How to Get a Pennsylvania DBA Name

When filing for a Pennsylvania DBA, ensure you’re following the state-specific guidelines. Walk through the filing process and learn the benefits of a DBA filing.
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Swyft Filings is committed to providing accurate, reliable information to help you make informed decisions for your business. That's why our content is written and edited by professional editors, writers, and subject matter experts. Learn more about how Swyft Filings works, our editorial team and standards, what our customers think of us, and more on our trust page.

Catherine Cohen
Written by Catherine Cohen
Written byCatherine Cohen
Updated January 18, 2024
Edited by Zachary Ace Aiuppa
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As a business owner in Pennsylvania, it can sometimes be beneficial to use a different name than your official legal name. Filing for a “doing business as” (DBA) name, also known as a fictitious business name, gives you greater freedom when building your brand and marketing without the need to go through the extra bureaucracy of forming a new business.

DBA in Pennsylvania: Key Takeaways

  • A DBA is not a business structure but a different name under which an existing business operates.

  • Filing for a DBA in Pennsylvania involves a name search, filing paperwork with the county clerk’s office, and possibly publishing the name.

  • A DBA does not offer trademark protection or change the tax status of a business.

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What Is a DBA?

Once you register a business, you can operate under a different name than the legal one. This is the meaning of “doing business as” (DBA) or “fictitious business name” in Pennsylvania. It’s not like registering your business as a sole proprietorship, LLC (limited liability company), or corporation. Instead, you’re effectively picking a “nickname” for your business to use with customers and vendors.[1]

Setting up a DBA works similarly to choosing a new name for the business, but without registering a new business entity. Therefore, it doesn’t come with the perks the various types of business arrangements offer. For example, setting up an LLC keeps your personal assets separate from the company’s. Corporations are separate legal entities that can issue stock to investors. Unlike these structures, a DBA is just an alternative label and won’t change your business’s legal structure.

If you’re the sole proprietor of a general store called “Smith’s Marketplace” and want to venture into online retail, you can file for a DBA under “Smith’s Online Emporium.” You can expand the business without creating a second legal entity.

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How to File a DBA in Pennsylvania

Now that you’re familiar with the concept of a DBA and its implications, you may wonder what it takes to file one in Pennsylvania. You can break up the process into several steps, including doing a name search, submitting documents to the county clerk’s office, and potentially publishing your DBA name in a local paper.

Before filing a DBA name in Pennsylvania, double-check that the name you want isn’t already in use. There are several methods to conduct this research. Our free Business Name Search Tool is one of them, along with the resources the Pennsylvania Department of State provides on their website.

A name search may seem trivial, but it’s more significant than it initially appears. Knowing whether businesses can use the same name can be confusing when considering a DBA name. In Pennsylvania, all DBAs must be unique within the state, as the alternative could lead to legal complications and customer misunderstandings. It’s also important to note that a DBA doesn’t provide trademark protection. To get this, you need to go through a different process of trademarking the name.

Step 2 — File a Fictitious Business Statement

Businesses in Pennsylvania don’t have to fill out a formal registration for their DBA through a fictitious business statement, but there can be legal consequences if you don’t. If, for example, you sign a contract using a DBA name without this statement, the courts may not honor it in case of disputes.

You can submit a fictitious business name statement by mail or online on the PENN File website.

Step 3 — File Your DBA With the County Clerk’s Office

Once you’ve checked if the desired name of the business is available, you’re ready to file your DBA. Contrary to some other states, in Pennsylvania, businesses must file DBA forms (or a fictitious names act) at the state level instead of the county level. Therefore, you won’t need to visit or contact the county clerk’s office this time. Instead, you must complete the “Registration of Fictitious Name Form” with the Pennsylvania Corporation Bureau of the Pennsylvania Department of State (DSCB:54-311).[2]

Registering a “doing business as” (DBA) name in Pennsylvania usually requires a $70 filing fee. You can choose between mailing the standard application to the Department of State’s mailing address or the faster PA Business One-Stop Shop state website.[3]

Filing a DBA signals prospective clients and partners that you’ve taken the extra step to ensure trustworthiness and reliability in your operations. Filing services like Swyft Filings can help you take care of this process, so you have one less thing on your plate and more time to focus on growing the business.

Step 4 — Publish Your DBA Name

Pennsylvania has advertising requirements for businesses using a DBA. Pennsylvania law states that business owners need to place two ads in newspapers of general circulation in the county for their DBA name.

If there’s only one paper in the area, that’s all you’ll need. You can find out which publication is the correct legal newspaper by calling the county courthouse or bar association. After placing your ads, keep evidence of them with your business records — but there’s no need to send them to the Bureau.

