How to Get a Missouri Fictitious Name
A Missouri DBA, or fictitious name, allows you to do business under a name that is different from your legal business name. Missouri sole proprietorships, general partnerships, LLCs, and corporations can use a DBA to establish their brand identity, advertise their business, and even open a business bank account. To register a fictitious name in Missouri, you must file a Registration of Fictitious Name form with the secretary of state and pay a $7 fee. Let’s get started.
Your Missouri DBA Guide:
What is a Missouri DBA (Fictitious Name)?
DBA stands for “doing business as,” and is any name you operate under other than your legal business name. Your business can use its DBA on your storefront, website, and other marketing materials. In Missouri, DBAs are called fictitious names, but they’re also called trade or assumed names in other states.
What’s unique about DBA registration in Missouri?
- Registration required: In Missouri, you must register a DBA within 5 days of engaging in business under that name, or your use of the name will be considered “unlawful” (Mo Rev Stat §417.200, §417.210). If you fail to register your DBA, you could face a misdemeanor charge (Mo Rev Stat § 417.230).
- Fictitious Names aren’t exclusive: Registering a DBA in Missouri doesn’t stop other businesses from using the same name. However, this also means that if you’re really set on adopting a name that’s already registered to someone else, you don’t have to ask permission to use the same name—you can just register the name you want.
Why Get a DBA in Missouri?
DBAs are generally used as a marketing tool to operate under a more memorable name, appear more professional as a sole proprietor, or expand a business by using a different name to sell a new product.
Popular ways to use a DBA to market your business include:
- On websites and social media accounts
- On signs, business cards, and other marketing materials
- In commercials and advertisements
You can even open a business bank account under your DBA so that you can make and receive payments under that name to help maintain your professional image.
Common reasons to get a DBA include:
Operating as a sole proprietor
A sole proprietorship is a business owned by one person and not registered with the state—freelancers and independent contractors are often sole proprietors. If you’re a sole proprietor, your legal business name is your own full name. That’s because there’s no legal separation between you and your business. So, you can use a DBA to operate under a more professional-sounding name or one that better describes your business. For example, using a DBA, you can do business as “Lycan Tattoo” instead of Dante Anderson.
Expanding or rebranding your business
Using a DBA is also an easy way to change direction or launch a new product line without forming an entirely new business. For example, say you own Lycan Tattoo LLC, but you start doing business under your domain name “FullMoonTattoo.com” (or even just “Full Moon Tattoo”). Instead of forming a new LLC, you can get a DBA to operate under your domain name. Likewise, if you were to open a second tattoo shop, you could get a DBA to run that shop under a different name, like “Chiroptera Tattoo.”
Tip: Registering a Missouri fictitious 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 Missouri Fictitious Name
To get your DBA registered, you must file a Registration of Fictitious Name form with the Missouri Secretary of State’s office. But first, you’ll need to make sure your name is available and follows Missouri naming rules.
Your DBA doesn’t have to be unique among fictitious names in Missouri (although you may want to use a unique name for marketing purposes). However, you can’t register a name that is already the legal business name of another entity registered with the state (if you file a DBA that is similar to your own entity’s legal business name, that’s fine).You also want to avoid using a trademarked name in case the company that owns the trademark decides to take you to court.
You can check name availability with the following databases:
- Missouri Business Entity Search (legal and fictitious names)
- US Patent and Trademark Office Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) (federal trademarks)
To check Missouri trademarks, you’ll need to email [email protected].
When choosing your DBA, you need to follow Missouri’s guidelines for fictitious names (Mo Rev Stat §417.210).
Your fictitious name cannot:
- Contain any words or phrases that falsely suggest your business is a government agency.
- Contain any words or phrases that are misleading and don’t accurately represent your business.
Your Registration of Fictitious Name form must be filed within 5 days once you start using your DBA.
On your form, you’ll need to check the “New Registration” box. You’ll also need to list the following:
- Your fictitious business name.
- The address where you’ll be doing business under that name.
- Owners’ names and addresses.
- If the owners of the business registering the fictitious name are business entities, you’ll also need to include their charter numbers and their percentage of ownership interest in the registering business.
- The signatures of all owners. If the owners are business entities, an authorized person can sign on behalf of the business.
- The name and address where the secretary of state can send a copy of the filed document.
You can file your fictitious name form by mail, in person, or online. If you file online, you can follow the instructions provided in the Missouri Business Services’ Registering a Fictitious Name guide.
PO Box 778
Jefferson City, MO 65102
600 W Main St, Rm 322
Jefferson City, MO 65102
The filing fee is only $7. If you file online, you will also need to pay a credit card or check processing fee.
