How to Set Up a DBA in Pennsylvania

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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 Pennsylvania.

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What is a DBA?

A DBA is an acronym for “doing business as”, sometimes known as a fictitious name, trade name, or DBA name depending on which state you are acquiring, and is a state-level name that your company can use to do business under. Or in simpler terms, a DBA is just another name you can use for your business.

Sole proprietors can benefit a lot from using a DBA because instead of using their own name to run their business, they can use a DBA to operate under a different name, which makes your company look more legitimate and trustworthy to future consumers. 

If you are thinking about a unique business name for your startup as a sole proprietor, the next step would be DBA filing to make sure the name of the business you thought about could be the legal name for your business. Where you are registering for LLCs, general partnerships, or any type of business entity, the acquisition of a DBA is a good way to start. 

How to search DBA names in Pennsylvania

To file for a DBA or fictitious business name in PA, you need to come up with a name first. Pennsylvania doesn’t allow businesses to have the same name, which is why it is essential to check for availability first. Here is how to search the database for business names in Pennsylvania:

1
Go to the Pennsylvania Department of State Website

To see if the business name you’d like is available to use as a fictitious name, go to the Department of State website in Pennsylvania and use the business name search tool. You can come up with a list of names to make sure you have a backup name in case one of the names you chose is not available. 

2
Type the business names and click on search

Now that you have the business name list, you can search them one by one using the tool and review the results. 

3
Check if the names are available to use

If there are no matches, you are free to use the name. If a business already exists with the name you’d like to use, you’ll have to pick a different one.

4
Reserve the business name (Optional)

Although you don’t need to reserve a business name if you are ready to file for a DBA, you can still consider it if you cannot file for the DBA right away. The fee to reserve a business name in PA is $70, and it will reserve the name for 120 days.

5
File a DBA

Now that you have a name that is free to use, you can now file for a DBA and use that name for your small business. 

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

Cost to get a DBA set up

The filing fee to get a DBA set up in PA is $70. You can pay by credit card if you are filing online. However, if you are filing in person through the local county clerk’s office, you can pay with cash or check. It takes around 2 weeks to get the DBA as long as there are no errors in the filing process and incomplete information once the forms are submitted.

How to register a DBA in Pennsylvania

Registering a DBA in Pennsylvania is easy because you can do it all online through their web portal. Here are the easy steps to file for a DBA in Pennsylvania.

1
For filing online, visit the Pennsylvania Department of State website

If you are filing online, you can visit the portal here. It will require you to fill out the same forms when you do it in person. The only difference is it is quicker to file online than to visit the offices. 

2
For filing in person, download the form

If you are filing in person, you need to download the form here. When filing in person, you will have to visit the closest county clerk’s office.

3
Gather the necessary information

Gather the necessary information before filling out the fictitious name form. The information you need will be the DBA name, a description of the nature of your business, business address, name and contact information of the owner or owners, and other information that is easily accessible. 

4
Pay the fee

The fee is $70, and you can pay cash, credit card, or check, depending on the way you are filing. Once you submitted and paid all the fees, it will take approximately 2 weeks to get the DBA. 

5
Advertise the fictitious name in local newspapers

You will need to advertise your DBA name in the local county newspaper you wish to operate your business in. You can find the list of state-approved county publications here. There is no need to submit proof of advertising, but it is ideal to keep and file the newspaper for future use. 

Ready to register your DBA? Fill out these forms.

What comes next

Now that you have your DBA setup or just waiting for your DBA name certificate to be processed, here are some of the next steps you want to get ready for before opening up your business:

1
Get a domain name and set up a website

Many businesses find their most loyal clients online or in a web search. If you want to grow your business and further your reach, you can get a domain name for your business and build a website.

Note that it is always better to choose a domain name that is similar to your assumed name to avoid confusion. 

2
Hire employees

If you need help running your business, the next step is to hire employees. But before you can legally hire help, you will need to get an EIN from the IRS. Having an EIN has many benefits, such as opening a business bank account, hiring employees, getting employee insurance, and getting workers comp. Plus, having a few extra hands will enable you to expand your business and might even help you become a full-time entrepreneur. 

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

3
Set up a business bank account

Now that you have an EIN and a DBA, you can now set up a bank account under your assumed business name in Pennsylvania. Not only will having a bank account make your business look more legitimate in the eyes of your potential clients, but it will also enable you to accurately track your business expenses and income without mixing your personal bank account.

4
Get the business licenses and permits for your startup

A DBA isn’t the only thing you need to run your business. You will also need the necessary permits, such as liquor and tobacco licenses, professional licenses for different services, and other local or state-wide permits needed to operate your business legally. You can get these licenses from the Department of State Licensing Services and file them online through their portal here

Who is a DBA best for?

A DBA is best for a sole proprietorship that wants to operate or do business under a different name, other than its legal name. For sole proprietors, a DBA allows them to work under an assumed name of your business without having to file or open a separate LLC business structure.

Note that a DBA is different from an LLC or any other business entity. While your LLC is a formal business structure, a DBA is just another name your business can operate under. However, an LLC is a legal entity that can also benefit from having a DBA for business growth and creating separate entities within a growing small business. 

For example, suppose you already own a small business that sells one thing. In that case, you can also expand and create a separate legal entity with a DBA to differentiate between these two businesses regarding legal protections and liability. 

Why would entrepreneurs choose to set up a DBA in Pennsylvania?

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 in Pennsylvania:

  • 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 other than your personal name, which also allows you to create a business bank account and start credit lines with an assumed name, other than your legal name.
  • Acquiring a DBA is sometimes required by state laws to open a business.
  • Existing companies can use a DBA to rebrand without having to change their original name, whether it’s an incorporation or LLC.
  • A DBA offers privacy protection since you can do business under a different name.
  • A fictitious business name will make your business more legitimate and trustworthy, which is essential for growing your client base.
  • Having a separate company name or trade name is essential for small business owners to start a brand.
  • It allows you to separate personal assets from business assets.

FAQs

Can I ask lenders for capital to start a new business in Pennsylvania?

If you have a good business idea with an excellent well-written business plan, you can ask lenders to help you start your business by borrowing capital. There are different types of lenders to choose from. One is from Kickstarter campaigns, which is kind of like asking for donations, and one is looking for investors who are given shares in the business. 

Is a new DBA required in the state of Pennsylvania?

A DBA is only required in the state of Pennsylvania if you are planning to do business under a different name other than your legal name. However, for other business entities like LLCs, you can do business under the name you selected in your articles of organization without a DBA. A DBA name can also be used for a business nickname. 

Some states require you to publish a DBA in the local newspaper, is it the same in Pennsylvania?

Yes, you are required to publish your DBA name in local newspapers in the state of Pennsylvania. Although it may not be required in some states, filing for a DBA in Pennsylvania has this extra requirement.

Aside from the filing fee, do I need to pay more on top of the DBA cost?

You might need to pay more if you are filing separate licenses for your business. Some businesses and professions are required to have the necessary permit or business license to operate, which is an additional cost for opening your business. 

Does a DBA registration provide liability protection in Pennsylvania?

No, A DBA registration is only a trade name you can do business under, and it does not provide liability protection for your business. If you want liability protection, you can file for an LLC, which can protect your personal assets.

Find out how to set up your DBA

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