How to Get an Illinois Assumed Business Name
An Illinois DBA is any name your business operates under that isn't its legal business name. In Illinois, DBAs are called assumed business names. Illinois sole proprietorships, general partnerships, LLCs, and corporations can use a DBA to establish a brand identity and increase brand awareness. In Illinois, business entities like LLCs and corporations file DBAs with the state, but professional corporations, sole proprietorships, and general partnerships file with their county clerk. Here's what you need to know.
Your Illinois DBA Guide:
What is an Illinois DBA (Assumed Business Name)?
A DBA—”doing business as” name—allows you to do business under a name that is different from your legal business name. For instance, you might own Chi-Town Yarn & More LLC but branch off into selling clothing under the DBA “Chi-Town Crochet Creations.” While DBAs are referred to as assumed business names in Illinois, they are also called fictitious or trade names in other states.
Registering your Illinois DBA is required by state law, though whether you file your DBA at the state or county level depends on what type of business you own. Using an assumed business name without registering can have negative consequences for your business—you could face misdemeanor charges or hefty fines (up to $1,000), depending on your business type and jurisdiction.
What’s unique about DBA registration in Illinois?
- State- and county-level filing: Business entities formed with the state, like LLCs and corporations, must file DBAs with the secretary of state’s office. However, professional corporations, sole proprietorships, and general partnerships are required to file with the country clerk’s office in the county where the business is located.
- Filing exceptions: At the county level, there is an exception to the registration requirement. If your business name includes the full name(s) of the business owner(s), it doesn’t need to be registered. So, for example, operating under “Allie Pearson Antiques” or “Allie Pearson, DDS, & Rex Pearson, DDS, PC,” you don’t need to register a DBA. But conducting business under simply “Antiques by Allie” or “Pearson Dentistry, PC” would require a DBA filing.
- Publication requirement: If your business registers its DBA at the county level, you must publish notice that your business has assumed a DBA in a local newspaper after filing your registration paperwork.
- Address protection for vulnerable home-based business owners: If you have a home-based business, file your DBA with the county, and you believe that publishing your home address will put your safety at risk, you can contact your county clerk’s office and ask to use the clerk’s address in place of your own (805 ILCS 405/1a). You’ll need to provide a court order or police report to establish the credibility of this risk. The country clerk will keep your address confidential, but you’ll still have to share your address with the county clerk.
Why Register a DBA in Illinois?
Here are some of the most common reasons to register a DBA:
You’re an Illinois sole proprietor
A sole proprietorship is an unregistered business owned by one person. There’s no legal separation between business and business owner in a sole proprietorship, so the legal business name is the full name of the sole proprietor. Because of this, many sole proprietors choose to adopt a DBA to do business under a more professional name or one that better describes their products or services. For instance, with a DBA, you could operate under “Omega Comics” instead of Chris Boyega.
To market your business
If you’re expanding or rebranding, getting a DBA is a way to use a different name without starting a whole new business. If your legal business name is Midwest Vitamins LLC, but you feel like that no longer encapsulates the philosophy of your company, you might adopt the DBA “Higher Power Supplements.”
You establish and build your professional image by using your DBA in the following ways:
• 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 want to do business under your domain name
Let’s say Midwest Vitamins LLC buys the domain name realgingerteapower.com and starts doing business as “Real Ginger Tea Power” on the side—advertising, interacting with customers, accepting payments, and so on. Because the domain name is functioning as a DBA, it needs to be registered.
Note: Registering an Illinois assumed business name doesn’t prevent another business from using it in another state. You can apply to trademark your DBA name at the federal level for stronger legal rights to your name.
How to Register an Illinois Assumed Business Name
There are big differences between the DBA registration process for businesses filing at the state level versus businesses filing at the county level. Most notably, there is a publication requirement for county filings. We’ll explain both registration processes below.
Check name availability
This step applies to all businesses. Your assumed business name must be unique among registered business names and assumed names registered at the state level. You can’t use a name that has been trademarked at the state or federal level.
There are a few ways to check if your preferred name is available: (Illinois business and DBA names):
Illinois business and DBA names:
- IL Business Entity Search
- Corporate Name Availability Inquiry Form
- Call the secretary of state’s Business Services Division
Checking name availability at the county level isn’t required. However, you can run a county check to avoid using the same name as another business. Some county clerk’s offices provide online name searches—for example, Cook County has an Assumed Business Name Registration Search, and Du Page County has an Assumed Business Name Search. If an online search tool isn’t available, you’ll need to contact your county clerk’s office directly.
Note: While there aren’t any general naming rules for DBAs in Illinois, if you own a professional corporation, you must include “professional corporation” or “PC” as part of your DBA name (805 ILCS 10/1).
