are not allowed to carry out any commercial business transactions under “any designation, name, or style” other than your real name — unless you file a certificate with the Secretary of State.
More specifically, according to the state, an assumed name should be used if you are:
- “A person conducting business under a business name which does not contain their true full personal name.” (This would apply to sole proprietors, for example.)
- “The name of the general partnership does not include the true full name of each partner.” (This applies if your business structure is a partnership.)
- “A corporation, limited partnership or limited liability company conducting business under a name other than their legal business name.”
Legal requirements aside, there are distinct advantages to establishing a Minnesota DBA name:
- Separate your personal and business identities: If you are a sole proprietor or in a partnership, the default “business name” will be the legal names of the business owner(s). With an assumed name, you can separate your personal identity from your business identity.
- Get more effective marketing opportunities: When you register your Minnesota business, you have to follow the state’s naming regulations. For example, if you create an LLC, you must end your business name with the phrase “Limited Liability Company” or an appropriate abbreviation. This last detail can make things tricky when you’re trying to come up with short and memorable marketing catchphrases. Using the full legal name will result in clunky, awkward phrasing. That’s where your assumed name comes in.
- Simplify business transactions: When you have a DBA name, you can open a business bank account using that name. You can then easily keep your personal and business finances separate. You can also use your DBA name for other financial transactions, such as on invoices to clients.
To tap into these benefits, you need to register your Minnesota DBA name. Read on to find out how it’s done.
How do I choose a Minnesota DBA name?
Choosing a good business name will help your entrepreneurial endeavor succeed. Select a memorable moniker that’s easy to incorporate into branding and marketing materials. Make sure it isn’t too long or complex.
As you brainstorm your Minnesota assumed name, keep the state’s legal requirements in mind:
- The name can’t include a misleading business entity label. So, you can’t include a term like “Incorporated” unless you’re actually a corporation or “LLC” unless you’re actually a limited liability company.
- The name can’t include terms related to financial institutions, such as “Credit Union,” “Banker,” “Bank,” “Savings and Loan Association,” and similar.
Unlike some other states, Minnesota does allow for the same or similar assumed name to be filed. You don’t have to worry about making sure that your name is unique. It will help you stand out from the competition if you have a one-of-a-kind label, however. You can check business name availability online.
How do I register a Minnesota DBA name?
If you want to register a Minnesota assumed name, you can do so online, by mail, or in person. Here’s how.
- Visit the Secretary of State’s online business portal. If you don’t have an account, you can register one here.
- With your account created, you can access the online “Certificate of Assumed Name” application. You will have to provide the following details:
- The exact assumed name you plan to use
- The principal place of business
- The name and address of all persons conducting business under the assumed name
- An email address and phone number for official notifications
- Pay the online filing fee of $50.
- Minnesota requires that you file the Certificate of Assumed Name and publish it before conducting any business. After filing, you must publish the Certificate of Assumed Name in a qualified legal newspaper in the county where your principal place of business is located. Contact a legal newspaper in your relevant county for instructions on publication. You must publish the certificate for two consecutive issues in the legal notices section of the publication.
- After publication, the newspaper will provide an affidavit, confirming publication. You should keep a copy of this affidavit and your Certificate of Assumed Name in your business records.
Filing by Mail
- Download and print the “Certificate of Assumed Name” application from the Minnesota Secretary of State.
- Write your assumed name on line one.
- Write your principal place of business on line two.
- List all persons conducting business under the assumed name on line three.
- Sign under line 4 and provide the required email address and telephone number.
- Pay the $30 filing fee for mail-in applications. Do not send cash. Make a check payable to the MN Secretary of State.
- Submit your application to:
Minnesota Secretary of State – Business Services
Retirement Systems of Minnesota Building
60 Empire Drive, Suite 100
St Paul, MN 55103
Minnesota requires that you file the Certificate of Assumed Name and publish it before conducting any business. After filing, you must publish the Certificate of Assumed Name in a qualified legal newspaper in the county where your principal place of business is located. Contact a legal newspaper in your relevant county for instructions on publication. You must publish the certificate for two consecutive issues in the legal notices section of the publication.
After publication, the newspaper will provide an affidavit, confirming publication. You should keep a copy of this affidavit and your Certificate of Assumed Name in your business records.
You can also submit the paperwork in person and pay a $50 expedited filing fee. Take note of when the Business Services Division is staffed: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday, excluding holidays.
How do I manage ongoing DBA name compliance in Minnesota?
