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How to file a DBA in Michigan
Filing a Michigan DBA ('doing business as'), also known as an 'assumed name', is a simple process.
Read below for answers to your questions about DBAs, plus important details and links, why you might consider filing an assumed name (DBA), and how a DBA can help or hurt you. If you need to research how to file a DBA in another U.S. state or territory, select it below.
Do I need a DBA in Michigan?
Michigan requires that all sole proprietorships, general partnerships, corporations, limited liability companies (LLCs), limited partnerships (LPs), limited liability partnerships (LLPs), or out of state companies that regularly transact business in Michigan under a name different from their legal name, must file a DBA with the Michigan Secretary of State.
What is a DBA?
Every business has a legal name. For example, a partnership or sole proprietorship might operate under the legal name of the business owner or owners. A corporation, limited liability company (LLC) or other type of business entity might operate under the name defined in the articles of incorporation or articles of organization.
But, sometimes you don't want to operate your business under your registered legal name. There are many reasons for this. For example, the legal name might be confusing, unrelated to your business, or no longer descriptive of your business. Or you just might want a new name without changing your incorporation or registration documents.
If you do business under a name different from the legal name of your business, that is called an 'assumed name', 'fictitious business name', or 'trade name'. Legally, it's called a doing business as name (DBA).
You can operate your business under as many DBA names as you want - there are no limits. But, each DBA name must be registered in the state where you operate. This is required because the public has a legal right to know that a particular person or legal entity is conducting a business under a name that differs from its legal name.
If you want to learn more about legal business structures and get actionable insights on starting and building a successful, sustainable business, read this comprehensive guide on how to start a business.
And remember each DBA your register should have a unique brand identity so that people can easily remember your business.
What a DBA is not
Registering a DBA does not excuse you from forming a legal business entity. In fact, if you don't form a legal business entity and simply register a DBA with your state, the law assumes you're operating your business as a sole proprietorship.
While many business operate this way, there are significant disadvantages to operating as a sole proprietorship. For example, you will not have any limited liability protection from lawsuits when you operate your business as a sole proprietorship. And you'll be directly responsible for your business's debts and obligations.
An LLC, limited partnership (LP), limited liability partnership (LLP), or corporation grants the owner or owners important limited liability protections and insulates owners from the debts and liabilities of the business.
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How do I set up a DBA in Michigan?
Filing for a DBA starts by searching to see if the name you want to use for your DBA application is available. This can be done using the Michigan corporate name database. Also remember to avoid using a DBA name that's deceptive, fraudulent, confusingly similar to other names, or that could expose you to legal liability under state law (because, for example, the name implies that you're running an illegal business).
Where can I find the Michigan DBA forms?
Important things to consider when filing a DBA in Michigan
Here are important things you should consider when filing a DBA in Michigan:
- Your legal business entity must be in good standing (you can get a certificate from your state or registration showing this).
- You may need to get a money order or cashier's check to register a DBA. Not all states accept credit cards.
- Your DBA cannot claim you have a corporation or LLC unless you actual business entity is a corporation or LLC.
- Many states require that you notify people that you've registered a DBA by posting a notice with a local newspaper or publication.
- Although you can identify your business in your registration documents under your Social Security Number, you should get an EIN (Employer Identification Number, also known as a Federal Tax ID Number) instead and use the EIN instead of your Social Security Number.
- You may not operate under an assumed name unless you've registered that name as a DBA name in the state in which you're operating.
- DBA registrations don't last forever. Check the specific state requirements carefully.
- Most states require that you amend your DBA filing if your legal business information changes. This includes your business address, legal name, change in officers, etc.
Will I have to pay taxes if I register a Michigan DBA?
You do not pay taxes specifically for a DBA. Business taxes are determined by the business's structure and each business structure has its own tax rules.
The DBA is not a business structure so while you will be required to find taxes in accordance with your actual legal business structure, you will not have to file taxes specifically for the DBA.
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How can I get a DBA in another state?
The process for filing a DBA is specific to each state.
Most states require the DBA name to be registered unless you are doing business under your personal name. Many states will allow you to register online.
Find your location below for specific instructions.
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