LLCs, LPs, corporations, and non-profits
The Illinois Secretary of State has separate application forms for each business entity type:
LLCs: Application to Adopt, Change, Cancel, or Renew an Assumed Name (IL LLC Act)
LPs: Application to Adopt, Change, or Cancel Assumed Name (IL Uniform LP Act)
Corporations: Application to Adopt, Change, or Cancel an Assumed Corporate Name (Business Corporation Act)
Non-profits: Application to Adopt, Change, or Cancel an Assumed Corporate Name (General Not For Profit Corporation Act)
Generally, the information must be provided on these forms includes:
- Your business’s legal name
- Your business’s file number
- Whether your business is domestic or foreign (formed in a different state)
- The assumed business name you intend to adopt
- The name and signature of the person authorized to file the application
You can submit your application by mail or in person at the secretary of state’s Department of Business Services:
Department of Business Services
501 South Second Street, Room 351
Springfield, IL 62756
Department of Business Services
501 South Second Street, Room 357
Springfield, IL 62756
Corporations, for-profit and non-profit:
Department of Business Services
501 South Second Street, Room 350
Springfield, IL 62756
Additionally, LLCs and corporations (both for- and not-for-profit) can submit applications virtually using the secretary of state’s online filing system:
LLCs: Adopting a Limited Liability Company’s Assumed Name
Corporations (for- and non-profit): Corporation Assumed Name Adoption
Your registration fee will depend on the year you file—assumed business names must be renewed every year that ends with a 0 or 5, so the cost of registration is based on where you are in that 5-year cycle. Here’s a breakdown:
|Ending in 0 or 5
|Ending in 1 or 6
|Ending in 2 or 7
|Ending in 3 or 8
|Ending in 4 or 9
For an additional $50, you can get expedited processing (within 24 business hours). Otherwise, your application will be processed within 10 business days, starting from when the Department of Business Services receives it. If filing online, you’ll need to pay with a credit card and will be charged a payment processor fee.
Sole proprietors, general partnerships, and professional corporations
Filing with the county requires a bit more work than filing with the state. First, you’ll need to find your county clerk. The Illinois Association of County Clerks and Recorders Directory has website and contact information for all Illinois county clerks.
Many counties provide an assumed business name application form, like Lake County’s Assumed Business Name Application.
If you must prepare your own application, you can use the requirements laid out in 805 ILCS 405/1 of the Assumed Business Name Act:
- The name(s) and address(es) of the business owner(s)
- The assumed name and address(es) of the business
Many country applications also ask for the nature or purpose of your business. Your application must be notarized.
The majority of counties accept applications by mail or in person, but some also provide online filing. For example, Cook County offers online Assumed Business Name Registration. You’ll have to contact your county clerk’s office for details.
Filing fees vary from county to county. Will County charges only $5, while Cook County charges $50.
County Filers: Assumed Name Publication Requirement
Within 15 days of submitting your application to the county clerk, you’ll need to publish notice of your adoption of an assumed business name in a local newspaper. Your notice must run once a week for 3 consecutive weeks, and costs to publish vary.
Within 50 days of publishing your notice, you must provide the county clerk’s office with proof of publication. You’ll need a notarized certificate of publication from your newspaper, along with an original clipping of the published legal notice.
If you haven’t submitted proof of publication to the county clerk in 50 days, your DBA registration will be void.
Note: According to state law, if you move your business to a different county or if you open additional locations that operate in different counties, you will need to complete the registration process in those counties as well.
How to Renew a DBA in Illinois
If you register a DBA at the county level, you don’t need to renew your registration.
However, if you register an assumed business name at the state level, you must renew your registration every 5 years on years ending in 0 and 5. That means that if you registered your DBA in 2023, you’d need to renew in 2025 and then again in 2030 (and so on).
Renewal applications must be filed by the first day of your assumed name anniversary month. So, if you registered in June 2023, you’d need to renew by June 1st, 2025, and then again by June 1st, 2030. If you’re someone who likes to plan ahead, keep in mind— you can’t renew more than 60 days before your renewal due date.
For all entities, the fee to renew is $150, and a $100 late fee applies if you do not renew prior to the first day of your assumed name anniversary month. You can pay an additional $50 for expedited processing (within 1 business day of receipt).
The exact renewal process varies from entity type to entity type, as follows:
- LLCs can renew using an Application to Adopt, Change, Cancel, or Renew an Assumed Name (IL LLC Act) or online through the LLC Assumed Name Renewal tool (you’ll need to input your company file number).
- LPs can renew by submitting an Assumed Name Renewal Application for $150. This form must be submitted by mail or person; no online filing is available.
- Corporations must renew DBAs online with the Corporation Assumed Name Renewal tool (you’ll have to enter your corporation file number to get started).
Can I Cancel a DBA in Illinois?
Yes. As an LLC, corporation, LP, and non-profit owner, you’ll use the same form used to register, but you’ll indicate that you are canceling your registration instead. The cancellation fee is $5 for LLCs and corporations but $50 for LPs.
At the county level, you’ll need to file a certificate of cancellation with your county clerk. Some counties provide a form like Peoria County’s Supplementary Certificate of Ownership of an Assumed Name Business Withdrawal of Name(s) form. The fee to cancel an assumed name is listed as $1.50 in state statutes but may vary by county.
