How to Get a Minnesota Assumed Name
If you want to do business under a name other than your legal business name, you’ll need to get a Minnesota DBA, also called an assumed name. Minnesota sole proprietorships, general partnerships, LLCs, and corporations can use a DBA to market their business, open a bank account, and make and receive payments. To register a DBA in Minnesota, you'll need to file a Certificate of Assumed Name with the secretary of state's office, pay a fee, and publish notice of your assumed name in a newspaper. Let’s get started.
Your Minnesota DBA Guide:
What is a Minnesota DBA (Assumed Name)?
If you don’t want to operate your business under its legal business name, you can get a DBA—a “doing business as” name. A DBA is like a nickname for your business. Minnesota refers to DBAs as assumed names, but they’re also called trade or fictitious names in other states. DBAs allow businesses to craft a distinct brand identity, launch a new product line, or lend credibility to their business by using a creative name.
What’s unique about DBA registration in Minnesota?
- Registration required: DBA registration is required by Minnesota state law and must be completed before you begin using your DBA (Minnesota Statutes (2022), Chapter 333.01-02).
- Registration exceptions: Unregistered businesses (sole proprietors and general partnerships) that conduct business under that name that includes the full names of all owners do not need to file a DBA. For example, a sole proprietor can operate under “Catherine Larson Cleaning” without registering. To do business as “Larson Cleaning” or “Cleaning by Catherine,” however, DBA registration is required.
- Annual renewal: In Minnesota, DBAs must be renewed every year. However, if you file your renewal paperwork on time, there is no filing fee.
- Publication requirement: After filing, you’ll have to publish your Certificate of Assumed Name in two consecutive issues of a qualified legal newspaper in the county where your principal business address is located. You also need to publish notice if you file an amendment to your certificate.
- Assumed names aren’t exclusive: Registering your DBA in Minnesota doesn’t prevent other businesses from using the same name. On the other hand, if there’s a name you’re set on using that’s already registered as an assumed name to another business, you are allowed to use that name.
Why Get a DBA in Minnesota?
Here are the most common motivations for getting a Minnesota DBA:
You’re a sole proprietor
A sole proprietorship is a business owned by one person that isn’t registered with the state. Because there’s no legal separation between a sole proprietor and their business, the legal business name of a sole proprietorship is the owner’s name.
Sole proprietors often get DBAs to operate under a name that more accurately conveys their brand messaging. For example, with a DBA, you can do business as “Party ‘Til You Drop Events” instead of Reese Dalton. You’ll even be able to open a business bank account under your DBA so that you can make and receive payments using that name. This can help make your business appear more credible and professional.
To expand or rebrand your business
Many businesses use a DBA to rebrand or expand without having to form an entirely new business. For example, if your visual effects company, Imitation of Life VFX LLC, decides to start offering voice acting services, you don’t need to start a new LLC. Instead, that division of your business can operate under a DBA like “Echoes Voice Talent.” In the event that you start doing business under your domain name (for example, VoiceVoyage.com), you can even register your domain name as a DBA.
To market and maintain your brand image
As a marketing tool, there are a number of ways to use your DBA to establish and increase awareness of your brand:
- On websites and social media accounts
- On signs, business cards, and other marketing materials
- In commercials and advertisements
- On merchandise
Tip: Registering a Minnesota assumed 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 Register a Minnesota Assumed Name
Registering a DBA in Minnesota requires an extra step most states don’t have. After verifying that your name is available and filing your Certificate of Assumed Name with the secretary of state’s office, you’ll need to publish notice of your certificate in a legal newspaper.
When filing a DBA, you need to make sure that your desired name is available. You can’t use a name that is already on file as the legal business name of another business registered with the state or that is trademarked. The state does not prevent two or more businesses from using the same assumed name, but for marketing purposes, you may want to avoid this scenario.
While your name must be different from all registered business names in Michigan, the secretary of state’s Name Availability Guidelines notes that small changes, can make the name different enough to be acceptable. For example, changing the spelling of a word or using abbreviations can make a name unique. If the business name “Highlight Photography” was taken, “Highlight Fotography” or “Highlight Photos” would most likely be accepted. Keep in mind that whether an assumed name application is accepted is ultimately at the discretion of the secretary of state’s office.
You can use the following databases to check name availability:
- Minnesota Business Name Search (Minnesota legal, assumed, and trademarked names)
- US Patent and Trademark Office Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) (federal trademarks)
Note: It’s possible to use a name that belongs to another business if you get permission. To do so, you’ll need to submit a Consent to Use of Name form, which costs $35 to file by mail and $55 in person or online.
There are several rules you must follow when selecting your DBA.
According to Minnesota Statues (2022), Chapter 333.01, you cannot:
- Use an entity identifier like “LLC,” “Corp,” or “PLLC” unless that identifier accurately describes your business. For example, you can only include “PLLC” if your business is a Professional LLC.
- Include references to locations or places that imply your business is located somewhere it is not. For example, you can’t use the DBA “Saint Paul Academy” if your business isn’t in Saint Paul.
The governor’s Naming Your Business page also notes that any financial institution that wants to use a DBA must obtain approval from the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
Next, you’ll need to fill out your Certificate of Assumed Name.
On your form, you’ll need to provide the following information:
- Your assumed name
- Your principal business addresses
- The names and addresses of people or business entities doing business under your assumed name. If you list a business entity, you must include your registered office (the office of your registered agent)
- The signature of an authorized person
- Contact information, including a contact name, phone number, and email address
There is also a section where you can provide optional information regarding your business demographics, including your income level, number of employees, and business type.
