How to Get a Fictitious Firm Name in Nevada
A Nevada DBA (aka fictitious firm name) is any name a business operates under that isn’t the legal name of the business. All types of businesses, including Nevada sole proprietors, partnerships, LLCs, and corporations, can use a DBA to create a brand and market their business. Nevada businesses that want to use a DBA must first file a fictitious firm name certificate in each county where they do business. Fictitious firm names aren’t exclusive, so if you want a legal claim to your fictitious name, you’ll need to register it as a trade name or federal trademark. In this guide, we explain how to register a fictitious firm name in Nevada.
Your Nevada DBA Guide:
What is a Nevada DBA (Fictitious Firm Name)?
A DBA, which stands for “doing business as,” is a name a business goes by that isn’t its legal name—sort of like a nickname. You can use a DBA in almost the same way you’d use a legal business name. For example…
- Branding. You can put your DBA name on hats, t-shirts, and business cards. Put a sign with your DBA in your shop window. Get a domain name for your DBA and put your DBA name on your website.
- Marketing. Use your DBA in a commercial, newspaper ad, flier, or on your social media.
- Banking. Open a business bank account under your DBA name and make and accept payments under that name.
However, before you start using a DBA in Nevada, you’re required to register it. According to state law, any business operating under a “name that is in any way different” from the legal name of the business (or legal name of the owner or owners, in the case of sole proprietors and general partnerships) must file a fictitious firm name certificate with the county clerk in each county where the business operates (NRS § 602.010).
What’s the difference between a fictitious firm name and a trade name in Nevada?
In some states, the terms “fictitious name” and “trade name” are used interchangeably, but in Nevada, they’re two different things:
- Fictitious firm name (FFN)—Any name a Nevada business uses that isn’t the legal name of the business. Nevada uses “DBA” and “assumed name” as synonyms for fictitious firm name. Required to be registered with the county/counties where the business operates. Doesn’t give the business an exclusive right to the name.
- Nevada trade name—Optional registration that gives you exclusive rights to the name in Nevada, meaning you have the right to take legal action if another Nevada business attempts to use your trade name.
- To register a trade name in Nevada, you need to file a Mark Registration form with the Secretary of State’s office along with a $100 filing fee. You’ll also need to attach a black and white specimen that shows you using the name (ex. advertisement, letterhead, business card, etc.). Keep in mind that state trade name registration only protects your name within the state of Nevada. If you want exclusive rights to your name nationwide, you’ll need to register a federal trademark.
What happens if I use a DBA in Nevada without registering it?
In Nevada, doing business under a fictitious name without registering it is a misdemeanor offense. Also, according to NRS § 602.070, a business can’t take any legal action regarding a contract or transaction made under a fictitious name without first filing a fictitious firm certificate.
Does a DBA protect my privacy?
Not really. While a DBA might offer a small amount of privacy to sole proprietors, since they can use their DBA name in ads and marketing campaigns instead of their own name, anyone who wants to know who owns the DBA can search the county fictitious firm name records to find out the name and address of the owner.
Why Get a DBA in Nevada?
DBAs are a low cost, low maintenance way to brand or rename a business. Here are some of the most common reasons to get a DBA:
To use a business name as a sole proprietor
If you’re a sole proprietor, there’s no legal separation between you and your business. As far as the government is concerned, you and your business are one and the same. That’s why the legal name of a sole proprietorship is the owner’s legal name, and why many sole proprietors choose to get a DBA. For example, if a sole proprietor wants to market their business as Effervescent Ciders rather than Fred Martinez, they first needs to register Effervescent Ciders as a DBA.
Re-branding or expanding your business
No matter what type of business you have, you can use a DBA to re-brand your business or launch a new branch or product line. For example, Carson City Comics, LLC might decide to open an adjoining coffee shop using the DBA Expanded Universe Café. Or, if the business wants to transition away from selling comics, they could get a DBA for Carson City Records.
To open a business bank account
Opening a bank account under your DBA name allows you to make and accept payments from vendors and customers under the fictitious name. This can be especially useful for sole proprietors, since being able to sign and receive checks under Heralded Designs instead of Harold Dimas gives your business a more professional air. Depending on your bank’s policy, you may need to bring your fictitious firm certificate with you to the bank in order to open a business bank account under a DBA.
Doing business under your domain name
You only need to register your domain name as a DBA if you’re using that name as a business name. For example, say your legal business name is Vegas Bridal Boutique, Inc. but that domain name isn’t available, so you buy the domain name, rocknrollbrides.com instead. If you then want to use the name Rock ‘n’ Roll Brides as a business name, you first need to register it as a fictitious firm name.
How to Register a DBA in Nevada
Before you start using a DBA in Nevada, you need to register it in every county where you do business. Here’s how you do it.
Technically, there’s no law against registering a fictitious name that’s already taken by another business. Fictitious names in Nevada aren’t exclusive, so two businesses in the same county can register the same FFN. However, to avoid confusion, you may want to choose a DBA that isn’t already registered in your county. Also, you should make sure your DBA isn’t a registered Nevada trade name, legal entity name, or federal trademark. Otherwise, you could have a lawsuit on your hands. Here’s how to check if a name is registered:
- County—Each county has a public record of fictitious firm name registrations. For some, such as Clark County, you can do an FFN Search online. In other counties you may need to call or visit the county clerk’s office to find out if a name has been registered.
- State—Use the Nevada Business search to see if your preferred DBA name is registered as a business entity name, trade name, trademark, or reserved name.
- Federal—Search the USPTO Trademark Database to make sure the name isn’t federally trademarked.
