How to Set Up a DBA in New Jersey
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 New Jersey.
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Interested in setting up a business in New Jersey? Many sole proprietors opt to start small and establish a DBA. With a DBA, you register a business name that’s different than your personal name. Established businesses can use a DBA too, if they’d like to do a name change or rebranding. If you’re interested in setting up a DBA in The Garden State, read on to understand the DBA registration process.
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’s used for 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 personal name of the owner.
How to select a name for your DBA
First things first. Your business needs a name. Do you already have one in mind? Great, jot it down. It’s a good idea to brainstorm a few business names because you need to check on name availability. Here’s more:
Pick a “sticky” name
You want your business name to be relevant to your product and easy to say, but most importantly, you want the name to be “sticky” or memorable. Brainstorm a handful of ideas. You could use an online name generator to help.
Check on name availability
No two businesses can have the same name, so before you register a DBA you have to make sure the name you want is available. To do that, visit the New Jersey Department of Treasury Division of Revenue and Services website and run a name search.
If your search shows an existing business with your proposed name, you can’t use the name. For this reason, it’s handy to have three or four possible names to check. If one is not available, you can move on to the next.
Similar names won’t work either
You can’t make business name plural or change its spacing to make it “a little different” than an existing business name. All names must be distinguishable.
Check on available domain names
Before you move forward with a business name, consider looking into domain names too. Your DBA name and your domain name should match to avoid any confusion. It’s a good idea to research social media accounts as well.
Google the name
It’s always a good idea to Google your intended business name. Read through your results and see what comes up. Are there any negative search results? There might be a business with a same name that’s battling a PR crisis or at the center of scandal. If that’s the case, customers may confuse these headlines with your company.
How to register your New Jersey DBA
In New Jersey, incorporated businesses register through the state, while others, like sole proprietors, register at the county level.
No matter what type of business you have, the naming rules apply to all business entities. You must check on name availability before registering a DBA.
To register a DBA as a sole prop
Reach out to your county clerk
The county clerk’s office has the forms you’ll need to fill out and file. Many entrepreneurs decide to handle this chore in person. Some counties do have the paperwork available online. Morris County, for example, has a website that small business owners can use to find the paperwork.
Submit a Trade Name Certificate
You’ll submit a Trade Name Certificate to the clerk. Each county has their own document, but here’s a look at the form for Morris County. It asks for:
- Business name
- Nature of business
- Business address
- Name and address of owners and managers
- Phone numbers
In this county, the form must be delivered in person or mailed.
Pay a filing fee
Each county will charge a filing fee. In Morris County, it’s $52. Expect a similar charge in your county. You can pay in cash, by check, or with a credit card.
Wait for county approval
The county will approve your application within 5-7 days. Once approved, you can officially use the business name.
Explore the New Jersey Business Portal
New Jersey has put together a website to help new entrepreneurs. Review the resources on the New Jersey Business Portal to get answers to commonly asked questions.
To register a DBA as an Limited Liability Company or Corp
If you want to file a DBA as an LLC or corporation, the process to register is a little different.
Go to the state website
Visit the New Jersey Division of Revenue and Enterprise Services to access the form you need to file. In New Jersey, LLCs and corporations file an Alternative Business Name form. It’s not called a DBA at the state level.
Fill out and submit the paperwork
Fill out this form and submit it electrically to the state. It only takes a few minutes to fill it out. Expect to provide basic information like your current name, business address, contact information, and of course, the name you plan to use.
Pay the filing fee
To officially register the new business name, you need to pay a $50 filing fee.
Wait for approval
The state will review your application within 5-7 days after the DBA filing took place.
The most common reason for the state to reject an application is for submitting a duplicate name. In other words, there’s already an existing business in the state with the name that you want. Be sure to check on name availability before you register your alternate name.
If you’re just starting out, you have a few more chores to manage before you make your first sale. Use this checklist to make sure administrative tasks are taken care of.
