How to Start a DBA in Maine
Maine offers one of the prettiest outdoor settings in the country. It also has fresh seafood, a reasonable cost of living, a high quality of life, and plenty of job opportunities. It’s no wonder that many think about starting a business in one of the country’s most northern states. Is a Maine DBA right for you? You will need to do a little research first. Maine has rules and laws about DBAs, and it’s always good to review them before you move forward with your business. We’ve prepared a guide that will help you launch your DBA. It has tips, advice, and links that will ensure your business moves ahead rather than be docked in the unknown.
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What is a DBA?
DBA refers to “doing business as.” The DBA acronym is sometimes referred to by other names such as an assumed name, a fictitious name, an alias name, or a trade name. No matter what it’s called, the DBA meaning is the same in every state. It’s when the name being used for business is a different name from your own name or that of the legal entity listed on the state registration.
Using a DBA has some advantages for businesses. Sole proprietors use DBAs instead of their personal names for legal protection as it protects personal assets. Other types of businesses, including a limited liability company (LLC) and general partnerships, find using a DBA name has some tax advantages as well.
How to search DBA names in Maine
The Maine Secretary of State’s office is the place to start searching to see if the DBA name you want is available. It has a database of all businesses in the state so you can see if someone is using the name you want.
Know the naming rules
Maine requires even DBA names to be unique from every other business name listed in the state directory. They must also meet the state’s other requirements for business names.
It makes sense, from a marketing standpoint, to pick a unique DBA name.
Check on name availability at the state level
Those seeking to establish a DBA should check for name availability against all state-registered names to ensure their name is unique.
Go to the Maine Corporations Division and use the business entity search page see if another business is already using the name.
Have a name in mind? Check on name availability first here.
Check name availability at the county level
Besides checking with the Maine Secretary of State’s office, you should compare your proposed DBA name against business licenses at the county clerk’s office.
The municipal clerk will have a list of DBA businesses that may not be registered with the state. You also can search for the name online to see if any other Maine businesses are using it anywhere.
Review the search results
The search will show you all the companies that use the same keyword. Make sure the name you pick is different from all of those so your DBA application will be approved.
Register a name you like
Domestic corporations will need to register their trade name with the state and that can be done electronically on the website. Foreign corporations or those whose businesses are based outside the State of Maine will register under a fictitious name. Both are in the same form.
Sole proprietors or general partnerships are not required to file their DBA at the state level, but must do it at the country level.
How to register a DBA in Maine
The State of Maine has a business portal so you won’t have to do research to find the correct resource. You will need to first create an account to access all the forms and information on the site.
Find the form online
Business entities like LLCs and corporations will need to file their DBA applications online with the state. The forms are found here.
Sole proprietors and general partnership owners will need to go to their local municipal clerk to get the forms for their area.
Fill or print out the forms
Forms can be filed electronically or printed out and mailed.
Pay the fee
You can pay using a debit or credit card, or money order.
Get your questions answered
Need a little help? Small business owners hoping to do business in Maine can find many answers to their questions with questions here. You can also call the Maine Corporations Division at the Secretary of State’s office at 207-624-7736. The mailing address is:
Maine Secretary of State
Bureau of Corporations
101 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0101
Ready to register your DBA? Find your form here.
What comes next
Starting a business is more than deciding your DBA name. There are other important measures you must take to protect your new business and make sure it runs well. Some are legally mandated, so you will need to take care of them before you open.
Set up your business goals and policies
It may seem odd for someone who has been doing business as a sole proprietor, general partnership, or LLC to craft a business plan. However, writing down your goals and your plans to get there will prove to be important as you move into your DBA business.
A written outline of how your business is to be run will set you on the right path and can be a great help to gain investors.
Open up a business checking account
Keeping revenues and expenses separate from your private checking account protects your personal assets so you should open a business checking account. Financial institutions are stricter about regulations now so most will ask for a trade name certificate or a certificate of good standing from the state to open a DBA account. Sole proprietors and general partnerships are at the most risk, so having a business bank account can be especially important to them to reduce risk.
Get an EIN
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issues a federal employer identification number to businesses that apply for it. It’s a number the government uses to identify a business, usually for tax purposes.
An EIN is also required to hire employees and is often required for banking, contracts, and loans.
Check state tax requirements
How will you file taxes as a DBA? Maine has its own tax code for businesses. To learn about the state tax requirements for DBAs, LLCs, and other business entities is to visit the Maine Revenue Services.
It’s also a good idea to speak with a local tax accountant to understand what’s expected of you during tax season.
Check with state insurance and hiring requirements
Maine doesn’t require businesses to have property or liability insurance but does require them to have worker’s compensation, even if you employ only one worker. You should include property and liability on your list of necessary insurance as that will offer your business protection in the event something happens. Many clients and other businesses likely require liability. All vehicles must also be adequately insured.
Establish a marketing plan
Marketing plans are often overlooked by new business owners. They think that promoting a launch is enough, but that’s not enough. A new DBA needs a complete marketing plan that goes beyond the launch.
Your marketing plan should include branding your DBA name as well as using all forms of media from the internet, television, radio, and the local newspaper. It will be the one thing that sets your brand and separates you from competitors.
Connect with resources for help
It’s never too early or too late to get some help for your business and Maine has many programs, government, and non-profit groups to offer support for small business owners and startups.
Most are free and can help with all aspects of your business from planning, marketing, dealing with government paperwork, and even funding.
Some of the resources in Maine include:
- Maine Department of Economic and Community Development
- Maine Small Business Development Center
- Maine-US Small Business Administration
A complete list of resources can be found here.
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 so they can 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 Maine?
Maine has plenty to offer small business owners wanting to set up a DBA there. Besides the high quality of life and lots of B2B businesses, the state offers a lot of businesses related to logging, shipbuilding, farming, and fishing.
- Maine has no privilege or franchise tax.
- The cost of labor is less than the national average.
- It has lower taxes.
- A variety of industries from manufacturing to entertainment are growing.
- The state has many business incentives including enterprise zones through the Pine Tree Development Zone Program.
Cost to get a DBA set up
Local counties set their own rates for DBA registration. The state rates are as follows:
- Trade name registrations are $125 per entity.
- Fictitious name registrations are $40 per entity.
- Expedited service is an additional $50 per entity.
- Immediate services are an additional $100 per entity.
What’s the easiest way to get started with a business in Maine?
The Maine government has a portal that helps potential business owners work through the process. It asks questions and guides you to the forms and information you need for your industry and type of business.
Is a DBA registration required in Maine?
The state does require a DBA registration for all LLCs. It also requires it for any business that plans to use a name other than its legal name.
Do I need a separate bank account in Maie for my DBA if it is part of my LLC?
You will need a separate bank account for any DBA you have as well as a bank account for your LLC as checks, electronic payments, and expense payments will all bear the DBA name or the legal company name.
Can I have multiple DBAs in Main?
Yes, you can have as many DBAs as you want. However, each will require a separate registration, a separate fee, separate checking accounts, and separate tax filings.
Do I need a state employer tax number for a DBA in Maine?
A sole proprietor doesn’t need a state employer tax number but anyone who plans on filing state taxes or hiring employees will need to file for one. You can find out how on the Maine Revenue Services website.
What does Maine consider a small business?
A small business in Maine employs fewer than 500 employees.
Is Maine a business-friendly state?
Yes, many surveys rank Maine high for small businesses. It also ranked high in a study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for states with the fastest-growing small businesses.
What businesses make the most money in Maine?
Many businesses make a lot of money in Maine but those growing the fastest now are finance, real estate, rentals, insurance, and leasing businesses.
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