How to Get a Trade Name in Nebraska
A DBA, called a trade name in Nebraska, is any name a business operates under that isn’t its legal name. Nebraska sole proprietors, partnerships, LLCs, and corporations commonly use DBAs to re-brand, market a new product line, or simply rename their business without starting a new one. In Nebraska, you aren’t required to register trade names, but doing so keeps other businesses from registering the same name. To register a DBA in Nebraska, you’ll file an Application for Registration of Trade Name, which costs $110 by mail or $100 online. Then, you’ll need to publish a legal notice in a local newspaper. Here’s how you do it.
Your Nebraska DBA Guide:
What is a Nebraska DBA (Trade Name)?
A Nebraska DBA (aka trade name) is like a nickname for your business. For sole proprietorships, the legal business name is the owner’s first and last name. So if your name is Shirley Hansen and you’re a sole proprietor doing business as “Star Crossed Soaps and Candles,” you’re already using a DBA. LLCs and corporations can also use DBAs to distinguish between different brands, use a shortened version of their legal business name, or take their business in a new direction.
What’s unique about DBAs in Nebraska?
- Registration is optional. According to NE Rev. Stat. § 87.210, someone who uses a trade name may file with the Secretary of State to register the name, but the law doesn’t require them to. However, registering your trade name helps you protect your brand by preventing another business from registering the same name.
- If you register your trade name, you must publish a notice. Nebraska law requires you to publish a notice in a local newspaper within 45 days of registering the trade name. Otherwise, the trade name registration will be canceled.
Does a DBA protect my privacy?
Not really. When you register a DBA in Nebraska, the name and address of the business owner permanently goes on the Nebraska Secretary of State (SOS) website, where anyone can find it using the online business search tool. If you’re concerned about privacy, consider hiring a Nebraska registered agent to help you form an LLC.
In Nebraska, starting an LLC can afford you more privacy than registering a DBA because LLCs aren’t required to share owners’ names or personal addresses on the Certificate of Organization or Nebraska Biennial Report. And if you hire Northwest as your registered agent, we’ll let you use our address as your business address, keeping your information out of the public eye.
Why Register a DBA in Nebraska?
There are many things you can do with a DBA—from branding and marketing to opening a business bank account. Here are the most common reasons businesses use DBAs:
To brand your business as a sole proprietor
As a sole proprietor, there’s no legal separation between you and your business. That’s why a sole proprietorship’s legal business name is just the owner’s legal name. But most small business owners want a unique and appealing name to market their business, which is why many sole proprietors choose to operate under DBAs. And to make sure a bigger business doesn’t waltz into your state and register the business name you’ve been using for years, it’s a smart idea to register your trade name with the state.
Re-branding or expanding your business
Maybe you started out with a modest bakery called Lincoln Cupcakes, LLC, but your business has grown into a full restaurant, concert venue, and event space. You might start using the DBA, Lincoln Café and Bakery. Or if you decide to open a second restaurant with a Tex-Mex vibe, you could register the DBA Texellent Tacos. You’d be able to operate both restaurants with separate names, and both would have the limited liability protection of your LLC.
To open a business bank account
Sole proprietors often choose to open a business bank account under a DBA name. That way, you can tell your customers to make the check out to “Fabulous Lawns” instead of “Steve Brooks,” which might help your business look more professional. Some banks require you to show proof that you’ve registered your DBA name in order to open a business bank account under that name. You’ll need to call your bank to find out their exact requirements.
Doing business under your domain name
If you use your domain name as your business name, you’re technically using a DBA, and it might be a good idea to register it with the Secretary of State. However, since websites aren’t confined to one state, you should also consider protecting your domain name nationwide by registering it as a federal trademark.
How to Register a Nebraska Trade Name
If you want to register your trade name in Nebraska, you first need to make sure no other business in the state has registered the same name. Then you’ll need to submit a form, pay a fee, and publish a notice in a local newspaper. We’ll walk you through the process.
In order for the state to accept your trade name application, the name can’t be the same as (or confusingly similiar to) another name that is already registered as a trade name or business entity name in the state. To see if the name is in use, you can check the Corporate and Business Search on the SOS website. Make sure to also check for alternate spellings of the name, plural versions, and alternate punctuation.
Also, the name you register must follow Nebraska law (NE Rev. Stat. § 87-209) which means it cannot:
- Be considered “immoral, deceptive, or scandalous” in the eyes of the state.
- Insult or falsely suggest a connection with any person, institution, belief, or national symbol.
- Represent the flag or coat of arms of any state, municipality, or country, including the US.
- Include the name, portrait, or signature of any living person without their consent.
- Only include a geographical description, such as “Corner of First St.” or only include a surname, unless the business can show they’ve been using the name continuously for at least 5 years.
- Include “incorporated,” “inc.” or “corporation” unless the business is a corporation.
- Use the word “geologist” or any variant of that word, unless the business owner is a licensed geologist.
Next you’ll fill out the Application for Registration of Trade Name. You can apply online or by mail, but if you apply online, you’ll still need to fill out, sign, and upload the paper form as a PDF document. Electronic signatures are allowed, but you’ll need to download and save the PDF to use the electronic signature feature.
Here’s the information you’ll need to include:
- Trade name to be registered
- Applicant name
- Applicant street address (Not a PO box)
- Business type (ex. individual/sole proprietor, partnership, LLC, etc.)
- State where entity was formed if not a sole proprietorship
- Date of first use of the trade name in Nebraska
- Nature of business (For example, “gas station”)
- Name and signature of applicant or legal representative
Here’s where you submit your application. If filing by mail, you must submit the application in duplicate.