Step 5 — Follow Up

When you register a DBA business name in Pennsylvania, you may still want to keep up with the future procedures to maintain your status. Conveniently, when registering a DBA in Pennsylvania, you won’t need to worry about yearly renewals or expirations. DBAs never expire in this state, which means once you’ve registered your business name in Pennsylvania, you can run your business as usual without extra paperwork.

Pennsylvania DBA Name Restrictions

Some certain words and terms aren’t acceptable. You can only use business suffixes such as LLC, Corp, and Inc if they match your business structure. Additionally, terms like “bank” or “trust company,” which could be associated with financial institutions, shouldn’t be a part of your assumed name, or else the name may not be approved.

DBA Pennsylvania Tax Considerations

Taxes and a “doing business as” (DBA) name don’t usually go hand-in-hand in Pennsylvania. A DBA is an alias for an existing business. Therefore, it doesn’t change tax rules or obligations, which are still based on your business type (sole proprietorship, general partnership, LLC, or corporation).

Suppose you operate a business with a “doing business as” (DBA) name. In that case, you still must report the income and expenses associated with it on the tax return, no matter what type of entity you choose for your business. DBA also does not offer any liability protection.

To get an accurate picture, it’s wise to check with your tax professional and ensure you understand all the implications. The state doesn’t have any particular rules regarding DBAs, and you can expect to pay the same federal taxes whether you use your business’s legal name or the DBA.

Why Should You Get a DBA?

If you’re a future entrepreneur or looking to grow your existing one, getting a DBA can give you an edge. A DBA lets you operate under a different name than the legal business name, giving you more flexibility and freedom for branding. This is especially helpful for sole proprietorships, small businesses, and LLCs that want to experiment with new products or services without jumping through extra hoops.

Using a DBA is a great way to organize financial record-keeping better and makes it easier to open an additional business bank account. It gives the business owner an extra layer of privacy since only the business name will be listed on public records. That said, it’s important to note that a DBA doesn’t provide the same legal protection as other business structures like LLCs or corporations. It won’t stop someone else from using the same business name in their state — so you should consider registering a trademark in addition.

Register Your Pennsylvania DBA in Minutes
  • Gain Privacy: Hide your personal name and details when marketing your business.

  • Improve Branding: Choose a DBA that easily informs your audience about what you have to offer.

  • Expand Services: Operate multiple businesses without creating separate entities for each one.

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What’s the difference between an LLC and a DBA?

An LLC and a DBA are entirely different. An LLC is usually the best way to go if you want to protect yourself from personal liability as an owner and gain tax benefits. On the other hand, if you’re looking for an alias or nickname for your business, you want a DBA.

How much does getting a DBA cost?

The cost of filing for a DBA varies depending on the jurisdiction. In general, DBA fees are around $70 in Pennsylvania. You may also need to publish a notice in a local newspaper, adding to the cost.

Do I need a DBA for my Pennsylvania business?

In Pennsylvania, a DBA is a good idea if you plan to operate a business under a name other than your legal name or the officially registered name of your LLC or corporation. It isn’t mandatory for every business.

What’s the difference between a trade name, an assumed name, and a DBA name?

A trade name, assumed name, and DBA usually mean the same but can have subtle differences depending on state laws. Generally, a “trade name” is the name under which a company does business. An “assumed name” differs from the business’s legal name.

How long does a DBA last?

The duration of a DBA varies by jurisdiction. In some states, a DBA registration is valid for five years; in others, such as Pennsylvania, it may be valid indefinitely as long as the business is in operation.

Is there a limit to the number of DBA names I can have?

There is generally no limit to the number of DBA names a business can register. However, one must register each DBA name separately, and each may have its associated costs.

Is a DBA the same as a trademark?

No, a DBA does not offer the same legal protections as a trademark. Registering a DBA allows you to do business under a particular name within a specific jurisdiction. Still, it does not prevent others from using the same or a similar name elsewhere. A trademark gives you exclusive rights to the name.

Does a DBA affect my business’s tax status?

A DBA does not affect a business’s tax status. The tax implications for your business are determined by your business structure (e.g., sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation), not a DBA name.


  1. Pennsylvania Department of State. “Fictitious Names.” Accessed September 2, 2023.

  2. Pennsylvania Department of State. “Application for Registration of Fictitious Name (Form 54-311).” Accessed September 2, 2023.

  3. Business One-Stop Shop. “Fictitious Name.” Accessed September 2, 2023.

Originally published on November 14, 2023, and last edited on January 18, 2024.
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