How to Set Up a DBA in West Virginia
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 West Virginia.
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What is a DBA?
The term “DBA” stands for “doing business as.” It’s an acronym that addresses when a business operates under a different name than its legal name, such as a fictitious name. Many people use a DBA because the company name may be a sole proprietorship or personal name and may not be a good descriptive name for marketing.
A DBA can be used by any type of business, from a limited liability company (LLC) to a corporation, but its primary use tends to be with sole proprietors who don’t want to use their name, which is the business’s legal name, as the name they do business under.
How to search DBA names in West Virginia
While it is cheap and easy to start using a DBA or assumed name, you can’t just decide to do it. There is a legal process to use a DBA in West Virginia, and that is through a DBA registration. A DBA should be distinctive enough from other businesses so that it serves you well and you avoid legal hassle.
That’s why it’s important to search DBA names in West Virginia to make sure you have one that represents your business alone. The best place to start is with the West Virginia Secretary of State website. The county clerk’s office is another place to check. That’s where they issue business licenses.
Follow these steps:
Go to the West Virginia Secretary of State Business Search page
There is a free tool on the page where you can type the name you want to use to see if others are using it.
Search for the name you want
You will see a list of businesses that have a registered name either exactly like yours or close to your selection. If it’s in use, you can’t use it. If it’s not, it’s available to use.
Consider reserving your name
Entrepreneurs who find a distinguishable fictitious business name they like can reserve it by filling out the state application for a trade name or DBA. It’s a simple form that asks about the DBA’s address and entity structure. You can fill it out online and submit with payment or mail it in with a check or money order.
You can call with questions
West Virginia has a Business Registration Unit where sole proprietors, those in general partnerships, an association, or a joint venture, can call to check name availability and discuss the name of your business. The phone number is (304)448-3333 or 1-800-982-8297.
Have a name in mind? Check on name availability first here.
How to register a DBA in West Virginia
West Virginia has some rules that differ slightly from other states regarding DBA applications. Everyone from sole proprietors to registered businesses fills out the same form and pays the same fee. They also have the same state-level rules.
Your DBA name must be unique
The state reserves the right to reject any name that isn’t distinguishable, and you won’t be refunded the fee if declined. It urges those seeking a DBA to call the business number first at (304)448-3333 or 1-800-982-8297 to be sure the proposed DBA is available.
Franchise businesses are different
Those filing as a franchise must include a copy of the first page of the franchise agreement, which must have the signature. Any that doesn’t have a signature will be returned as incomplete.
Submit the form with the fee
You can submit the form electronically here or print it out and mail it to one of three locations nearest to you:
One-Stop Business Center
13 Kanawha Blvd. West Suite 201
Charleston, WV 25302
North Central WV Business Center
153 West Main Street Suite G- Third Floor
Clarksburg, WV 26301
Eastern Panhandle Business Center
229 E. Martin Street
Martinsburg, WV 25401
Receive a certificate
The state will send you a name certificate if you include a self-addressed stamped envelope. This is optional. If you’d like a copy for your records, you can request one, but it’s not required.
Ready to register your DBA? Fill out these forms.
What comes next
Once you register your DBA, you will need to do several things to set up your business in West Virginia completely. These steps will keep you legal and ready to grow.
Open up a business checking account
Banks will give your business a checking account using your DBA name. They will go through the process of checking you personally before opening a business bank account, but then you’ll be able to accept payments and pay bills using the business DBA name instead of your own.
It’s a good idea to set up a business savings account too. As an entrepreneur, you’re responsible for paying taxes. You can use the account to set money aside to meet your tax burden, save for new equipment or building renovations, or just save for emergencies.
You can also apply for a credit card in your business name.
Get an EIN
A federal employer identification number (EIN) identifies your business to the IRS. Most DBAs do get an EIN. You will need it to file a business return rather than file your business proceeds under your personal return, as people do in a sole proprietorship. You will also need it for vendor purchases and hiring too.
Check state tax requirements
States have rules about taxing DBAs and how that is done as a business entity. You should check to see how West Virginia handles these kinds of taxes. You can find out more here.
Check with state insurance and hiring requirements
The state handles workman’s compensation laws. To avoid fines and penalties, you should find out what the rules are in West Virginia before agreeing to hire anyone. Getting liability insurance for your business is always a good idea to protect it from lawsuits. You can find out about West Virginia insurance requirements and liability protection here.
Set up your business goals and policies
Writing down your goals, even if you operate your business alone, is a good idea. This provides some business structure you can refer back to later as you grow. It also helps you think through things, like how to handle a customer complaint before they happen, so you are consistent. Having a business plan helps obtain lenders too.
Establish a marketing plan
A marketing plan should be created as you are planning your business. It should include all forms of advertising from a local newspaper, radio, television, and online marketing. It should also have a branding campaign, so you start with an image set in the publics’ minds.
Most companies reserve a domain name that matches their DBA. The website often serves as a strong digital marketing tool, so make it a priority.
Connect with resources for help
West Virginia has plenty of helpful resources to get you started with your DBA. Consider using these resources:
If you plan to get an EIN, you can do so on the IRS website.
Who is a DBA best for?
Any type of legal entity can use a new DBA, but it’s best suited for those who either want a separation between personal and business accounts, like a sole proprietorship or a partnership, or who want a different name for marketing purposes.
Having a DBA also assists in business banking. In a sole proprietorship, money from the business can go into a personal account. However, that lack of separation can cause some legal and accounting issues as the business grows. Having a DBA business banking account resolves that.
Many banks will insist on having a DBA account to allow partnerships to open a business account. It keeps everyone financially organized and makes it easier for your accountant too.
A DBA is a cost-effective, easy way to make a business more professional, as it allows people to pay for the company rather than you. It also allows you to pay vendors under the business name instead of your own, offering you some legal protections.
Cost to get a DBA set up
The state filing fee in West Virginia for registering a trademark or DBA name is $25, but you can expedite the filing service by paying an additional $25 for 24-hour service. Those who want filing done in two hours will have an expedited fee of $250, and those who want it filed in one hour will need to pay an additional $500 in the DBA cost.
Does West Virginia require registration of a DBA?
West Virginia requires you to do business as a DBA if you operate your business under any name other than the business’s legal name.
How do you pick a business name that people remember?
Your business name should describe your business, but it should also be easy to say. Ideally, the name is “sticky,” meaning it sticks in people’s minds. You could use a business name generator to brainstorm different ideas.
Do LLCs file DBAs?
An LLC can file a DBA if they want to do business under a different name than they’ve registered with the state. However, DBAs are usually filed by sole proprietors who want to run their business under a name different from their legal name.
Can I get a loan as a DBA in West Virginia?
Those doing business as a DBA in West Virginia can get loans, but it depends on the financial institution and other eligibility factors.
Is an EIN really necessary for West Virginia DBAs?
You don’t have to get an EIN, but it’s good business practice. It would be best if you kept your business finances separate from personal finances. To do so, you need business bank accounts, which require an EIN to set up.
How does a DBA protect me in West Virginia?
Separating your business name and assets offers you more legal protection as you do business. That includes signing contracts and providing goods and services as a separate legal entity. It could also protect intellectual property. It also offers some tax advantages since you can claim business deductions on federal and state taxes and keep all the records separate.
Who’s the best person to contact if I have questions?
Often, the county clerk is the best person to reach out to. If you have questions, start at the local level and then move to the state level.
Find out how to set up your DBA
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