How to Get a Trade Name in Arizona
Any business in Arizona that uses a name other than its legal business name is using a DBA. Referred to as “trade names” in Arizona, DBAs are often used by sole proprietors, general partnerships, LLCs, corporations to establish a brand identities or market their business. Registering a trade name in Arizona involves filing an online Trade Name Application with Arizona’s Secretary of State and paying a $10 registration fee. We’ll go over everything you need to know to get a DBA in Arizona.
Your Arizona DBA Guide:
What is an Arizona DBA (Trade name)?
A DBA, or “doing business as” name, allows your business to operate under a name other than its legal business name. Arizona calls DBAs “trade names,” but the two terms mean the same thing. An Arizona DBA allows a business to expand into new markets or add additional brand names without having to file formation documents and officially register an entity with the state. DBAs are especially popular with unincorporated businesses like sole proprietors because a sole proprietor’s legal business name is their first and last name. An Arizona DBA allows a sole proprietor to use a business name that better fits their products or services.
Arizona doesn’t require the registration of DBAs, but Arizona’s Secretary of State (SOS) calls registration an “acceptable business practice.” While registering a DBA in Arizona doesn’t prevent other businesses from using the name, it does keep other businesses from registering the same name with the state.
Why Register an Arizona DBA
Registering your DBA name with the state means that your DBA will become part of Arizona’s public record. Arizona statute A.R.S. § 44-1460 puts the burden of researching a business name on the applicant. This means that if another business performs a business name search with Arizona’s Secretary of State, your trade name will pop up as being active in the state. If another business tries to register your exact trade name (or something similar), it will give Arizona’s SOS and the ACC the chance to disallow the use of the name.
Here are a few other reasons why registering an Arizona DBA is helpful:
You want a more marketable business name. If you’re a sole proprietor, the legal name of your business is your full name (Sam Smith). If you’re in a general partnership the legal name of the business is the combined last names of the partners (Johnson and Lee). Operating a business using just your name (or names) won’t tell potential customers what your business does. For instance, if you’re a sole proprietor who installs gutters using your own name, using a DBA like “Amazing Gutters” will help your business name resonate with potential customers. Now you’ll be able to use your DBA name on all sorts of marketing materials like business cards, social media accounts, and even a website.
Protect your brand. Why take a chance on another business claiming your business name when you’ve worked so hard to make a name for your business? Registering a trade name with Arizona means that it becomes part of the public record, and that the SOS will not let another business register your business name with the state. This is especially important for sole proprietors and general partnerships who don’t formally register their business with the state and thus don’t have legal claim to a particular business name.
You want a business bank account. While there is no legal requirement for a sole proprietor or a general partnership to open a business bank account, in most cases it is a good idea to separate personal finances from business finances. Opening a business bank account using a DBA will allow you to collect payments and make payments using your DBA instead of your own name, which will help your business look more professional.
You want to expand your brand. A DBA can give your business the flexibility to expand its offerings. If you sell jewelry online under one business name but want to branch out into selling vintage fabric, you can add new product lines under another DBA.
Note: Registering a trade name in Arizona does not give you exclusive rights to the name. In order to keep other businesses from using your name, you’d need to trademark your name, or form an Arizona LLC, corporation, or other state-registered entity.
How to Register a Trade Name in Arizona
To obtain a trade name (DBA) in Arizona, you’ll need to submit a Trade Name Application online and pay the filing fee. But there’s more to it than that. You’ll also need to make sure no other business has already registered your preferred trade name, and that your name follows state name regulations. We go over the steps here.
Your first step is to make sure no other business has registered your desired trade name. To do this you’ll need to perform a business entity name search with the Arizona Secretary of State.
Your trade name must adhere to Arizona’s naming requirements. This means that your trade name can’t:
- Include an identifier, like “LLC” or “Corp.” if it is neither.
- Use state agency names like “Police,” “Department of Gaming,” or any name that might confuse the public.
- Use words like “bank,” “nonprofit, “association,” “foundation,” or any name that alludes to your business being something it isn’t.
- Use words that falsely suggest your business offers a professional service, like “dentist,” “lawyer,” or “engineer.”
Your final step to registering a DBA in Arizona is to complete an online Trade Name Application on the Secretary of State website. The filing fee for a trade name is just $10. Paper applications are not accepted. Once your application has been approved (2-3 weeks), Arizona will email you a certificate that shows your DBA is registered with the state.
How to Renew an Arizona DBA
Arizona DBAs last five years. You can renew for another five years by filing online for a Trade Name Renewal and paying the $10 fee.
Can I cancel my DBA in Arizona?
