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Maryland DBA

How to Get a Maryland Trade Name

A Maryland DBA (trade name) is an alternative name for your business—any name you operate under that isn’t your business’s legal name. Maryland sole proprietorships, general partnerships, LLCs, and corporations can use a DBA to establish brand identity, increase brand recognition, and craft a more professional image. In this guide, we'll walk you through registering a DBA in Maryland by filing a trade name application with the Department of Assessments & Taxation (SDAT).

Your Maryland DBA Guide:

What is a Maryland DBA (Trade Name)?

In Maryland, DBAs are referred to as “trade names” for domestic businesses but as “assumed names” for foreign businesses (businesses formed in a different state). Here, we focus on domestic DBA filings.

Whatever term you use, what you need to know is that a DBA allows you to do business under a name that is different from your legal business name. Any business can go by DBA, but they are commonly used to rebrand or expand without having to form an entirely new business.

What’s unique about DBA registration in Maryland?

  • DBA registration in Maryland is optional but recommended. While Maryland state law (MD Code Ann., Corp & Assn §1.406) states that DBAs must be registered with SDAT, SDAT and the state’s Maryland Business Express both confirm that registering a trade name is not required. Although registration cannot entirely prevent another business from using the same name, it does prevent other businesses from registering that name and gives you ownership of the name.
  • If you’re starting a new business, you must register your business with SDAT and be issued a Department ID before you can file a trade name application. You can register online using Maryland Business Express Registrations & Filings Service.
  • If you own a home improvement company, you should also contact the Home Improvement Commission to double-check that your desired name is available.

Why Register a DBA in Maryland?

In addition to protecting your DBA name from being used by another business in the state, some common motivations for registering a Maryland trade name include:

To increase your credibility as a Maryland sole proprietor

A sole proprietorship is a business owned by one person where there is no legal separation between the business and the business owner. So, if you’re a sole proprietor, your legal business name is your own full name. Unless you want to do business under a name that includes your full name, such as “Erin Walker Ghostwriting Services,” you need to get a DBA to operate under a name that aligns more closely with your professional persona, like “True You Ghostwriting.”

To market your business

Many businesses register a DBA as a part of a marketing campaign to rebrand or add a new business line without having to start a whole new business. If you choose to do business under your domain name, you can also register that name as a DBA. DBAs are very helpful when you’re taking your business in a new direction.

Common ways to market with your DBA include:

  • On websites and social media accounts
  • On signs, business cards, and other marketing materials
  • In commercials and advertisements
  • On merchandise

To get a business bank account

If you’re planning on making and receiving payments under your DBA, you’ll need a business bank account. To open a business bank account, you may need provide your bank with proof of DBA registration, especially if you’re working with a large banking institution. Once you have a business bank account under your DBA, you can make and receive payments using your DBA, which helps maintain a professional appearance. Check with your bank for details on requirements.

Note: Registering a Maryland DBA doesn’t stop other businesses from using the same name in other states. For stronger legal rights to your name, you can apply to trademark your DBA at the federal level.

How to Register a Maryland Trade Name

After your business itself is registered with SDAT, there are several steps you must follow to register your trade name in Maryland.

1
Check trade name availability

When filing a DBA, you’ll need to make sure that the name hasn’t already been registered by another business, either as a legal business name or as a trade name. You can also check to confirm that the name hasn’t been trademarked at the state or federal level. To make sure the name you want is available, check the following databases:

Note: Because trade name registration isn’t required, it’s possible that another business is already using the name you want, even if you don’t find this business in state databases. You can expand your search using an online search engine, phone book, or local business directory.

2
Follow Maryland naming rules

In Maryland, you are not allowed to include a business entity identifier in your trade name like “Co” or “LLC” unless it actually applies to your business. For example, a corporation could use the name “Sasquatch RA Inc,” but a sole proprietor could not.

3
Complete the trade name application

Once you’ve determined that your desired name is available, you’ll file a Trade Name Application with SDAT.

You must include the following on your application:

  • Trade name
  • The street address of the business location where the trade name will be used
  • Your legal business name
  • Your SDAT business ID
  • The principal business address of the owner
  • A description of the type of business you conduct
  • Owner signature(s)

One thing to note in filling out your application is that while there is a dedicated line for sole proprietors and general partnerships to write down their SDAT L Number (line 4 on the form), there is no such line for business entities like LLCs and corporations. Business entities must list their SDAT L Number next to their business’s legal name (line 3 on the form).

4
File the form and pay the filing fee

Maryland trade name applications can be submitted by mail, in person, or online.

