When you form your business, you are able to choose a fictitious name. This name is your “doing business as” alias. Your DBA allows you to legally operate and conduct business under a chosen name. Other common abbreviations include “trading as” (t/a) and “also known as” (aka).
Filing for a DBA
You must officially register your DBA name before you begin operating under your chosen name. DBA certification is provided by the circuit court that oversees your registration. You cannot conduct business under a fictitious name that is not registered and certified.
Operating as a corporation, limited liability company, or partnership means that a certified copy of the fictitious name registration is required. While a fictitious name acts much like a pseudonym, it is not the same. Conducting business under your married name, surname prior to marriage, or name that is not your given name but is the name that you are most commonly addressed by does not require a fictitious name certification.
Additionally, the fictitious name that you file cannot misrepresent your business in any way.
Obtaining a “Certified Copy”
When you file your DBA, you do not receive immediate certification. Instead, you receive a receipt of your filing fee payment. However, during this process, you can request a certificate of filing with the Commission.
Once filed with the court, the Clerk records, dates, and keeps a register of all fictitious names by which business is conducted, as well as the names of the individuals filing for a DBA alias.
No license is issued by the Commissioner of Revenue until a copy of the certificate made and filed by the Clerk is reproduced and provided to the Commissioner. Keep in mind that the Commissioner does not have the inherent authority to decide who can or cannot use a DBA to conduct business. This is a legal matter that is more complex than filing for a DBA, and therefore, must be discussed in detail with a qualified attorney.
Your “certified copy” indicates that you have filed an original copy with the proper circuit court. Your copy is officially stamped as a “copy teste” and signed by the Clerk for the purpose of maintaining authenticity. It is recommended that you request your certified copy at the time of your filing, as you are additionally charged for a certified copy. Therefore, you are recommended to pay for both filings simultaneously to remain efficient. Your individual circuit court is responsible for issuing the certified copy fee, and may vary by location.
Costs of a DBA
There is a $10 filing fee when you register your intended DBA with your circuit court. This is a non-refundable filing fee. You must file your DBA registration with each Commissioner in each state in which you are conducting business. Additionally, you must file with each circuit court relative to the geographic location(s) of your business. Therefore, you are responsible for the filing fee in each of those filings, which may vary from state to state.
Failing to File a DBA
Conducting business under a fictitious name without the proper certification to do so will result in legal reprimands. Violating these regulations is a misdemeanor in Virginia and many other states. Violation carries up to a $2,500 fine with possible jail-time spanning a year – and, in some cases, both.
Non-compliance with DBA regulations does not prevent the recovery of a business or corporation to function. Rather, the business or corporation is able to amend these mistakes once the court mandated punishment has been fulfilled.
Businesses conducting transactions or activity under an unregistered DBA is unlikely to receive court reprieve. Therefore, it is important to properly register your DBA before you begin using it to for business purposes.
Release from DBA
Filing for a DBA does not mean you are subject to maintain that fictitious persona. When you are no longer conducting business under your registered DBA – or you simply have changed the location of your business practices – you have the ability to “release”, or remove, your DBA filing from the court. This can be done at the original circuit court that your DBA was filed with.
In order to release your DBA filing, you must file your release certificate with the State Corporation Commission. This certificate must be attested by the Clerk of your circuit court in order to be deemed valid. Filing your release certificate with the Commission carries another $10 filing fee.
A sole proprietor is not required to file a DBA with the State Corporation Commission. However, a sole proprietor who intends to operate under a fictitious name is required to file a DBA registration with the circuit court of the business’s jurisdiction.
Additionally, your DBA is a fictitious name, not a trademark. Therefore, the Commission has no authority to prevent the name from being used in other business practices filed within the same jurisdiction. A new business DBA request is not rejected on the basis of competing with another existing business; however, they are rejected for fraudulent representation of a business practice. The Commission keeps a record of DBA filings, but does not interpret or compare those filings with the existing record of filings.
On the surface, filing a DBA appears straight-forward; however, improperly filing or failing to file your business’s DBA can lead to significant legal ramifications. Avoid legal backlash over your DBA by scheduling a consultation with our business law attorney to discuss and file your “doing business as” registration.