If you own a Rhode Island business and would like to use a different name than your legal business name, you will need to register a “doing business as” or DBA name at both the state and local levels. Known in Rhode Island as a fictitious business name, DBA names are typically used when you want to use multiple names for one business, or if you are a sole proprietor wanting to be recognized as something other than your legal name.
Want to learn more? This guide will cover the basics of what a DBA name is, the rules for choosing, registering, and maintaining one in the Ocean State, and how we can help make the process easier.
A DBA name is simply another name that your business can go by when operating and doesn’t establish a new business when you register it. Hence, adopting one does not impact how your business is taxed. In the state of Rhode Island, a DBA name is referred to as a “fictitious business name.”
There are two basic categories of businesses that use DBA names:
Here are some of the more common benefits of registering a DBA name:
Whether your Rhode Island business is a corporation, an LLC, or a sole proprietorship, you should choose a DBA name that expressly communicates what you offer to customers. Come up with a name that will catch the attention of your target market.
It’s also best to avoid DBA names that are too similar to other business names. Use the Rhode Island Department of State corporate database to check if the DBA name you want is not currently used by another business.
Make sure your desired name also complies with Rhode Island’s entity name standard, which requires your DBA name to be “distinguishable upon the record.” The Secretary of State will deny a request for a name identical to a name on file in the active corporate database.
Take note that the following examples will not make your DBA name “distinguishable upon the record”:
To register a fictitious business name in Rhode Island, you will need to apply with the office of the Secretary of State. But if you are the owner of a sole proprietorship or general partnership, you will need to register with the office of the city or town clerk where you intend to do business. It’s important to note that some cities may require business entities other than sole proprietorships and general partnerships to register their DBA name with the city, as well, so you’ll need to check with your local city government to confirm.
Below are the basic steps to register your DBA name with the Rhode Island Secretary of State:
A registered Rhode Island fictitious business name does not expire or have any ongoing compliance requirements. However, you’d need to file a “Statement of Abandonment of Use of Fictitious Business Name” if you want to cancel your registration.
To file a cancellation, use the specific form intended for your business entity.
The documents can be filed in person, online, or by mail. The cancellation fee is $50, which is payable by credit card, with a check addressed to the Rhode Island Department of State, or in cash if you’re hand-delivering your application.
The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.
Fees are subject to change over time. Check the Rhode Island Department of State website for the most current fee schedule regarding DBA registration and renewal. For sole proprietors and general partnerships, the registration is made through the city or county clerk.
A DBA name is not required at all times. But it does have some advantages if you are a sole proprietor. A DBA name will allow you to operate under a business name that communicates what your business offers. For example, “Dylan’s Underwater Photography” will be better received by customers than if the owner simply goes by their legal name.
Corporations and LLCs also benefit from using an assumed business name. A DBA name helps these businesses market their products or services. For example, an incorporated residential builder adding a real estate division may use a DBA name for the expansion to avoid confusion.
DBA names are generally not exclusive, which means other businesses could use the same name. Before you register your DBA name, you might want to use the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) database to check and make sure your name is available at the federal level. Since DBA names do not override trademarks, acquiring one is the most effective means to protect your brand.
If your Rhode Island business has different areas of operation, you may file more than one DBA name. If you’re a sole proprietorship or general partnership looking to conduct business in two or more cities or counties, you may need to register in multiple places since your registration is done at the city or county level.
The state of Rhode Island uses “fictitious business name” to refer to DBA names. In other states, DBAs can be referred to as “assumed names” or “trade names.”
You don’t need a DBA name if you plan to use your own name. But you will need to register for one if you want to operate under a business name other than your legal name.
Registering a DBA name for your Rhode Island business does not create a new legal entity or change your business structure. For these reasons, a DBA name won’t impact how your company is taxed at the local, state, and federal levels.
Rhode Island Business Resources
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When it comes to compliance, costs, and other factors, these are popular states for filing a DBA.
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