DBAs can be a great way to protect your small business. A DBA will help your small business develop in a way that protects your business name and your legal name. If you want to start a DBA in California, it will only take a few steps. 

Although setting up a DBA takes only three steps in California, the process differs for business entities. This may create some difficulty if you’re trying to find a single solution for multiple business entities. Here are the three steps to DBA in California.

What is a DBA?

A DBA is an acronym for doing business as. In California, DBAs are also known as fictitious business names or trade names.

Business owners can use a DBA for several reasons. First, business owners can use a DBA to change their company name to one that differs from your business or legal name. 

Second, business owners can use a DBA to focus on a business offering or product. A business can use an alternative name without making a new business or a new business entity by using a DBA.

Which business entities register a DBA in California?

Five business entities must register a DBA in California: 

  • Corporations
  • Limited liability company (LLC)
  • Limited partnership
  • Partnership
  • Sole proprietorship

Corporations, LLCs, and limited partnerships will register a DBA in California if these entities will do business under a name not stated in the Articles of Incorporation or Articles of Organization. 

Also, suppose your business entity is a corporation, LLC, or limited partnership. In that case, your fictitious business name, or FBN, can be any name other than the exact name on record with the California Secretary of State.

Partnerships or other associations that will use a name that won’t include the last name of each general partner will need to register a DBA in California. These entities will also need to register a DBA if the business name doesn’t suggest additional owners, such as:

  • “& Associates”
  • “& Company”
  • “& Son”
  • “& Sons”
  • “Brothers”
  • “Company”

Sole proprietorships will register a DBA in California if the business will operate under a name that doesn’t contain the owner’s last name.

How are DBAs in California different from other states?

DBAs in California differ from other states in two important ways. First, business entities and individuals must file a fictitious business name (FBN) statement. 

Second, to file an FBN statement, you can use the FBN search. You’ll find this on city or county websites in California. This will allow you to see if your business name is available for use statewide.

Fictitious Business Name (FBN) Search

You can use the fictitious business name (FBN) search to see if your business name is unique. The state of California has a few requirements regarding DBA names that may be helpful for you:

  • Select a business name that isn’t already in use.
  • The business name shouldn’t closely resemble an existing business name.
  • The business name shouldn’t mislead the public.

How to start a DBA in California

Starting a DBA in California takes only three steps. You’ll do a DBA search, register your DBA, and finally, you’ll publish a DBA statement.

Step 1: California DBA Search

The first step to start your DBA in California is to do a California DBA search. This will help you determine whether your business name is available and unique. 

You can search for a fictitious business name online to see if your business name is available.  

Finding a unique brand name and (normal-looking) domain to go with it can be a bit of a time-sink for new business owners. This free tool from Business Name Zone generates name and domain combos for you based on your input – and it only takes a few minutes.

After you find an available business name, you’ll register your DBA.

Step 2: Register DBA

Next, after you choose your DBA, you’ll register it. No matter which business entity you choose, you’ll register your DBA in California within the county where your business will operate.

Since the state of California oversees the registration of DBAs, the requirements are similar from county to county. However, there may be different fees to register your DBA.

You can file your DBA by mail or in person. 

Step 3: Publish DBA Statement

The last step to start a DBA in California is to publish a DBA statement, also known as a fictitious business name statement. 

You won’t file an FBN statement with the California Secretary of State. Instead, you’ll file an FBN statement in the county where your business will operate. You’ll file fictitious business name statements with the County Clerk’s Office. 

In California, there are several requirements regarding publishing a DBA statement.

First, you’ll file an FBN statement within 40 days of starting your business. You’ll work with the county where your business is located to complete this part of the process. You may need copies of your statement because the county clerk will keep the original documents.

Second, you’ll need to within 30 days of filing a fictitious business name statement. After filing the statement, the registrant must publish the statement in a local newspaper. 

The statement must be published in a local newspaper of general circulation where your small business will operate. The DBA statement will appear once a week for four weeks.

A third DBA statement requirement will happen within 30 days of your final publishing date. Within 30 days of the final publication, the registrant will file an affidavit of publication with the city or county office.

Do you need to renew a DBA in California?     

You’ll need to renew a DBA in California when your fictitious business name statement expires. You’ll also renew a DBA if any of the following applies: 

  • You’ll refile your FBN statement every five years even if there aren’t changes. 
  • If you need to refile, you aren’t required to publish a renewal if the information is the same.
  • You don’t need a third party to file a new or a renewed FBN statement.

Start Your DBA in California By Working with the Pros

Starting a DBA in California can be a great way to protect your business. DBAs can ensure that you diversify your business without having to start another one. 

When you want to start your DBA in California, you’ll want to work with the pros to have a stress-free experience. Work with the professionals at 1-800Accountant to set up your DBA in California.

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Written by Joshua Meller

Josh Meller is Sr. Manager of Accounting Services in the Pacific zone at 1-800Accountant. Before shifting into tax & accounting, he work...