- Include an entity identifier, such as “Corporation,” “Corp.” “Limited Liability Company,” “LLC,” “Business Trust,” “PC,” “Chartered,” or “Limited,” unless it correctly identifies your entity type.
- Mislead the public into thinking the business is associated with a government agency or tribal nation.
- Appear to be the name of a person without any additional words. For example, “Keisha Smith” wouldn’t be an acceptable FFN, but “Keisha Smith Welding” would.
To register your DBA, you need to file a fictitious firm name certificate in the county where your business operates. If you do business in multiple counties, you’ll need to file a separate certificate in each one.
Each county has its own fictitious firm name application form and filing process, but here’s how it typically works:
- Complete and sign the fictitious firm name certificate. You can find this form on your county government website or by calling or visiting your county clerk’s office.
- Submit the form by mail or in person and pay a filing fee. (Can vary by county, but typically $25.)
Here’s the information you’ll need to provide:
- Fictitious firm name to be registered.
- Name of individual or individuals (if a sole proprietorship, general partnership, or trust).
- Or name of business entity.
- Residence or business street address. (For sole proprietors, general partnerships, and trusts.)
- Mailing address.
- For Nevada series LLCs only, the name of the parent LLC.
- Signature of business owner or authorized signer.
Note: In most counties, the fictitious firm certificate is required to be notarized.
Can I cancel my fictitious firm name?
Yes, you can cancel your DBA by filing a certificate of termination with the county clerk in the county/counties where you registered the name. Your certificate of termination will need to be notarized. The filing fee varies by county but is usually $20 or $25.
Filing a DBA vs Starting a Business
Getting a DBA isn’t the same as registering a business. A DBA is simply a name you can do business under—it’s not a business itself. All types of businesses can use DBAs, but getting a DBA doesn’t change your business structure or start a new business.
To start a business in Nevada, you must do one of two things:
- Register a business entity. To register a legal entity, such as an LLC or corporation, you file formation paperwork (Articles of Organization or Incorporation) with the Secretary of State and pay a filing fee. You’ll also need to file the Nevada Annual List.
- Sell a product or service. You don’t necessarily have to file paperwork to be a business owner. If you’re selling goods or services, you’re already in business as a sole proprietor. If you have a business partner or two, you’re in a general partnership. However, you’ll probably still need a Nevada State Business License, and you may need additional licenses and permits as well.
DBA vs LLC in Nevada
Many new business owners wonder, “Should I get a DBA or an LLC?” The answer depends on what you’re looking for. If you want minimal paperwork and simply want to market your business with a unique name, you may only need a DBA. But if you’re concerned about protecting your personal assets if your business gets sued or can’t pay its debts, you should form a legal entity like an LLC, limited partnership, or corporation. Many small business owners opt for an LLC because it’s a flexible business structure with fewer formal requirements than a corporation.
A Nevada LLC, which stands for “limited liability company,” offers liability protection to its owners because it’s a legally separate entity from the people who own it. Therefore if the LLC loses a lawsuit or defaults on a debt, only business assets can be seized. LLC owners’ personal savings, car, and house are generally off limits. Sound like a good idea? We can help you do it.
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Nevada DBA FAQs
Is registering a DBA required in Nevada?
Yes. If you want to use a DBA (fictitious firm name) in Nevada, you first need to register the name with the county clerk’s office everywhere you do business. Using a DBA in Nevada without registering it is a misdemeanor offense.
Do you need to register a DBA for a Nevada series LLC?
Yes. A Nevada series LLC needs to register a DBA if using a business name that doesn’t:
- Indicate that it’s a series
- and include the name of the parent LLC.
How much does it cost to register a DBA in Nevada?
The cost to register a DBA varies slightly by county, but the most common cost is $25.
Do Nevada DBAs need to be renewed?
In most counties, yes. According to Nevada law, counties may pass an ordinance requiring fictitious firm names to be renewed every five years. Clark, Washoe, Douglas, Nye, and Elko Counties, among others, all require DBAs to be renewed. The renewal fee is typically the same as the original registration fee, about $25.
Can I amend my fictitious firm name certificate?
Yes, in most counties you can update the contact name and address on your FFN certificate, either by filing an update form provided by the county clerk or by contacting the county clerk’s office directly. However, if you want to change the fictitious name itself, you’ll need to file a new FFN certificate.
How long does DBA registration last in Nevada?
In most counties, DBA registration in Nevada lasts for 5 years. If your county doesn’t have an ordinance requiring DBAs to be renewed, DBA registration is perpetual in that county.
How many DBAs can I register in Nevada?
There is no limit to the number of DBAs you can register.
Do I need a separate bank account for my DBA?
No, it’s not required to have a separate business bank account for your DBA. However, you can open a business account under your DBA name if you want. Some business owners find it helps them keep their finances organized.
Do I need a separate EIN for my DBA?
No. Since a DBA isn’t a legal business name, you can’t get an EIN under a DBA name. However, if you have a multi-member LLC or a corporation, or you plan to hire employees, you will need to get an EIN under your legal business name.
Can I sign contracts with my DBA?
Not by itself. Any contracts your business enters into should be signed with the legal business name. Otherwise, the contract may not hold up in court. However, for full transparency, you should include your DBA name next to your legal business name. For example, a sole proprietor may sign her name, “Kelly Giano, DBA Giano Electronics.”
What is my legal business name?
A legal business name is the name you write on tax forms, contracts, and other official documents.
Sole proprietor: Legal business name is the owner’s legal name.
General partnership: Legal name is the combined last names of the partners.
Formal entity: Legal name is the business name on the formation paperwork. Usually needs to include an entity identifier, like “LLC,” “Inc.” “LP,” etc.