How to Get a DBA for an LLC in California

The success of most businesses is directly affected by their brand reputation hence why so many companies invest big in brand management. 

World’s largest companies have established their brand over time, but a limited liability company’s reputation needs years of careful cultivation before it can sustain consistent brand ranking based on consumer analytics, citation, interaction, media coverage, and more.

The success of most startups and small companies depends on the impression they make in the first few months of operation with the power to influence future customers, partners, and investors.

In the beginning, every small or obscure company builds its reputability by forging trustworthy business connections with the customers through its representatives. Then, as the company grows, the focus shifts from interpersonal connections to building the brand reputation as a whole.

This is precisely the reason why you should carefully plan your approach for brand management beforehand. In case you may need to change the brand’s name in the future, there are 2 ways to approach this:

  • by changing the company’s registered name;
  • by filing for DBA.

Changing the name

Changing the name of your company is a fairly simple process and only requires you to send the relevant documents to the state agency that handles business filings.

The difficult part comes after changing the LLC name itself when you have to also change the name in all documentation, including business bank accounts, promotional material, and contracts.

What Is a DBA?

DBA stands for “doing business as” but filing for it is not a mandatory requirement. You can legally file for DBA for your California LLC when the official business name of your company is different from the name under which you conduct business in the state. 

Aside from requiring alternate business names for your entity, there are a few other reasons to file for DBA, namely:

  • moving a domestic LLC named after a specific town or state to other state markets;
  • creating a new product line;
  • rebranding the company in the event of the expansion of the company as a whole as well as its fields of engagement.

Keep in mind that DBA is not a separate entity but rather a name changing tool that doesn’t impact the legal designation of the company nor its taxation. 

Moreover, the state of California does not reserve exclusivity of DBA names, allowing other entities to use your chosen DBA name. The only way to avoid this is to form a new LLC altogether which automatically reserves the company’s name, making the use of it by other entities illegal.

Filing for DBA for an LLC in California

With DBA, the company will be issued an additional name that can be applied in business operations alongside your primary name. In this case, there is no need to change the company’s name in business bank accounts, promotional material, and contracts. So let’s examine what DBA stands for as well as how to obtain it.

How to Get a DBA for a California LLC

A new DBA name might indeed prove beneficial to your business, but it’s always a good idea to learn more about all the intricacies involved in this process.

Obtaining a DBA for an LLC in California is a bit different from the norm due to the state’s distinct legal and administrative technicalities, namely the fact that all fictitious business names are issued on a county level instead of a state level.

So let’s take a closer look at the main steps of the DBA filing process.

Step 1: Choosing an appropriate DBA name

Similar to LLC’s official business name requirements, California provides a set of guidelines for choosing DBA names:

  • Ensuring name availability: check if the name isn’t already in use by searching online or through the entity database of the administrative body conducting your registration;
  • Using permissible words: make sure to avoid using words associated with non-LLC business designations, government agencies, and professional fields unrelated to your company’s LLC activities (e.g. Corporation, Corp, bank, university etc).

Step 2: Filing for DBA

The fictitious business name filing form can be found on your county’s website. Although the forms may vary depending on the county, the key points remain the same and require you to include the following information:

  • business type;
  • Employer Identification Number issued by the Secretary of State;
  • physical and mailing addresses;
  • names of LLC owners;
  • preferred fictitious business name (up to 3 options);
  • organizer’s name and signature.

Step 3: Publication

All California entities are required to publish information about their DBA for the purposes of consumer protection and awareness. The publication must start within 30 days of your DBA filing.

The state sets the following publication requirements:

  • the newspaper should be circulated in the county of your DBA registration;
  • the publication should run for 4 consecutive weeks once a week;
  • upon the completion of the 4-week requirement, the newspaper’s editors should issue a written proof of publication;
  • the letter of proof should be submitted to the county clerk’s office or relevant administrative body within 30 days of the last publication.

Step 4: State Fees

Filing for DBA comes with a mandatory state fee, though its amount depends on the county of registration. In Los Angeles, for instance, a single DBA name costs $26 with another $5.50 for each additional name, while in Placer county you will be required to pay $30 per + $5.50 respectively. 

Step 5: Further Action

California issues DBA for 5 years after which you can extend the usage of the name by submitting another application. If you want to retain the same name, there won’t be any need to repeat the publication process.

Should You Hire a DBA Service?

Both methods of DBA registration—whether it’s filing on your own or by hiring professional services—come with sets of benefits, all very specific to their respective filing option.

Handling DBA by yourself is bound to save you some money but naturally, it comes at the expense of your free time and effort. Plus there is no guarantee for getting the application approved on your first try, so hiring a professional service to register your DBA for you seems like a smarter choice.

By entrusting the DBA to be registered by a professional, you will be able to spare yourself from dealing with mountains of paperwork and following obscure guidelines. 

Naturally, not all online services are equally reputable. For this reason, the following list has been compiled to help you make a better choice out of the top three popular and reliable companies offering services for DBA registrations only for $99:

  • IncFile: having launched in 2004, IncFile is one of the more experienced service providers earning consistently high ratings. With hundreds of thousands of satisfied customers and successfully formed businesses under their belt, IncFile lives up to its name in the industry of LLC formation;
  • LegalZoom: one of the largest providers in the industry, LegalZoom offers two DBA registration plans. Unlike their standard $99 plan, their Premium package is priced at $119 and includes business consultation;
  • Swyft Filings: those looking for speedy registration will definitely find this option more than agreeable—Swyft can fill out and file your DBA form in about 10 minutes.

In Conclusion

Hopefully, this article has helped you examine the pros and cons of registering DBA names and moved you slightly closer to making your final decision. But before you can do that, take another moment or two to consider all options one more time.

DBA for an LLC in California is a fast and efficient way to obtain a new trade name but its simplicity does not always lead to a successful and smooth operation. Always look into legal details and restrictions that come with the process of doing business as (DBA) and don’t neglect to consult certified professionals if necessary.

Hiring a reliable attorney or accountant may also help you bring more structure to the process and take all legal specifics of managing an LLC in California into consideration by outlining a clear strategy for more balanced future development.

Frequently Asked Question

How much does a DBA cost in California?

The filing fee depends on the county. On average, the registration might cost anywhere between $20 and $30 for the main fictitious name plus $5.50 for each additional name.

How long does it take to get a DBA in California?

Once you have filed a “doing business as” name application, be prepared for the processing period between 1 week and 4 weeks.

Do I need a DBA in California?

You don’t need a DBA if you plan to operate from the company’s main business name that was registered originally with the state.

What’s the difference between DBA and LLC?

The main difference between an LLC and a sole proprietorship that uses DBA is having the privilege of personal asset protection. 

LLC is its own legal entity holding separate assets, meaning that all personal assets of the company’s owners cannot be involved in company lawsuits. The DBA formula won’t protect your personal assets in the same way.

Moreover, LLC may choose between the types of applicable taxation, while DBA brings no such leniency.

Do you have to pay taxes with a DBA?

There is no DBA-specific tax given that DBA is not a separate business entity. Even though DBA is not taxable, you will still need to file the taxes of your main legal entity.