Filing a DBA vs. Starting a Business
Even though the registration process may feel similar, there’s a big difference between filing a DBA and starting a business. Filing a DBA doesn’t create a new business or change your business structure. So, if you own an LLC and get a DBA, you still own an LLC.
Because your DBA isn’t a separate business entity, you’ll still need to use your legal name to file taxes. You must also use your legal name when signing contracts, listing your DBA name alongside so that your business is properly identified.
How do you start a business in Illinois?
- Register your business with the state. If you want to establish a business entity like an LLC or corporation, you’ll need to file formation documents with the state and pay a filing fee.
- Sell a product or service. Starting an unregistered business like a sole proprietorship is easy—just make a sale. Once you’ve completed your first transaction, you’re in business! (Keep in mind that depending on the type of work you do, you may need a business license to operate legally).
DBA vs LLC in Illinois
An Illinois LLC is a registered business entity that is legally separate from its owners. This separation provides owners (also called members) with liability protection. Liability protection means that you aren’t held personally responsible if your business is sued or owes debts. While your business assets are still at risk, your personal assets (home, car, savings) are not.
With an LLC, you’ll have liability protection whether or not you adopt a DBA. A sole proprietor, on the other hand, has no liability protection with or without a DBA. The easiest way to safeguard your personal assets is to form an LLC—and you can always get a DBA after that.
Does an Illinois DBA keep my personal information off the public record?
No. Registering your DBA allows consumers to find out who they’re doing business with. One way to reduce the amount of personal information you provide on these documents is to hire an Illinois registered agent like Northwest to form your company. As your registered agent, Northwest can list our information instead of yours wherever it’s permitted on state documents.
Protect Your Assets with an Illinois LLCGet Started Today!
Illinois DBA FAQs
Is registering a DBA required in Illinois?
Yes, if you intend you use a DBA for your business, you must register that name. If you don’t register, you may face negative legal consequences.
How much does it cost to register a DBA in Illinois?
The cost varies depending on your business type and the year you file. For business entities like LLCs and corporations, the cost ranges from $30 to $150, depending on where you are in the 5-year renewal cycle (assumed names must be renewed every 5 years during years that end in 0 or 5).
If you are registering at the county level as a sole proprietor, general partnership, or professional corporation, your registration fee will vary, with some counties charging as little as $5 and others as much as $50. You may also need to pay a fee to publish a notice of adoption of assumed name in a local newspaper.
Is there a publication requirement for Illinois DBAs?
Yes at the county level, and no at the state level. Filing with the county, sole proprietorships, general partnerships, and professional corporations all have a publication requirement. All other businesses, which file with the state, do not.
Do I need to register a DBA in every county where I do business?
Yes. If you own a sole proprietorship, general partnership, or professional corporation and register at the county level, you will need to register in every county where you operate.
How long does it take to get an Illinois trade name?
For registered business entities like LLCs and corporations, regular processing takes 10 business days. Expedited, 24-hour processing is available for an additional $50.
At the county level, processing times will vary. Contact your country clerk’s office for an estimate.
Do I need a separate bank account for my DBA?
No, you don’t need a separate bank account for your DBA because it’s not its own separate business, like an LLC or corporation. However, it can be a good idea to get a separate bank account for your DBA to keep your finances organized.
Do I need a separate EIN for my DBA?
No, because a DBA is not a legal business entity like an LLC or corporation, you do not need a new EIN just for your DBA. Businesses that must have their own EINs include multi-member LLCs, corporations, and all businesses with employees.
How long does DBA registration last in Illinois?
For registered business entities like LLCs and corporations, assumed business name registration lasts 5 years. However, you may need to renew sooner depending on when you register because renewals must be completed during years ending in 0 or 5.
If you own an unregistered business like a sole proprietorship or general partnership (or a professional corporation), you’ll never need to renew your DBA registration. However, if any information about your business changes (for example, your address), you will need to file with the county clerk to update that information.
Can I change or correct my assumed name in Illinois?
Yes. Registered business entities will use the same form they used to register their DBA with the secretary of state but will indicate on the form that they are making a change instead of registering a new name. The fee depends on the entity type. Unregistered businesses and professional corporations must submit a certificate of change or addition to their county clerk, and the fee varies by county.
How many DBAs can I register in Illinois?
You can register as many DBAs as you would like in Illinois, but you will need to complete the application process and pay the fee for each separate DBA registration.
Can I sign contracts with my DBA?
You must sign contracts with your business’s legal name—a contract signed with a DBA alone is unlikely to hold up in court since a DBA isn’t a legal entity. However, you can should your DBA alongside your legal name for transparency.
Can I get a domain name with my DBA?
It depends. Of course, you can use your DBA on your website, but whether or not you can purchase your domain using your DBA depends on your domain registrar’s policy. Some allow it, but others don’t.
What is my legal business name?
A business’s legal business name is the name listed on its government documents, such as state and tax filings.
For formal business entities like LLCs, corporations, and non-profits, a 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, a business’s legal name is its owner’s legal name.
For general partnerships, a business’s legal name is either the partners’ last names or a name the partnership has given itself in a written partnership agreement.