North Dakota DBA
How to Get a Trade Name in North Dakota
If you’re conducting business in North Dakota and you’re using a name that isn't your legal business name, you'll need to register that name as a North Dakota DBA. A DBA is like a nickname for your business. All types of businesses, from North Dakota side-hustling sole proprietorships to general partnerships, LLCs, and even corporations can use DBAs to conduct business. Referred to as trade names in North Dakota, DBAs can be used to open a business bank account, set up payments systems, pay vendors, market on social media, or establish a new brand or service. A North Dakota DBA costs $25 and lasts for five years. Here’s what you need to know.
Your North Dakota DBA Guide:
What is an North Dakota DBA ?
A DBA—which stands for “doing business as”—allows you to conduct business under a name that isn’t your legal business name. For example, if electrician Marcus Smart owns his business as a sole proprietor, he might use a DBA to operate as “Smart Electric,” instead of using his name. DBAs are often used by franchise businesses. For example, if you own a Dunkin’ Donuts, the legal name of your business might be Dakota Donuts, LLC,” but you’ll need to get a DBA in order to use the Dunkin’ name. A DBA informs the public that a business entity is operating under an assumed name that’s different from the legal name of the owner.
DBAs can be used almost exactly as you would use a legal business name. You can use a DBA to:
- Create websites and social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, etc…)
- Advertise on billboards, print media, radio, television, etc…
- Engage with customers on business cards, company letterhead, hats, coffee mugs, T-shirts, etc…
- Open a business bank account to keep your sales organized and write checks to vendors
- Set up a point-of-sale system
A DBA by itself also doesn’t offer any sort of asset protection in the event of a lawsuit or bankruptcy. You’ll need an LLC or corporation for that. Keep in mind, your DBA is just a name for your business and not a business itself. This means you’ll still file taxes using your legal business name and existing EIN (or SSN for most sole proprietors).
What’s unique about DBA registration in North Dakota?
Most states let franchisees simply register a DBA in order to use the corporate brand name their business is associated with. North Dakota requires franchisees to file franchise information with the Secretary of State before using the franchise name. The Franchise Name Disclosure is the same form used for filing a Trade Name Registration.
Why Register a North Dakota DBA?
Any North Dakota business that uses a name that isn’t its legal business name is required by law (ND Cent. Code § 47-25-02) to register that name with the state. Beyond legality, there are many other reasons businesses register DBAs. Here are a few of the most popular:
You’re a North Dakota Sole Proprietor
A sole proprietorship is an unregistered business owned by one person. This means there is no legal separation between business and business owner, so the legal business name is the full name of the owner. Because of this, many sole proprietors choose to get a DBA so they don’t have to do business under their own name. A DBA can give a sole proprietor a more professional name and image that better describes their products or services.
You Want a Different Name for Your Business
DBAs aren’t just for sole proprietors. For example, if an LLC or corporation has a legal business name that no longer describes the services or products offered, a DBA allows them to get a new name without having to register a brand new business or file state paperwork to amend the business name. If “Bismarck Fine Cabinets, LLC” wants to expand beyond just cabinets, a DBA like “Bismarck Contracting” may make sense.
You Use Your Domain Name as Your Business Name
If you’re only using your domain as an address for your company’s website, you won’t need a DBA. However, if you’re using your domain name as a business name (for example, if customers are writing checks addressed to your domain name) you’ll need to register your DBA.
You Want to Expand Your Brand
A DBA is an affordable way for business owners to add new services, expand their product lines, or even take the business in a new direction. Imagine you own a guitar store named “Frank’s Guitars LLC,” but you want to branch out into recording local bands. You could choose to start a whole new business, or you could register a DBA and name your new recording studio “Bastion Works Recordings.” For just $25 you can get a whole new business with a name and all sorts of marketing possibilities, all while maintaining your original business and its legal name.
Will a DBA keep my personal information off the public record?
No. North Dakota’s DBA application requires you to list the name and address of the person or people applying. All of that information will go on public record, easily searched by anyone who’s looking for it. In order to live privately as a business owner, your best option is to hire a North Dakota registered agent and to form a North Dakota LLC. When you hire Northwest, we’ll list our name and address on the public record instead of yours wherever the state allows. We do this to keep your private information out of the public eye.
How to Register a DBA in North Dakota
To register a trade name in North Dakota, you’ll need to file a Trade Name Registration or Franchise Name Disclosure form with the North Dakota Secretary of State. But first, you’ll need to make sure that the trade name you want is available.
To start, you’ll need to search North Dakota’s Business Search database to see if your DBA name is available. In general it is also a good idea to perform a federal trademark search of your DBA name to make sure it isn’t registered at the national level.