By mail:
Charter Division Department of Assessments and Taxation
301 W. Preston Street, Room 801
Baltimore, Maryland 21201

In-person:
Place in a drop box at:
301 W Preston Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

Online:
Maryland Business Express

The filing fee is $25 for regular processing, which takes up to 4 weeks. You can pay an additional $50 for expedited service within 10 business days. If you’re dropping off your application, you can get same-day processing for an additional $425.

How to Renew a DBA in Maryland

Maryland DBAs must be renewed every 5 years. You can renew your filing online through Maryland Business Express. On the renewal form, you’ll need to confirm all of the information provided on your registration application. Like registration, renewal costs $25.

How to amend or cancel your Maryland DBA

Amending or canceling your DBA can be done online through Maryland Business Express or by filing one of the following forms:

As with registration and renewal, the filing fee is $25.

Filing a DBA vs Starting a Business

Sometimes, filing a DBA is confused with starting a business. However, registering a DBA doesn’t create a legal business entity or change your business structure—all it does is allow your business to use an alternative name. If you get a DBA as a sole proprietor, you’re still a sole proprietor.

Because a DBA isn’t a business in its own right, you must continue to use your business’s legal name on government and legal documents. For example, you must use your legal name to file taxes and to sign contracts.

So, how do you start a business in Maryland?

  1. Form your business by registering with the state. If you want to create a business entity like an LLC, corporation, or nonprofit corporation, you’ll need to file formation documents with the state and pay a filing fee.
  2. Sell something. If you plan to form an unincorporated business like a sole proprietorship or general partnership, getting started is easy. All you need to do is sell a product or service. Keep in mind that even though you don’t need to file formation documents for unincorporated businesses in Maryland, you will still need to register with SDAT for tax purposes.

Maryland DBA vs. LLC

Unlike a DBA, a Maryland LLC is a legal business entity. As such, an LLC provides liability protection, which means that if the LLC is sued or owes debts, only the business’s assets are put at risk. Assets that belong to the owners personally (cars, homes, savings) will not be seized.

If you own a sole proprietorship, you don’t have liability protection, and getting a DBA won’t change that. The best way to protect your assets is to form an LLC.

Does a DBA keep my personal information off the public record?

Nope. DBA registration helps consumers figure out who they’re doing business with, so you must provide owner and address information on your Maryland DBA application. And if you work from home, this information could include your home address.

One approach to protecting your personal information is to hire a Maryland Registered Agent like Northwest to form an LLC. As your registered agent, we can list our information instead of yours wherever possible on state documents, limiting the amount of personal information you put on the public record.

Protect Your Assets with a Maryland LLC

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Maryland DBA FAQs

How much does it cost to register a DBA in Maryland?

A Maryland DBA costs $25 to register (processed within 4 weeks), and an additional $50 for expedited processing (within 10 business days).

Is registering a DBA required in Maryland?

No. Registering a DBA is not required in Maryland.

What’s the difference between a trade name and an assumed name in Maryland?

In Maryland, “trade name” is used to refer to DBAs for domestic businesses, while “assumed name” refers to DBAs for foreign businesses qualified to conduct business in Maryland.

Can I amend or cancel a DBA name?

Yes. You can file an application with SDAT to amend or cancel your DBA. Filing costs $25.

Do I need a separate bank account for my DBA?

Nope. You don’t need to get a separate bank account for your DBA because it’s not a separate business. However, you may choose to do so for bookkeeping purposes.

Do I need a separate EIN for my DBA?

No. Getting a DBA doesn’t create a new business or change your business structure, so you don’t need to get a separate EIN from the IRS. Businesses that must get an EIN include multi-member LLCs, corporations, and all businesses with employees.

How long does DBA registration last in Maryland?

DBA registration lasts 5 years in Maryland. After 5 years, you must renew your filing or it will expire.

How many DBAs can I register in Maryland?

You are allowed to register as many DBAs as you want, but you must file and pay for each DBA separately.

Can I sign contracts with my DBA?

No. Because a DBA isn’t a business in its own right, a contract signed only with your DBA might not hold up in court. You should sign contracts with both your legal and DBA names so that your business is clearly identified to those you’re contracting with.

Can I buy a domain name under my DBA?

That depends. Some domain registrars don’t allow businesses to purchase domain names under a DBA, but others do. You’ll have to contact your domain registrar for details.

What is my legal business name?

Your business’s legal business name is the name you use on your business’s government documents—for example, on state and tax filings.

For formal business entities like LLCs, corporations, and nonprofits, a business’s legal name is the name listed 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.

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