What is a DBA name? And does your company need to obtain one to operate in Wisconsin?
We’ll answer all of these questions and walk you through how to apply for a DBA name in the Badger State below.
What is a Wisconsin “doing business as” (DBA) name?
Many business entities can benefit from securing a Wisconsin DBA name for a variety of reasons. Keep in mind that a DBA name is not a business entity — rather, it’s an alias used by your company.
In Wisconsin, a DBA name is referred to as a “trade name.” While it’s not mandatory to secure a trade name, it does have many benefits for your small business. The benefits differ depending on your business type, so we’ll break them down in full detail below:
- Sole proprietorships and partnerships: These business entities technically operate under their legal name by Wisconsin law. This means that if your name is Jane Lewis, and you own a sole proprietorship, you’re required to sell your services or products under your legal name. However, if you want to sell under the name “Jane’s Catering,” you would register a DBA name.
- Limited liability companies (LLCs) and corporations: If you own an LLC or corporation, you already have a registered business name. However, you might want to branch out in different directions and create a smaller product or service lines sold under separate names. For example, if your company name is “Reynold’s Manufacturing,” but you want to market your construction and delivery services, you might decide to register trade names for each (e.g., “Reynold’s Construction” and “Reynold’s Delivery”). In addition, LLCs and corporations may want to remove the designations required at the end of their names (such as “L.L.C.” or “Inc.”) and might opt to operate under a trade name for more freedom.
Some additional benefits of securing a DBA name in Wisconsin include:
- Allows your business to select names that better match your product or service lines and markets to better resonate with your buyers
- Offers you the opportunity to protect your personal identity (if you’re a sole proprietor or in a partnership) when marketing your services
- Lets you file legal paperwork using your trade name, rather than tying all activities back to one overarching company name
If you’re interested in securing a DBA name, we’ll walk you through exactly how to do that below.
How do I choose a Wisconsin DBA name?
Selecting your business’s DBA name can be tricky. Whenever you’re choosing a business name, you want to be sure it fits your brand, identifies with your audience, is memorable, and complements the product or service it’s representing. It’s also important to make sure you perform a domain search so that you can match it to your trade name.
We recommend getting started by compiling a list of options and then running a name search through the Wisconsin business name availability database. While filing a trade name doesn’t prevent others from using it, you’ll want to pick a unique name that can stand out among your competitors.
However, you should be mindful of Wisconsin law regarding trademarks, as trade names are considered synonymous with state trademarks. And if you’re interested in including a designator in your DBA name, it must match the entity type of the designator’s legal business name.
How do I register a Wisconsin DBA name?
Now that you have your name selected and your domain purchased, it’s time to register your DBA name. You’ll do this online through the State of Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.
Please note, though, that you won’t be able to complete this in one session, as you’ll have to have your document notarized. Once you enter your initial information, you’ll print the application, get it notarized, and then come back and upload it. You’ll be able to submit payment at this point.
Here’s the information you’ll need to fill this form out:
- Visit the Department of Financial Institutions online portal
- Select “Register a Trade Name or Trademark”
- Enter your legal business name
- Enter the business’s mailing address
- Provide your Employer Identification Number (EIN)
- Provide the trade name to be registered
- Include the date of the first use of the trade name
- Enter your business classification code (full list here)
- Pay the $15 filing fee
Additionally, if you want to register multiple trade names, you must use a separate form and pay a separate fee for each. While some states require business owners to publish notice of their DBA name registration, Wisconsin does not require you to advertise your name.
How do I manage ongoing DBA name compliance in Wisconsin?
Your trade name in Wisconsin is good for 10 years. It may be renewed up to six months before the date of expiration using the same online filing system.
If you need to withdraw your trade name, you can do so online by submitting the “Cancellation of Trade Name/Trademark” form. There is no fee to cancel the use of your DBA name.
More Wisconsin DBA FAQs
How much does it cost to register a Wisconsin DBA name?
There is a $15 filing fee to register your trade name in Wisconsin. This registration lasts for 10 years, after which you’ll need to repay this fee and refile to keep your trade name.
What is the processing time to register a Wisconsin DBA?
Processing times for registering a trade name in Wisconsin vary, depending on how you’re filing. You’ll have to get your document notarized, so while online processing isn’t immediate, it tends to be faster than if you mail your application. If you’re filing a paper document, you should expect three to seven days for processing (not including mail time), but this can be sped up by requesting expedited processing for an additional fee.
Do I need a DBA name for my Wisconsin business?
Wisconsin businesses do not need a trade name by default. However, if you plan to operate under any name other than your official company name, you need to secure a DBA name to remain compliant in Wisconsin.
If I register a DBA name in Wisconsin, can another business use the same name?
Registering a DBA name does not prevent others from using the name in the state of Wisconsin.
Can a business in Wisconsin have multiple DBA names?
Yes, businesses in Wisconsin can have more than one trade name. For instance, “Edge Marketing” might decide to expand their business by offering services under the trade names of “Edge Consulting” and “Edge Sales Trainers.” You’ll need to file a form for each DBA name you choose.
Is a DBA name the same thing as a fictitious business name in Wisconsin?
In Wisconsin, a DBA name is referred to as a “trade name.” In this state, trade names and “fictitious business names” are the same — that is, they are both names used by companies to sell services or items. In other states, a DBA name can also be referred to as an “assumed name.”
Do I need a DBA name in Wisconsin if I use my own name for a sole proprietorship?
If you’re a sole proprietor in Wisconsin, you can freely conduct business using your legal name. However, if you want to operate under a company name, you’ll need to secure a trade name.
Will using a DBA name affect how my business is taxed in Wisconsin?
No, registering a trade name does not make any changes to your business or tax structure.