How to Get a Connecticut Trade Name
A Connecticut DBA, also called a trade name, is any name your business operates under that isn't its legal business name. Any type of business—Connecticut sole proprietor, general partnership, LLC, corporation—can use a DBA to establish a brand, build brand recognition, and maintain its public image. To register a DBA in Connecticut DBA, you must file a trade name application with the town clerk's office in your local municipality. Here's what you need to know.
Your Connecticut DBA Guide:
What is a Connecticut DBA (Trade Name)?
A Connecticut DBA is an alternative name that your business can use instead of its legal business name. For example, you might run a business called John Eaton Financial Consulting LLC and go by the trade name “Tri-State Consulting.” In Connecticut, DBAs are called trade names, but in some other states, DBAs are also known as assumed or fictitious names.
If you use a Connecticut DBA, you’re legally required to register that name in the municipality where your business “is to be conducted or transacted.” According to CT Gen Stat § 35-1, you could be fined up to $500 or even face jail time if you are found guilty of operating under a trade name without registering.
What’s unique about DBA registration in Connecticut?
- DBAs are registered at the city or town level in Connecticut, compared to the state or county level in many other states.
- DBA registration is legally required.
Connecticut Trade Name Registration
Why Register a Connecticut Trade Name?
Here are some typical reasons to get a Connecticut DBA:
You’re a Connecticut sole proprietor
A small business owned by one person that isn’t registered with the state is called a sole proprietorship. There’s no legal separation between a sole proprietor and their business, so the legal business name of a sole proprietorship is simply the owner’s full name. Using a DBA permits a sole proprietor to go by a more professional or descriptive name. For example, you can do business as “Hartford Web Design” instead of Jess Matthews.
For marketing purposes
Businesses often use DBAs when expanding or changing focus. With a DBA, you can start a new business line without starting a whole new business. 1600-Proof SAT Prep Inc, for example, may start operating under “Total Test Prep” when the business decides to broaden its tutoring scope.
Common ways to use 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
You can also use a DBA to do business under your domain name.
Tip: Registering a Connecticut 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 Get a DBA in Connecticut
Connecticut law requires that anyone doing business under a name other than their legal business name file a trade name registration with their local municipality—the city or town where you conduct business.
Though each city will have a different form for you to file, the process is pretty universal across the state. Here’s how to file for a Connecticut trade name.
When choosing a DBA, you can’t use any name that already belongs to a business registered with the state or that is trademarked by another company.
You can use the following search tools to check name availability:
- Connecticut Business Records Database
- Connecticut Trade and Service Mark Records Search
- US Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS)
To avoid using the same DBA as another business in your city or town, you’ll need to check your city or town clerk’s records. In some municipalities, you’ll be able to access trade name records online. For instance, Stamford provides an online Trade Name Look Up tool where you can search by name and by registrant. However, in other municipalities, you’ll need to call or visit the town clerk’s office to access trade name records. Contact your local town clerk’s office for details.
Just like with official business names, Connecticut has rules for what trade names can contain. A Connecticut trade name must:
- Not use words that purposefully misidentify your business, like “bank.”
- Not use an identifier like “LLC” or “Inc.” unless your business is that entity type.
- Not include the name of any municipality in a way that suggests the business is located in that municipality if it is not, unless the full street address of the business is included on any printed advertisement (CT Gen Stat § 31.1(b)).
Each local municipality in Connecticut has its own trade name application, which must be filed with your town clerk’s office. You can find contact information for your town clerk through the Connecticut Town Clerks Association Directory.
The applications are fairly straightforward and similar from town to town, but you’ll need to pay attention to details. For example, New Haven has two different forms, one Trade Name Certificate for Corporation or Limited Liability Company and one Trade Name Certificate for Individuals.
Generally, the information you will need is:
- Your business’ official name (first and last name for sole proprietorships/partnerships, legal business name for LLCs, corporations, and nonprofits)
- Principal address
- Mailing address
- Personal address(es) of the owner(s) if a sole proprietorship/partnership
- Signatures of anyone authorized to sign on behalf of the business
This form must be notarized. Most towns will only accept an original copy.
Some municipalities, like Bridgeport, will also ask for the names and addresses of business owners.
Lastly, you must submit it to your town clerk’s office. This can be done by mail, but some towns also let you drop it off in person, which makes the overall filing and processing time nearly immediate. You can check with your local office to see what is allowed and/or preferred. There is no online filing option, though some forms can be filled out online and then printed.
The filing fee is $10 as set by CT Gen Stat § 7-34a However, some municipalities may charge additional fees. For example, filing in Hartford costs $13 if your form is already notarized and $18 if you will have your form notarized at the town clerk’s office. Some towns also offer authorized copies for an additional charge.
Connecticut trade names don’t expire, so once you’re registered, you don’t need to file any additional forms to keep your trade name active.
