That’s where a “doing business as” (DBA) name comes in. In Washington, this is referred to as a “trade name.” A DBA name allows businesses to operate under a name that’s different from their legal names. In the state of Washington, the registration of a DBA name is a requirement for any business that wants to use one.
In this guide, we’ll show you how your Washington business can benefit from a DBA name. Follow along to find out how to register and maintain a unique DBA name for your company.
What is a Washington “doing business as” (DBA) name?
A DBA name does not establish or create a separate legal entity for your business. Hence, it won’t have any bearing on how your business is taxed. Think of a DBA name as an alias for your business.
Below are the two primary categories of businesses that typically use DBA names:
- Sole proprietorships and partnerships: These businesses use DBA names so that they can have a legal business name. Without a DBA name, they will have to use their personal names.
- Corporations and LLCs: DBA names are used by corporations or LLCs to introduce a new line of business or market new products or services that their current business name does not represent.
Here are other benefits of a DBA that you can take advantage of:
- Business bank account: Most financial institutions will require sole proprietorships and partnerships to obtain a DBA name before they can open a business bank account.
- Privacy: Sole proprietors and partnerships tend to register for DBA names to keep their personal names from public records. A DBA name allows them to list a different business name instead.
- Descriptive brand name: A sole proprietor or partner will utilize a DBA name to craft a more descriptive name for their business. For example, “Dylan Murphy,” as a business name, does not communicate what the business offers, but “Dylan’s Custom Furniture” will.
- Business expansion: Corporations and LLCs use DBA names when they’re expanding to new territories where their business names are in use or might be confusing. For example, “Seattle’s Moving Services” may not be well-received in Tacoma, so the owner may register for a DBA name to use “Tacoma’s Moving Services.”
Read on for a detailed overview of how to obtain and maintain a DBA name for your Washington business. The relevant information will be divided into sections below.
How do I choose a Washington DBA name?
Businesses adopt DBA names or trade names for various reasons. One of those reasons is to create a distinct business name that describes the products or services offered. Some businesses use their names to reflect and communicate the values of their company. Still, others utilize a DBA name to establish an alternate name for a specific line of their business.
In the state of Washington, you are legally required to register a trade name to operate under a different name other than your legal name as a sole proprietor or partnership. The same goes for corporations, LLCs, or limited partnerships if they want to conduct business under a name other than registered with the Washington Secretary of State.
And even though DBA names are not exclusive, and registering does not protect it from being used by other local businesses, it is still in your best interest to pick a DBA name that is distinct and not too similar to ones already in use.
To verify if your desired Washington DBA name is available, check the Department of Revenue’s database for general licenses. Also, conduct a name search via the Secretary of State Corporation Registration Data for registered corporation and LLC names. If you plan to trademark your name, you may also want to check the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for federally registered names.
The state of Washington also has naming requirements, namely:
- Your trade name should not include any business entity suffix, such as “LLC,” “Inc.,” or “Corp.” if your business is not an LLC, corporation, etc.
- Your trade name should not include the following words or phrases if your business is not organized for the said purpose: “Bank,” “Banking,” “Banker,” “Trust,” “Cooperative, any combination of the words “Industrial” and “Loan,” any combination of any two or more of the words “Building,” “Savings,” “Loan,” “Home,” “Association,” and “Society,” or any other words or phrases prohibited by any Washington state statute.
How do I register a Washington DBA name?
The state of Washington has a fairly easy process for trade name registration. Below is a walk-through of the steps.
- To check if your desired DBA name is not in use, search the Department of Revenue’s business lookup database for general licenses.
- Search the Secretary of State Corporation Registration Data for registered corporation and LLC names.
- To ensure you are not infringing on any registered trademark, check the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
- Before filing the Business License Application, you must file with the Washington Secretary of State if you have a formal business structure, such as a corporation, partnership, LLC, or limited liability partnership.
- File a Business License Application online with My DOR. List the DBA name you want to register in the “Endorsement and Fees” section. The fee for each name is $5. You also need to pay a nonrefundable Business License Application processing fee of $19 for each application. If you’re opening a business for the first time, there may be additional fees. Use this to calculate your total cost. Registration can also be done through the mail. Send your application with any supplemental documents and the payment to:
Business Licensing Service
P.O. Box 9034
Olympia, WA 98507-9034
- If your application is approved, you will receive your business license with your trade name registration from the Washington Department of Revenue.
How do I manage ongoing DBA name compliance in Washington?
The state of Washington does not require a renewal for your DBA name, so it is valid indefinitely until you decide to change or cancel it.
There are two ways to change your DBA name:
- File online
- By mail: Fill out the registration form and tick the box next to “Change trade name.” List your new DBA name under the endorsement section. Send the form with payment of $24 to the Business Licensing Service.
There is no fee to cancel your DBA name. You can withdraw your registration through one of the following channels:
- File online
- Email the Business Licensing Service at BLS@dor.wa.gov
- Fax a letter requesting the cancellation to 360-705-6699
- Mail a letter requesting the cancellation to:
Business Licensing Service
P.O. Box 9034
Olympia, WA 98507-9034
Washington DBA FAQs
How much does it cost to register a Washington DBA name?
If you register a DBA name, your total cost will be $24, which includes the business license processing fee of $19 and a fee of $5 per trade name.
However, if you are starting a new business and registering for a business license and DBA name at the same time, there may be additional fees. You can find a breakdown of the fees here.
What is the processing time to register a Washington DBA?
Online applications are processed within 10 business days. Paper applications are processed within three to six weeks.
Do I need a DBA name for my Washington business?
Not all businesses benefit from registering a DBA name. If you are a sole proprietor or partnership, you might want to adopt one to advertise your business under a name that is not your personal name. Similarly, corporations and LLCs utilize DBA names when introducing new products or services that their current business name does not represent.
If I register a DBA name in Washington, can another business use the same name?
Unfortunately, registering a DBA name in Washington does not provide you exclusive use of it. It’s also worth noting that DBA names do not override trademarks. If you don’t want others to use your name, a trademark is the most practical way to protect your brand.
Can a business in Washington have multiple DBA names?
Yes, a business in Washington can register for an unlimited number of trade names.
Is a DBA name the same thing as a fictitious business name in Washington?
The state of Washington uses the term “trade name” to refer to DBA names, but they are essentially the same thing.
Do I need a DBA name in Washington if I use my own name for a sole proprietorship?
As a sole proprietorship, you don’t need to register a DBA name if you plan to use your own name. However, if you plan on operating under a different name, you would need to register for a DBA name.
Will using a DBA name affect how my business is taxed in Washington?
A DBA name is not a business structure. It will not create or establish a new legal entity. Hence, it will not impact how your business is taxed at the local, state, or federal level.
Do you need additional guidance on business formation in Washington? Connect with ZenBusiness to learn how we can help you speed up the process. Our experts in business formation and compliance will take the stress out of starting and growing your Washington small business.