How to Set Up a DBA in Michigan
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 Michigan.
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What is a DBA?
The acronym “DBA” stands for “doing business as” and refers to a business operating under a different name from its legally registered name. Other 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 idea.
A DBA is a name that will be used for your business operations. 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 standing of the owner.
How to conduct a name search for Michigan DBAs
Before registering for a DBA name in Michigan, you must settle on the name under which you want to do business. Here’s how:
Pick a unique name
Most importantly, you need to pick a fictitious business name that’s unique throughout the state of Michigan. In other words, another company can’t already use it. You can search the state’s business entity database to see if your choice is taken or available.
Follow naming rules set by the state
You also need to be sure that the name meets other naming criteria in Michigan, like avoiding inappropriate terms. Names can also not imply the business is a government entity, involved in illegal activity, or involved in a business sector that it is not.
Have a name in mind? Check on name availability first here.
How to register a DBA in Michigan
The exact process to create a DBA in Michigan will depend on the type of business entity that you own.
Sole proprietorship or partnership DBAs in Michigan
For individual business owners or those in a general partnership, the filing process for a DBA (or assumed name, as it is called in Michigan) is done at the county level.
Fill out the proper forms
In every county where the brand does business, the owner must complete and file the Certificate of Persons Conducting Business Under Assumed Name. This form will ask for the following:
- The name that the business will do business under
- Name and business address of the individual or partner
- Nature of the business
- State or country where the company was formed
- In a partnership, details of the nature of the relationship
Because this is done in each county, the rules and requirements for business registration may vary by location.
Pay a fee
Most counties charge a fee to file this paperwork. It’s likely between $10-$16.
Place an ad in the paper
In some counties, you’re required to run an ad in the paper that mentions the creation of a new business. Your county clerk’s office will have the details.
Again, each county is different. For example, in Oakland County, there is an assumed name search just for the county. The assumed name certificate can be completed and turned in by person or mail, along with a $10 filing fee, which can be paid by credit card or money order.
LLC or corporation DBAs in Michigan
Any business incorporated in Michigan must file its Certificate of Assumed Name through the Secretary of State’s office. This includes:
- For-profit or nonprofit corporations
- Professional corporations and professional associations
- Limited partnerships and limited liability partnerships
- Limited liability companies
- Any foreign filing entity
File a Certificate of Assumed Name form
To file a Certificate of Assumed Name form, you must provide information about your new business, including the business name, business address, and contact information.
Pay a filing fee
LLCs will pay a $25 filing fee, while corporations must pay $10.
Submit the paperwork
This can be filed online, through the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, also known as LARA, by mail or in person.
What comes next
Whether a new startup or an established business, it is essential always to be aware of legal requirements for running your business. Once a DBA is established, you can add it to the list of upkeep items that help your business grow and thrive.
Consider getting an EIN
When you pay personal income taxes, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) uses your Social Security Number as a unique identifier to be sure all records are attached to you. Similarly, businesses can be issued an Employer Identification Number, or EIN, to help track their taxes.
Most businesses will need an EIN at some point, with the only exception being a business with no employees and that does not pay excise taxes. All others must have an EIN in place to file taxes. But even if it is not required of your business, there are benefits to having an EIN. These include:
- If you seek lenders or want to open a business bank account, they will typically require an EIN. Credit card providers may also ask for an EIN.
- Without an EIN, you may have to give your tax ID to vendors and partners. This is a much more significant security risk than sharing an EIN.
- Having an EIN can lend credibility to your business.
There is no cost to obtain an EIN, and it does not need to be renewed at any point.
If you plan to get an EIN, you can do so on the IRS website.
Obtain licenses and permits
Michigan does not have a state-level general business license, but most businesses will need to obtain a seller’s permit or sales tax license. Any company in Michigan that sells or leases items subject to sales tax must have this in place before they operate, as it allows them to collect and pay sales tax to the state. This is done through the Michigan Treasury Online portal and has no fee.
Businesses may also need to obtain specific professional licenses and anything the county or city dictates. Many local governments require general licensing and special permits for various industries.
Renew your DBA
For state-level DBAs that used the Certificate of Assumed Name, expiration will occur on December 31 of the fifth full year following DBA registration. Renewals can be done in person or over the phone using the same forms.
Counties also require that assumed names are renewed every five years through their process.
Cost to get a DBA set up
Before establishing a Michigan DBA, you must have a business already registered in the state. This means that you may have to pay a filing fee. No business formation in Michigan costs more than $100, but the exact cost will vary by business structure. Sometimes, you can also expect to pay variables like a state fee to reserve a name, business licensing fees, and registered agent fees.
The cost to obtain an assumed name for a Michigan business varies.
- If you’re forming an LLC, you’ll pay $25.
- If you’re forming a corporation, you’ll spend $10.
- If you’re a sole prop, you’ll file through your county clerk and likely pay between $10-$16.
You can find the exact DBA cost through your county’s government office.
Who is a DBA best for?
Not all businesses will need to use a DBA. Along with state-specific requirements, the legal structure of your business and the owners’ personal preferences will be significant factors in whether this is necessary.
Regarding business structures, the legal process for registering your business may indicate whether a DBA is applicable. The most common uses of a DBA are:
- Sole proprietors and partnerships will be registered by default under their owner’s name. 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 a 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 Michigan?
The primary deciding factor in whether you need to complete a DBA filing is the type of business structure that you have. Any business can create a DBA, but the reason you do so may differ depending on the business type.
DBAs for sole proprietorships and general partnerships
When your business is either a sole proprietorship or a general partnership, your business’s registered name is automatically the owner’s legal name. Because these business structures are not incorporated, there is no paperwork to file during formation that would allow you to provide the business’s name.
A DBA isn’t necessary if you plan to operate the business under your name. But most people want to use an expression of some sort, even if it includes your legal name. A DBA is required in this case to practice under your chosen business name.
DBAs for LLCs and corporations
LLCs and corporations must file paperwork during formation to become a separate legal entity from their owners. During this process, the business is given a name and registered under that name. This means that there is no need for a DBA to operate under your chosen name in most cases.
However, there are reasons that an LLC or corporation may use a DBA. For example, if you are planning to operate in a different state from your formation, and your current name is taken, a DBA can help you work consistently. Many businesses also use a DBA to open a new branch or product line under a different name while maintaining a single legal entity.
If there is any reason you may be operating under a different name, your LLC or corporation will still require a DBA.
Do I need to add my assumed name to Michigan insurance licenses?
Yes, if you operate with a DBA, you must account for this. You can complete the Individual Insurance Licensee Registration or Cancellation of DBA form to the Department of Insurance and Financial Services to do so.
How do I renew my DBA in Michigan?
To renew a Michigan DBA, you will submit the exact forms you did to create it. Depending on your business structure, this is done through your county clerk’s office or the Department of State. The same filing fee will be paid each time. Statewide DBAs last up to 5 years, and most county DBAs last for four years.
What is a DBA called in Michigan?
Michigan uses the term “Assumed Name” to refer to the name a business operates as other than its legal name. This is often called a “doing business as” or DBA, and some states may use different terms like “fictitious name” or “trade name.” These all mean the same thing.
Do you know if I can change my DBA?
To change the name of your DBA, you would need to re-begin the process with a new form. However, there is a process to change the registered address or business owner listed as a part of the DBA. You can also withdraw your DBA if it is no longer used.
Find out how to set up your DBA
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