How to Register a DBA in Wisconsin

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In Wisconsin, a business operating under a fictitious name may want to register a DBA.  Learn more about what a DBA is, who needs one, and how to register.

Related: How to start a business in Wisconsin

What is a DBA?

A DBA, also known as “Doing Business As,” Trade Name, Assumed Name, or Fictitious Name, is a name used by a business that is different from the business’s legal name.

What is a DBA good for?

A DBA is required for many businesses in order to legally operate and provides information on the people operating a business.  In addition to the legal requirement, a DBA offers other benefits such as proving the existence of a business, opening a bank account under a business name, registering a merchant account to accept credit cards, and others.

Who needs to register?

It is optional to register a Trade Name in Wisconsin.  Wisconsin State Statute 132.01 provides more information.  The need to register varies by business entity.

Sole proprietorships and general partnerships are the most common entities to register for a DBA.

The legal name of a sole proprietor or partnership can be the owner’s full first and last name, which can be used without registering.  For example, if John Smith starts a business repairing computers operating under John Smith, he doesn’t need to register.  If John decides to name his business John’s Computer Repair or even John Smith’s Computer Repair then he may want to register.  Reasons for registering are typically because the bank, a vendor or supplier, requires one before doing business with them.

Corporations and Limited Liability Companies won’t typically register a fictitious name since a unique entity name is created during the formation process.  Some will file for a DBA if they have another business they want to operate under their corporate/LLC umbrella to keep the liability protection without having to form another entity.

Related: Difference between a sole proprietorship and Limited Liability Company (LLC)

Wisconsin DBA Registration Form

Trade Name Registration Form

How much does a DBA cost in Wisconsin?

The filing fee to register a Trade Name in Wisconsin is $15.  Registration is good for 10 years and is renewable.

Steps to file a DBA in Wisconsin

Step 1 – Verify Name Availability
A business may not register a name that is the same or similar to another business in Wisconsin.

Names can be searched on the Secretary of State’s website.  Learn how to do a business name search in Wisconsin.

Step 2 – Fill out the Form
Information requested on the form includes:

  • Legal name of the business
  • Physical office address
  • Mailing address
  • Name being registered
  • What the business does
  • Contact information of the applicant

Step 3 – Notarize the Form
Before signing the form, be sure to have a notary to witness the signing of the documents.

Step 4 – Submit the Form
Submit the filing fee and form to:

Trademark Section
Department of Financial Institutions
PO Box 7847
Madison, WI 53707-7847

Are there any words that you can’t use in a DBA?

DBAs can’t be registered using words related to banks or insurance unless the business is licensed to provide those services.

Can someone steal my business name?

Registering a DBA does not keep anyone else from operating a business under that name. If stopping others from using your business name is important, you can protect it through a trademark – See how to protect your business name through a trademark.

Related: What is the difference between a trademark, copyright, and patent?

Does a DBA need an EIN?

An EIN or Employer Identification Number (sometimes called a tax ID number) is a unique nine-digit number that some businesses will register for through the Internal Revenue Department (IRS). An EIN is required for partnerships, corporations, multi-member LLCs, or any business that has employees.

Sole proprietorships and single-member LLCs without employees can use the owner’s social security number to identify the business.

There is no cost to get an EIN when registering directly from the IRS.

Related: How to register for an EIN in Wisconsin.

Questions?

If you have questions about the process, you can the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions at 608-266-8915 or DFI-Trademark@wisconsin.gov.

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