How to Set Up a DBA in Alaska
A DBA (Doing Business As) allows individuals and businesses to operate under a different name or expand their brand presence while maintaining legal compliance. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the step-by-step process of setting up your DBA in Alaska.
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What is a DBA?
The acronym “DBA” stands for “doing business as” and is used to refer to a business operating under a different name from its legally registered name. Different states use a variety of terms to refer to this concept, like “fictitious name”, “assumed name”, or “trade name”, but they all amount to the same concept.
A DBA is the name that will be used for your business operations. It’s what you may see on signage and business cards, what customers will know you by, and what you will use on most documents.
How to search DBA names in Alaska
While a DBA is different from the legal name of your business, it is still regulated by the state and must meet guidelines. Before taking the step of DBA registration, you will want to be sure the name you choose can be used for a DBA to prevent rejection.
Perform a name search
The first thing you should do when naming your business is to visit the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development’s website. They provide a search tool for names, where you can enter your name and see if it is available.
If a name doesn’t show up, it is available for use. It can also be helpful to search for similar names, as names that can’t be distinguished from one another are not considered unique.
Review naming requirements
Along with being unique and available to use, Alaska businesses must also have names that meet other standards. For example, they cannot include the following:
- Implications that the business was organized for a purpose other than the one stated in formation documents.
- Words like “city” or “village” that imply the business is a municipality.
- Words that could confuse the business with a government agency.
- Words that have professional licensing restrictions. For example, you cannot use the term “Engineer” unless the business has a professional engineering license.
Names can also not be inappropriate or use certain special characters.
Check outside of Alaska
Alaska does not allow businesses to have the same name as other Alaska businesses. However, this restriction doesn’t exist between states, so another company with your name may exist. The only way to have nationwide legal protections for a business name or DBA is to file a trademark.
You will want the name of the business to be used online as a website URL, social media account handles, etc. So before you commit to a name, it can be helpful to see what other businesses exist by performing a quick online search. Consider what clients would know if they did the same search and if your name would allow them to find you easily.
Have a name in mind? Check on name availability first here.
How to register a DBA in Alaska
Once you have a name chosen and are sure it’s the right name for your business, you can proceed with DBA registration in Alaska. There are a number of requirements to ensure the DBA filing goes smoothly.
Obtain a business license
Before registering a new DBA in Alaska, you must show a business license specifically for that name. Alaska issues business licenses at the state level before they can do any business in the region, and each name of a business must have its own license. This means that you will need a license under your trade name before creating your DBA.
To obtain this license, you must provide the business’s legal name and entity number (for LLCs and corporations), any professional licensing number, and the NAICS code that classifies your business. You can then apply online or by mail.
Complete the registration form
Alaska allows you to complete the necessary forms online, or by mail. This form is the New Business Name Registration form. You will need to include information like the registered name of your business, your Alaska Business License Number, and the type of business entity, as well as describe the nature of your business.
For sole proprietors, only the owner’s signature will be required. General partnerships will only need to provide the name of one owning partner. However, if your LLC or corporation is filing, the individual who signs must be on record with the state as an authorized user.
There is also a separate contact information form attached that must be completed. This information won’t be kept on record or appear online but is used to help with any processing issues that may arise.
File DBA forms
The entire DBA registration process can be done online, or you can print out the form and mail it to the Corporations Section. Keep in mind that the processing time can be longer if you do this by mail. From March to September, the expected time is 10 to 15 days – from October to February, it can be longer than that.
Check with the local government
While Alaska manages DBAs at the state level, some counties and cities may also have their own requirements. This can involve separate filing processes and fees or the need to publish a notice of DBA in local newspapers. Check with any relevant county clerk’s office to be sure you also meet these requirements.
Ready to register your DBA? Fill out these forms.
What comes next
Running a business doesn’t end when you have a DBA name certificate in hand. Small business owners will need to keep up with a variety of requirements, both federal and within Alaska, to ensure their business runs properly.
Consider getting an EIN
Just like we have individual Social Security Numbers, a business can be given a unique tax ID for tracking purposes. In the case of federal taxes, this is issued by the IRS and called an EIN or Employer Identification Number. Each EIN is a unique, nine-digit number assigned to a business.
