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How to File a DBA in Wisconsin [2022]

How to File a DBA in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, a business operating under a fictitious name may want to register a DBA.  Learn more about what a Wisconsin 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. In Wisconsin, a DBA is officially referred to as a Trade Name.

What is a Trade Name registration good for?

A Wisconsin Trade Name registration is used by many Wisconsin businesses to prove the ownership of a business name, logo, etc.

Who needs to register?

It is not a requirement to register a Trade Name in Wisconsin.  Wisconsin State Statute 132.01 provides more information.  Even though it isn’t required by the state, some vendors or banks will require proof of business ownership to open a business bank account, register a merchant account to accept credit cards, and others.

Sole proprietorships and general partnerships are the most common business entity to register for a Trade Name.

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 Jane Smith starts a business repairing computers operating under Jane Smith, she doesn’t need to register for a Trade Name in Wisconsin.  If Jane decides to name her business Jane’s Computer Repair or even Jane Smith’s Computer Repair, then she may want to register. 

Corporations and Limited Liability Companies won’t typically register a Trade Name since a unique entity name is created during the entity 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: What business licenses are needed in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin DBA Registration Form

Filing a Wisconsin Trade Name is done by filling out the State of Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions Trade Name Registration Form. Perhaps somewhat confusing, filing a DBA is done through registering a trademark. Don’t worry, you are in the right place.

How much does a DBA cost in Wisconsin?

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

Steps to file a DBA in Wisconsin

Step 1: Verify Name Availability

A business may not legally register a company name that is the same or similar to another business in Wisconsin.

To see if your name is available, do a Wisconsin trademark search on the Department of Financial Institution’s website.

There are restrictions on the types of names that can be trademarked, such as using words related to banks or insurance unless the business is licensed to provide those services.

Step 2: Fill out the Trademark Form

Information requested on the trademark paperwork 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

If filing the paper form, be sure to have a notary witness the signing of the document.

Step 4: Submit the Form

The trademark form can be submitted online or in person at the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institution’s office. The address is:
4822 Madison Yards Way
North Tower
Madison, WI 53705 

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

If you would prefer to have a someone else research DBA name availability and file the required forms, Swyft Filings, MyCompanyWorks, and LegalZoom offer a DBA registration service for $99, plus state fees.

Does Wisconsin require a DBA?

It is not mandatory to register a DBA in Wisconsin; however, there are many cases where it is beneficial.

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 Service (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.