How to Renew a Fictitious Name in Missouri
Missouri fictitious names must be renewed every 5 years. You can file a renewal form any time during the 6 months before your registration expires.
To renew, you’ll file a Registration of Fictitious Name form, which is the same form you use to register a DBA, and check the “Renewal” box at the top of the page. You can also renew online. Renewal costs $7, plus a payment processing fee if you file online.
Can I amend or cancel a Missouri DBA?
Yes. You can amend or cancel your DBA by filing a form or through the online business portal. To amend your DBA, you’ll use the same Registration of Fictitious Name form you would use to register or renew a DBA. You can file an amendment to change any information that was on the Registration of Fictitious Name form, including the fictitious name itself, your business address, or owner information. Note that filing an amendment is required if the business changes hands or if the ownership interest percentages change.
Amendments: Registration of Fictitious Name ($7 + payment processing online
Cancellation: Cancellation of Registration of Fictitious Name (No fee)
Filing a DBA vs Starting a Business
Although filing a DBA and starting a business may seem like the same thing, they’re not. Registering a DBA doesn’t create a new business, and it doesn’t change the structure of your existing business, either. All it does is let you use a different name. So, if you’re a sole proprietor before you register, you’re still a sole proprietor after.
One thing to note is that because a DBA doesn’t create a separate business, you’ll need to use your legal business name on legal and government documents, such as your taxes. When signing contracts, you should include both your legal business name (to ensure that your contract will hold up in court) and any DBA names you use (for transparency).
To start a business in Missouri, you’ll need to do one of two things:
- Register your business with the state. Forming a business entity like an LLC or corporation means that you’ll have to file formation paperwork with the secretary of state’s office. When submitting your articles of organization or incorporation, you must also pay a filing fee.
- Sell a product or service. Starting an unregistered business is easy—just sell something. For example, if your neighbor pays you to train their horse or if you sell handmade dog bandanas out of the back of your car, you’re in business. Keep in mind, though, that you may still need a business license, depending on what type of work you do and the laws of your state.
DBA vs LLC in Missouri
A DBA allows you to do business under an alternative name, but it doesn’t provide any legal protection because it’s not a business entity. Unlike a DBA, a Missouri LLC is a legal business entity with limited liability. LLCs are considered legally separate from their owners (also called members), and this separation provides liability protection to the owners. In a situation where the LLC owes debts or is sued, only the business’s assets are put at risk. Members’ personal assets (vehicles, property, savings accounts) are usually not up for grabs.
There is a common misconception that getting a DBA creates a legal separation between a business and its owner, especially for sole proprietors, but this is not the case. If you’re a sole proprietor and you want liability protection, your best course of action is to form an LLC.
Does a Missouri DBA keep my personal information off the public record?
No. The purpose of DBA registration is to help consumers figure out who they’re doing business with. You’ll need to list business name and address information on your DBA registration form. If you happen to work from a home office, this could include your home address.
If you want to limit the amount of personal information you provide on state documents, one thing you can do is hire a Missouri registered agent, like Northwest. As your registered agent, we can increase your privacy by listing our information in place of yours on state documents wherever it’s possible.
Protect Your Assets with a Missouri LLCGet Started Today!
Missouri DBA FAQs
How much does it cost to register a DBA in Missouri?
The filing fee for a Missouri DBA is just $7.
Is registering a DBA required in Missouri?
Yes. Fictitious business name registration is required in Missouri.
How long does DBA registration last in Missouri?
Missouri DBA registration is good for 5 years.
How many DBAs can I register in Missouri?
You can register as many DBAs as you like. However, you’ll need to file and pay for each one separately.
Do I need a separate bank account for my DBA?
Nope. Since your DBA isn’t a separate business, you don’t need a separate bank account. However, opening an account for business conducted under your DBA can help keep your finances organized.
Do I need a separate EIN for my DBA?
No. Since getting a DBA doesn’t form a separate business, you don’t need to get a new EIN. The IRS required the following types of businesses to get EINs: multi-member LLCs, corporations, and businesses with employees.
Can I cancel my DBA name in Missouri?
Yes. You can cancel your DBA by filing a Cancellation of Fictitious Name form.
Can I sign contracts with my DBA?
You should sign contracts with both your legal and DBA name. Without your legal name, your contract may not hold up in court. Including your DBA makes sure that the connection between your business and your DBA is clear.
What is my legal business name?
Your business’s legal business name is the name listed on your business’s government documents— I.e., 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.