How to Get a Montana Assumed Business Name
If you want to operate your business under any name other than its legal name, you’ll need to get a Montana DBA, also known as an assumed business name. Any business, including Montana sole proprietorships, general partnerships, LLCs, and corporations, can get a DBA to build and promote their brand. In Montana, any business that wants to use an assumed business name needs to first register it by filing a Registration of Assumed Business Name form with the Montana Secretary of State's office and paying a $20 filing fee.
Your Montana DBA Guide:
What is a Montana DBA (Assumed Business Name)?
A “doing business as” name, or DBA for short, is a pseudonym for your business, meaning any name that isn’t your legal business name. You can use your DBA on marketing materials, social media accounts, and to open a business bank account. DBAs are called assumed business names in Montana and trade or fictitious names in other states.
While some states allow businesses to use a DBA without registering it, in Montana you’re required to register any DBA (assumed business name) you want to use with the Secretary of State’s office (30-13-203, Montana Code Annotated (MCA)). Your business will be unable to maintain any lawsuits or court actions under its DBA if that name is unregistered (30-13-215, MCA).
Why Get a DBA in Montana?
DBAs can be used in a variety of ways to market your business and maintain a professional image, such as:
- On your storefront
- 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
- To make and receive payments
Some common motivations for getting a DBA in Montana include:
Being a sole proprietor
As a sole proprietor, your legal business name is your own full name. So, you might choose to use a DBA in order to use a more professional name or a name that conveys more information about your business. For example, with a DBA, a private chef could go by “Gourmet for You” instead of Chelsea McCarthy.
Rebranding or expanding your business
Many businesses use a DBA to change their brand messaging or add a new product line without forming a whole new business entity. For example, if you started out as a private chef under Gourmet for You LLC but have transitioned into event catering, you might get the DBA “Gourmet for All Catering.”
Doing business under your domain name
Sometimes, it’s hard to get a web domain that matches your legal business name, so businesses may choose a different domain name and then start doing business under that name. For instance, if you couldn’t get the domain GourmetForYou.com, you might get PersonalGourmet.com instead and start advertising and accepting payments as “Personal Gourmet.” If you want to do business under your domain name in Montana, you need to register it as a DBA.
Tip: Registering a Montana assumed business 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 Montana Assumed Business Name
To register a DBA in Montana, you must submit a Registration of Assumed Business Name form through the Secretary of State’s online filing portal. But first, you’ll need to make sure that your desired name is available and follows Montana DBA naming rules.
Your DBA can’t be the same as or too similar to any assumed name, legal business name, trademark, or service mark already registered or reserved with the Montana Secretary of State (30-13-202, MCA). For legal reasons, you also want to avoid using a name that is already federally trademarked.
You can check if a name has been registered or reserved through the following databases:
- Montana Business Search (assumed and legal business names)
- Montana Trademark Search
- US Patent and Trademark Office Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) (federal trademarks)
Note: You can reserve an assumed name through the state’s Online Filing Portal for a fee of $10. Reservation lasts 120 days.
Aside from the fact that your name must be unique among registered assumed and legal business names in Montana, the state has just one DBA naming rule:
- Your name cannot contain a business entity identifier (“LLC,” “Corp,” “Ltd”) that falsely implies your business is a type of entity that it is not. For example, as a sole proprietor, your DBA cannot include “LLC.”
Your Assumed Business Name Registration form must be completed online.
In accordance with 30-13-203, MCA, you must provide the following information:
- Your business name and mailing address
- Your assumed business name
- A description of the type of business that will be conducted under that assumed name
The form must be (digitally) signed by a business owner.
DBA applications must be filed online using the Secretary of State’s Online Filing Portal.
The filing fee is $20. 24-hour processing is available for an additional $20, and 1-hour processing for an additional $100.
How to Renew an Assumed Business Name in Montana
In Montana, assumed business names must be renewed every 5 years through the Secretary of State’s Online Filing Portal. Renewal costs $20.
