How to Get a Colorado Trade Name
A Colorado DBA, also referred to as a trade name, is an alternative name that your business can use instead of its legal business name. Colorado sole proprietorships, general partnerships, LLCs, and corporations can use a DBA to brand a business, increase brand recognition, and maintain a professional image. In Colorado, DBAs are registered by filing a Statement of Trade Name with the Colorado Secretary of State, which costs $20. Let’s dive into it.
Your Colorado DBA Guide:
What is a Colorado DBA (Trade Name)?
Basically, a Colorado DBA, or trade name, is an alias for your business—DBA stands for “doing business as.” For example, if you’re a sole proprietor and you want to do business under a name like “A+ Plumbing” instead of your own name, Tyler Johnson, that’s a DBA. DBAs are also called fictitious or assumed names in other states. In Colorado, the term “assumed name” refers to DBAs registered by foreign businesses (out-of-state businesses operating in Colorado).
Any type of business can use a trade name in Colorado, but only for-profit businesses are required to register DBAs by filing a statement of trade name with the secretary of state (CRS 7-71-101). According to state law, if you are found transacting business under a trade name without registering, you may face a fine of up to $500. Additionally, your business will be unable to file suit against anyone until you have filed your statement of trade name (CRS 7-71-102).
What’s unique about DBA registration in Colorado?
- DBAs are filed with the secretary of state’s office.
- Only for-profit businesses are required to register DBAs.
Why Register a DBA in Colorado?
Here are the most common reasons to register a trade name in Colorado:
You’re a Colorado sole proprietor
Sole proprietorships aren’t registered with the state, so there’s no legal separation between a sole proprietor and their business. Because of this, a sole proprietorship’s legal business name is the business owner’s full name. Doing business under your full name isn’t always desirable, so many sole proprietors adopt a DBA to appear more professional or to better describe the products or services they offer. For example, you can adopt the DBA “Higher Self Wellness Center” to avoid doing business as Denise Hoffman.
To market your business
Many businesses adopt DBAs to market their products or services more effectively with a more memorable or accurate name. As a business owner, DBAs are especially useful when you want to start a new business line but don’t want to form a whole new business. You can also use a DBA to do business under your domain name.
Popular ways to market with a DBA include:
- On websites and social media accounts
- On signs, business cards, and other marketing materials
- In commercials and advertisements
- On merchandise
- To open a business bank account (Note: some banks will require proof of DBA registration)
- To make and receive payments
Tip: Registering a Colorado trade name doesn’t guarantee that another business won’t use it. For stronger legal rights to your name, you can apply to trademark your DBA name at the federal level. Here’s how to apply for a trademark.
How to Register a Colorado DBA
To register a DBA, you’ll need to submit a statement of trade name and pay a fee to the Colorado secretary of state. Registration is good for one year. Here’s what you’ll need to do.
First, you need to find out if the name you want to use is available. You cannot use any name already being used by a registered business entity in Colorado—these names belong exclusively to the businesses they are registered to. Additionally, you can’t use any name already trademarked by another company.
Colorado trade names, on the other hand, are not exclusive, so you are permitted to use the same trade name as another business. However, to avoid being mistaken for another business, you may not want to share a trade name.
You can use the following to check name availability:
Many Colorado trade name naming rules are industry-specific and involve not using a trade name for deceptive purposes. For example, state law prohibits using a trade name to falsely represent the nature of a school or its educational services (CRS 23-64-123) or to sell liquid fuel under a name other than that of its manufacturer (CRS 8-20-220). If you are concerned about violating trade name rules in your industry, consult the Colorado Revised Statutes that apply to your field or a business attorney.
However, there is one general rule: yDBour trade name can’t include an identifier that isn’t accurate for your entity type (like “LLC” if your business isn’t one).
The form you submit to register your trade name will depend on your business type. However, the information that must be listed on the form is generally the same across forms.
According to CRS 7-71-103, your statement of trade name must include:
- The name of the individual or business entity filing the statement
- If a business entity, what type of entity
- The individual or entity’s principal address
- Your trade name
- A brief description of the type of business you’ll do under your trade name
- Any other information the secretary of state’s office may require, as specified on the form
The statement of trade name form must be filed online, but the secretary of state’s office provides samples of the different forms required by business type:
- Sole proprietors: Statement of Trade Name of an Individual
- General partnerships: Statement of Trade Name of a Non-Reporting Entity
- LLCs and corporations: Statement of Trade Name of a Reporting Entity
- Foreign business entities: Statement of Trade Name of an Estate, a Trust, a State or an Other Jurisdiction
All statements of trade name must be filed online through the Secretary of State’s website.
The fee to file is $20.
How to Renew a DBA in Colorado
Colorado DBAs must be renewed annually by filing a statement of trade name renewal any time during the three months before the expiration date. When registering your trade name, you can sign up to receive email notifications from the secretary of state’s office regarding your renewal. The first email will be sent at the beginning of the first month you can submit your renewal paperwork, and a second email will be sent one week before your trade name expires.
To renew, you’ll need to use the secretary of state’s Record Identification or ID Search to find the record of your trade name registration, which will enable you to renew online. The renewal process looks like this:
- Type your business ID or name into the Record Identification or ID Search search box.
- If you enter a name, you’ll be given a list of businesses with similar names, from which you can select your business.
- On the Summary page for your business, select “File a Form.”
- On the “Documents Available for Filing” page, you can select the renewal document.
The information required on your statement of trade name renewal is the same information required for registration. Renewal costs just $5.
