How to Set Up a DBA in Missouri

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 Missouri.

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DBA meaning

The acronym “DBA” stands for “doing business as” and is used to refer to a business operating under a different name from its legal 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.

How to search DBA names in Missouri

Choosing a company name for your business is one of the most critical decisions you will need to make, and this includes choosing a DBA. Before deciding on the final name you will use, it is important to conduct a search of existing names. 

1
Business name search

The first step to choosing a DBA (Doing Business As) name in the state of Missouri involves conducting a name search. You can search the Missouri Secretary of State’s online database for existing business names. This can help you confirm whether the name you want to use is available or already in use. You must choose a unique name that is not currently in use in Missouri before you can register the DBA name.

2
Patent and trademark search

The requirement that a name be unique is only within Missouri and does not include other states. However, if you or another small business owner wants to protect a business name, they can use a trademark to do so at a national level. It is also important to check for trademarks by searching the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s online database to make sure the name is not already trademarked by another business. 

3
Website search

Generally, it is ideal to use the name of the business as your website URL to drive customers to your website. Do a search for your business name in a search engine to determine if the name has been used and what website domains would be available for you to use.

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

How to register a DBA in Missouri

Registering a fictitious name, also known as a DBA (doing business as), in Missouri involves filing a fictitious name registration with the Missouri Secretary of State’s office. Once you choose a name for your startup that is not already in use, you will need to follow these steps to formalize the DBA. 

1
Complete state-level DBA filing

To file a DBA registration, download and complete the form from the Secretary of State’s website or fill out the online form in the business portal. Submit the completed registration form or file online, along with the appropriate registration fee.

2
Check your local requirements

Certain counties and cities may require additional steps to register a DBA in Missouri. For example, in Kansas City, Missouri, the Jackson County Clerk’s office manages DBA registration and requires publication in a local newspaper for a designated period of time. The City of Kansas City, Missouri’s website hosts an Application for Registration of Business Name necessary for DBA registration. All applications for a DBA registration in Kansas City, Missouri, must be notarized.

 In St. Louis, Missouri, the city’s License Collector’s office manages DBA registration and requires that you publish a notice of your DBA registration in the local newspaper of general circulation to the city. The City of St. Louis’ website hosts a Registration of Fictitious Name form necessary for the DBA registration. It is important to research specific requirements for registering a DBA or fictitious name with the relevant city agency along with the Missouri Secretary of State’s office.

Ready to register your DBA? Fill out these forms.

What comes next

Completing your DBA registration is the final step to formalize your new business name, but is not the only thing business owners need to consider. 

1
Consider getting an EIN

When you file a DBA registration, you might also consider getting an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS. In certain instances, you may be required to obtain an EIN for tax purposes. If you plan to hire employees, an EIN is necessary for reporting taxes withheld on wages and to report all employment taxes to the IRS. An Employer Identification Number may also be required for opening a business bank account or to establish business credit.

A dedicated tax ID for your business functions separately from your personal credit and allows you to establish a credit history for your DBA. When filing tax returns, an EIN is required to identify a business for tax purposes. An EIN is typically also required by state and county regulations to apply for various licenses and permits. 

There is no cost to obtain an EIN through the IRS website.

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

2
Obtain licenses and permits

The only state-level license required in Missouri is the sales tax license, or seller’s permit. Any business in MIssouri that intends to sell or lease taxable goods must have this permit in place. It is also possible that your business could need additional professional licensing depending on the type of business you operate. 

Each local government in Missouri can also require licensing for businesses under their jurisdiction. For example, Jefferson City requires all businesses to have a city business license. It is important to contact your county clerk’s office to verify the licensing you need.

3
Open a business bank account

You can choose to open a checking or savings account, or even a credit card, in your business’s name. This can help with making accounting simpler, but it may also be an important legal protection for some businesses. For example, if your business is an LLC, the personal asset protection you receive depends on the segregation of finances. Keeping your LLC income and personal income separate helps show you are operating as separate legal entities and offers additional protection. 

4
Keep your DBA current

Once you have registered your DBA in the state of Missouri, there are certain steps you must take to keep it current. In Missouri, the Secretary of State’s office requires that a fictitious name registration typically be renewed every five years. In the six months prior to the expiration date, you will have the opportunity to renew the fictitious name registration online or by mail.

Some counties and cities in Missouri have additional specific requirements for renewing a DBA registration. It is important to promptly update any information associated with the DBA, including the business name, address, or ownership structure.

Staying compliant with relevant laws and regulations and monitoring your business credit are important aspects of keeping your DBA registration current in Missouri.

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 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 Missouri?

Entrepreneurs in Missouri choose to set up DBAs for several reasons, including the flexibility of conducting business under a different name than their own name or that of an existing business entity. A DBA can also be useful for entrepreneurs interested in operating multiple businesses. Registering a DBA in Missouri is often considered more cost-effective for entrepreneurs compared to forming a new legal entity such as a corporation or LLC. Small business owners just starting out may want to minimize costs by registering a DBA or fictitious name in Missouri. 

A DBA can also be a helpful tool for branding, which can help entrepreneurs stand out in a crowded marketplace. Registering a DBA in Missouri also helps entrepreneurs to comply with local and state regulations, including the requirements for business licenses and permits. The compliance benefits of registering a DBA in Missouri can ensure both new and seasoned entrepreneurs operate their businesses legally and avoid fines or other penalties. 

DBA cost to get started

The cost to set up a DBA in Missouri can vary depending on multiple factors, including the county or city in which the registration is filed. There is a $7 filing fee through the state, but additional fees may be assessed for publishing, notarizing, or filing the registration in localities.

In general, the filing costs can vary slightly depending on whether you choose to file a DBA registration online, by mail, or in person. Some Missouri counties also require a newspaper publication, which can cost money.. If the DBA registration needs to be notarized, this can also incur an additional fee. 

FAQs

What businesses need a DBA in Missouri?

In Missouri, the following types of businesses typically require a DBA registration: sole proprietorships, partnerships, corporations, LLCs, and non-profit organizations. Any business operating under a name other than their ownl name will need a fictitious name registration in Missouri.

Do new DBAs expire in Missouri?

In Missouri, DBAs must be renewed if there are any changes to the information supplied in the original registration period. A renewal period typically takes place every five years, during which the DBA can be renewed. The exact renewal date can vary depending on the city or county where the business is located.

How long does it take to get a DBA in Missouri?

The timeframe for obtaining a DBA registration in Missouri depends on the county where the business is located and the county clerk’s office processing times. The process for registering a DBA in Missouri may include publishing the fictitious name in a local newspaper for a specified period of time for review.

Do I need to renew my DBA if my name changes?

Yes, if you legally change your name, then you must submit updated paperwork to the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office regarding the name change. Any changes made to the information listed in the initial paperwork for the DBA registration must be updated promptly to stay in compliance with fictitious name regulations in the state of Missouri.

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