How to Get an Indiana Assumed Name
You'll need an Indiana DBA to do business in Indiana under any name that isn't your legal business name. DBAs are referred to as assumed names in Indiana, and any business can adopt one. Indiana sole proprietorships, general partnerships, LLCs, and corporations can all use DBAs to establish and maintain their brand. Sole proprietorships and general partnerships must file DBAs in the county where they are located, but business entities like LLCs or corporations must file with the secretary of state. Here's what you need to know.
Your Indiana DBA Guide:
What is an Indiana DBA (Assumed Name)?
A DBA, which stands for “doing business as,” is an alternative name for your business. For instance, you own a coffee shop with the legal business name Get Up & Work LLC but decide to go by the DBA “Get Up & Go.” While DBAs are called assumed names in Indiana, they are also called fictitious or trade names in some other states.
According to Indiana state law, a business must register a DBA or assumed name before conducting business under that name (IC 23-0.5-3-4). Not registering could result in negative legal consequences—you could face a Class B infraction, which carries a fine of up to $1,000 (IC 34-28-5-4).
What’s unique about DBA registration in Indiana?
- State- and county-level filing: While business entities that are registered with state, like LLCs and corporations, must file DBAs with the secretary of state, informal businesses like sole proprietorships and general partnerships must file DBAs with the county recorder in the county where the business is located.
- Filing exceptions: Sole proprietorships and general partnerships that operate under a name that includes the “true surname(s)” of the business owners do not need to register a DBA. So, if you’re a sole proprietor named Indigo Miller, you can do business under “Miller Signature Apparel” without filing for a DBA (IC 23-0.5-3-4(i)(1-2)). Another exception is any church, lodge, or business association run by trustees that has already filed a written declaration of trust with the county recorder’s office in the county where that organization conducts business. These institutions do not need to register an assumed name if they choose to use one (IC 23-0.5-3-4(i)(3)).
Why Register a DBA in Indiana?
There are numerous reasons to use and register an Indiana DBA, including:
You’re an Indiana sole proprietor
Sole proprietorships are businesses owned by one person that aren’t registered with the state. If you’re a sole proprietor, there’s no legal separation between you and your business, so the legal business name of your business is your full name. If you don’t want to do business under your name, you may choose to get a DBA to operate under a more professional or descriptive name. For example, you may go by the DBA “Hoosier Glassworks” instead of Joanie Smith.
To market your business
Many business owners adopt a DBA to use a more dynamic or memorable name. Others use a DBA because they are expanding or rebranding. For example, let’s say you own a moving company called Black Bear Full Service Moving LLC and purchase a storage facility to start offering storage. You can get the DBA “Black Bear Moving & Storage” to avoid forming an additional business.
Popular ways to use a DBA to promote your brand 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 want to do business under your domain name. Let’s say Black Bear Full Service Moving LLC buys the domain movewithblackbear.com and starts advertising as “Move with Black Bear.” In this case, the company’s domain name functions like a DBA, so it needs to be registered as one.
Note: Registering an Indiana assumed business name doesn’t prevent another business from using it in another state. You can apply to trademark your DBA at the federal level for more substantial legal rights to your name.
How to Register an Indiana Assumed Name
Even though business entities register with the state and informal business register with the county, the registration process itself is similar for all business types. Here’s what you need to do.
Find Out if Your Desired DBA Name is Available
Your assumed business name must be “distinguishable” from all other registered business and assumed business names (IC 23-0.5-3-1), meaning that your name can’t be the same as or too similar to another name. If there’s any chance that your desired name could be confused with another business’s name, it’s probably not distinguishable. For example, “Six Hops Brewing” is not distinguishable from “6 Hopz Brewing.”
Additionally, you can’t use any name that has been trademarked by another company.
You can use the following databases to check name availability:
- INBiz Business Search
- Indiana Trademark Search
- US Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS)
If you’re registering at the county level, you’ll also need to check with the office of the recorder in your county. In some counties, you’ll be able to conduct an online search. For example, Lake County’s Records Search tool allows you to search for a specific business name, owner, or address. If your county doesn’t offer an online records search, you’ll have to contact the recorder’s office directly to access assumed name records.
Follow Indiana Naming Rules
There are several rules you’ll need to follow when choosing your assumed name.
- You name doesn’t falsely suggest or create the impression that your business is or is connected with a state or federal government agency (IC 23-0.5-3-1).
- You can’t use a business entity identifier like “LLC” or “Inc” that doesn’t accurately describe your business (IC 23-0.5-3-4(f)). For example, if you’re a sole proprietor, you can’t use a DBA that contains “LLC.”
LLCs, LLPs, LPs, corporations, and non-profits
If you own an LLC, limited liability partnership (LLP), limited partnership (LP), or corporation (for-profit or non-profit), you must file your DBA application with the secretary of state’s office using a Certificate of Assumed Business Name.
On the form, you’ll need to list the following:
- Business entity name
- Date of business formation
- Business address
- Your assumed business name
- The signature of a business owner or other person authorized to file on behalf of your business
You can submit your Certificate of Assumed Name by mail, in person, or online:
By mail or in person:
Secretary of State
Business Services Division
302 West Washington Street, Room E018
Indianapolis, IN 46204
The filing fee is $30 for all business entities except non-profits, which only need to pay $26. If you file online with a credit card, you’ll also be charged a payment processing fee.
Sole proprietorships and general partnerships
As a sole proprietor or member of a general partnership, filing may vary slightly by county. The Indiana Recorders Association provides a map of Indiana counties with links to all county recorders’ offices that you can use to find contact information for the recorder’s office in your county.
