How to Start a DBA in Ohio

Small businesses are a vital part of Ohio’s economy, accounting for the majority of businesses in the state. Ohio is home to a diverse range of small businesses, from local restaurants and retail shops to manufacturing and technology startups. These small businesses provide jobs for millions of Ohioans and contribute significantly to the state’s economy. Ohio’s small businesses continue to thrive thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit and dedication of their owners and employees. One of the choices these small business owners need to make is the name of their business. If you find yourself in this position and want to use a DBA, keep reading to learn how.

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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 a 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 Ohio

In Ohio, there are two versions of a DBA you can choose between. A trade name, which is a name that must be distinguishable from all other business names in the state and thus gives you exclusive rights to use that name, is the most common. You can also choose to file a fictitious business name, which does not have to be unique and offers less protection. Both use the same registration form and process, but it is important to know which you will use as the name of your business. 

To choose your name and determine which type you’d like, you should first: 

1
Check name availability

Searching the Business Name Search website in Ohio can help you determine if the name you are considering is available. If you find the name on this search, it cannot be registered as a trade name, but you could still use it as a fictitious name. A name that does not appear is available for use. 

2
Review other naming conventions

All business names in Ohio must adhere to some general regulations, regardless of if it is a trade or fictitious name. Some of these rules include:

  • Any business entity suffix must be accurate to the type of business. The term “incorporation” can only be used for a corporation, and “LLC” can only be used for a limited liability company, etc.
  • No profanity or slurs can be included in the name.
  • The name of the business cannot imply a connection to a government agency.
  • Terms like “bank” or “trust” cannot be used without prior approval from the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.

If your name meets these requirements, you can move forward with a DBA registration.

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

How to register a DBA in Ohio

When you are ready to complete registration, the Ohio Secretary of State’s office manages the process. You will need to complete the following steps. 

1
Complete the Name Registration form

The Name Registration form can be used for both trade names and fictitious names. You will need to specify which type of name you’re using, the business structure (LLC, general partnership, etc), the nature of the business, and the name and address of the business owners.

2
File your form

You can submit your form either online through the Secretary of State’s website, or by mailing the form to the Secretary of State. Both options have a $39 filing fee.

Ready to register your DBA? Fill out these forms.

What comes next

After you have completed the Ohio DBA filing process, you can turn your attention to other activities related to your business. As a small business owner, you will need to ensure your business runs smoothly and is in compliance with all laws. Below are some tasks that can help with this process. 

1
Consider getting an EIN

An EIN, or Employer Identification Number, is a unique nine-digit number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to identify businesses and other entities for tax purposes.

If you are starting a new business, you will likely need an EIN if you plan to hire employees, open a business bank account, or file tax returns. Even if you don’t have employees, you may still need an EIN for other tax-related purposes, such as obtaining business loans or establishing a business credit card.

You can apply for an EIN for free through the IRS website or by mail, fax, or phone. It’s important to note that sole proprietors who don’t have any employees and don’t plan to incorporate their business may be able to use their Social Security number instead of an EIN for tax purposes. However, it’s always best to consult with a tax professional to determine whether you need an EIN for your specific situation.

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

2
Obtain licenses and permits

At the state level, Ohio requires any business that sells or leases taxable goods and services to have a vendor license in place. This is the only general business license required and includes a $25 fee for each business location. 

You may also need licensing based on your local government’s rules, so always check with the city and county clerk’s office to be sure of your requirements. 

3
Open a business bank account

If you do not already, there are several reasons why you should have a business bank account:

  • Legal requirements: Depending on your country’s laws and regulations, having a business bank account may be a legal requirement. For example, in the United States, a business entity, such as a corporation or a limited liability company (LLC), is required to have a separate bank account.
  •  Separation of personal and business finances: A business bank account allows you to separate your personal finances from your business finances. This makes it easier to track your business income and expenses and simplifies the process of filing your taxes.
  • Professional image: Having a business bank account gives your business a more professional image, especially when it comes to dealing with clients, customers, and suppliers. It demonstrates that you are serious about your business and that you have taken the necessary steps to manage your finances responsibly.
  • Access to financial services: With a business bank account, you can access a range of financial services, such as merchant services, business credit cards, and business lenders. These services can help you manage your cash flow, build your credit score, and grow your business.
  • Protection against fraud: By keeping your personal and business finances separate, you reduce the risk of fraud and identity theft. A separate business bank account provides an added layer of legal protection against unauthorized transactions and helps you monitor your business finances more closely.

You can choose to start with a checking account, as well as opting for savings accounts and credit cards.

4
Keep your DBA current

Every 5 years, you will need to renew your trade name. There is a $25 fee for this renewal, which can be completed online or by mail using a Renewal of Trade Name or Fictitious Name Registration form. 

Who is a DBA best for? 

Not all businesses will have a 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 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 Ohio?

Business owners in Ohio may choose to get a DBA for a variety of reasons.

One of the primary reasons a business owner might choose to get a DBA in Ohio is to create a distinct brand identity. A unique and memorable business name can help a company stand out from competitors and attract new customers, rather than simply using the owner’s own name. By using a DBA, a business owner can choose a name that reflects their brand’s personality and values, and use it to build brand recognition and loyalty over time.

Another reason a small business owner in Ohio might choose to get a DBA is to operate multiple businesses under a single legal entity. For example, a company that sells both lawn care services and pet grooming services might use separate DBAs for each line of business. This can simplify accounting and tax reporting by allowing the business owner to track revenues and expenses for each business separately, without having to create separate legal entities for each.

Finally, a business owner might choose to get a DBA in Ohio to comply with state or local regulations. Some cities and counties in Ohio require businesses to register their trade name or assumed name with local government agencies. By getting a DBA, a business owner can ensure they are in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations and avoid potential fines or penalties.

Cost to get a DBA set up

The cost to start a DBA (Doing Business As) in Ohio can vary depending on a few factors. Here are some potential costs to consider:

  • Filing fee: To register your DBA in Ohio, you will need to file a “Registration of Trade Name” with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, which includes a $39 filing fee.
  • Business licenses and permits: Depending on the nature of your business and where you plan to operate, you may need to obtain additional licenses and permits from the state or local government. The fees for these can vary widely.
  • Legal fees: Depending on whether you choose to work with an attorney to help you register your DBA, you may incur legal fees for their services.

The overall DBA cost in Ohio can range from around $39 for the filing fee alone to several hundred dollars or more if you need to obtain licenses and permits or work with an attorney. It’s important to research the requirements and costs specific to your situation to get a more accurate estimate.

FAQs

What is the difference between a trade name and a fictitious name in Ohio?

In Ohio, a DBA can be formed in one of two ways. A trade name is an exclusive name that cannot be used by other businesses, while a fictitious name does not have to be unique. 

Does Ohio require a newspaper listing for DBAs?

Some states require a posting in local newspapers when a DBA is formed, but Ohio is not one of those states. There is no publication requirement in the state.

How much does a DBA in Ohio cost?

The filing fee for both trade names and fictitious names in Ohio is $39. 

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