This comprehensive guide to Montana DBA names will help you understand the pros of doing business this way and answer important questions, such as “Do I need a DBA in Montana?” and “How do I file a DBA in Montana?”
What is a Montana “doing business as” (DBA) name?
A company is “doing business as” when it operates under a different name than its legal one. Some states require that DBA name filings be made to protect consumers when conducting business with the company. In different states, a DBA name is also known as a “fictitious name,” “assumed business name,” or “trade name.” (Some states use “fictitious name” specifically to refer to an out-of-state business that can’t use its legal name because that name isn’t available in the state.) In Montana, a DBA name is known as an “assumed name.”
Usually, businesses seeking to use a DBA name fall into one of two buckets:
- Sole proprietorships and partnerships use Montana DBA names or assumed names so that they can have a legal name other than the owner’s legal name.
- The second category is registered entities, such as corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs), that want to operate under a different name for a variety of reasons, such as launching a line of products or dropping a designator like “LLC.”
Montana requires filing for an assumed name at the state level (it’s not required at the county level), done online through the Montana official state ePass system. With a Montana DBA name, you cannot use a name that misrepresents the nature of your business or one that is already used as an assumed or legal name by another business.
It should also be noted that a DBA name is not a business entity type but acts in effect as a legal alias for a business. So, it wouldn’t, in of itself, provide the limited liability protection of an LLC or its tax flexibility.
Some benefits of a Montana DBA include:
- There are fewer maintenance fees involved. A Montana DBA name only has to be renewed every five years for a fee of $20.
- If you have already established an LLC or corporation, you can use assumed names instead of creating new entities by registering them for each new business.
- Registering a Montana DBA name is valuable for sole proprietors and partnerships who do not want their personal names on public materials, helping to protect their privacy.
- You can expand into a market with a DBA name if your legal name is already in use.
- A good, catchy DBA name can help raise brand awareness.
- Registering a DBA name means that you can use a business name legally without incorporating.
- Filing an assumed name makes it easier to set up a bank account in your business’s name.
How do I choose a Montana DBA name?
When choosing a DBA name, you have to follow Montana law, which states the assumed name should not be “the same as or not distinguishable on the record from an assumed business name already registered or from any corporate name, limited partnership name, limited liability company name, limited liability partnership name, trademark, or service mark registered or reserved with the Secretary of State.”
As well, the applicant may not “use a business name identifier that incorrectly states the type of entity that it is” or incorrectly implies that it is another type of entity.
The Montana assumed name cannot also use a business suffix, such as “LLC” or “Corp.,” unless it is actually an LLC, a corporation, or another type of business allowed to use the suffix. The name should also not contain any terms related to financial institutions, such as “Bank,” “Credit Union,” “Savings and Loans,” and other similar words.
Other than the state guidelines, factors in choosing a good Montana DBA name include:
- While the state may not allow you to choose an assumed name already in use, it’s also a wise business practice not to take a name too similar to a competitor’s, especially in the same geographical area. This could lead to customer confusion and perhaps legal action. You want to create your own brand identity and not be confused with someone else’s.
- Select a name that supports your brand. Choose one that reflects who you are or what you offer or aspire to be. The name should be unique but not constraining. For example, you might call yourself “Butte’s Family Barbershop,” but what happens to the name when you open a second location in Bozeman?
- Don’t be too generic in your choice of DBA names. While it might feel good to call yourself “Montana’s Best Meatpacker,” it would probably be difficult to get trademark protection for such a broad and perhaps hard-to-prove claim.
- Since the internet is such an important tool in marketing businesses and making sales, you should pick a name that is web-friendly and available as a domain for your business.
How do I register a Montana DBA name?
Registering a DBA name in Montana involves:
- Ensuring that you have a unique Montana DBA name: The Montana Secretary of State will not issue an assumed name that is indistinguishable from another assumed or corporate name. You can do a search for your intended DBA name through the Secretary of State website to see if the business name is already in use. It costs $10 to reserve a name. A quick search on the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will also tell you whether someone else has already trademarked your name.
- Creating an ePass account: It costs $20 to register your DBA name through ePass Montana. To create an ePass account, fill in a web form with your name, phone number, email address (and backup), security questions, and login information.
- Getting an EIN: While you can identify your business in your registration documents under your Social Security number, you should get an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Federal Tax ID Number, and use it instead. You’ll need an EIN to open a bank account and hire employees.
