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How to Get a Colorado DBA

A document reading "DBA" shows an image of a building while an arrow points to a map of Colorado overlaid with the same building and a badge reading "Colorado."

Q: How can I get a Colorado DBA for my company?

Big thanks to a customer in Colorado for submitting that question! A DBA (“doing business as”) name is an assumed name a company can operate under other than its legal name. DBAs are referred to as trade names in Colorado, and you can get one by filing a Statement of Trade Name with the Secretary of State. We’ll show you how in this guide.

True Name vs. Trade Name (DBA)

Your company’s true name is the one you gave your business when filing formation paperwork (Articles of Incorporation for a corporation, or Articles of Organization for an LLC) with the Colorado Secretary of State. If you are a sole proprietor your company’s legal name is your full name, and in a general partnership, the company’s official name is you and your partners’ names.

Trade names (and DBAs generally), meanwhile, work like officially recognized nicknames for your business. With a trade name, you don’t have to register a new business or change your company’s legal name to conduct business under a different name. You can legally sell products, operate new locations and advertise under one or more registered trade names, as long as you continue to file taxes under the true name of your business.

Why Get a DBA in Colorado?

Businesses choose to use trade names for many different reasons—often due to issues with an owner’s legal name, or because of a growing and changing business.

Alternatives to an owner’s name: Because sole proprietors and partnerships are legally named the same as their owners (with such owners and businesses being more-or-less interchangeable from a legal standpoint), owners and partners may prefer to use a trade name for their operations. A trade name allows for operating your business under a name that is more descriptive, professional or marketable. And with the prevalence of scammers scraping every bit of personal information they can get their hands on, a layer of separation between your legal name and the public-facing name of your business may help preserve your privacy.

Evolving businesses: Businesses change over time. What began as a computer repair business might grow into a software company, or a restaurant may pivot to operating a food truck. When your business has the opportunity to expand into a new market—or reach a new one with different branding—it can be useful to register a trade name rather than having to register an entirely separate business with the Colorado Secretary of State. With a trade name, you can freely pursue a new business idea without the trouble of filing lots of extra paperwork and the expense of paying the accompanying fees.

What if I don’t register a trade name?

Under CSR § 7-71-102, a business operating under a name other than its true name or a registered trade name is liable for a fine of up to $500. The business will also be unable to go to court to collect debts until the name it was illegally using is registered as a valid trade name.

How to Get a Colorado Trade Name (DBA)

The process of getting a trade name is very straightforward in Colorado. You’ll want to make sure the name you want to use is not currently in use as a true name in the state, then file your Statement of Trade Name online with the Secretary of State and pay the registration fee.

Determine if your trade name is already in use

While filing a trade name does not grant your company exclusive use of that name (any Colorado business can file to use a particular trade name, even if the name is already in use), it’s still a good idea to choose a unique name potential customers won’t easily confuse with that of another business. Before registering your name, check the Colorado Secretary of State’s Name Availability Search and Business Database Search to see if your chosen name (or a close approximation of it) is already being used.

Register your trade name online

Colorado no longer allows trade name filing by mail or in person, so if you want to get one, you’ll need to go to Trade Name Registration section of the Secretary of State’s website. You’ll need to choose which Statement of Trade Name to file for your type of business:

  • Individual (sole proprietorship) or Non-Reporting Entity (primarily partnerships): These options are for businesses that do not file annual renewals with the Secretary of State. Selecting either options takes you to a form to fill out and submit. You will need to provide the true name of at least one individual or general partner, principal and mailing addresses of that person, home jurisdiction, desired trade name and a brief description of the kind of business to be done under the name, and the date for the filing to take effect. Non-reporting entities will also need to select their entity type—if not a general partnership.
  • Reporting Entity (LLCs and corporations, among others): Businesses that are already registered and filing annual renewals with the Secretary of State will need to locate their listing in a Record Identification or ID Search. Select your business ID number, and confirm authorization to make changes to records, and you will be able to select “Statement of Trade Name of a Reporting Entity” from a list of available documents, which will take you to the online form. Some of this form’s content will be pre-filled, but you will need to provide your chosen trade name and a brief description of the business your company will conduct under the name, and the date the filing will take effect.

All registrations for a Statement of Trade Name have the option of signing up for email notifications about expiration of trade names and other events related to that business record. The name and contact information for a person causing the filing can also be listed.

Hit “submit,” and you will be taken to a page where you can enter credit or debit card information to pay fees.

Pay registration fees

Ordinarily, it costs $20 to file a Statement of Trade Name in Colorado. However, until June 30, 2023, the fee has been temporarily reduced to $1, due to Colorado General Assembly HB22-1001.

After registering your Colorado trade name

Your Colorado trade name may need to be renewed in the future, depending on what sort of business you have. Trade names for reporting entities like LLCs and corporations stay active for as long as the business stays in good standing with the Secretary of State by filing annual renewals. If the company lapses into delinquent or dissolved status, the trade name will expire within a year unless good standing is restored.

Trade names for sole proprietors, partnerships and other non-reporting entities have much shorter shelf lives. Once filed, trade names for such entities last for one year, requiring renewal before the year is up. If you provided an email at registration, you will receive a renewal notice three months before expiration, and again a week before.

Trade name renewal costs $5. If your trade name expires, you must file a new Statement of Trade Name to register it again.

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