How to Set Up a DBA in Maryland
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 Maryland.
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What is a DBA?
DBA refers to “doing business as.” Not all states use the DBA acronym but rather refer to the practice of using another name as using 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 different from the name 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 too. Other types of businesses, including a limited liability company (LLC) and general partnerships, find using a DBA name has some tax advantages as well. Others use DBAs for marketing purposes.
How to search DBA names in Maryland
All DBAs are registered at the state level. Some states push new businesses to register DBAs at the local level by visiting the county clerk’s office, but that’s not the case in Maryland. Since DBA filings are submitted to the state, your DBA must follow certain naming rules.
Yes, there are actual rules to naming a business. Follow the steps below to check online for business names in Maryland.
Go to the Maryland Business Express page to search online
Go to the free search tool and type the proposed DBA name in the search box.
The Maryland state government has a free online search tool on its business express site rather than on the Secretary of State’s office site. The Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation handles all business matters in the state.
Since all names must be unique, you must see if the name you’d like is not being used by another company.
The express site is the right place to search through business names to make sure the one you want is available. You will need to register an account with the page to use it to file electronically.
Have a name in mind? Check on name availability first here.
Review the search results
The search will show companies within Maryland that have the same or similar name as what you want. You can keep searching until you come up with a name that no one else is using.
Register a name you like
Maryland doesn’t offer a chance to reserve a trade name but does allow you to register it when you find the right name. More on that is below.
How to register a DBA in Maryland
Maryland expects those registering a trade name to already have a legally registered business listed with the state. Most forms can be found on the Maryland Business Express site.
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 file your trademark with the state as well. You can learn more about filing for a trademark in Maryland here.
Find the form online
Those wishing to conduct business as a Maryland DBA must fill out a form to Register a Trade Name. The form can be found here.
Fill or print out the forms
Maryland requires you to list the department ID of your business associated with the trade name and other information. 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. The filing fee is $25.
Seek answers to questions, if needed
Small business owners hoping to do business in Maryland can find many answers to their questions here. The express site also has a chatbot for simple questions.
Entrepreneurs can also email the Maryland Business Express at [email protected]. You can call using the local number of 410-864-5100 or the toll-free number of 1-800-492-0479. The mailing address is:
Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation
301 West Preston St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
Ready to register your DBA? Find your form here.
What comes next
You will have more work to do before launching your DBA business. You must complete other tasks to ensure your business is legal and running smoothly when it opens.
Open up a business checking account
Maintaining proper accounting is important, and opening a business account for your DBA is a good way to do that. It is how you separate your personal assets from your business assets. This change can be crucial for a sole proprietor who now needs more separation of personal and professional matters.
Many banks require a certificate of good standing or a trade name certificate from the state before allowing a DBA or business to open a business bank account. Sole proprietors and general partnerships wanting to use a DBA name can expect banks to mandate this.
Get an EIN
A federal employer identification number is issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to the business to identify the business and link it with its tax filings. Most business entities, like LLCs, must have an EIN, although sole proprietors are not.
However, an EIN is required for many business activities like hiring people, filing business tax forms, and obtaining loans. Those with a DBA will be filing separate taxes, so that they will need an EIN.
Check state tax requirements
Tax codes can be complicated, and that is especially true when it comes to business tax codes. Maryland is no exception, as it has various elements to how it taxes businesses. Even as a DBA, you may have special taxes or exemptions that apply. You can look at all the tax requirements more completely for either your DBA or your LLC by visiting the Maryland Department of Assessment and Taxation site.
Check with state insurance and hiring requirements
Maryland mandates that businesses carry worker’s compensation and automobile liability insurance. You must have worker’s compensation insurance even if there is only one employee. There are detailed minimums for auto insurance. You should include property and business liability on your list of necessary insurance even though Maryland doesn’t mandate those. Many clients and other businesses likely require liability.
Set up your business goals and policies
You may know where you want your business to be in a few years, but it’s good to write it all down. Creating a business plan with policies and goals is a good way to set your DBA in motion. It provides a business structure to set all your future plans and policies on. Plus, a well-organized business plan can lure investors to your company.
Establish a marketing plan
One of the most important things you can do for your new DBA is to create a marketing plan. It can be more complicated than you realize, and you may need to hire professional help to see it through.
A marketing plan will ensure your business gets noticed. You might consider marketing via the internet, radio, television, and the local newspaper. It should also include a campaign to use your DBA name as branding efforts.
Connect with resources for help
Maryland has a wealth of resources for both startups and existing small business owners who want to start using a DBA name. They can offer advice, some organizational planning, help finding a commercial location, education, and even ways to fund your business. Many are free or low-cost.
Some of the resources include:
- Maryland Department of Economic and Community Development
- Maryland Small Business Development Center
- Maryland-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, 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 Maryland?
Maryland 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 provides a lot of companies related to logging, shipbuilding, farming, and fishing.
- Maryland has many business incentive programs.
- Maryland draws big business from Washington D.C. and Virginia.
- It ranks high for its community support of local businesses.
- The population is growing, meaning more customers and job seekers.
- The state is business-friendly, with companies thriving more quickly than in other parts of the country.
Cost to get a DBA set up
Maryland offers lost-cost DBA registrations. Prices are as follows:
- Trade name registrations are $25 per entity.
- Expedited service is an additional $50 per entity.
Trade names are renewed every five years for $25.
Can I run a DBA from my home in Maryland?
Yes, you can run a business from your home in Maryland, but paperwork will be involved. You must apply to the state for a business tax account and get a business license. You must still form your business through the state and register the DBA.
What’s the fastest way to get business filings done in Maryland?
Online is going to be the fastest way to get through the filing process, as filing paperwork electronically usually takes seven days to get an answer. It is faster with expedited service. Mailed filings will take between six to eight weeks to process.
Do small businesses pay taxes in Maryland?
Yes, every business is required to fill out a state tax return. The corporate tax rate is 8.25% of the net income allowable.
Do businesses have to pay personal property taxes in Maryland?
Yes, all businesses must pay taxes on the property in its possession, such as equipment, tools, and office furniture. The state issues the assessment, and local counties collect the tax.
Can I do business with the state government as a DBA?
Yes, any business can put in a bid for work with the State of Maryland. It has a bid board where entrepreneurs can seek out both state and local opportunities, look at the requirements, and place a bid for the work.
Do sole proprietors have to register their DBA with the state?
Yes, Maryland state law requires all businesses that are using a name other than the legal business name to register the name with the state.
Find out how to set up your DBA
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