The state will send you a renewal notification no later than 90 days before your DBA’s expiration date. You must renew within that 90-day period. Otherwise the state will cancel your assumed business name registration.
Can I amend or cancel a Montana DBA?
Yes. You can amend or cancel your DBA through the Online Filing Portal. Amending your registration costs $20. There is no fee to cancel your DBA.
Filing a DBA vs Starting a Business
Filing a DBA is sometimes confused with starting a business. However, a DBA is just a name. Getting a DBA doesn’t create a new business or change the structure of your existing business. For example, as a sole proprietor with a DBA, there’s no difference between your business and that of a sole proprietor without a DBA, except that you can operate under an alternative name.
Because filing a DBA doesn’t form a separate business entity, keep in mind that you must use your legal business name on government and legal documents, such as your taxes.
If you want to start a business in Montana, here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Sell a product or service. Starting an unregistered business like a sole proprietorship or general partnership is easy. The only thing you need to is sell something—whether that’s an hour of tutoring, a photograph, or a mowed lawn. Just remember that depending on state laws and your line of work, you may need to get a business license.
- Register your business with the state. To form a business entity like an LLC or a corporation, you need to file formation paperwork (Articles of Organization or Incorporation) with the Montana Secretary of State and pay a filing fee.
DBA vs LLC in Montana
Unlike getting a DBA, forming an LLC gives you much more than just a business name. A Montana LLC is a legal business entity that provides LLC owners (also called members) with liability protection. An LLC has limited liability, which means it’s a legally separate entity from its members, so if the LLC is sued or owes debts, only the business’s assets are put at risk. The member’s assets, such as property, savings accounts, and vehicles, are generally off-limits.
Unlike an LLC, a DBA doesn’t give business owners liability protection. Some mistakenly believe that getting a DBA as a sole proprietor will create legal separation between themselves and their business, but this is not the case. If you want liability protection for your business, the best way to get it is to form an LLC.
Does a Montana DBA keep my personal information off the public record?
Unfortunately, no. DBA registration is designed to help the public figure out who they’re giving their money to. You need to include your business name and address information on your DBA application, and if you work from a home office, this could include your home address.
To reduce the amount of personal information you provide on state documents, you can hire a Montana registered agent like Northwest. As your registered agent, we can list our information in place of yours on state documents wherever possible, enhancing your privacy.
Protect Your Assets with a Montana LLCGet Started Today!
Montana DBA FAQs
How much does it cost to register a DBA in Montana?
It costs $20 to register a DBA in Montana. You can pay an extra $20 for 24-hour processing and an extra $100 for 1-hour processing.
Is registering a DBA required in Montana?
Yes, DBA registration is required by Montana state statutes.
How long does DBA registration last in Montana?
DBA registration is good for 5 years in Montana. To maintain your registration, you need to renew through the Secretary of State’s online portal within 90 days of your DBA expiration date. Renewal is $20.
How many DBAs can I register in Montana?
You can register as many DBAs as you want, but you must file and pay the fee for each one separately.
Do I need a separate bank account for my DBA?
Nope. Because a DBA isn’t a business on its own, it doesn’t need its own bank account. However, opening a business bank account for work conducted under your DBA can help with bookkeeping.
Do I need a separate EIN for my DBA?
No. A DBA isn’t a separate business entity, so you don’t need to get a new EIN for your DBA. Businesses that the IRS requires to get an EIN include multi-member LLCs, corporations, and businesses with employees.
Can I cancel my DBA name in Montana?
Yes. You can cancel your DBA through the Secretary of State’s online portal. There’s no cost to cancel your assumed name.
Can I sign contracts with my DBA?
You should sign contracts with both your legal and DBA name. Signing with your legal business name will help ensure your contract holds up in court, while including your DBA name is important for transparency, because it makes the relationship between your business and DBA 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.