Some country recorders offer DBA registration forms, such as Marion County’s Certificate of Assumed Business Name. If you need to draft your own certificate, you can use the Indiana Recorders Association’s Standard DBA Form, which is also used by many counties.
The following information should be included on your certificate:
- Business name
- The kind of business you conduct
- Business address
- The name(s) and address(es) of business owner(s)
- The signature of at one business ownership
Before submitting your certificate at the county level, you must have the form notarized. You’ll need to contact your county recorder to find out how they accept applications—by mail, in-person, or online.
IC 36-2-7-10 states that the fee for recording documents such as Certificates of Assumed Name is $25, plus $5 for each additional page. However, some counties may charge more. For example, Marion County charges $35. Contact your county recorder for an exact price.
How to Cancel or Amend a DBA in Indiana
To cancel or amend an assumed business name in Indiana, you must file paperwork with either the secretary of state or the recorder’s office in your county, depending on where your DBA is registered.
LLCs, LLPs, LPs, Corporations, and Non-Profits
- To cancel: File a Cancellation of Assumed Business Name form by mail or in person. This form is free to file.
- To amend: Contact the secretary of state’s Business Services Division.
Sole Proprietorships and General Partnerships
- To cancel: Use the form provided by your county recorder’s office or the Indiana Recorders Association’s Dissolution of DBA Form.
- To amend: Use the form provided by the recorder’s office in your county or Indiana Recorders Association’s Amendment of DBA Form.
Like registration forms, county-level cancellation and amendment forms must be notarized. According to IC 36-2-7-10, the fee for recording documents such as DBA cancellation forms is $25, plus $5 for each additional page, but check with your county recorder’s office to be sure.
Filing a DBA Vs. Starting a Business
Filing a DBA can feel like starting a business, but a DBA is really just a name. Using a DBA doesn’t create a new business or alter your business structure. If you’re a sole proprietor and register a DBA, you’re still a sole proprietor.
When you get a DBA, you must continue to use your legal business name on government and legal documents. The IRS requires businesses to file taxes under their legal names only. And if you sign a contract, you’ll need to list both your legal and DBA name so that your business is clearly identified to whoever you’re contracting with.
How do you start a business in Indiana?
- Sell a product or service. One sale is all it takes to start an unregistered business like a sole proprietorship or general partnership. Once you’ve sold a product or service, you’re officially in business. Really. (Note that you may still be required to obtain a business license to operate legally.)
- Register your business with the state. Forming a business entity like an LLC or corporation requires filing formation documents, like Articles of Organization, with the secretary of state and paying a filing fee.
DBA vs LLC in Indiana
As a business entity, an Indiana LLC is legally separate from its owner(s), providing them with liability protection. With liability protection, business owners aren’t held personally responsible in cases where their business is sued or owes debts. While business assets may be seized, owners’ personal assets are protected (property, vehicles, and savings).
While LLCs offer this protection, DBAs do not. So, if you own an unregistered business like a sole proprietorship, registering a DBA won’t create any legal separation between you and your business. The easiest and most affordable way to get liability protection is to form an LLC.
Does an Indiana DBA keep my personal information off the public record?
Unfortunately, no. Registering a DBA doesn’t keep your personal information off the public record.
To minimize the amount of personal information you share with the state, hire an Indiana registered agent like Northwest to form your LLC. We can list our information in place of yours wherever possible on state documents to increase your privacy.
Protect Your Assets with an Indiana LLCGet Started Today!
Indiana DBA FAQs
How much does it cost to register a DBA in Indiana?
The cost of DBA registration varies depending on your business type. For-profit registered business entities that file with the secretary of state must pay $30, and non-profits $26. Unregistered businesses like sole proprietorships that file at the county level can expect to pay at least $25, but maybe more, depending on the county.
Do I need to register a DBA in every county where I do business?
No, if you are registering at the county level, you only need to register in the county where your business is located.
How long does it take to get an Indiana trade name?
Processing times for DBAs in Indiana will vary depending on where you file and whether you file by mail, in-person, or online. Processing may take several weeks.
Is registering a DBA required in Indiana?
Yes. To legally use a DBA in Indiana, you must first register the name. Formal business entities register with the secretary of state, whereas sole proprietors and partnerships register with the county where the business is located.
Do I need a separate bank account for my DBA?
No. Because a DBA is not a business on its own, you don’t need to have a separate bank account for your DBA. However, having a dedicated bank account for the business you do under your DBA may help keep your finances in order.
Do I need a separate EIN for my DBA?
No. Your DBA isn’t a legal business entity like an LLC or corporation, so you won’t need a separate EIN from the IRS.
How long does DBA registration last in Indiana?
Indiana DBA registrations don’t require renewal. Your DBA will last until you cancel it or are no longer doing business.
How many DBAs can I register in Indiana?
There’s no limit on the number of DBAs you can register in Indiana, but you’ll need to submit separate filings (and pay the fee) for each DBA you register.
Can I cancel my assumed name in Indiana?
Yes. You can cancel your Indiana assumed name by filing a cancellation form with either the secretary of state or the office of the county recorder in your county.
Can I sign contracts with my DBA?
You can include your DBA when signing a contract, but only if you list your DBA alongside your legal business name. Because a DBA isn’t a business on its own, any contracts signed solely with your DBA might not hold up in court.
Can I buy a domain name under my DBA?
It depends on the domain registrar. Some registrars allow businesses to purchase domain names under a DBA, while others don’t. If you want to buy your domain name under your DBA, you’ll have to make sure your registrar allows it.
What is my legal business name?
Your business’s legal business name is the name listed on your business’s 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.