How to Start a DBA in Arizona
Arizona may be the quintessential dessert, but it is anything but a vast and empty land. From large cities like Phoenix to the sprawling suburbs, Arizona is full of small businesses that form a large and thriving economy. Entrepreneurs hoping to join the ranks of Arizona business owners will need to complete a number of steps before their business is operational, including choosing a name for the business. One option that can be crucial is a DBA, which is set up at the state level.
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What is a DBA?
The acronym “DBA” stands for “doing business as” and refers 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 Arizona
Like all other business names, DBA names in Arizona must follow state-wide naming guidelines, including being unique. Before you commit to a name, it is important to check that it is available for use and that it is a good marketing decision to use that name. Arizona calls DBAs trade names in most places, so that term will be what you use to search.
Search for name availability
You can go to the Arizona Secretary of State’s website to perform a business name search. Simply type in the name you want to use – if it shows up, someone else has registered that name, and if not, it is available to use.
Review naming requirements
Even if your name is available, it must meet all Arizona’s naming requirements. This includes common rules, like that your name cannot be misleading or inaccurate, inappropriate, or in any way imply illegal activity. You must also obtain approval for certain words and phrases – for example, the Arizona Department of Financial Institutions must approve names that include words like bank, trust, or savings association.
Do a broader search
The requirement that a trade name is unique is only enforced within the state of Arizona. That means another state could have a business with your same name – the only way to prevent this is to file for a trademark and have those legal protections.
You may want to understand who else is using your business name or similar ones. A quick internet search can reveal this and help you understand what web domains are taken or available. You can also find out if the usernames you’d like are available on social media. Ensuring that you can obtain these domains will be helpful in marketing your business, preventing customers from becoming confused.
Have a name in mind? Check on name availability first here.
How to register a DBA in Arizona
Arizona manages trade names through the Secretary of State. Their office handles all registration of new DBAs and management of the entities moving forward.
Choose your name
Before you can complete a DBA registration in Arizona, you will need to know the name of your business and commit to it. Be sure to search the name properly, as listed above.
Complete the application
Arizona’s Secretary of State website has a central website for all of the forms you will need to fill out. Look for the Trade Name Registration Application and download the form. The form will ask for information like the name and type of entity your business is formed as and the nature of your business.
File the application
Arizona only allows applications to be submitted online through its website. You will need to create an account, file the application, and pay with a credit card at the time of DBA filing.
Ready to register your DBA? Fill out these forms.
What comes next
Having a DBA in place allows you to take the necessary steps toward marketing your business and creating a brand. However, there are many other tasks you’ll need to complete to keep your business operational and compliant. You may need to complete various steps based on your business, but these are common for most small business owners.
Consider getting an EIN
You likely have a Social Security Number or other official tax ID that you use for most formal paperwork. This number is the government’s way of uniquely identifying each taxpayer to ensure no mistakes. Similarly, the IRS issues another nine-digit employer identification number (EIN) for businesses.
Not every business is required to have an EIN. It is required if:
- The business is its own legal entity, like a corporation
- There are employees
- The business files excise taxes
However, even businesses that don’t need to have an EIN by law, there are benefits to having one for all businesses. Some institutions and lenders will require one, and others may simply see it as a sign of credibility that makes them more likely to help your business grow. Additionally, providing an EIN instead of your personal tax ID can be safer for your identity protection.
If you plan to get an EIN, you can do so on the IRS website.
Obtain licenses and permits
The exact licenses and permits each business needs depend on its location, the type of business, and how it is structured. Arizona has a state-level transaction privilege tax (TPT) license, which is essentially a seller’s permit. Anyone engaged in business in Arizona that will sell a product or service subject to their state sales tax must have a TPT, which can be obtained online. There is a $12 fee, and the TPT license can be obtained online.
Certain businesses will also need to get an additional professional license or permit. You can check the Arizona Commerce Authority’s licensing page to see if your business falls into the category.
Most counties in Arizona will also require a county-level business license. These rules vary, so you should always contact the local county clerk’s office to understand the required business licenses.
Open a business bank account
Certain types of businesses, like sole proprietorships, operate as a single business entity with the owner – in this case, you may choose to use your personal bank account for income and expenses. While this is allowed, it can make accounting more complicated at the end of the year, so many sole proprietors will choose to have a separate parallel account.
When it comes to other structures that offer more legal protections and a separate legal entity, like LLCs, business bank accounts become more critical. Not only do they streamline accounting, but separate accounts demonstrate that the business is not being treated as your personal asset. This can be one way to show that you are compliantly operating a business and prevent you from becoming liable for your LLC’s obligations.
In addition to a checking account, you can also choose to open saving accounts and credit cards in the name of a business.
Keep your DBA current
Arizona trade names are active for five years from registration and must be renewed online, along with paying a $10 filing fee. The recommendation is for business owners to renew their registration beginning six months before their expiration date. Only the owner can renew the trade name; if ownership has transferred, the applicant must submit an Assignment of Trade Name application.
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 general 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 name.
- 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 Arizona?
The exact reason you choose to form a DBA may vary based on your personal business and needs. But the reason that trade names are a formally allowed process is because they can be beneficial to business owners, customers, and the government itself. DBAs can streamline processes while giving businesses their best chance at success.
Some reasons an Arizona small business owner may choose a DBA can include the following:
- A trade name may project a more credible or professional appearance, especially for sole proprietors and new businesses. They can also better communicate your services to potential clients.
- Some business structures require designators in their formal name – for example, a corporation must include something like “Incorporation,” and an LLC must have “LLC” or similar. If you don’t want to use this in your personal name, a DBA provides that option.
- Launching a new product line or branch of your company could require its own brand name. A trade name allows you to do this without forming a new legal entity.
While a trade name doesn’t grant exclusive rights to your name, it can also help you secure your brand for the future.
Cost to get a DBA set up
There is a $10 filing fee required at the time of registering your DBA, which is paid by credit card during the online application process. There will also be an option to receive a duplicate name certificate, which has an additional $3 fee.
Does Arizona require me to publish a DBA notice?
No. Some states require that notice of a new DBA is published in a local newspaper before it can be formalized, but Arizona is not one of those states. The application through Arizona’s Secretary of State is sufficient to form a trade name.
How long does it take to register a trade name in Arizona?
Trade name applications are reviewed individually to ensure all requirements are met. In order to ensure this is done, the processing time is between two and three weeks. You can pay an additional $25 to expedite the process if you need a faster turnaround.
Is a DBA in Arizona the same as a fictitious business name?
The official term used in Arizona is trade name. However, these function the same as a DBA or fictitious business name, which are the terms used in other states.
Can a business in Arizona have multiple DBAs?
There is no limit to the number of trade names an Arizona business can use. Your company could choose to have multiple trade names for different products, business lines, or locations that are all under the same ownership structure. It can help to simplify your business from a marketing standpoint, but you are welcome to have multiple DBAs.
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