If you fail to submit your renewal before your trade name expires, you’ll need to register your name again using a new statement of trade name application.
Change or Correct your DBA
The state allows you to correct or change the information listed on your statement of trade name, such as your principal business address, business type, and even the name itself. As with renewal, you’ll need to find the record of your trade name registration through the state’s Record Identification or ID Search, which will allow you access to online change or correction forms.
You can find sample change and correction forms on the secretary of state’s website, like the Statement of Correction of Trade Name Information: Correcting the Trade Name.
The filing fee for a statement of trade name correction or change is $10.
Cancel your DBA
If you want to cancel your Colorado DBA, you must file a Statement of Trade Name Withdrawal online. To access the online withdrawal form, use the secretary of state’s Record Identification or ID Search (like renewal and changing or correcting trade name information) to find the record of your trade name registration. Canceling your DBA will cost $10.
Filing a DBA vs. Starting a Business
Filing a DBA may feel like starting a business, but there’s a big difference between the two. A DBA is just a name—and getting one doesn’t create a business or change the structure of your existing business. A sole proprietor who registers a DBA is still a sole proprietor, just operating under an alternative name.
Since filing a DBA doesn’t create a separate business entity, you must continue to file taxes under your business’s legal name. Additionally, to make sure that any contract you sign will hold up in court and properly identifies your business, you should include both your legal and DBA name on the document. Often, a DBA is listed after your legal business name preceded by “d/b/a/.”
How do you start a business in Colorado? There are two ways:
- Sell something. That’s right. If you’re forming an unregistered business like a sole proprietorship or general partnership, the only thing you need to do is make a sale. After that, you’re officially in business—though, depending on your line of work, you may still need to get local or state business licenses.
- Register your business with the state. Starting a registered business (often referred to as a “reporting entity” on Colorado state documents) like an LLC or a corporation requires registering your business with Colorado’s Secretary of State. You’ll need to file formation documents (such as articles of organization for an LLC) and pay a fee.
Colorado DBA vs LLC
Business owners sometimes wonder if it’s better to get a DBA or LLC, but the two aren’t mutually exclusive. While a DBA is only a name, a Colorado LLC is a business entity. LLCs are legally separate entities from their owners (unlike sole proprietorships and general partnerships), which provides owners with liability protection. Liability protection means that if the LLC is sued or owes debts, only the business’s assets will be put at risk. Owners’ personal assets (property, savings accounts, vehicles) will remain safe.
If you’re a sole proprietor, you don’t have liability protection, and getting a DBA doesn’t offer any. So, if you’re concerned about liability protection, forming an LLC is an easy and affordable way to help safeguard your personal assets (you can always register a DBA for your LLC afterward).
Does a DBA keep my personal information off the public record?
No. DBA registration is designed to help the public learn who they’re doing business with. Your statement of trade name must include the name and principal address of at least one business owner.
One way to limit the amount of personal information you share with the state is to hire a Colorado registered agent who can form your business. Some registered agents (like us!) will list their information instead of yours wherever possible on state documents. Northwest can get you started.
Protect Your Assets with a Colorado LLCGet Started Today!
Colorado DBA FAQs
How much does it cost to register a DBA in Colorado?
It costs $20 to get a Colorado DBA.
How long does it take to get a Colorado trade name?
Since Colorado trade name documents must be submitted online, they are filed in real-time and processed immediately after your payment is received.
Is a DBA the same as an assumed name?
In Colorado, an assumed name refers only to a DBA used by a foreign business entity (i.e., a business formed in another state that operates within Colorado).
Is registering a DBA required in Colorado?
Yes. State statute CRS 7-71-101 states that all for-profit businesses in Colorado must register any trade name they use. However, nonprofit businesses are not required to register.
Do I need a separate bank account for my DBA?
No. Because your trade name isn’t a business itself, a separate bank account isn’t required. However, you may choose to set up an account for your DBA to keep your business funds organized for tax or bookkeeping purposes.
Do I need a separate EIN for my DBA?
Nope. Your DBA won’t need a separate EIN because it’s not a separate business.
How long does trade name registration last in Colorado?
Colorado trade name registration lasts one year. You’ll need to renew sometime during the three months prior to your DBA’s expiration date. Renewal is done online through the secretary of state’s website and costs $5.
Can I change or cancel my trade name in Colorado?
Yes. You can change or cancel your trade name information online through the secretary of state’s website. The filing fee is $10.
How many DBAs can I register in Colorado?
There’s no limit to the number of trade names your business can register, but you must submit a separate form and fee for each trade name.
Can I sign contracts under my DBA?
Yes and no. You can’t sign a contract with your DBA alone, since a DBA is not a business. However, you should list both your legal business name and your DBA on any contract you sign in order to properly identify your business.
Can I buy a domain name under my DBA?
It depends. While some domain registrars are fine with businesses purchasing domain names under a DBA, others don’t allow it. If you are concerned about buying a certain domain name with your legal business name, find a registrar that will allow you get that domain under your a DBA.
What is my legal business name?
A business’s legal business name is the one you provide on government documents, such as state filings, tax filings, and so on.
- For formal business entities like LLCs, corporations, and nonprofits, the business’s legal name is the name on its formation documents, including the company’s entity identifier (“Company Name, LLC,” “Company Name, Inc.,” etc.).
- For sole proprietors, the business’s legal name is its owner’s legal name.
- For general partnerships, the business’s legal name is either the partners’ last names or a name the partnership has given itself in a written partnership agreement.