Any business that files its own taxes has employees, or pays excise taxes will be required to have an EIN before filing. But even if your company doesn’t meet these criteria, it can be a good idea to obtain an EIN (and it’s free!). EINs are often required to open a bank account and to obtain lenders, and they can lend credibility to your business.
If you plan to get an EIN, you can do so on the IRS website.
Obtain licenses and permits
You cannot form a DBA until your business license is already in place with the appropriate name, so state-level general business licenses are already completed. However, some industries and professions will need additional professional licenses through the Department of Commerce.
Additionally, local governments can require licenses and permits to operate there. You should always check with your county clerk’s office to determine what you may need in place. For example, in the Municipality of Anchorage, both a state-level and local pawnbroker’s license is required to own a pawn shop.
Open a business bank account
When it comes time for tax season, the accounting aspect of owning a business can be tedious or, if you hire someone to help, costly. One way to simplify it is to separate your personal finances from your business finances by having a dedicated business bank account. In some cases, this is also a matter of compliance with the law and protecting your assets.
For example, if you have an LLC, the tax benefits and asset protection you get are based on the fact that your business is a separate legal entity. This means that your finances are not entangled with the business finances – if this is ever in question, you can easily show the separation with a dedicated business bank account. Not having this can put your protection in jeopardy and mean you take on your LLC’s liabilities and obligations.
Having a dedicated bank account can also make you look more credible to lenders and even give you a chance to open a savings account or credit card in your company’s name. Companies can have a credit score, and building credit in this way could give you better lending opportunities down the line.
Keep your DBA current
Each registered Alaska DBA name is valid for five years after registration and must be renewed between October 1 and December 31 of the calendar year, where it is set to expire. To renew, you must submit the Renew Business Name Registration form and pay a renewal fee.
Who is a DBA best for?
Not all businesses will have a need to use a DBA. Along with state-specific requirements, the legal structure of your business and the owners’ personal preference will be major factors in whether this is necessary.
When it comes to business structures, the legal process for registering your business may indicate whether a DBA is useful. The most common uses of a DBA are:
- Sole proprietorships and partnerships will be registered by default under the name of their owner. Since there is no formal paperwork to name the business, there is no other name that it could be listed as. In this case, a DBA would allow the business to have a publicly-facing name other than your own.
- Franchises often use a DBA to establish their business as a local one. For example, you may own a local McDonald’s and will need to register it as something like an LLC or corporation. The business may then be called ABC Burgers, but a DBA would allow you to operate as “McDonald’s” to tie you to the parent company.
Other business structures, like a limited liability company or corporation, do not usually need to use a DBA. This is because part of registering these businesses includes choosing a name, which can be anything. Some localities may require this, but it is rare. These businesses can always choose to register a DBA if they choose.
Why would entrepreneurs choose to set up a DBA in Alaska?
DBAs can be beneficial in a variety of scenarios. Most commonly, a sole proprietorship or partnership will use a DBA to operate under something other than a personal name. This can give them some privacy instead of using their own name, as well as appear more professional or like a formal brand.
But LLCs and corporations also use DBAs. Sometimes, it is a way to drop formal designators like “LLC” or “Incorporation” that are included in legal names. They can also provide a way to maintain a single business structure while opening different products and branches of the company.
Since DBAs are simple to set up, there is no reason any business can’t benefit from them.
Cost to get a DBA set up
Alaska charges a $25 filing fee to create a DBA with the state. This $25 will have to be repaid every five years upon renewal.
How long does it take to get an Alaska DBA?
Depending on the time of year, the processing time for a DBA filed by mail can range from 10 days to over 15, or shorter when done online. This is in addition to any time needed to form the business and obtain a license.
Does Alaska offer fictitious business names?
Fictitious business name, trade name, and assumed name are all other terms for a DBA. Alaska’s formal paperwork uses the term DBA, but this is the same as a fictitious business name.
Can two businesses have the same DBA in Alaska?
Registering a DBA in Alaska is the same as using any other business name – it gives you exclusive rights to the name. This lasts for the five years a DBA is valid for, until it is renewed. It does not protect your name outside of Alaska.
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