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When creating a small business, limited liability company, partnership, sole proprietorship, or another type of business in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, you’ll need to cover all the paperwork for your new business. This will include getting your business certificate and covering the requested state fees, among other things. However, it will also mean choosing your business name and, just as importantly, your DBA.
Business owners must file a business name registration form with the Secretary of State. Once that name is registered, they might choose a different name for the company — a DBA. Your business name might not describe what you do as perfectly as you might want it to. Alternatively, if you’re a sole proprietor, the name might need to contain your legal name, which you may rather keep out of the public eye. In either case, getting a DBA is an excellent idea. This article will explain how to get a DBA certificate in Massachusetts.
A DBA, fictitious business name, or trade name provides an alternative name for your company. Standing for “doing business as,” the DBA lets you present your business publicly under a different title.
While a DBA is an alternative to your company’s legal name, getting a trade name doesn’t reflect on the legal status of your business. Your company’s actual name will stay the same after you get a DBA — the fictitious business name will only be for the public.
The best way to ensure your Massachusetts DBA registration goes smoothly is to do a business name search. That way, you can be confident that your assumed name will be unique within public records.
A DBA assumed name, fictitious business name, or trade name represents a viable alternative to the legal name of your business entity. It’s worth noting that this name goes by different terms depending on the state. In Massachusetts, it is called a “DBA.”
It’s crucial to note that registering a DBA on a state or local level doesn’t affect the nature of your business. Essentially, the only thing you change by getting a DBA is the name displayed publicly. Your company will still be registered under its legal name and will maintain the same structure as designated in your Massachusetts business certificate.
You might wonder whether a DBA is necessary. This answer will depend on your particular situation. The Secretary of the Commonwealth or the state of Massachusetts doesn’t mandate new businesses to get a DBA. The decision will be entirely up to you.
The entire process involves three relatively straightforward steps. First, you must conduct a business name search to ensure your intended DBA isn’t already taken. While DBAs in Massachusetts don’t have to be unique, it would be best if your DBA didn’t match anyone else’s to avoid confusion.
Next, you must file your chosen DBA with the city clerk’s office. Finally, you’ll need to perform a follow-up, including a few extra actions to ensure your DBA is ready.
Let’s break down this process in more detail.
Your DBA name should be unlike any other already registered in the state of Massachusetts. While this is similar to choosing an actual business name, there’s a fundamental difference in why you’d need a unique name. With legal names, naming your business the same as another company isn’t compliant with Massachusetts general laws. On the other hand, choosing the same DBA as someone else isn’t strictly prohibited, but will expose you to the risk of your customers mistaking the other business for your own.
Luckily, you can find out whether anyone’s already using your intended DBA in Massachusetts. Our business name search tool tells you exactly that. Best of all, the tool is free to use. In the case of Massachusetts, this tool will be the most convenient way to conduct a state-wide search. Otherwise, you’ll need to go through individual city databases.
Unlike some other states, Massachusetts doesn’t accept all DBA filings in one central location like the office of the Secretary of State. Instead, a business wanting to register a trade name must go to the city clerk’s office for the particular city.
Here’s how this works using Boston as an example.
To file a DBA in Boston, you’ll need to download a business registration certificate form rather than a DBA form. Once you fill out the form, you’ll need to send it by mail to
City Clerk’s Office
1 City Hall Square, Room 601
Boston, MA 02201
Note that the form doesn’t have to include detailed information about your business, such as your tax ID, etc. All you’ll need to include is contact information like your business address.
An even easier way to get a DBA for your Massachusetts business is using our DBA filing services. With our help, your DBA can be registered with the town clerk and ready to go in 10 business days or even less.
Regarding follow-up, you’ll need to cover a DBA filing fee of $65. Companies not registered in Massachusetts must pay an additional fee of $35.
Furthermore, you must forward the DBA registration to the city notary. The same service will also take care of the filing fees.
Registering a Massachusetts DBA will require you to follow certain naming conventions, similar to specific rules you must observe when filing a business name.
In particular, if you include any abbreviation of a business entity, you must put a correct identifier of your type of business: LLC for limited liability companies, Corp for corporations, etc. You can’t designate a different business entity.
In addition, DBA names can’t mention illegal activities, government affiliations, or activities of specially licensed businesses like banks, colleges, or insurance companies.
A DBA doesn’t change the nature or structure of your company in the slightest. In other words, filing an assumed name won’t impact the type of business entity or the owner’s personal assets. Likewise, the DBA will have no impact on your tax obligations.
Considering that a DBA isn’t necessary in Massachusetts and doesn’t change any essential properties of your company, you’d be right to question whether filing a DBA is worthwhile. However, there are certain advantages of getting an assumed name:
With a DBA, your business receives an assumed name to better describe your activities, offers, goals, and values. This is particularly important when businesses grow since they can undergo significant changes in that process. At some point, the legal name of your business might be entirely unsuitable for what you’re doing. A DBA can help you get the point across more clearly.
A sole proprietor might need to reveal their personal information when filing a business name. Business owners who want to maintain privacy might opt for a DBA that doesn’t include their names. Similarly, a DBA can help an author maintain their alias in public dealings if said author decides to start a company.
Banks and other financial institutions may prefer working with businesses with registered DBAs. This is helpful when opening a new business bank account or getting a loan.
Filing for a DBA is only one part of other dealings you must take care of as a new business owner. We can help you focus on matters of utmost importance by handling your Massachusetts DBA filing for you.
Our services can clear the way to your Massachusetts DBA. We ensure compliance by getting your documentation in order and following exact regulations. This way, you can be sure there’ll be no do-overs and the process will be done without delays.
A DBA is nothing more than an alternative name for a business entity. It doesn’t impact your business structure in any way. On the other hand, an LLC represents a particular type of business structure and doesn’t have much to do with the company’s name.
The filing fee for registering a DBA in Massachusetts is $65. You’ll be subject to an additional $35 fee if your company is registered outside the state.
The state of Massachusetts doesn’t mandate new businesses to get a DBA. However, if you don’t file a DBA, you can only operate under your company’s legal name.
In short, there’s no difference between a DBA, fictitious, trade, or assumed name. All of these terms refer to the same thing. The official term used in Massachusetts is “Doing Business As” (DBA).
A DBA in Massachusetts is permanent, and it will last until you change or cancel it.
The limit to how many DBAs you can have is practical rather than legal. Extra DBAs will present additional complications. Even if you can get unlimited DBAs, the question is whether you’ll need to do so. For most companies, one or two DBAs are pretty sufficient.
Trademarks come with some extended rights and protection. On the other hand, a DBA doesn’t include those benefits. A DBA is your company’s alias in the market.
Your DBA will have no impact on the structure of your company. Similarly, it won’t affect your tax status in any way. Your business’s legal name and tax ID will stay the same as your tax-related obligations.
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