How to Register a Massachusetts DBA

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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.

Related: How to start a business in Massachusetts

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, requires 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.

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 for a Massachusetts DBA?

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, 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 forming another entity.

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

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 a DBA cost in Massachusetts?

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 Massachusetts?

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:
Assumed Name
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.

Save Time & Hassles

LegalZoom offers an inexpensive online DBA registration service that lets you register a business name in just one step.
Learn more

 

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

DBAs can’t be registered using words that are related to military branches, fire, police in addition to state or federal departments.

Can someone steal my business name?

While registering your Trade Name will keep someone else from registering the exact same name in Massachusetts, it does very little from someone else operating a business under that name in other states. If stopping others from using your business name is important, you can protect it through a trademark.

Learn more about trademarking a business name.

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

Does a DBA need an EIN?

An EIN or Employer Identification 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 Massachusetts

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