You’ll also need to adhere to North Dakota’s ND Cent. Code § 47-25-03 when it comes to choosing a DBA name. Your DBA name can’t:
- Be the same as or deceptively similar to any name reserved or registered in the state.
- Contain the word “corporation”, “Inc.”, “limited”, “limited liability company”, “LLC,” or any abbreviation of an entity identifier unless the business is that type of entity.
In order to complete the Trade Name Registration or Franchise Name Disclosure, the following information is required:
- Trade name to be registered
- Name, phone number, and address of principal place of business
- Nature of the business (ex: carpentry)
- Entity type associated with trade
- Name, social security number, and business address of the owners
- Signature and date
DBA registration costs $25 and can be submitted by mail, fax, or online. If registering by fax, you’ll need to fill out the credit card authorization form on page 3 of the registration documents.
North Dakota FirstStop
North Dakota Secretary of State
State of North Dakota
600 E Boulevard Avenue Dept 108
Bismarck ND 58505-0500
Registering a DBA vs. Starting a Business in North Dakota
Registering a DBA should not be confused with starting a business. A DBA is a tool businesses can use to market themselves under a different name. Starting a business may involve getting a DBA, but it doesn’t always. You’ll need a business before you can get a DBA.
1. Sell a product or service: Being in business is as simple as being paid to provide a service or sell a product. Did you just get paid $50 to tutor your neighbor’s kid? You’re a sole proprietor. Sole proprietorships (one owner) and general partnerships (two or more owners) are two of the most popular business types because they are easy to start and require no formation paperwork or filing fees.
2. Register your business with the state: If you want to create a formal business entity like an LLC or corporation, you’ll need to file formation documents with the state and pay a filing fee.
DBA vs. LLC in North Dakota
Both LLCs and DBAs are registered with the state, but only an entity with limited liability, like an LLC, gives business owners asset protection in the event of a lawsuit or bankruptcy. A DBA is just a name and not a separate business entity. A North Dakota LLC is a legal business entity, and the legal separation between an LLC and its owners (members) protects the assets of the LLC owners. For example, if an LLC defaults on a debt, the creditors can only go after the LLC’s assets, not the owner’s personal savings, car, or house.
If you’re a North Dakota sole proprietor and you only want a different name for your business, a DBA is what you need. But if you crave asset protection and a business name, an LLC is the perfect fit. Northwest can help you get one.
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North Dakota DBA FAQs
Is registering a DBA required in North Dakota?
Yes. North Dakota law, ND Cent. Code § 47-25-02, requires any business that uses a name different from its legal name to register that name with the state.
How much does it cost to get a DBA in North Dakota?
How long does it take to get a North Dakota DBA?
The state takes about 1-2 weeks to process DBA registration. Mailed filing will take longer due to postal times.
How long does DBA registration last in North Dakota?
Can I renew a North Dakota DBA?
Yes you can. North Dakota will mail you a renewal form about 60 days before expiration. You’ll need to fill out the form and mail it in, along with a check for $25.
Can I update my assumed name in North Dakota?
No. Once filed with the state, DBA names and other information on the registration form can’t be updated. This means you’ll need to cancel your current DBA and file for a new one in order to make any updates.
How do I cancel my North Dakota trade name?
There are no online or paper forms for trade name cancellation. To cancel a DBA in North Dakota, you’ll need to write a letter to the Secretary of State requesting that your trade name be canceled. You’ll also need to include a $10 check.
Do I need a separate bank account for my DBA?
No. Getting a DBA doesn’t create a new business, so you’re not required to get a new bank account. However, there’s also nothing stopping you from opening a dedicated business bank account for your DBA. Some business owners find that separate accounts helps to keep their finances organized.
Do I need a separate EIN for my DBA?
No. DBAs are just nicknames, not actual businesses, so you won’t need to get an EIN from the IRS for your DBA.
How many DBAs can I have in North Dakota?
North Dakota allows businesses to have as many DBAs they want. For each DBA, you will need to go through the same registration process and pay the $25 fee.
Can I sign a business contract with my DBA?
Since a DBA is just a name and not a legal entity, you’ll need to use the legal name of your business in order to enter into any contract. You’ll also want to be transparent that your business uses a DBA.For example, a sole proprietor using a DBA might sign a contract “Sarah Landry, DBA One Plus Two Tutoring.”
What is my legal business name?
Your business’s legal name is the name that is listed on its government documents (for example, state and tax filings).
- Formal entities like LLCs and corporations list their legal business name on their state formation documents. This includes the 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.