How to Set Up a DBA in Colorado
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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 Colorado.
Those looking for plenty of sunshine, gorgeous mountains, and vibrant towns need to look no further than Colorado. The western mountain state is home to the Rocky Mountains, one of the largest city park systems, warm natural spring lakes, and rodeos. Aside from its natural beauty, Colorado is also a great place to launch a business. Before you head to the mountains, you should know how to start a DBA in Colorado and why this type of business is a good idea. We’ve created a guide to help as you move through the process.
What is a DBA?
DBA is an acronym that means “doing business as.” The DBA meaning is when the name, also called a trade name or fictitious name, isn’t registered as an LLC or some other legal entity but is a legal business.
Using the DBA or as some states call it a fictitious business name or an alias name as a company name is when you call your business a different name other than the legal name or your own name. There are many reasons for doing this including legal protections and tax advantages to sole proprietors, a limited liability company (LLC), and general partnerships.
How to search DBA names in Colorado
States like Colorado have regulations about business names. One of the primary rules is that every business should have a distinguishable name or a name unique to that business.
Those who register their business as an LLC or a partnership fall under stricter name rules than someone using a DBA or trade name as Colorado refers to them. However, it would be best if you still had a name that isn’t confused with another business.
Those starting a DBA must check for name availability against all registered names when picking a DBA name. The best place to start that search is with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, but you can also double-check local DBA names against business licenses at the county clerk’s office.
The county clerk will have a list of businesses that may not be registered with the state. You also can try the name online to see if any other Colorado businesses are using it and have registered it with the state or local authorities.
You may need to check several places to cover both general licenses and corporate registrations. Another place to check for trademarks is the U.S. Patent and Trade Mark Office.
Go to the Colorado Secretary of State’s page
Once you are on the data search page, look for the free tool to check corporate entity name availability. Put your name proposal into the entity box. You can check as many names as you want.
Review the search results
The search will show you any exact matches or similar names to the name you selected. Colorado doesn’t require that trade names be unique so you may find several similar names or the same names in your search. However, you should want your DBA name to be distinguishable for marketing purposes so try to pick one that isn’t exactly like others or too similar to a registered name.
Register a name you like
When you find a unique name you can go ahead and register it with the Colorado Secretary of State as a trade name. In Colorado, a business can start using a DBA before it’s registered with the state. A business has 30 to 60 days after starting a business as a DBA to register the name with the Secretary of State. After that, the business must either stop using the name or file it with the state. There could be fines or penalties for those who fail to register their DBA name.
Have a name in mind? Check on name availability first here.
How to register a DBA in Colorado
Filing for a DBA registration in Colorado is different than in many other states. You have to wind your way through the Secretary of State’s page to create a new record and file the correct form.
Those with a business on record and want to file a DBA name or renew one will file an existing record. Both links are on the same page, making them easy to find once you are on the page.
Those who want to file a trademark may also want to consult an attorney to ensure the process is done legally and properly. You will also want to check to see if you need to also file your trademark with the state as well.
Use the state forms
The Colorado Secretary of State’s forms for filing a trade name are here. Pick the correct form for whether you have a new or existing business.
Submit the form with the fee
The tool submits your application electronically, and you will pay the fee using a debit or credit card. The portal is a secure portal. Documents are filed with the state in real-time online and documents are processed immediately once you pay the fee. You will be able to access them immediately.
Business owners who have questions can find many answers here. You can also call the Secretary of State’s office at 303-894-2200 or in writing at:
Colorado Secretary of State
1700 Broadway Suite 150
Denver, CO 80290
Ready to register your DBA? Find your form here.
What comes next
Even though you can start doing business before you file your registered trade name in Colorado, there are other things you should do first to make your business a success and keep it running smoothly.
Open up a business checking account
Banks will want to see a trade name certificate from the state before they open a business bank account. Most require a trade name certificate for sole proprietors and partnerships wanting to use a DBA name. This should be one of the first things you should do for your new business to accept payments and pay for expenditures. Keeping revenues and expenses separate from your personal checking account will legally protect you.
