In West Virginia, a DBA name is commonly referred to as a “trade name.”
Read on to learn how a trade name can help your West Virginia business succeed.
What is a West Virginia “doing business as” (DBA) name?
A West Virginia DBA name is just an alternative name for your business — an alias. A trade name does not change the type of business entity (e.g., sole proprietorship versus corporation). Therefore, registering your DBA name won’t impact tax filing or reporting requirements for your business.
Also, beware that a DBA name isn’t protected by copyright or trademark legislation. If you want to secure exclusive rights to the name’s use in West Virginia, you will have to further complete the “Application for Trademark or Service Mark.” If you want protection at the federal level, you will have to file paperwork with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Any business entity in West Virginia can file a trade name. However, this makes the most sense for these entities:
- Sole proprietorships and partnerships are automatically called by the name(s) of their owner (in the case of a sole proprietorship) or owners (in the case of a partnership). A DBA name lets you give your business a catchier title that is distinct from the legal names of the owner(s).
- Corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs) often rely on trade names to boost their branding efforts. Say a corporation’s legal business name is “Charleston Catering, Incorporated.” Abbreviating this to a shorter DBA name, such as “Charleston Catering,” makes for a more memorable moniker.
Whatever type of West Virginia business entity you establish, if you intend to do business under a name other than the legally registered name, you must register a DBA name. According to West Virginia law, individuals, sole proprietorships, general partnerships, corporations, associations, limited partnerships, limited liability partnerships, and LLCs may not conduct business in the state under an assumed name unless that name is registered with the Secretary of State (in the form of a trade name).
Here are some other reasons to register a DBA name in West Virginia:
- Avoid fines: If you violate West Virginia’s statutes on trade names, you face misdemeanor charges. You will be fined anywhere from $25 to $100 and/or be imprisoned in the county jail for up to 30 days.
- Protect privacy: If you have a sole proprietorship or partnership, using your legal name to refer to your business may feel like an invasion of privacy. With a trade name, you can distinguish your person from your business entity.
- Boost branding: A unique trade name is important if you want to differentiate yourself from other businesses similar to yours. Choosing a short and memorable DBA name can also boost your brand, as it will be easy for customers to remember and you to use in marketing materials, like web domain names or business cards.
- Expedite banking: You can use your formally registered West Virginia DBA name to open a business bank account for your company.
A West Virginia DBA name has clear advantages. Now, read on to learn how to choose and register the perfect DBA name for your West Virginia business.
How do I choose a West Virginia DBA name?
West Virginia trade names fall into three categories. A name may be:
- A totally different name (“PCWV, Inc.” doing business as “Pizza Charlotte”)
- A shortened name (“Anne’s Diner” for “Anne’s Diner & Restaurant, Inc.”)
- A name that just drops the corporate name ending (“Bob’s Beds” for “Bob’s Beds, Inc.”)
As you brainstorm DBA names, try to think of something short and easy to remember. Your business alias should also reflect what types of goods or services you offer. Finally, try to find a trade name that has a fitting domain name available. So, if your business is “Bob’s Beds,” you might want to secure a similar domain to solidify your brand presence.
Practical matters aside, West Virginia has laws governing DBA names. Your name must meet these requirements:
- The trade name should not include entity suffixes, like “LLC” or “corporation,” unless that is actually the type of business entity being represented.
- The trade name should not include words like “banking,” “insurance,” or “engineering” unless that is the type of service the business provides.
- The trade name should be unique. According to the state, “For the name to be available, a trade name must be ‘distinguishable’ by at least a one-word difference from any other active registered name in the Secretary of State’s organizations database.”
So, how can you be sure your dream DBA name is available? The process for determining availability depends on the type of business entity you have:
- Corporations, LLCs, limited partnerships, limited liability partnerships, voluntary associations, and business trusts can check a name’s availability via the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Business Organization Search.
- Individuals, sole proprietorships, and general partnerships will have to contact the West Virginia State Tax Department to confirm availability:
1124 Smith Street
Charleston, WV 25301
How do I register a West Virginia DBA name?
You can file a West Virginia DBA name by mail or online via the WV One Stop Business Portal. West Virginia requires different types of business entities to complete different forms for their trade name registration. Make sure to complete the paperwork for your business entity type.
If you are an individual or have a sole proprietorship or general partnership, you must complete Form TN-1. There is no filing fee for filing a West Virginia DBA name for these types of business entities. Here is the basic information you will have to provide:
- The official business name, as registered with the West Virginia State Tax Department
- The desired trade name(s)
- The full names and addresses of the persons signing off on the application
- A contact person name, email, and phone number
- For an individual or sole proprietorship, only one person needs to sign. For a general partnership, all general partners must sign.