Online: Nebraska.gov website
Secretary of State’s Office
Business Services Division (Corporations)
P.O. Box 94608
Lincoln, NE 68509
$100 online (plus credit card processing fee)
$110 by mail (Make check out to “Nebraska Secretary of State”)
Once the SOS office has approved your application, they’ll mail a duplicate copy of the application to the address you provided. You then have 45 days to publish in a newspaper of general circulation in the city where you do business. (If there’s no newspaper of general circulation in your city or village, you can publish in a newspaper within the county.) The SOS recommends sending the duplicate copy directly to the newspaper to guarantee that the information published is exactly the same as what is on your trade name application.
If you need help finding a newspaper within your city or county, the Nebraska Press Association offers a handy Newspaper Locator Map. The fee will vary based on the paper. For example, the Lincoln Journal Star charges $50 per trade name notice, whereas the Omaha Daily Record charges $40.
Once the newspaper has published your notice, they should send a notarized Affidavit of Publication, either to you or directly the Secretary of State’s office. It’s a good idea to ask the newspaper when you should expect to receive the Affidavit, and whether they’ll send it to you or to the SOS.
You can submit your Affidavit of Publication for free on the NE SOS website.
How to Renew a Nebraska Trade Name
Your trade name registration needs to be renewed every ten years. Within the year prior to your registration expiring, the Secretary of State’s office will send a renewal notice to the business address on file. If you don’t receive the notice, you can also call the SOS office and request a renewal form. The fee is the same as the registration fee: $100 online or $110 by mail.
Can I cancel my trade name?
Yes. To cancel your trade name registration, you simply contact the Secretary of State and ask to withdraw the name.
Filing a DBA vs Starting a Business
Many new business owners assume that registering a DBA creates a new business entity. It doesn’t. A DBA is like an alias for a business, and it’s main purpose is branding and marketing. It’s not a type of business entity, so it doesn’t come with any legal rights or protections. Any type of business can use a DBA, but using a DBA doesn’t change the business structure it has. If you’re a sole proprietor and you register a trade name with the state, you’re still a sole proprietor. Similarly, an LLC that uses a DBA is still an LLC.
There are two ways to start a business in Nebraska:
- Register as a formal entity with the state. To start an LLC or corporation, you need to file formation documents with the Nebraska Secretary of State (called Certificate of Organization for LLCs, Articles of Incorporation for corporations). You’ll also need to file a biennial report with the state every other year. (LLPs need to file annual reports.)
- Just sell something. To start a business as a sole proprietorship (one owner) or general partnership (multiple owners), all you need to do is sell a product or service, whether that’s handmade jewelry on Etsy or dog-sitting for your neighbors. However, depending on the type of work you do, you may still need some kind of documentation, whether that’s a local business license, professional license, or zoning permit.
DBA vs LLC in Nebraska
Unlike a DBA, a Nebraska LLC is a type of business entity and does offer a degree of legal protection to its owners (called members). An LLC is a legally separate entity from the people who own it. This means that if an LLC is sued, in most cases the plaintiff can only go after the assets of the business, not the personal assets of the members. Ditto if an LLC defaults on a debt. In order to maintain this legal separation, LLC owners need to follow the protocols in their operating agreement and keep business finances separate from their personal finances.
DBAs are great for renaming or re-branding your business, but if you want a business entity that will keep your personal assets (house, car, 401K, etc.) safe, you should consider starting an LLC.
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Nebraska DBA FAQs
Is registering a DBA required in Nebraska?
No, Nebraska trade name registration is optional.
How much does it cost to register a DBA in Nebraska?
$100 online, $110 by mail.
Can I amend my trade name registration?
Yes. You can update the trade name owner’s name, address, or state by mailing a completed Application to Amend Trade Name Registration form and $30 payment to the Nebraska SOS office. However, if you want to change the trade name itself, you’ll need to register a new trade name rather than filing an amendment.
Is there a publication requirement for Nebraska DBAs?
Yes. After registering your trade name in Nebraska, you’re required to publish a legal notice announcing the trade name in a local newspaper within 45 days. Otherwise, the trade name registration will be revoked.
How long does DBA registration last in Nebraska?
10 years. After that, you’ll need to renew the trade name registration, or it will be canceled.
How many DBAs can I register in Nebraska?
There’s no limit to the number of DBAs you can register in Nebraska. However, for every DBA you want to register, you’ll need to submit a separate application, pay the filing fee, and publish a legal notice.
Do I need a separate bank account for my DBA?
No. Since a DBA isn’t a legal business entity, there’s no requirement to have a separate bank account for business done under your DBA. However, you can open a bank account under your DBA name if you want.
Do I need a separate EIN for my DBA?
No. Many businesses need an EIN—including corporations, multi-member LLCs, and businesses with employees—but you don’t need a separate EIN for your DBA.
Can I sign contracts with my DBA?
No. Since a DBA is not a legal business name, a contract signed with only a DBA name may not hold up in court. However, it’s a good idea to include your DBA alongside your legal business name when signing contracts. For example, a sole proprietor might sign a contract, “Diana Wong, DBA Tarot Readings by Diana.” An LLC or corporation should have the authorized signer sign their name and title, followed by the legal business name and DBA name. For example, “Diana Wong, CEO Full Moon Memories Inc., DBA Full Moon Rising.”
What is my legal business name?
For sole proprietors, the legal business name is simply the owner’s legal name. For general partnerships, the legal name is either the combined last names of owners or the business name written in the partnership agreement. The legal name of an LLC or corporation is the business name on the Certificate of Organization or Articles of Incorporation.