How to Set Up a DBA in Indiana

Last updated: March 18th, 2024
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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 Indiana.

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Every day, entrepreneurs in Indiana make decisions to keep the economy growing, from the first steps of a startup to growing an established business with more employees. Are you looking to join their ranks? If you’re ready to start your own business, registering a DBA could be a good fit for you. The exact process for a DBA registration will vary based on the details of your specific business, so be sure to understand the requirements in advance.

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 a name that will be used for the 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. 

How to search DBA names in Indiana

The first step toward using an assumed name for your business is to decide what that name is going to be. Not only do you have to choose the name that feels right for the business and your customers, but also one that meets all of the Indiana state guidelines for business names. This means ensuring that the name of your business is allowable and doing some preliminary research. 

1
Start with a name search

The first thing you want to do is be sure that no other business in Indiana has used the same name or a name so similar that it could be considered indistinguishable. Since all businesses are public record in Indiana, you can use their online business search tool to see if a name is already in use. If the name shows up, you will need to choose something else, but if it returns no results, you can use the name. 

2
Review name guidelines

Indiana has a set of rules regarding all business names, which includes assumed names. Any name you choose to operate under must meet these rules, which include:

  • Names cannot contain the word “bank” or any variation without approval from the Indiana Department of Financial Institutions.
  • Names cannot contain the word “medical” unless the company is a professional corporation and all shareholders are licensed physicians.
  • Words that could confuse your business with a government agency are prohibited.

3
Check other states

While names have to be unique in Indiana, this does not apply across state lines, which means a business in another state can use your name. The only way to have legal protections that span all states is to implement a trademark through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. 

It may not be a problem for faraway businesses to use the same name as you, but you should always do a quick internet search to see what people might find when they look for you. This can also help you understand if you will be able to find a website URL, social media username, and other branding tools in your name or if they will be taken by other businesses. 

Have a name in mind? Check on name availability first here.

How to register a DBA in Indiana

Different business entity structures have different reasons for obtaining a DBA, and in Indiana, they will also need to use different processes. Be sure that the way you proceed with DBA registration is appropriate for the structure of your business. 

Sole proprietorships and general partnerships 

A sole proprietorship or partnership generally does not need to register with the state in order to be officially formed. This means they do not have a name registered, instead, the business is known under the owner’s own name. When a DBA is going to be used, these cases are handled at the county level. 

A Certificate of Assumed Business Name must be filed with the appropriate county recorder’s office in any county where business is conducted. This means the process can vary, and you should reach out to your local office to ensure you don’t miss any steps. 

As an example, in Marion County, the process includes the following: 

  1. Complete the Certificate of Assumed Business Name, which includes information like the business name, address, and purpose. 
  2. Submit the form via mail, in person, or through an approved electronic document filing service.

Other businesses 

Any business that is incorporated through Indiana must file its name certificate through the Indiana Secretary of State. This includes for-profit and nonprofit corporations, limited partnerships, limited liability companies, and any foreign filing entities. 

The process to do this includes the following: 

  1. Complete the Certificate of Assumed Business Name by filling out the online forms or downloading the form and printing out a hard copy. 
  2. Submit the necessary form either by mail or in-person, if a hard copy, or through the online portal on INBiz. 

Once you receive approval and your name certificate, you will be able to operate using your DBA throughout the state of Indiana. 

Ready to register your DBA? Fill out these forms.

What comes next

Many people complete DBA filing during the early days of a business, which means there may be more to do to get off the ground. Aside from your own marketing and preparation, think through the legal requirements you may need to meet as the next step.

1
Consider getting an EIN

In some cases, getting an EIN is a requirement – any business with employees that pays excise taxes or, in a variety of other scenarios, will need to have this tax ID. The IRS issues these Employer Identification Numbers in order to track businesses for taxation purposes.

Even if your business does not require an EIN, it can still be beneficial to obtain one. Some reasons you may choose to have an EIN include the following:

  • Financial institutions, lenders, credit card issuers, and other partners may require an EIN to complete an application
  • An EIN can be used in place of your personal Social Security Number as a tax ID, which protects you against identity theft and exposure.
  • An EIN can give you credibility with vendors and partners.
  • If you do hire employees, you will already have the proper tax ID in place.
  • There is no cost to obtain an EIN.

If you plan to get an EIN, you can do so on the IRS website.

2
Obtain licenses and permits

In order to collect sales tax on applicable goods and services, Indiana requires that your business have a Registered Retail Merchant Certificate, also known as a seller’s permit. This is the only state-level general business license and can be obtained online, including a $25 filing fee. 

Certain industries and professions may also require specific licensing. You can consult the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency to determine if you need to pursue these. 

Depending on your business activity and location, you may also need various licenses and permits at the local level. This can include everything from general business licenses to signage permits. Always contact the county or city government offices where your business operates to be sure you meet requirements.

3
Open a business bank account

A bank account can seem like something that only becomes necessary once you have a lot of profit or need a line of credit, but it is actually a critical first step for most businesses. One reason is the simple fact that a separate bank account makes life easier – you will not need to separate out business and personal finances and can more easily track expenses and income. This can be especially helpful during tax time. 

For some structures, like an LLC, a business bank account is also a critical legal protection. The personal asset protection afforded by an LLC is given under the assumption that you are keeping finances separate. If it is found that you are mingling your LLC earnings and personal finances, that protection can be stripped. 

As you grow a business, having a bank account can also help you by establishing credit for things like lines of credit or a credit card in the future. 

4
Keep your DBA current

For assumed names filed at the state level, Indiana does not have any expiration on DBAs. Once it has been approved, you will not need to renew it. This is true in most counties as well, but if you file through the county recorder, be sure to double check any renewal requirements they may have.

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 Indiana?

A DBA can be helpful in a variety of ways, depending on the specifics of your new business. Most of the time, when entrepreneurs choose a DBA, it is to avoid operating under their personal name in favor of something more customer-friendly. Being able to operate a sole proprietorship under any company name you choose is the most popular reason to file for an assumed name in Indiana.

For other business owners, a DBA can also allow for a business to expand without starting a separate legal entity. New product lines, branches, and even franchises are all reasons you may choose to utilize an assumed name. 

Cost to get a DBA set up

For DBAs filed at the county level, the DBA cost is set by the individual county. In Marion County, this is $35, but you will need to check with the county recorder relevant to your business.

LLCs and corporations will pay $20 to file for a new DBA online, or $30 with hardcopy submitted to the Secretary of State. 

FAQs

Do Indiana DBAs expire?

Assumed names issued by the Secretary of State do not expire or need to be renewed. Most counties have a similar approach, but you will need to check with the county recorder in the county where you register to be sure. 

Can Indiana DBAs have the same name?

No two small businesses in Indiana can share the same name. This includes the registered business name used in the formation of a business as well as assumed names. Before committing to a name, you will need to be sure the name is available for use.

Are there DBAs in Indiana?

Indiana allows businesses to operate under a name other than their official legal name – which is what a DBA does. However, the state calls this an assumed name, which is another common term. Other states may also call this a trade name or a fictitious business name. 

Find out how to set up your DBA

Click on your state below to get started.

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