Get an EIN
An EIN, or employer identification number, is a nine-digit number issued by the IRS. As you’d expect, it is used for tax purposes, but you’ll also need an EIN to hire employees or open a business bank account.
It takes just seconds to obtain the number on the IRS website. It’s issued instantly after answering a few questions.
Open a business checking account
Follow good business practice and open a business bank account. By doing so, you can keep your business income and expenses separate. Even if your new business is a side hustle and you only make a few hundred dollars a year, it’s still best to keep your personal and business assets separate.
Research state tax laws
From sales tax to income tax, taxes are a big part of your business. You need to know what to charge your customers and how to submit that money to the proper authority. Visit the New Jersey Division of Taxation and talk with an accountant about the tax implications of your business.
Get a website up
Every business should have a website. You can always add to your website later, but you should start with a handful of pages that explain your business and its products and give customers a way to get in touch with you.
If you’re a solopreneur, you’ll probably rely on DIY website building tools. Look for a platform that helps you buy the domain, design the site, and offers web hosting for a one-stop shop.
Keep your DBA current
Filing a DBA or an alternate name is not a one-and-done situation. It must be renewed every five years. The state will send you a reminder of renewal to file the proper paperwork and submit a filing fee.
Who is a DBA best for?
Sole proprietorships often use DBA names so they can separate their personal name from the business name to protect personal assets. General partnerships use it for the same reason, and so all partnerships can monitor business dealings.
Any type of legal business entity can do business under a DBA, and many do it to build a branded image or because they have multiple niche businesses they wish to keep as separate legal entities. The idea is to keep a DBA name 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?
There are many reasons to get a DBA instead of an LLC or any other business entity, especially when you are just starting. With that in mind, here are some of the benefits of starting a DBA:
- Having a DBA allows you to apply for an employee identification number or EIN, which allows you to hire employees or freelancers.
- Getting a DBA is the most affordable way to start a legitimate business as a sole proprietor.
- A DBA will allow you to do business using a different name, which also allows you to create a business bank account under an assumed name other than your legal name.
- Existing companies can use a DBA to do a rebrand without having to change their original name, whether it is an incorporation or LLC.
- A DBA offers privacy protection since you can do business under a different name.
- A DBA will make your business more legitimate and trustworthy, which is essential for growing your client base.
Why is it important to check on business name availability?
No matter what kind of business structure you select, New Jersey requires all businesses names to be unique. No two businesses can have the same name. If you don’t check on name availability and submit a name that’s already in use, your application will be denied.
Does New Jersey require DBAs to advertise?
Some states require newly-formed DBAs to run an ad in a local newspaper to advertise its formation. New Jersey does not require this.
Is an EIN required for a DBA?
No. An EIN isn’t required for DBAs or sole proprietors. However, you may find it useful. An EIN is required to open a business bank account, for example, so for that reason alone you might choose to get one from the IRS website.
Do New Jersey DBAs need a state Tax ID?
Yes. Any business that sells a product or service in the state, must get a tax identification number. This is different than an EIN. An EIN is used on the federal level. You need a state tax id too. To get one, visit the Business.NJ.gov site.
Can an LLC file a DBA in New Jersey?
An LLC can file an alternate name form in the state. It’s not called a DBA, but it gives a business the opportunity to use a different name.
How long is a DBA good for?
In New Jersey, a DBA lasts for five years. After that, you need to renew it. The state usually sends out renewal reminders, but it’s your responsibility to review your DBA. If you fail to renew it, your business name could be taken by another company.
Does New Jersey have grants for small businesses?
Yes. New Jersey does have grants to help startups thrive. Check out this list of grants that are available to a variety of businesses.
What does a DBA cost to set up?
When you file paperwork to register a new business name, there is a filing fee. Each county has its own fees. Expect to pay around $50 to file the documents for your new DBA.
Find out how to set up your DBA
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