In Massachusetts, a business operating under a fictitious name will need to register a DBA. Learn more about what a DBA is, who needs one and how to register.
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 legal name of the business.
When a business wants to operate under a name other than their legal name, the state of Massachusetts, like most states, require the business to register their business name. The registration requirement was designed to protect consumers from business owners hiding anonymously behind the name of a business.
Who needs to register?
The requirements and need to register for a Trade Name vary, depending on the type of 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 but doesn’t use a business name he doesn’t have to register. If John decides to name his business John’s Computer Repair then he will need to register.
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.
Massachusetts DBA Registration Form
A Trade Name form can be obtained from the Town Clerk or City Clerk in the community where the business is located. The form is usually available on the website or it is available at the Town / City Clerk’s office.
How much does it cost to register?
The cost to register a Trade Name varies by location, but is typically between $30 and $50. The name will need to be renewed every four years.
What are the steps to file a DBA in Maryland?
Step 1 – Obtain the Form
Determine the correct Town or City Clerk to file with, which will be based on the primary business address.
Step 2 – Fill out the Form
Common information includes:
Name and address of the owner
Type of business
Step 3 – Notarize the Form
Before filing the form, be sure to have the form notarized.
Step 4 – File the Form
Submit the Trade Name form with the Town / City Clerk along with payment.
DBAs can’t be registered using words that are related to military branches, fire, police in addition to state or federal departments.
Protecting your business name
Registering a Trade Name will not stop anyone from using the same name in Massachusetts. If stopping others from using your business name is important, you can protect it through a trademark – See how to protect your name through a trademark.