How to Set Up a DBA in Idaho
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 Idaho.
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For most of its history, Idaho has been known as an agricultural powerhouse, accounting for a huge portion of the potatoes grown nationwide. But the state also has a huge science and technology sector, not to mention the thriving community of small businesses that makes Idaho special to residents and entrepreneurs alike. Throughout Idaho, businesses have the choice to go by an assumed name. If this is something you’re planning to do, following the correct process can make the change seamless.
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 operations of your business. 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. But with a DBA in place, your business’s true legal name remains something else, usually the legal name of the business owner.
How to search DBA names in Idaho
Before you can complete a DBA registration, you must be sure of the name your business will be going by to the public. If you submit an application with a name that can’t be used, you risk being rejected and needing to start over, including repaying DBA costs of filing. To avoid this, it is important to do your research and ensure your chosen name is available and can be used in Idaho.
Search for available business names
Idaho’s Secretary of State has a business search available to the public on their website. Here you can enter any name you may want to use and see if it has already been claimed – if so, Idaho’s rules mean it cannot be used as your DBA.
Business names in Idaho must be completely distinguishable, so you may want to search for similar names as well. For example, if you plan to name your business “Milk and Honey Tea Shop,” but there is a business called “Milk & Honey Tea” this is not considered different enough. Search for the words “milk honey” to see what else comes up and determine if your name meets the requirement of being unique.
Verify naming requirements
Business names in Idaho must meet a number of requirements to ensure they can be used. For example, the name of your business:
- Must include accurate designators and suffixes. For example, a corporation must include something like “Incorporation” or “Co.” in the name, but an LLC cannot include these terms.
- May not reference financial institutions unless they are properly licensed to operate as one.
- May not include language that falsely states or implies an affiliation with the government.
- Should not be inappropriate.
- Must accurately reflect the nature of your business.
Check availability elsewhere
As long as a business name is available in Idaho, there is no restriction on you using it. However, the same name could be used in another state – only a trademark will offer legal protections against this. Before you commit to a name, it can be useful to know if others have chosen the same one.
A quick internet search can help you understand what customers will see when they look for your business. Pay special attention to whether your name has already been used as a URL or social media username for other businesses, and whether you will be able to get something relevant and avoid confusion.
Have a name in mind? Check on name availability first here.
How to register a DBA in Idaho
In Idaho, the process of DBA registration is also known as filing for an assumed name. This operates the same way as a DBA and is managed by the Idaho Secretary of State.
Complete the name certificate
The first thing you will need to do is complete the Certificate of Assumed Business Name form. This can be done online, or you can print out the form to complete it manually. You will need to provide information such as:
- The name you want to use
- The legal name of the business, under which it was formed
- Address or addresses of the entity or person doing business under the assumed name
- A predefined category to describe the type of business
File your application
The Certificate of Assumed Business Name can be submitted online through the SOSbiz website, where you can pay the filing fee with a credit card. If you prefer, you can also turn the form in by mail or in person.
Wait for approval
Once your application has been processed and approved, you can move forward with your assumed business name.
Ready to register your DBA? Fill out these forms.
What comes next
You may have established a DBA as a first step toward opening a business, or it could be a decision you’ve made after already having some success. As a part of establishing a new business, it is important to be sure that you’ve completed all the requirements that can keep you in compliance with the law and make your daily life easier.
Consider getting an EIN
In order to identify individual business entities, the IRS issues a unique nine-digit tax ID called an Employer Identification Number or EIN. The majority of businesses will need to have an EIN in place, though not always. Sole proprietors with no employees, for example, can use their personal Social Security Number – though this may open you up to identity theft and financial risk, so an EIN can be a better option.
Any business with employees, 401k plans, excise tag obligations, and a few other special criteria will need to have an EIN in place. They can be obtained for free and in just a few minutes.
Idaho also has a state tax ID that can be used for taxes within the state.
If you plan to get an EIN, you can do so on the IRS website.
Obtain licenses and permits
Business licenses can be issued at the federal, state, and local level depending on a variety of factors.
Federal licenses will only be necessary if you are in a federally regulated industry, like agriculture or aviation.
At the state-level, the only general license in Idaho is the sales tax permit. This allows each business to collect sales and use tax and registers them to pay it back to the state appropriately. There is no cost to obtain a sales permit, which can be done online or by mail. Each location of your business must have a separate sales tax permit if they operate under different names.
You should also contact your county clerk’s office to determine if there are any local licenses you need to have in place. Each locality can set their own guidelines, so this will vary widely for each new business.
Open a business bank account
The IRS recommends that all small businesses have a dedicated checking account to encapsulate all income and expenses. This can be for a variety of reasons, including tax accounting and personal liability protections, especially for businesses that operate as a separate legal entity.
When a business, like an LLC, offers personal asset protection, it is assumed that it is an independent financial entity. If it is found that you are mingling personal and financial assets, you could lose the protections your LLC has afforded you.
Business bank accounts can also be a good building block for your company. Having one in place may help you establish credit, obtain lenders, and legitimize your business to outsiders.
Keep your DBA current
There is no need to renew DBAs in Idaho, so your assumed name will be yours as long as you operate. You can choose to cancel or change your assumed name by filing the appropriate forms with the Secretary of State if you choose.
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 an 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 Idaho?
Using an assumed name can be a tool that benefits businesses for various reasons. These may depend on the stage your business is in and how you’ve structured it legally.
Sole proprietorships are the most likely to use a DBA, along with partnerships. By default, these businesses are legally named after their owner. But if an owner wants to use something other than their own name, a DBA is an easy way to do this without forming a business as another entity type.
Other businesses, like corporations and LLCs, are able to choose a name during formation, so typically a DBA is not needed for the same reasons. But it can still be a good tool to maintain a single legal business while operating various branches or product lines under other names.
Cost to get a DBA set up
The filing fee associated with setting up an assumed name in Idaho is $25. However, if you choose to file a hard copy by mail or in-person, you will need to pay an additional $20 processing fee.
In addition to specific DBA costs, this filing requires that you already have a business formed, which can come with its own costs. In Idaho, some costs you may need to account for when setting up a DBA can be:
- Formation fees: The cost to formalize your business can range from $55 to $135, depending on the type of business structure you are forming. Both corporations and LLCs have a $100 fee, or $120 for hard copy filings.
- Licenses: There is no cost for a seller’s permit in Idaho, but each locality and some professions will require additional licenses that could cost money.
- Name reservation: Before forming a business, you can reserve your chosen legal name for $20.
These fees are in addition to any startup costs, marketing materials, and other costs you may have accounted for already.
When do DBAs expire in Idaho?
In Idaho, assumed names do not expire. They are active until the owner changes or cancels the assumed name. There is no renewal process or fee required.
Can I register for an Idaho DBA online?
Yes, the Idaho SOSBiz website allows for online filing. In fact, to file a hard copy, you will pay an additional $20 fee, so the internet is a preferred method.
Do I have to file assumed names with the county clerk in Idaho?
No, Idaho now manages assumed names at the state level. Assumed names previously managed by counties were not transferred to the Secretary of State.
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