How to Set Up a DBA in Arkansas
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 Arkansas.
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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 Arkansas
In order to move forward with a DBA, the most important thing you need to know is the name will be that your business will operate under moving forward. Even if you have something in mind, it is important to take the time to ensure it is something that can be used, including searching for the name in Arkansas and confirming it meets all requirements.
Perform an Arkansas assumed name search
The Arkansas Secretary of State provides a search tool for all new businesses. This is because the state requires that each business have a unique name that hasn’t been used – the tool allows you to verify this. You should always do this early on, before you’ve become committed to a name so that you don’t spend too much time planning for a name you can’t use.
Type in your proposed name to the search tool – if something matches, the name is unavailable; otherwise, you can move forward. It may also be helpful to type in your name without articles or punctuation to be sure there isn’t something nearly identical that would be considered indistinguishable.
Double-check Arkansas name rules
Along with each name needing to be unique, Arkansas applies its typical rules to assumed names. Be sure that the name of your business doesn’t:
- Confuse the business with a government agency with words like “State Department”
- Imply the company is organized for an unlawful purpose
- Include restricted words that require additional paperwork and licenses, like “attorney” or “doctor”
- Have any inappropriate terms
- Reference a business structure that is not appropriate – for example, a sole proprietorship cannot include the word “Incorporation”
Search the internet
Your business name only has to be unique in Arkansas, but if there are businesses with the same name in other states, it could cause confusion. Do a quick internet search for the name to see if other businesses come up and if they might be competitive or confusing for a customer doing the same search. You may also want to see if a web domain or social media username is available to match the name of the business, as this can help customers find you more easily.
Have a name in mind? Check on name availability first here.
How to register a DBA in Arkansas
In Arkansas, DBAs are referred to as different things for different types of businesses.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
For a sole proprietorship or partnership in Arkansas, the process for obtaining a DBA is the assumed name registration. This must be completed with the county clerk’s office in any county where business is conducted or transacted throughout the state, which means you could need to do it multiple times.
This also means that the process for DBA registration can look different based on where in Arkansas you do business. For example, in Pulaski County, the process is as follows.
- Complete the Assumed Name Certificate found on the county clerk’s website.
- Submit the form either by mail or in person to the county clerk
Some counties will have additional steps, like requiring a notice to be published in the local newspaper announcing your DBA filing.
LLCs, general partnerships, and corporations
In Arkansas, the Secretary of State is responsible for LLCs and corporations that want to complete a new DBA. For these businesses, it is called a fictitious business name, and filing for one includes the following process.
- Complete the Application for Fictitious Name on the Arkansas Secretary of State’s website. You can submit this online through the website if you choose or print it out to be submitted in hard copy.
- Submit the Application for Fictitious Name if not done online. This can be done by mail or in person, with filing fees varying by business structure and how you send it in.
- For businesses whose registered office is not in Pulaski County, a copy must also be submitted to the county clerk in the area where your office is located. They may have specific rules on how to file this and if there is a fee associated.
All management of your fictitious name is done through the state for these businesses.
Ready to register your DBA? Fill out these forms.
What comes next
Once your DBA is set up in Arkansas, you can take further steps to maintain compliance for your business.
Consider getting an EIN
An Employer Identification Number, or EIN, is a unique nine-digit number issued by the IRS. This number allows for your business to be properly tracked and referenced, like a personal Social Security Number does for you.
The majority of businesses are required to have an EIN for tax purposes. This includes any business entity with employees, corporations, multi-member LLCs, businesses that pay excise taxes, and inherited businesses. But even if you are not required to have an EIN, it can be a good idea.
Without an EIN, you may need to provide your Social Security Number as a tax ID, which can open you up to identity theft and other problems. Additionally, institutions like banks may require an EIN before you can open an account, as it shows credibility and accountability. There is no cost to obtain an EIN, and the benefits are often worth the application.
If you plan to get an EIN, you can do so on the IRS website.
Obtain licenses and permits
If your business isn’t operational yet, it will be important to have all the proper licenses and permits before conducting any transactions. Arkansas only has one state-level permit that all businesses need, called the sales tax permit or seller’s permit. This will register your business for collection and payment of the sales and use tax.
Any business in Arkansas that sells or leases taxable items and services will need this permit. You can apply for the permit through the Arkansas Taxpayer Access Point for a $50 filing fee.
Depending on the professional licensing requirements, some businesses will also be required to obtain additional licenses through the state.
Cities and counties throughout Arkansas can also require business licenses, so you should always check local government requirements.
Open a business bank account
Some business structures like a sole proprietorship allow you to merge personal and business finances. However, most will require you to show some kind of separation in order to maximize tax benefits and legal protections of your personal assets. A business bank account is a simple way to keep these finances separate.
The most common option is to have a dedicated checking account for your business, but you can also open a savings account if you’d like. Additionally, in the same way, that each person has a credit score, businesses can as well. A credit card can help you to build this score up so that one day lenders and other banks may be willing to extend you a larger line of credit.
Keep your DBA current
For DBAs filed through the state of Arkansas, there is no expiration of the fictitious name, which means no renewal is required. However, if you are a sole proprietor or a partnership and file through the county, they may have a renewal requirement you need to follow. Be sure to check with your local office to ensure you don’t lose your name during a renewal period.
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 Arkansas?
A DBA is not required for any business in Arkansas, but there are scenarios where it benefits a business. The majority of the time that a business does so, it is because the sole proprietorship is operating under the owner’s personal name and they would prefer to use a more marketable name.
However, any business can set up a DBA. It can be useful when you want to keep a single business on file, but start other product lines or branches of your business with a different customer-facing name. This prevents the need for a separate legal entity while keeping the businesses delineated.
Arkansas makes the process of setting up a DBA simple so any business owner can easily do so.
Cost to get a DBA set up
The exact cost of DBA registration in Arkansas can vary by a few factors. If your registration is being done by a county clerk, they will set the price for the filing fee, though you can expect it to be under $100 in most places.
When filing through the Secretary of State, the business entity type and method of filing will determine your price. The cost for your LLC or corporation is $22.50 online and $25 for mail or in-person. Partnerships will pay $13.50 online or $15 for any hard copies.
What is a DBA called in Arkansas?
Rather than the term “doing business as,” Arkansas calls these either a fictitious name (at the state level) or an assumed name (at the county level). All terms mean the same thing and serve the same purpose.
Do Arkansas DBAs need to be renewed?
The Arkansas Secretary of State does not require DBAs to be renewed, as they do not expire. For those filed at the county level, each office can set its own guidelines, so this can vary by location.
Can LLCs file for a DBA in Arkansas?
LLCs are less likely to need a DBA than sole proprietorships, but they are able to get them. An LLC will file through the Arkansas Secretary of State to be issued a fictitious name.
Find out how to set up your DBA
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