Filing a DBA vs. Starting a Business
While filing a trade name can help you brand your business, it is not the same thing as starting a business. A DBA is just a name—essentially, an alias for a business. Using a DBA doesn’t alter the structure of your existing business or grant any additional legal protections. If you own a sole proprietorship and get a DBA, you’re still a sole proprietor, just with a DBA.
Additionally, because a DBA isn’t a separate business entity, there are limits to what you can do with a DBA. You must file taxes with your legal business name and list both your legal and DBA name on any contracts you sign. Including both names on contracts properly identifies your company to whoever you’ve contracted with.
Wondering how to start a business in Connecticut? There are two options:
Register your business with the state. To form a registered business entity like an LLC, corporation, or nonprofit corporation, you’ll need to file formation documents with the state and pay a filing fee.
Sell something. To form an unregistered business like a sole proprietorship or general partnership in any state, you just need to make a sale. Even if your sale seems small, like getting paid for one t-shirt or a single tutoring session, it’s enough to make you a sole proprietor. Once you do that, you’re in business. However, keep in mind that you may still need to obtain local or state business licenses.
DBA vs LLC in Connecticut
A Connecticut LLC is a business entity type that is legally separate from its owners and has liability protection. This means that if the business is sued, the owner(s) are not personally liable for the damages. Sole proprietorships and general partnerships do not provide liability protection because there is no legal separation between the owners and the business. To protect your personal assets as a business owner, the best way to form an LLC.
Does a Connecticut DBA keep my personal information off the public record?
No. DBA registration is meant to help consumers figure out who they’re doing business with, so the names and addresses listed on your trade name registration form are made publicly available through town clerk trade name databases.
One way to limit the amount of personal information you put on the public record is to hire a Connecticut registered agent who can form an LLC for you. Your registered agent can list their information instead of yours wherever possible on formation documents to reduce the amount of personal information you share. Get started with Northwest.
Protect Your Assets with a Connecticut LLCGet Started Today!
Connecticut DBA FAQs
How much does it cost to get a DBA in Connecticut?
In most municipalities, the cost is $10, but the fee can be a little higher, depending on your local government.
How long does it take to get a Connecticut trade name?
Since each local municipality has its own trade name registration process, there’s no hard and fast rule for how long it takes to get a trade name approved in Connecticut. However, in many Connecticut towns, such as in Stamford and Norwalk, you can drop off your notarized application in person, and it will be processed right then and there. Check with your local town clerk’s office to find out your wait time.
Is getting a trade name required in Connecticut?
If you want to conduct business under any name other than your legal business name, you will need to register your trade name. Connecticut does not allow you to use the name in business prior to filing with your town clerk’s office.
Can someone else use my trade name in Connecticut?
Registering a trade name does not prevent another Connecticut business from using the same trade name. To protect your name within the state, you can apply for a Connecticut trademark. At the federal level, the only way you can stop another business in the US from using your exact name is to register it as a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Do I need a separate bank account for my DBA?
No. Your trade name does not constitute a separate legal entity, so you’re not required to have a separate bank account for it. However, you can open a separate bank account for your trade name if you want. One benefit of this is easier bookkeeping and analyzing how well different aspects of your business are doing.
Do I need a separate EIN for my DBA?
No. If your business is a multi-member LLC or corporation and/or has employees, you have to get an EIN. However, you don’t need more than one EIN per business – even if you’re using multiple DBAs.
How long does trade name registration last in Connecticut?
Typically, trade names in Connecticut do not expire. However, since there is no overarching Connecticut law for trade names, whether your trade name expires might vary from city to city. Make sure to check with your local municipality to confirm whether your trade name needs to be renewed.
Can I cancel trade name registration in Connecticut?
Yes, you can cancel your trade name registration in Connecticut. You’ll need to submit a cancellation form and pay a fee (generally $10) to your local town clerk. Contact the clerk’s office to find forms and get additional details.
Can I sign contracts under my DBA?
You can’t sign a contract with your DBA alone. Because your DBA isn’t a business entity, you must sign contracts with your legal business name if you want those contracts to hold up in court. However, to clearly identify your business, you should list you DBA alongside your legal business name (typically preceded by d/b/a).
Can I buy a domain name under my DBA?
It depends. Some domain registrars don’t allow businesses to buy domain names under a DBA, but some do. If buying a certain domain name using your legal business name concerns you, find a registrar that will permit you to make the purchase under your DBA.
What is my legal business name?
The name listed on your business’s government documents (state filings, tax filings, etc.) is your business’s legal name.
- For formal business entities like LLCs, corporations, and nonprofits, this is the name given on formation documents, including the company’s corporate identifier (“Company Name, LLC,” “Company Name, Inc.,” etc.).
- For sole proprietors, this is the owner’s legal name.
- For general partnerships, this is either the partners’ last names or a name the partnership gave itself in a written partnership agreement.