The Minnesota secretary of state accepts DBA applications by mail, in person, and online.
By mail or in person:
Minnesota Secretary of State
Business Services First National Bank Building
332 Minnesota Street, Suite N201
Saint Paul, MN 55101
Business Filings Online
Filing by mail costs $30, and applications are processed as they are received. Filing in-person or online costs $50, but applications are processed immediately.
The final step of DBA registration in Minnesota is publishing your certificate in two consecutive issues of a legal newspaper in the county where your business has its principal office.
You can find a list of qualified legal newspapers on the secretary of state’s Assumed Name/DBA page.
Publication fees vary by publication and aren’t always cheap. For example, the Saint Paul Legal Ledger, which publishes Finance & Commerce in Hennepin County and Minnesota Lawyer in Ramsey County, charges $55. Publishing a notice in the Northeaster, also in Hennepin County, costs $176 for two weeks.
How to Renew an Assumed Name in Minnesota
In Minnesota, you must renew your assumed name every year by filing an Assumed Name Annual Renewal form before December 31st. Renewal is free if you file by the deadline.
If you miss the deadline, you’ll need to submit the renewal form and pay a fee to reinstate your assumed name. Reinstatement costs $25 if filing by mail and $45 if filing in-person or online.
Can I amend or cancel a Minnesota DBA?
Yes. You can amend or cancel your DBA by filing paperwork with the secretary of state.
Cancellation of Assumed Name form ( No fee)
Filing a DBA vs Starting a Business
There’s a big difference between filing a DBA and starting a business. A DBA doesn’t create a new business or alter the structure of your existing business—it’s just a name. So, if you’re a sole proprietor, getting a DBA doesn’t change that.
Since a DBA isn’t a business on its own, you must use your legal business name on all government and legal documents, like your taxes. And if you sign a contract, you’ll need to include both your legal and DBA name to ensure that the contract will hold up in court and to clearly identify the connection between your business and DBA.
If you want to start a business in Minnesota, there are two routes you can take:
- Register your business with the state. To form a business entity like an LLC or corporation, you must file formation paperwork (Articles of Organization or Incorporation) with the Minnesota secretary of state’s office. You’ll also need to pay a filing fee.
- Sell a product or service. The easiest way to start an informal business (sole proprietorship or general partnership) is to sell something. So if you sell a sculpture at an art fair or you and a friend paint someone’s house for cash, you’re officially in business. However, depending on state laws and your line of work, you may still need to get a business license.
DBA vs LLC in Minnesota
Unlike a DBA, an LLC is a legal business entity. Because Minnesota LLCs are legally considered separate from their owners (called members), members’ personal assets are protected in case the LLC finds itself on the receiving end of a lawsuit or owes debts.
A DBA doesn’t provide this protection. Some mistakenly believe that getting a DBA as a sole proprietor creates a legal separation between a business and its owner, but this isn’t the case. If you want liability protection, the best way to get it is to form an LLC (you can always get a DBA, too).
Does a Minnesota DBA keep my personal information off the public record?
No. The DBA registration was created to help consumers figure out who they may be doing business with. In Minnesota, this is especially evident in the state’s DBA publication requirement. Plus, your DBA registration paperwork includes business name and address information. If you work from a home office, this information could include your home address.
If you want to minimize the amount of personal information you list on state documents, one thing you can do is hire a Minnesota registered agent like Northwest. Serving as your registered agent, we can provide our information in place of yours whenever possible on state paperwork to help protect your privacy.
Protect Your Assets with a Minnesota LLCGet Started Today!
Minnesota DBA FAQs
How much does it cost to register a DBA in Minnesota?
It costs $30 to file a DBA by mail and $50 to file online or in person. Online and in person filings are processed immediately upon receipt, while mail-in filings are processed the order they’re received.
Is registering a DBA required in Minnesota?
Yes. DBA registration is required by Minnesota law.
Is there a publication requirement for DBAs in Minnesota?
Yes. After filing your Certificate of Assumed Name, you need to publish that certificate in two consecutive issues of legal newspaper in the county where your principal business address is located.
Do I need a separate bank account for my DBA?
No. Since a DBA isn’t a separate business entity, you’re not required to keep your finances separate from the rest of your business. With that said, having a separate bank account for business conducted under your DBA can help with bookkeeping.
Do I need a separate EIN for my DBA?
Nope. Filing a DBA doesn’t create a separate business entity, so you won’t need a new EIN. Businesses that are required to obtain an EIN from the IRS include multi-member LLCs, corporations, and all businesses with employees.
How long does DBA registration last in Minnesota?
Minnesota DBA registration lasts one year. You’ll need to file annual renewal paperwork before your DBA expires, but there’s no filing fee.
How many DBAs can I register in Minnesota?
There’s no limit on the number of DBAs you can register in Minnesota, but bear in mind that each DBA must be filed and paid for separately.
Can I cancel my DBA name in Minnesota?
Yes. To cancel your DBA, you’ll need to file cancellation paperwork with the secretary of state. There’s no fee to cancel your DBA.
Can I sign contracts with my DBA?
When doing business under your DBA, you’ll need to sign contracts with both your legal and DBA name so that your contract will hold up in court and to make sure the relationship between your business and DBA is clear.
What is my legal business name?
Your business’s legal business name is the name you put on your business’s government documents—as an 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.