Get an EIN
This is a federal employer identification number associated with your business that is issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). An EIN is required in filing taxes, hiring employees, and dealing with vendors. Most require it on contracts or other financial forms. Sole proprietorships aren’t typically required to have an EIN, but you will need one if you ever grow to the point of hiring people.
Check state tax requirements
Colorado has its own tax requirements, and you should check to see how your DBA is taxed, especially in comparison to your LLC if you are operating a trade name under an LLC-registered business. Check to make sure you’re aware of the requirements by clicking here. All tax forms are filed with the Colorado Department of Revenue. Payments are made to the state.
Check with state insurance and hiring requirements
Every state has its own rules when it comes to hiring practices and worker’s compensation for employees. Colorado requires it regardless of the number of employees you have. Be sure to look at Colorado’s laws so you stay within the standards. You should include liability insurance in your plan to have liability protection, even though the state doesn’t require businesses to carry liability insurance.
Set up your business goals and policies
A business plan makes good sense even for sole proprietors. Having a good, written business structure provides a reference whenever something comes up, whether it’s dealing with employees or customers. It can also be a tool for getting investors.
Establish a marketing plan
Every business, including a new DBA, needs to start with a marketing plan to attract customers. Marketing plans should include a variety of exposure from the internet to radio, television, and local newspaper ads. It should include a branding campaign also to promote your DBA name. It helps establish your brand and keeps your DBA in front of the public.
Connect with resources for help
Many resources exist in Colorado to help small business owners in their startups. Business owners should make the most of these services since many are free. Many will help in the planning aspect and have financial information to get startup money too. The , the Colorado Small Business Development Center Network, and the Colorado Small Business Resources are a few places to start.
If you plan to get an EIN, you can do so on the IRS website.
Who is a DBA best for?
Sole proprietorships and general partnerships often use DBA names to separate their personal name from the business name to protect personal assets. This way anyone who sues must sue the business and not the person owning the business. It also helps clarify records in case of a federal IRS audit.
Any type of legal business entity can do business under a DBA, and many do it to build a branded image. Others use a DBA because they have multiple niche businesses they wish to keep as separate legal entities. The idea is to keep a DBA name separated from the legal name, which can be a company name or a personal name. The name of the business is one of the most important things you can do.
Why would entrepreneurs choose to set up a DBA in Colorado?
Colorado has many things that attract entrepreneurs besides the scenic views. It has some clear advantages for those wanting to do business there. Some of the biggest advantages are listed below:
- Colorado has favorable business tax laws
- The state is rich in natural resources that make it a good place for business
- Colorado state and local governments are business-friendly
- The state has a good economy
Cost to get a DBA set up
Colorado has inexpensive costs of getting a DBA certificate but has other costs you should be aware of.
- All DBA certificates filed with Colorado State only cost $5
- Business license fees are $50
- Registering a business is $180
Those who wish to register their limited liability company (LLC) or other business corporation will pay a $180 fee to get a state certificate. A DBA certificate will still cost $5 each after you submit articles of incorporation and they are approved.
Is Colorado State a good place to start a business under an assumed name?
The state consistently ranks high for entrepreneurial businesses due to its education and energy sectors. It also ranks in the top five for venture capital investments and lenders.
How long does it take to get approved for a business license in Colorado State?
Going online will make getting a decision faster, as it takes about ten days. However, those who need city and county endorsements will find it takes longer, with an additional two weeks.
Is Colorado State a tax-friendly state?
It depends on the type of business. There is a .471% retailing B&O tax rate on gross receipts. The state also has a retail sales tax collected on all sales that fall under the retailing classification of the B&O tax. There are some specific retail sales tax deductions and exemptions you will check to see if they apply.
Is there an annual fee for a DBA in Colorado State?
There isn’t an annual fee to maintain your DBA name in the state. However, LLCs and other business entities have an annual registration fee to maintain their Articles of Organization in the state.
How does Colorado State define a small business?
The state defines a small business as a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or other legal business entity that is owned and operates independently and employs 50 or fewer employees.
Can I run a business from my home in Colorado?
Yes, but anyone who uses their home for a business address must have a proper zoning permit for the type of business they plan to run.
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