After your Minnesota assumed name is approved, it’s up to you to make sure the name remains legally compliant. A Minnesota DBA name must be renewed annually. You have to do this every year by Dec. 31. You can renew your DBA name online, via mail, or in person.
To renew online, use the Secretary of State’s online business portal. To renew via mail, download and print the “Assumed Name Annual Renewal” form. You will have to include a file number, the assumed name, the principal place of business address, and an email and phone number for contact purposes. You can then submit the form by mail to:
Minnesota Secretary of State – Business Services
Retirement Systems of Minnesota Building
60 Empire Drive, Suite 100
St Paul, MN 55103
Alternatively, you can submit the form in person. Take note of the opening hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday, excluding holidays.
There is no filing fee for the annual renewal, assuming the assumed name is still active and in good standing. If you’ve missed the renewal deadline, and the assumed name has expired, you can retroactively have it reinstated by filing and paying a $45 filing fee (online or in-person processing) or $25 (mail). If submitting by mail, make checks payable to the MN Secretary of State.
You may also decide to change your business’s assumed name. You can do this by completing the “Amendment of Assumed Name” form. You can do this online, by mail, or in person. The address for mail or in-person submissions is the same as above. For changing your assumed name, you have to pay a $30 filing fee for postal submissions or $50 for online or in-person submissions. To cancel your assumed name, complete the “Cancellation of Assumed Name” form (online, by mail, or in-person). There is no cancellation fee.
Minnesota DBA FAQs
- How much does it cost to register a Minnesota DBA name?
You do have to invest if you want to maintain a Minnesota DBA name. When first registering your DBA name, you have to complete the Certificate of Assumed Name application. If you file online or in-person, you will have to pay a filing fee of $50. If you file via mail, you pay a $30 filing fee.
You also have to renew your assumed name every year. The great news is that this won’t cost you a thing — assuming you meet the filing deadline of December 31! If you don’t, you will have to pay a filing fee to have your assumed name retroactively reinstated. This is $45 for in-person or online filings or $25 for postal filings.
If you decide to change your assumed name, you have to complete the Amendment of Assumed Name form. Filing this paperwork will cost you $30 for postal submissions or $50 for online or in-person submissions.
- What is the processing time to register a Minnesota DBA?
You can file your Minnesota DBA paperwork via the Secretary of State’s online portal, via mail, or in-person. The state defines online and in-person filings as “expedited,” which is also why the processing fees for these options cost more. For example, an initial DBA name registration costs $50 to file online or in person, compared to $30 via mail.
- Do I need a DBA name for my Minnesota business?
Minnesota requires a DBA name whenever you conduct business under a name that is not your legally registered business name. Specifically, the state outlines three instances in which you should register an assumed name:
You’re a sole proprietor or individual doing business under a name that doesn’t include your legal given name.
You’re a general partnership, and your partnership name doesn’t include the full legal name of each partner.
You’re a corporation, limited partnership, or LLC and want to do business under a name other than the formally registered legal name.
- If I register a DBA name in Minnesota, can another business use the same name?
Yes. Some states bar you from using a DBA name if another business in that state is already using that name. This isn’t the case in Minnesota. You won’t have any exclusive claim to your assumed name. If you want to establish this kind of exclusivity over a business name, you need to arrange for a trademark or copyright.
- Can a business in Minnesota have multiple DBA names?
Yes, it is possible for a business to have more than one DBA name. Given the registration and maintenance requirements, you might wonder why someone would bother with more than one assumed name. It mostly makes sense if you have one business that offers varied services. If you own an electronics repair shop but also have a niche specializing in cracked phone screen repair, for example, you might want a DBA name for each of these business focuses.
- Is a DBA name the same thing as a fictitious business name in Minnesota?
Different states have different terms for a DBA name. In Minnesota, the proper term is “assumed name.” This is the same thing as a “fictitious business name” or “fictitious name” in other states. These terms all refer to the same concept — they are an alias for the legal business name.
- Do I need a DBA name in Minnesota if I use my own name for a sole proprietorship?
If you’re a sole proprietor, you are only allowed to conduct business under your legal name. If you want to conduct business under a different moniker, you need to apply for a Minnesota assumed name for your business.
- Will using a DBA name affect how my business is taxed in Minnesota?
A DBA is not a business entity, and it doesn’t change your business entity’s structure or type. It thus doesn’t impact your tax and reporting obligations.
Are you still confused about how to business formation in Minnesota — or simply don’t have the time to take care of it? Let ZenBusiness handle the process. Our business formation experts will ensure your Minnesota business is legally compliant and up to date. While we handle these technicalities, you can focus on your business!
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