5 Tips on How to File a DBA in San Diego

If a business owner files for a DBA with the state of California, a business is also required to file a DBA in San Diego County if that is the principal place of business.

Brad Nakase, Attorney

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Gina runs a stationary store in San Diego, where she sells scrapbooking supplies, notebooks, and pens. The Little Ink Pot Company is very successful, but Gina has begun to grow interested in making specialty cards. With her scrapbooking and design skills, she makes beautiful wedding invitations, birthday cards, and consolation messages. Her clients love her cards so much that Gina has decided to create a new branch of her business solely for greeting cards. However, Gina is worried about her store’s name. The Little Ink Pot Company is not descriptive enough for her new greeting card business. She decides that she needs to create a new brand that caters specifically to greeting cards. This includes a new name. She wants to name her greeting card business The Queen of Hearts Card Company, but still keep the business under the umbrella of her original company. Gina decides to file for a “doing business as” name, or a DBA. She registers her new name so that The Little Ink Pot Company remains her company’s legal name, but she is also able to conduct business under the DBA name of The Queen of Hearts Card Company.

If a business owner files for a DBA with the state of California, he or she may believe that it is not necessary to register with their specific county. However, under California law, a business is required to file a DBA in San Diego County if that is the principal place of business. Therefore, it is required to file both with the county and the state. Filing can be completed in person or by mail. If a company does not have a physical location but conducts business in California, then it must file a Fictitious Business Name with the Clerk of Sacramento County.

What is a DBA?

When a business is created, it is given a legal name. A sole proprietorship or a general partnership, for example, might do business under the business owner’s legal name. A limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation might do business under a name designated in the articles of organization or incorporation.

There are occasions, however, when a business may not want to operate under its official legal name. Perhaps the legal name proves to be confusing, or it is no longer related to or descriptive of the business. Sometimes a business owner might simply feel like changing the company name without getting into the nitty gritty of changing incorporation or registration documents.

Doing business under a different name is called using an “assumed name,” a “fictitious business name,” or a “trade name.” In a legal sense, it is known as using a doing business as name, or DBA.

A business owner can have as many DBA names as he or she wants. That said, each DBA name must be registered in the states in which the company operates. This is a legal requirement because it allows the public to know when a person or company is doing business under a name different than its legal one.

When a business decides to create a DBA, or multiple, it should take care to create a different brand identity for each one. The name should relate to the specific business and should be unique as well as recognizable.

What Does a DBA Not Do?

 A DBA is not a workaround way of forming a legal business entity. By only registering a DBA and not creating a legal entity, one gives the appearance of operating a sole proprietorship. There are many businesses that are run this way, though there are significant disadvantages to a sole proprietorship. One, there is no limited liability, meaning the owner is directly responsible for the company’s debts and obligations. This means he or she could lose personal assets in a lawsuit against the company.

An LLC, on the other hand, offers its owner limited liability protection in the event of a lawsuit. This means in the event of a lawsuit the owner’s personal assets are safe from judgement.

How to Create a DBA in San Diego County?

 The first step in filing for a DBA involves researching to see if the proposed name is already in use. To do this, one can search the California corporate name database. It is important to remember that one cannot use a DBA name that is fraudulent, deceptive, or similar to other business’ names. This could open the door to lawsuits.

Things to Remember

There are a few important things to remember when filing a DBA in San Diego.

  1. The legal business entity must be in good standing. This can be proven using state registration
  2. It may be necessary to register a DBA using a money order or cashier’s check
  3. A DBA cannot have corporation or LLC abbreviations in the name if the entity is not a corporation or LLC
  4. It may be necessary to post the DBA registration in a local newspaper
  5. It is good practice to file for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) instead of using one’s Social Security Number (SSN)
  6. In order to operate under an assumed name, the DBA name must be registered in the state in which the company is operating
  7. A DBA registration may have a limited lifespan
  8. A DBA filing may need to be updated if the business changes address, legal name, or undergoes a change in officers

DBA and Taxes

You may be wondering if your business taxes will change if you register a DBA. The answer is no. A business owner does not pay taxes for a DBA. A business’ taxes are determined by its structure. Because a DBA is not a structure, there are no taxes specific to it.

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