How to File an Iowa Trade Name Registration (DBA)
In Iowa, a business operating under a fictitious name will need to register a Trade Name Iowa. Learn more about what a Trade Name is, who needs one, and how to register.
Related: How to start a business in Iowa
What is a Trade Name?
A Trade Name, also known as a DBA or “Doing Business As,” Assumed Name, or Fictitious Business 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 Iowa, 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 Trade Name used for?
A Trade Name is required for Iowa businesses that want to operate under a name that is different from the legal name of the owners or entity. 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 Trade Name 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 an Iowa 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 in Iowa. 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 with the local county recorder.
Corporations, Limited Liability Companies, and Limited Partnerships 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.
By not registering a Trade Name, the business owner could be fined up to $100 or jailed for up to 30 days.
How much does a DBA cost in Iowa?
Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships will pay $7 to the County Recorder for registering a Trade Name, while Corporations and LLCs will pay $5 to the Secretary of State to register.
This is a one-time fee and does not require renewal.
What are the steps to file a Trade Name in Iowa?
Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships
Step 1: Obtain the Form
Many County Recorders have the Trade Name form available for download on their website, while some require the form to be picked up in-person.
Contact information of County Recorders is available from the Iowa State Association of Counties
Step 2: Fill out the Form
Common information requested includes:
- Name and address of people who have an ownership interest in the business
- Business name being applied for
- Address of the business
Step 3: Notarize the Form
Before signing and filing the form, be sure to have it notarized. Most county offices will have notary services available.
Step 4: Submit the Form
Submit the form and filing fee to the local County Recorder’s office. Once filed, a Registration of Trade Name certificate will be provided.
Corporations, LLCs, and LPs
Step 1: Obtain the Form
Step 2: Fill out the Form
Information requested included the name of the applicant, name of the business, date, signature, and type of business entity.
- Corporations will need to check the box marked “Iowa Business Corporation Act (profit corporation – Iowa Code ch. 490).
- LLCs will need to check the box marked “Revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act (Iowa Code ch. 489).
Step 3: Submit the Form
The form can be filed online or sent by mail. If sending by mail, the address is:
Iowa Secretary of State
Business Services Division
Lucas Building, 1st Floor
Des Moines, Iowa 50319
Are there any naming restrictions when filing an Iowa DBA?
A Trade Name can’t use a business entity suffix that is different from the type of entity. For example, a sole proprietorship can’t use LLC or corporation in its name.
Trade Names also may not be registered using words related to banks, insurance, or attorney, with words like banking, savings, trust, credit union, insurance, or lawyer, unless the business is licensed to provide those services.
Words may not be used if they refer to a governmental agency, such as FBI, Treasury, State Department, etc.
Is a DBA required in Iowa?
Any Iowa sole proprietorship or partnership that wants to do business under a name that is different from the owner’s full name or an Iowa corporation or LLC that wants to operate under a name that is different from the legal name of the entity is required to register the name.
Can someone use my business name after registering an Iowa DBA?
Registering your Trade Name will not stop anyone else from registering the exact same name in Iowa, nor does it 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 through 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 (also informally called a business tax ID 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 Iowa