If you have a corporation, LLC, limited partnership, limited liability partnership, voluntary association, or business trust, you must complete Form NR-3. There is a $25 filing fee for filing a West Virginia DBA name for these types of business entities. Here is the basic information you will have to provide:
- The official business name, as registered with the Secretary of State
- The desired trade name(s)
- The principal address/office of business
- The full name, address, and signature of the person with authority to file the trade name application
- A contact person name, email, and phone number
Whether you are filing Form TN-1 or NR-3, you have the same submission options.
For standard processing (five to 10 business days), you can submit the form via email (CorpFilings@wvsos.gov), fax, or walk-in delivery.
For expedited service, you can submit the form via email (email@example.com), fax, or walk-in delivery. Note the expedited service fees: $25 for a 24-hour turnaround, $250 for a two-hour turnaround, or $500 for a one-hour turnaround.
Whether you are filing standard or expedited, if you are submitting via fax or walk-in, you must do so via one of the business service centers listed on the forms. There are three offices (Charleston, Clarksburg, and Martinsburg). The address, phone, fax, and opening hours for each office are listed on the forms.
How do I manage ongoing DBA name compliance in West Virginia?
A West Virginia DBA name does not expire. You don’t need to renew it as you do in some other states. However, if you want to discontinue using a trade name, you must file a trade name withdrawal. You can file via the One Stop Business Portal. Alternatively, you can download the paperwork and submit it via email, fax, or walk-in delivery to the contact information listed on the form.
Here are the relevant forms, depending on your type of business entity:
- If you are an individual or have a sole proprietorship or general partnership, you must complete Form TN-2. There is no filing fee.
- If you have a corporation, LLC, limited partnership, limited liability partnership, voluntary association, or business trust, you must complete Form NR-4. There is a $25 filing fee.
West Virginia DBA FAQs
How much does it cost to register a West Virginia DBA name?
If your business entity is an individual, sole proprietorship, or general partnership, you do not have to pay a filing fee when registering your West Virginia DBA name. If your business entity is a corporation, LLC, limited partnership, limited liability partnership, voluntary association, or business trust, you have to pay a $25 filing fee.
For expedited services (for any type of entity), added charges apply: $25 for a 24-hour turnaround, $250 for a two-hour turnaround, or $500 for a one-hour turnaround.
There are no ongoing maintenance fees for West Virginia trade names. However, if you want to withdraw your trade name, the same filing fees as above apply. The same expedited service fees also apply.
What is the processing time to register a West Virginia DBA?
Standard processing times are five to 10 business days. Expedited processing times are available for an added fee (one-, two, or 24-hour turnaround).
Do I need a DBA name for my West Virginia business?
If you want to do business under a name other than the one you’ve legally registered when founding your business, you need to file a trade name. Failing to do so can result in fines and/or jail time.
If I register a DBA name in West Virginia, can another business use the same name?
West Virginia trade names are supposed to be “distinguishable” by at least a one-word difference from other actively registered trade names in the state. However, a trade name doesn’t give you exclusivity in the way that a trademark or copyright would.
Can a business in West Virginia have multiple DBA names?
Yes, you can register multiple West Virginia trade names. You might want to do this for branding and marketing reasons. For example, say you provide dry cleaning and laundry services. Part of your business comes from private clients, and another part of your business comes from corporate clients (e.g., catering companies or hotels). You might establish two brands (including two websites under two different domains and DBA names) to target each audience.
Is a DBA name the same thing as a fictitious business name in West Virginia?
In West Virginia, a DBA name is referred to as a “trade name.” In other states, it may be referred to as an “assumed name” or “fictitious name.” These terms all refer to the same concept — an alias for a business.
Do I need a DBA name in West Virginia if I use my own name for a sole proprietorship?
A sole proprietorship is automatically referred to by the owner’s name. If you want to do business or even market your business under a name other than your own name, you are legally required to register a trade name.
Will using a DBA name affect how my business is taxed in West Virginia?
No. A DBA name is just an alias. It’s not a business entity. Thus, it doesn’t change your tax status.
Registering a DBA name is just one of many steps needed to successfully grow your West Virginia business. Are you feeling overwhelmed? ZenBusiness can simplify the process. Our business formation and compliance professionals can take on the administrative burden — so you can focus on your West Virginia small business.