How to File a Fictitious Name (DBA) in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, a business operating under a name that is different from the owners will need to register a Fictitious Name. Learn more about what a Fictitious Name is, who needs one, and how to register.
Related: How to start a business in Pennsylvania
What is a Fictitious Name?
A Fictitious Name, also known as a DBA or “Doing Business As,” Trade Name, or Assumed 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 Pennsylvania, like most states, requires the business to register its business name. The registration requirement was designed to protect consumers from business owners hiding anonymously behind the name of a business.
What is a Fictitious Name good for?
A Fictitious Name is required for many businesses in order to operate legally. The DBA registration provides information on the people operating a business, so if there is an issue, the owners of a business can be tracked down.
In addition to the legal requirement, a DBA offers other benefits such as proving the existence of a business, opening a business bank account, registering a merchant account to accept credit cards, and others.
Who needs to register for a Pennsylvania DBA?
The requirements and need to register a Fictitious Name are organized under Pennsylvania Fictitious Names Act https://www.pacode.com/secure/data/019/chapter17/subchapctoc.html. These requirements 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 Pennsylvania business repairing computers operating under John Smith, he doesn’t need 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 business 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.
Pennsylvania Fictitious Name Registration Form
How much does it cost to get a DBA in Pennsylvania?
The filing fee to register a Fictitious Name in Pennsylvania is $70, plus the cost of publishing a legal notice.
What are the steps to file a Fictitious Name in Pennsylvania?
Step 1: Verify Name Availability
A business may not register a fictitious name that is the same or similar to another business in Pennsylvania.
Names can be searched on the Secretary of State’s website. Learn how to do a business name search in Pennsylvania.
Step 2: Fill out the Fictitious Name Form
The Registration of Fictitious Name form is available as a PDF or can be filled out and submitted online.
PDF Form DSCB:54-311
Information requested on the form includes:
– Fictitious name being registered
– A brief statement concerning the character or nature of the business or other activity to be carried on under or through the fictitious name
– Address of the principal place of business
– Name and address of owners/members/officers
Step 3: Submit the Fictitious Name Application
Submit the filing fee and form. The form can be submitted online, but if mailing, the address is:
Pennsylvania Department of State
Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations
P.O. Box 8722
Harrisburg, PA 17105-8722
If you have questions about the process, you can contact the Pennsylvania Department of State at 717-787-1057.
Step 4: Advertise a Legal Notice
Last, the applicant has to publish a notice they have filed or intend to file an application for registration of the fictitious name. The legal notice advertisement should be placed in two legal newspapers that have general circulation in the county where the business will be located. If there is only one newspaper with circulation in the county, that publication will be sufficient.
A list of approved newspapers is provided by each county and can be viewed on the Department of State’s website – https://www.dos.pa.gov/BusinessCharities/Business/Resources/Pages/Geographical-Listing-of-Legal-Publications.aspx.
After the notices run, an affidavit will be returned to the applicant. This proof of publication isn’t filed but should be kept with the business records as it may be requested at a later date. If the notice isn’t published or proof of the publication isn’t available, the name isn’t enforceable, and the owner may receive a $500 penalty.
Does Pennsylvania require a DBA?
A DBA is required for any business operating in Pennsylvania under a name that is different than the legal name of its owners.
Are there any restrictions on words used in a Pennsylvania DBA?
DBAs can’t be registered using words related to banking, education, or occupations that require licensing (engineering, architecture, etc.) unless the business is licensed to provide these services.
Names may also not contain a business entity suffix such as LLC, corp, limited, etc, unless the business is that type of entity.
Can someone steal my business name after registering it?
While registering your Fictitious Name will keep someone else from registering the exact same name in Pennsylvania, it does very little to stop someone else from 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 federal trademark by registering with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.
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.
Is a fictitious name the same as a DBA in Pennsylvania?
The terms fictitious name and DBA (or Doing Business As) are the same.