How to Start a DBA in Nebraska
As one of the most competitive states for new business in the Midwest, Nebraska is full of small business owners looking to establish themselves each day. Whether your business is a brand new startup or an established company looking to expand, if you are looking to run a business in Nebraska, there are certain regulations that you must follow. This includes the name of your business, which can be both registered with the state or formed as a DBA to operate under a new name.
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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 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. But with a DBA in place, your business’s true legal name remains something else, usually the legal name of the owner.
How to search DBA names in Nebraska
As a part of overseeing all businesses in the state, the Nebraska Secretary of State is also responsible for keeping a record of all names. This is particularly helpful when forming a DBA, as you cannot use a name that another business has taken. Using tools that the state provides, as well as general search engines, you can quickly determine if a name is available for you to use as a trade name moving forward.
Consider Nebraska naming rules
Any name you choose must be allowable under Nebraska law as it relates to naming a business entity. Along with requiring that the name is unique, these rules ensure that businesses are accurately represented and appropriate.
Some of Nebraska’s rules you should consider will say:
- No suffix can be used that does not represent the business’s structure. This means that you cannot use “LLC” for a corporation or “Incorporation” when naming an LLC.
- Proper licensure will be required before you can use terms given to financial institutions, like “bank” or “trust company” in a name.
- Names cannot imply that the business is organized for an unlawful purpose or any purpose besides the one stated on the formation paperwork.
- No business can include the word “geologist” in its name.
Perform a business name search
Nebraska’s Secretary of State allows you to easily search for registered business names to determine if a given name is available. If you are considering a name, type it into the Business Name Search tool to see if it provides results – if not, you should be okay to use it. You can also search for similar names in case something exists that could cause confusion with your business.
Search the internet
Just because a name is available in Nebraska does not mean it’s never been used. Someone in another state may be using your chosen name, so you will want to understand what an internet search shows. This can help you see what your potential customers will see and avoid future confusion around your name. Before choosing it, consider whether your name is available as a website URL and social media username.
Have a name in mind? Check on name availability first here.
How to register a DBA in Nebraska
When you have a name picked out and have confirmed it is available, you can move forward with DBA registration. In Nebraska, a DBA is typically referred to as a trade name. Trade names are registered through the Secretary of State using a few simple steps.
Complete the application
The Application for Registration of Trade Name is what you will need to fill out to complete a DBA filing. This form can be completed online through the Secretary of State’s website, or you can print the form and manually complete it, then mail it in or hand deliver it to the proper office.
The application will ask you to provide information about your business, like the structure, state of formation, date of the name’s first usage (you can say “upon filing” if it is new), general type of business, and information for the person filing.
Publish notice of trade name
Once you have registered your trade name using the proper forms, you are required to publish a legal notice of the name in a local newspaper. The newspaper must circulate in the city or village of the business’s principal location; if there is no newspaper in the city or village, the county newspaper can be used.
This notice will need to include information exactly as it is stated on the application. Be sure to keep a copy of this notice to submit as proof within 45 days of registration, or your registration will be canceled, and your name certificate will be revoked.
Ready to register your DBA? Fill out these forms.
What comes next
If your business is already up and running, a DBA may be another item to keep track of in your usual operations. But for a new small business owner, it is important to know that there are many other requirements to keep a business compliant. Ensuring that you are aware of these steps can help you be proactive about them and avoid any issues in the future.
Consider getting an EIN
The government, especially the IRS, needs to identify every individual business for the purpose of taxes and tracking. This is done through a unique, nine-digit number known as an EIN or Employer Identification Number. An EIN is required when your business has employees, pays excise taxes, or is engaged in certain retirement plan agreements.
But even for businesses that do not need an EIN, they can be beneficial or even necessary. For example, many banks and lenders will not allow a business account to be opened without an EIN in place. It can also offer security to sole proprietors, who can use an EIN in place of their personal Social Security Number with an EIN.
Because an EIN is simple to obtain and does not have a cost, every business owner should consider having one in place.
If you plan to get an EIN, you can do so on the IRS website.
Obtain licenses and permits
While some industries and professions require extensive state licensing, the sales tax permit is the only state-level permit that all businesses will need in Nebraska. Also called the seller’s permit, this allows any business in Nebraska to collect the appropriate sales tax and registers them to pay these back to the Department of Revenue.
In addition, each local government in Nebraska can create its own regulations around licensing. For example, there is no general business license in the City of Lincoln, but certain businesses need to register. Always check with the county clerk’s office where you are located to determine what your business needs to be compliant with when operating there, and repeat this in any other location you do business.
Open a business bank account
It can be difficult to imagine needing a bank account before your business has even made a profit, but it is an important step to take early on. At a minimum, accounting, and bookkeeping activities become much easier when you have a dedicated business bank account in place. But in many cases, these accounts offer important legal protections.
For example, when you form an LLC, part of the benefit is that your personal assets are shielded from liability related to your business. This is done assuming it is a separate legal entity and will be treated as such, including financially. If you are found to be using your personal bank account for business funds, it can lead to something called piercing the corporate veil, and you may be held responsible for business obligations.
Bank accounts and credit cards can also help your business to establish a credit score that positions you for faster growth in the future.
Keep your DBA current
All trade names in Nebraska expire ten years from the date of registration. To complete the renewal, you must contact the Secretary of State’s office by phone to be sent a renewal form. This cannot be done online, and there is a $100 filing fee.
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 Nebraska?
When a business owner chooses to set up a DBA, it is typically because the fast and simple process of registering their trade name is a better option than creating a new legal entity. It can offer flexibility for branding and legal requirements, though these needs may vary by business structure.
For a sole proprietor or someone in a general partnership, a DBA allows for the business to operate under something besides its own name. Since these businesses don’t file formation paperwork, they are automatically assumed to use the owner’s personal name. A DBA allows the business to have a more accurate, simpler, or catchier name for public use, which may also offer privacy.
Other structures, like an LLC or corporation, do name their business upon formation. But when they want to operate a franchise or a new branch of the company that doesn’t align with the original name, a DBA allows for that without a new legal entity to be created.
Cost to get a DBA set up
Nebraska charges a $100 filing fee for all trade name filings. There will also be a cost associated with the publication of notice in a local newspaper, though this varies based on the paper’s rates.
How long does it take to register a Nebraska DBA?
The registration process does not take more than a few days to be approved. However, you also have 45 days to complete the publishing requirement, which is the last step in registration, so it can take that long to finalize.
Is a trade name in Nebraska the same as a DBA?
Yes, these are the same. Some states use terms like assumed name or fictitious business name as well, but all mean the same thing. In Nebraska, the term trade name is what you will see on paperwork and applications.
Do DBAs in Nebraska expire?
Yes, all DBAs will expire ten days from their registration date in Nebraska. They must be renewed through the Secretary of State, including a new filing fee.
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