A “doing business as” (DBA) name allows you to conduct business under a name different from the one you registered when you founded your new business. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, a DBA name is referred to as an “assumed name” or “fictitious name.” Registering an assumed or fictitious name for your entrepreneurial enterprise has many benefits, from better marketing opportunities to easier business banking.
What is a Virginia “doing business as” (DBA) name?
So, just what is a Virginia DBA name? An assumed or fictitious name is simply an alias. It isn’t a type of business entity (like a limited liability company or corporation). Registering a Virginia DBA name won’t change your business reporting or tax filing requirements. An assumed or fictitious name also isn’t exclusive in the way that a copyrighted or trademarked name would be.
There are two main types of businesses that predominantly decide to establish a DBA name:
- Sole proprietorships and partnerships: These business entities are automatically referred to by their owner or owners’ name(s). With a DBA name, the business can go by an alternative moniker.
- Corporations and LLCs: Corporations and LLCs may use a DBA name for branding purposes. For instance, say your legal business name is “Jennifer’s Cakes and Cookies, Incorporated.” An abbreviated DBA name, like “Jenny’s Cakes,” is shorter and more memorable, making it better for branding and marketing.
Regardless of the entity type, if you want to conduct business using a name other than the one you legally registered with the commonwealth when founding your business, you’re required to register a DBA name. Virginia law states that “No person shall conduct or transact business in the Commonwealth under any assumed or fictitious name unless such person files in the office of the clerk of the Commission a certificate of assumed or fictitious name.”
Legal requirements aside, there are advantages to using a DBA name:
- Boost security: With a sole proprietorship or partnership, you will be required to refer to the business by the owner’s/owners’ name(s). With a DBA name, you don’t have to use your personal name and can disassociate your person from the business entity.
- Improve marketing prospects: A unique name is important because it differentiates you from competitors. A succinct DBA name can also be shorter than your full legal business name, making it easier to incorporate into marketing materials like signage.
- Simplify banking: Once you have a Virginia DBA name, you can open a business bank account under that name.
So, now you know what a Virginia DBA name is. However, you may still wonder, “How do I file a DBA name in Virginia?” Read on to find out.
How do I choose a Virginia DBA name?
A great DBA name can support your Virginia business’s success. When brainstorming the perfect moniker, aim for something snappy and memorable that gives people an idea of the products and services you offer. A succinct alias will be easier to adapt for marketing materials, from brochures to business cards and websites.
Virginia laws governing the technicalities of DBA names are relatively relaxed. Some states require that your DBA name be unique, for example. This isn’t the case in Virginia. Still, a one-of-a-kind name helps you stand out from the competition. You can check if a business is already using the name you are considering via a name search through the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) website.
Virginia also doesn’t set out specific requirements in terms of wording. According to the state, “Fictitious names are not held to the same requirements as business entity names … wording restrictions do not apply to fictitious names as they do business entity names.” Nonetheless, it makes sense to follow a few logical rules when creating your DBA name.
For instance, the name shouldn’t suggest that your business offers services other than what it actually offers. So, if you aren’t running a bank, don’t include the word “bank” in the name. Affiliating yourself with federal agencies is also unwise and will only confuse potential clients. Steer clear of words like “national” or “federal.”
How do I register a Virginia DBA name?
Virginia used to require some filings at the county level, but as of 2020, all DBA name filings are done via the Virginia SCC. You can register a DBA name via the SCC Clerk’s Information System (CIS). Here’s how to create a CIS account if you don’t have one. You can then register your DBA name online. Alternatively, you can register via mail.
Virginia is unique because there are two types of paperwork for filing a DBA name: one for individuals (e.g., sole proprietors) and one for entities (like a corporation).
Here is the information you need to provide if filing a DBA name for an individual:
- The name of the individual you are filing an assumed or fictitious name for
- The assumed or fictitious name you want to use
- The contact address of the individual or entity
Here is the information you need to provide if filing a DBA name for an entity:
- The name of the entity you are filing an assumed or fictitious name for
- The assumed or fictitious name you want to use
- The type of entity
- The name of the state, county, or jurisdiction where the entity was founded
- If applicable, the entity’s SCC ID number
- The entity’s principal place of business address
Whether filing for an individual or an entity, a $10 filing fee is due. If you decide to file by mail, you can download, print, and send the application to:
State Corporation Commission
P.O. Box 1197
Richmond, VA 23218-1197
There is also an alternative address for courier deliveries:
1300 E. Main St
Richmond, VA 23219
In either case, include a check made payable to the State Corporation Commission with the paperwork. Don’t send cash.
How do I manage ongoing DBA name compliance in Virginia?
Maintaining a DBA name in Virginia is easy. There is no need to renew the name (as in some other states). You simply file the paperwork described above once and, assuming it’s approved, the DBA name is valid for as long as you’d like.
However, if you decide you no longer want to use that DBA name, you must take action. If you wish to cancel your assumed or fictitious name, you must complete the “Certificate of Release of Assumed or Fictitious Name on File with the Commission.” You can do this via the online portal or download Form SCC59.1-70.1-CO and submit it by mail.
If you decide to send the form by mail, you can send it to the P.O. box address or the courier address listed on the form. Whether filing online or by mail, you will have to pay a $10 filing fee.
Virginia DBA FAQs
How much does it cost to register a Virginia DBA name?
You have to pay a $10 filing fee when registering an assumed or fictitious name for your Virginia business. This is done by filing the “Certificate of Assumed or Fictitious Name” (for an entity or individual). You can file online or by mail.
There are no ongoing maintenance costs to keep your DBA name in the state. However, if you decide you no longer want to use the DBA name, you have to complete the “Certificate of Release of Assumed or Fictitious Name on File with the Commission” and again pay a $10 filing fee. You can file online or by mail.
What is the processing time to register a Virginia DBA?
You can file your paperwork online or by post. An online filing will generally be faster because you don’t have to wait for the mail to get there.
Do I need a DBA name for my Virginia business?
If you’re wondering, “Do I need a DBA name in Virginia?” the answer is technically no. You are not required to create an assumed or fictitious name for your Virginia business. However, if you plan to conduct business under a name other than the name you legally registered with the commonwealth when establishing your business, you need to formally register that name as a DBA name.
If I register a DBA name in Virginia, can another business use the same name?
Yes. An assumed or fictitious name in Virginia does not give you exclusive rights to that name.
Can a business in Virginia have multiple DBA names?
It’s generally OK to establish different DBA names for different business purposes. Why might you do this? Say you own an entertainment company, providing DJ services, for example. Some of your business comes from bars and nightclubs, while some of your business comes from working wedding parties. You might want to establish two different brands (with two different names) to target these two very different markets.
Is a DBA name the same thing as a fictitious business name in Virginia?
Yes. Different states have different terms for a DBA name. In Virginia, this is referred to as an “assumed” or “fictitious” name. You may also see it called a “trade name” elsewhere.
Do I need a DBA name in Virginia if I use my own name for a sole proprietorship?
As a sole proprietor, your business is automatically referred to by your full legal name. If you want to use a different name for your business, for example, to protect your privacy or for marketing purposes, you need to file a DBA name.
Will using a DBA name affect how my business is taxed in Virginia?
A DBA name is simply an alias for your business. It does not constitute a formal business entity, and it doesn’t change what type of business entity you have. Therefore, it does not change your taxation or reporting requirements.