In Michigan, 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 Michigan
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 its legal name, the state of Michigan, 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 Michigan DBA?
The requirements and need to register for an Assumed 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.
Michigan DBA Registration Form
Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships (Co-Partnership)
A “Certificate of Persons Conducting Business Under Assumed Name” must be filed with the County Clerks office in every county in which business is transacted. The form is available on many County Clerk’s websites, in addition to the Clerk’s office.
Corporations, Limited Partnerships, and Limited Liability Companies
How much does a DBA cost in Michigan?
Sole Proprietorships & Partnerships – Generally $10 per county
Corporations & Limited Partnerships – $10
Limited Liability Company – $25
Regardless of business entity, name registrations are good for 5 years.
What are the steps to file a DBA in Michigan?
Sole Proprietorships & Partnerships
Step 1 – Obtain the Form
Obtain the “Certificate of Persons Conducting Business Under Assumed Name” from each county where the business will operate.
Step 2 – Verify Name Availability
DBAs must be unique from other business names being used in the state.
To make sure your name isn’t already taken, first search name availability on the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs website. Learn how to search the Michigan name database.
Next, search the counties where the business will be operating through the County Clerk’s office. Many Clerks have a name search online, while others have to be done manually.
Step 3 – Fill out the Form
Once the name is verified to be available, the form needs to be filled out. Common requested information includes:
Name being registered
Name and address of the owner
County or state where the business was organized
Description of what the business does
Step 4 – Notarize the Form
Before filing, be sure to have the form notarized. Many County Clerk’s offices provide notary services at no cost.
Step 5 – File the Form
File the form with each county where the business operates.
Save Time & Hassles
LegalZoom offers an inexpensive online DBA registration service that will let you skip the trip to the County Clerk’s office and register your business name in just one step.
Corporations & LLCs
Step 1 – Verify Name Availability
Assumed Names must be unique from other business names being used in the state.
To make sure your name isn’t already taken, first search name availability on the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs website. Learn how to search the Michigan name database.
Step 2 – Fill out the Form
Corporations, Limited Partnerships, and LLCs will fill out the “Certificate of Assumed Name Form” with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) – Bureau of Corporations, Securities & Commercial Licensing – Corporations Division.
Information requested includes:
Name and address of the filer
Name of the business entity
Step 3 – File the Form
Submit the form along with the filing fee.
If mailing send to:
Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs
Corporations, Securities & Commercial Licensing Bureau
P.O. Box 30054
Lansing, MI 48909
If submitting in person, visit:
Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs
2501 Woodlake Circle
Okemos, MI 48864
Are there any words you can’t use in a DBA?
DBAs can’t be registered using words that are related to banking and insurance unless the business is licensed to provide those services.
Additionally, registered names can’t mislead the public about the actual activities of the business.
Can someone steal my business name?
While registering your Trade Name will keep someone else from registering the exact same name in Michigan, 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.
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.
If you have questions about the process, you can contact the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs – 517-241-6470