A trade name can only be canceled if it has been registered with the state. There is no fee to cancel a trade name, but you’ll need to complete an online Trade Name Cancellation, print it, sign it, and have it notarized. You’ll then mail the notarized cancellation form to:
Secretary of State Michele Reagan
Attn: Trade Name/Trademark Department
1700 W. Washington Street, Fl. 7
Phoenix, AZ 85007-2808
Filing an Arizona DBA vs. Starting a Business
Don’t get confused, getting an Arizona DBA isn’t the same as starting a business. An Arizona DBA is just a name that a business can operate under instead of its legal business name. Getting a DBA won’t change the structure of your business. If you’re a sole proprietor, you’re still a sole proprietor after you register a DBA.
Because DBA isn’t a business in its own right, you must continue to file taxes under your business’s legal name. Additionally, when signing contracts, you’ll need to include both your legal and DBA name. A contract signed with only a DBA might not hold up in court, but your DBA should be included (often alongside your legal business name) so that you business identity is clear to whoever you’re signing the contract with.
To actually start a business in Arizona, you have two options:
Sell a product or service: Whether you’re making money cleaning houses or selling cat treats online, you’re in business. If you’re in business by yourself, you’re a sole proprietor. If you’ve got a partner or partners, your business is a general partnership. In both scenarios, there is no legal separation between you and your business, which means you and your partners won’t be protected from lawsuits or bankruptcy.
Register your business with the state: If you want to form an Arizona LLC, corporation, nonprofit, or other state-registered entity, you’ll need to file formation paperwork with the state and pay state filing fees. Taking the necessary steps to file your business with the state creates a distinct legal entity, and provides the separation necessary to protect your assets from legal action.
Arizona DBA vs. Arizona LLC
An Arizona LLC is a formal business structure that provides limited liability protection for its owners (members). A DBA is just an alternative business name that doesn’t give your business liability protection. While an Arizona DBA is just a name, an Arizona LLC is much more. LLCs provide business owners with personal asset protection. This means that if an LLC gets sued or goes bankrupt, the personal assets of the business owners are protected, and only the LLC’s assets can be used to satisfy the debt.
If all you want is a creative name for your sole proprietorship or general partnership, a DBA is probably the way to go. However, if you’re looking for a business that will protect your assets, an Arizona LLC is only $50, and Northwest can help you get one.
Protect Your Assets With an Arizona LLCGet Started Today!
Arizona DBA FAQs
Is a DBA required in Arizona?
No, but as the Secretary of State website says, it “is an acceptable business practice.” This basically means that you can use a DBA without notifying the state, but in order to keep another business from registering the same (or similar) DBA name, you’ll want to register it with the state.
How do I register a DBA in Arizona?
You can register your DBA name with the state by completing a Trade Name Application on Arizona’s Secretary of State website.
How much does it cost to get a DBA in Arizona?
If you choose to register your trade name in Arizona, it will cost $10.
How long does it take to get an Arizona DBA?
It takes Arizona about 2-3 weeks to process DBA filings.
How often will I need to renew my Arizona DBA?
Arizona requires that trade names be renewed every five years. If you don’t renew your trade name before it expires, you risk losing the trade name to another business. You can renew online by completing a Trade Name Renewal application and paying a $10 fee.
Can I change or update my DBA name in Arizona?
Yes you can. Amending your trade name in Arizona costs $3 and requires you to complete an online Trade Name Amendment form.
Do I need a separate bank account for my DBA?
While a separate bank account for your DBA isn’t necessary, separate accounts can help keep your business finances organized.
Here’s how to open a bank account with a DBA.
Do I need a separate EIN for my DBA?
Arizona trade names are business names, not taxable entities. Unless you’re operating as a sole proprietor or a single-member LLC with no employees, a DBA will operate under the EIN of the business it is linked to. Corporations and Multi-member LLCs and will need to get an EIN for tax and employment purposes, but your DBA won’t need one.
How many DBAs can I have in Arizona?
Arizona allows you to have as many DBAs as you need.
Can I sign contracts with my DBA?
Yes and no. You cannot sign contracts with only your DBA because it isn’t a legal business entity, so any contracts signed with your DBA alone might not hold up in court. However, you should list your DBA alongside your legal business name on contracts (usually preceded by “d/b/a”) so that you business identity is clear to the party you’re signing that contract with.
Can I buy a domain name under my DBA?
It depends. While some domain registrars permit businesses to purchase domain names under a DBA, others don’t. If you’re concerned about buying a domain name under your legal business name, find a registrar that will allow you make the purchase under your DBA.
What is my business’s legal name?
The legal name of your Arizona business is the name that you put on state and federal documents. For example, in Arizona this is the name you’d use on your state tax license application. If you’re a sole proprietor, your legal business name is your first and last name. General partnerships use the last names of the partners. For LLCs, corporations, non-profits and other state-registered entities, your legal business name is the name that appears on state formation documents.
How can I keep my personal information off the public record?
The best way for business owners to keep their personal information off public record is to hire an Arizona registered agent and form an Arizona LLC. When you hire Northwest to form your Arizona LLC, we’ll let you use our address (where allowable) in place of yours on all public filings. This will help to keep your name off public records, which will go a long way to helping you live privately.