What’s a DBA?

DBA stands for “doing business as.” It is also known as a FBN (fictitious business name) in most California counties. You must file a DBA regardless of the type of business structure that you have set up (sole proprietor, partnership or corporation, LLC or LLC).

If you intend to operate your business under another name than your real name or an existing corporate name, you must file a DBA. California requires that you register your DBA within forty days of your business’s commencement.

Secretary Of State Details

Business Programs Division
1500 11th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: 916-657-5448
Website: sos.ca.gov

References and Resource

Why is a DBA Needed in California?

Registering a California fictitious address will provide you with additional benefits.

  • Ability to open a bank account for your business. Inability to use your personal account to issue or receive checks in your business name. A DBA is required to open a bank account in your startup’s name. Most banks require a certified copy. You can collect checks and pay under the company name once you have opened a business bank account.
  • Public advertising. Once you have registered your business name, you can start advertising and marketing publicly under the DBA. This will increase your business’ visibility.
  • Establish a separate business identity. Small companies look more professional when they apply for a DBA. They can use the assumed name to create a separate business identity that is available to customers and vendors. This allows you to present the business professionally.
  • Refrain from using your name. This will help you protect your brand and deter others from using your name.

1. Decide whether you will need to register a DBA.

First, determine if a DBA is right for you. A few situations are common where registering a DBA is most beneficial.

  • Sole Proprietors Let’s say Jane Smith is a graphic artist who works as a sole proprietorship. There are no LLCs or corporations formed. She might want to do business with clients under the name “Designs by Jane” and open a bank account. She could do this by filing a DBA under the name Designs by Jane.
  • LLC/Corporations If you already have an LLC or Corporation, you can register another name for the business with the state. Let’s suppose you have an LLC for your auto repair company under the name “L.A. First Auto Repair”, but now want to expand your business into automotive detailing. As a second name for the business, you could file a DBA to “L.A. First Auto Detailing”. This will ensure that you keep the two business activities separate.

2. Select your DBA name.

Next, you will need to choose a name for registration. There are some simple rules that you should keep in mind when choosing a name for California.

  1. California has no similarity or exact match for fictitious names. A DBA cannot deceive the public by appearing similar to another business name.
  2. A DBA name can’t include corporate indicators, such as Corp or LLC, nor any words that suggest an entity type unless the company has been incorporated either as an LLC or corporation. This is to stop a sole proprietor from posing as an incorporated business.

How can you determine if there is a California DBA name?

Once you have selected a name that meets these guidelines, there are several options you can use to check if it is available for registration. A Google search of similar names in California is one way to start.

Although it does not necessarily prove that the name you are interested in is available, it can help to filter out names that have been taken. It is possible to check if the domain you are looking for is available. You will likely need a domain that matches your company’s name.

3. Find the right office to file.

California does not have a central office that can register fictitious names for businesses. A DBA is filed at the county level, unlike LLCs and corporations that are filed with the state. You may contact the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office in the county you wish to conduct business in for more information about registration. The California list of county registrars/recorders will show you the exact location of your office.

4. Prepare the application to register a fictitious company name.

Once you’ve determined that the name is available for registration it is time to file the necessary forms with your county. It is crucial that your DBA be filed in the county where your business will be operated. California counties require the same basic information.

  1. Your name and address
  2. Your fictitious business name
  3. Your business’s address and mailing address. P.O. P.O. Box numbers cannot be used as a business address if they are not combined with a street address.
  4. The full name of all registered owners
  5. If the DBA is for an LLC or corporation, your Corporation or LLC identification number will be provided by California.
  6. You can choose which type of entity you are (Corporation, LLC or other).

After completing the application, you’ll send it to the county registry for approval. Each county has a different fee structure. Los Angeles County charges $26 for the first and $5 for each additional name to file a DBA. Alameda County charges $40, however.

Copy your fictitious company name in a newspaper

California law requires you to publish a statement within 30 days after filing. Sometimes, this publication is called a DBA publication. This is a small legal notice printed in the back of an adjudicated paper.

You can usually find the complete list of acceptable newspapers on the website for your county clerk or by calling them directly.

It is not difficult. The newspaper you choose can often help you navigate the process. Here are the basics to help you get started.

  • The newspaper must have a general circulation publication and be published in the county where your fictional business is registered.
  • For four consecutive weeks, the notice must be posted once per week.
  • Within 30 days after filing your DBA, you must publish
  • If you need to re-file your fictitious company name (after the original expires), you will need to publish the DBA notice once again.
  • The newspaper will usually charge a publication fee. This fee must be paid.

After four weeks of publication, the newspaper will send you an affirmative statement proving that you have met your publication requirements.

6. Your Affidavit for Publication

Once you have satisfied your publication requirements, the proof of publication (affidavit) that you received from the newspaper publishing the statement must be submitted to the county clerk’s offices where your DBA was registered. Sometimes, the newspaper that you choose will file this filing on your behalf. If they do, make sure you ask them. Remember that you are responsible for filing the proof.

For proof filing, some counties, such as San Francisco, may charge an additional fee. This information can be obtained from the county clerk.

California Business Tips

If you’re looking to form an LLC in California, it’s crucial to understand the necessary steps and requirements. To begin, conduct a California LLC name search to ensure the availability of your desired business name.

Once you’ve confirmed its availability, you can proceed with preparing the essential formation documents, including registering your business name and drafting a California LLC operating agreement, which outlines the internal structure and management of your LLC.

Additionally, you have the option to be your own registered agent in California or enlist the services of a professional registered agent. It’s worth noting that the length of time to get an LLC in California can vary, but typically ranges from a few weeks to several months.

To streamline the process, it’s advisable to gather all required information and submit your filings promptly. Furthermore, obtaining a California Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS is essential for tax purposes.

Detailed guides and online resources are available to help you navigate the steps involved, and various California LLC services and registered agents can assist you in forming your LLC efficiently. Additionally, ensure compliance with any necessary business licenses in California, and consider the California LLC cost while budgeting for the formation process.

Lastly, should the need arise, understanding how to change your California registered agent the steps to dissolve an LLC in California is crucial for closing your business properly.

author avatar
Brian Wilson Writer and Editor
Brian Wilson is the content manager and founder of LLC Radar. Brian grew up in North Texas, just outside of Dallas, and has a bachelor's degree in business from Southern Methodist University. Since graduating from SMU, Brian has gained over 10 years of experience in business writing for several online publications. Brian resides in Plano, Texas and he can be reached by email:   info@llcradar.com Phone: 972-776-4050
  Information provided on this website is for general information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to offer legal advice specific to your business needs. If you need legal advice, you should consult with an attorney. Rankings and reviews are the personal opinions of the authors and/or editors. For questions, while starting a business, we recommend consulting with an attorney or accountant.