Are you a Massachusetts business owner who wants to be able to operate your company under an assumed name? If so, consider acquiring a doing business as (DBA) name.
How do you obtain a DBA name for your Massachusetts company, and how are you allowed to use your new name? In this guide, we’ll walk through every detail of the DBA acquisition process in this state.
What is a Massachusetts DBA?
For sole proprietorships and general partnerships, a DBA enables you to use a name other than the owner’s personal name. For limited liability companies and corporations, DBAs allow you to use multiple names to officially refer to your business activities.
There are many different reasons for Massachusetts companies to acquire ‘doing business as’ names.
- For sole proprietorships and partnerships, they can make your company sound more professional than simply using your own name. You can also open a bank account using your DBA, which can not only help you keep your business and personal assets separate, but customers often have a higher comfort level writing out a check to a business name rather than to an individual’s personal name.
- For corporations and LLCs, DBAs are frequently used to give the company the option of using different names for separate product lines. Another common usage of a DBA is to distinguish satellite businesses from your main company. Restaurant owners love to do this, as for example it can help a fine-dining establishment open a fast-casual spin-off restaurant without affecting customers’ perceptions of the original location. Whether you want to create this separation for marketing or accounting purposes (or both), a doing business as name gives companies options that they wouldn’t otherwise have.
In short, a DBA in Massachusetts allows businesses to communicate their image and express themselves in different ways without having to actually form a new business to do so.
How Do I File a Massachusetts DBA?
In Massachusetts, the process for getting a DBA is somewhat complex compared to some other states. While you can conduct a business name search to ensure that no other businesses are using your desired DBA name, Massachusetts state law does allow multiple entities to use the same name, so this step is not entirely necessary.
This ensures that your desired business name is available, and hasn’t already been claimed by another business in the state.
To register your DBA, you will need to contact the clerk’s office in every city or municipality in which your company conducts business. The clerk’s office can advise you regarding the necessary forms to submit, as well as the corresponding fees. In Massachusetts, DBAs are only filed at the local level, not with the Secretary of State. Though the forms will vary based on your location, you will generally need to provide the name of your business, mailing address, your DBA name, and contact information.
How Long Does a Massachusetts DBA Last?
The effective lifespan of a Massachusetts DBA will vary based on the location of your business, but they are generally valid for 4-5 years. If you would like to continue using your assumed name beyond its initial expiration date, you will need to contact your local clerk’s office to learn about the renewal process for your area.
Should I Hire a Professional DBA Filing Service?
If you’d rather not fill out the paperwork and register for a DBA yourself, there are plenty of reputable companies offering a service. For a fee, these services will assemble the relevant paperwork and submit it to your state, and all you have to do is supply them with some basic information.
Hiring a DBA service can save you some time, but in most states it is unnecessary. However, the requirements for obtaining a Massachusetts DBA are varied and can require paperwork to be filed at multiple locations (if you conduct business in more than one town or city). So, if you’re just too busy to hunt down the right paperwork, most service providers (Ex: LegalZoom) charge a fair rate for this service.
The doing business as name, or DBA for short, is one of the most simple business filings for Massachusetts entrepreneurs. The process to acquire one is quite straightforward, and you can begin using your new assumed name as soon as the state completes your filing.
We hope this article answered your questions about how to file a Massachusetts; DBA!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Does a DBA provide any legal protections?
A: No, registering a DBA does not legally protect you or your business. If you’re seeking personal asset protection, you might want to look into forming a corporation or a limited liability company rather than just acquiring a DBA name.
Q: Does a DBA need a registered agent?
A: A registered agent is not a legal requirement for sole proprietorships or general partnerships that acquire DBA names. However, limited liability companies and corporations do require a registered agent whether they have a DBA or not.
Q: Can someone else register a business using the same name as my DBA?
A: Filing a DBA does not give your business exclusive rights to your assumed name. If someone wants to use the same name, and they form an LLC or corporation with it, they are legally allowed to take your name for themselves.
Q: Does the state of Massachusetts require publication of a DBA name?
A: Most cities and counties do not require publication of a DBA name, however you will want to consult with your local clerk’s office before filing.