- Obtaining a Certificate of Good Standing: This may also be titled as a Certificate of Existence or a Certificate of Authorization. It costs only $5 to do this online. A Certificate of Good Standing indicates that the business has filed all reports and fees with the Secretary of State’s office and serves as proof that the entity exists.
- Registering a Partnership Agreement/Statement of Partnership Authority: This can be done online for $20 online.
- Filling in relevant information: The online application will also ask for the proposed assumed name, the type of business that the company transacts, the type of entity in question, and the business address.
For payments, the Montana Secretary of State’s office accepts all major credit cards, including Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover. It also takes debit cards with the Visa or Mastercard logo. Once made, payments will only be refunded:
- If you believe you were given incorrect information by the Secretary of State and then failed to meet a deadline
- If the Montana government made a mistake when processing a document
A refund request form explains all you need to know about asking for a refund.
How do I manage ongoing DBA name compliance in Montana?
Every five years, you need to renew your Montana DBA name for a cost of $20. It also costs $20 if you want to make any amendment to your registered assumed name.
In Montana, there is no specific requirement to advertise your new DBA name in the county you are primarily conducting business. It should also be noted that a foreign corporation or foreign limited partnership cannot apply for a Montana DBA name unless they have an effective Certificate of Authority or Certificate of Registration to transact business in the state. It costs a for-profit foreign corporation or limited partnership $70 to apply for this certificate and $20 for a nonprofit.
You can cancel your Montana assumed name online at any time with no cancellation fee. The cancellation request needs to include the complete registered assumed name and the name and business mailing address of the registrant on record.
Montana DBA FAQs
How much does it cost to register a Montana DBA name?
Working through the Montana Secretary of State’s online ePass system, it costs $20 to register a DBA or assumed name. It also costs $10 to reserve a name. Other related costs can include $20 to file an amendment to a registered assumed name, $20 to file a Partnership Agreement/Statement of Partnership Authority, $20 to renew an assumed name (every five years), or $15 to file any other statement or report. It is free to cancel a DBA name.
A foreign corporation or limited partnership cannot apply for a Montana DBA name unless they have an effective Certificate of Authority or Certificate of Registration to transact business in the state. It costs a for-profit foreign corporation or limited partnership $70 to apply for this certificate and $20 for a nonprofit.
What is the processing time to register a Montana DBA?
While the information on normal processing times isn’t readily available on the Montana Secretary of State website, expedited processing is available. You can pay an additional $20 for 24-hour priority handling or an additional $100 for one-hour handling.
Do I need a DBA name for my Montana business?
The state requires that all sole proprietorships, general partnerships, corporations, LLCs, limited partnerships (LPs), limited liability partnerships (LLPs), or out-of-state companies that regularly transact business in Montana under a name different from their legal name file a DBA name with the Montana Secretary of State.
While it is not a requirement for businesses to have a DBA name, a Montana assumed name could be an advantage if, say, you are a sole partnership and want to do business under a name other than your personal one or if you want to drop the “LLC” suffix from the name under which you do business.
If I register a DBA name in Montana, can another business use the same name?
While in many states, DBA names are not exclusive, in Montana, the Secretary of State won’t allow an assumed name too close to another business’s assumed or corporate name. A DBA name also does not override a trademark, so it is a good idea to get a trademark to protect your brand.
Can a business in Montana have multiple DBA names?
Yes, a business in Montana can have multiple DBA names. One reason to have these is to differentiate lines of business. For example, a cleaning service might have different Montana DBA names for its home and corporate office cleaning divisions.
Is a DBA name the same thing as a fictitious business name in Montana?
In different states, a DBA name can also be known as a “fictitious business name” or a “trade name.” In Montana, “assumed name” is officially used, although “fictitious business names” are also sometimes used. However, fictitious names aren’t used specifically for out-of-state businesses, as it is in other parts of the country.
Do I need a DBA name in Montana if I use my own name for a sole proprietorship?
If you use your own name for a sole partnership, you don’t need a DBA name. But if you want to conduct business under another name, a DBA name is legally required in Montana.
Will using a DBA name affect how my business is taxed in Montana?
While the DBA name will enable you to conduct business in Montana, be careful to remember that it is not a business entity and will not alter how your business is taxed at the local, state, or federal level. If launching a new business, make sure to investigate the business structure that best serves your requirements.
With your DBA registration handled, you will be able to conduct business in Montana using an assumed name that gives you your best chance to connect your brand with its target audience and find big success in Big Sky Country.
Do you need help with other business formation documents in Montana? Contact ZenBusiness today to learn how we can assist you. Our experts can take the stress out of running and growing your Montana small business.