How to Register a Washington DBA

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In Washington, 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 Washington

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 Washington, 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.

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 Washington DBA?

The requirements and need to register an Assumed Business Name are organized under Washington Statutes 19.80.  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 business repairing computers operating under John Smith he doesn’t need to register.  If John decides to name his business John’s Computer Repair or even John Smith’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 for example 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: Difference between a sole proprietorship and Limited Liability Company (LLC)

How much does a DBA cost in Washington?

The fee to register a Trade Name is $5.  If starting a business, this $5 is in addition to the $19 business license application fee.

What are the steps to file a DBA in Washington?

Step 1 – Verify Name Availability
A business may not register a name that is the same or similar to another business in Washington.

Names can be searched on the Secretary of State’s website.  Learn how to do a business name search in Washington.

Step 2 – Fill out the Form
A Trade Name is obtained by filling out a Business License Application.  This form is available by PDF or online.

Step 3 – Submit the Form
Submit the filing fee and form to the State of Washington, Business Licensing Service.  If mailing, send the form to:

State of Washington
Business Licensing Service
PO Box 9034
Olympia, WA 98507-9034

Are there any words you can’t use?

DBAs can’t be registered using words that are related to banking unless the business is licensed to provide those services.

Can someone steal my business name?

While registering your Trade Name will keep someone else from registering the exact same name in Washington, 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.

Questions?

If you have questions about the process, you can contact the State of Washington at 800-451-7985 or  BLS@dor.wa.gov.