How to Get a Trade Name in Washington
A Washington DBA is a name that your business can use instead of its legal name. Washington calls DBAs “trade names,” and if you want to use one, you'll need to register it with the state. Any business—from Washington sole proprietors to massive corporations—can use a trade name. A Washington trade name can be used to add brands or services to a business, market a business on social media, take out ads in the local paper, and even open a business bank account. Registering a trade name in Washington involves filing a Business License Application with Washington's Department of Revenue and paying the registration fee. We’ll go over everything you need to know.
Your Washington DBA Guide:
What is a Washington DBA (Trade Name)?
A DBA (doing business as) name is an alternative name that businesses can use instead of using their legal business name. Officially referred to as a trade name in Washington, all types of business can use a DBA. In practice, a Washington DBA allows a business owner to use a different business name without having to get a whole new business. For example, imagine Sarah Jones is a sole proprietor who paints houses. As a sole proprietor, Sarah’s legal business name is simply “Sarah Jones.” Sarah might decide that she wants to change her business name to “Craft House Painting.” She can accomplish this by registering a Washington trade name (DBA).
Washington DBAs aren’t just for sole proprietors. All types of businesses can register a DBA, including general partnerships, LLCs, corporations, and nonprofits. Washington DBAs are also perpetual, which means they last for as long as you want them to, and are only canceled by filing the proper paperwork.
DBAs can be used in nearly the exact same way a legal business name can be used. This means that your DBA can be front and center on all marketing materials, social media accounts, and websites. You can even open a business bank account for your DBA, allowing you to write checks to vendors and accept customer payments under your DBA. However, it’s important to remember that a DBA is just a nickname for your business, not an official business name. This means that when it comes to paying state and federal taxes, you’ll need to use your legal business name.
Why Register a Washington DBA (Trade Name)?
Not every Washington business needs or wants a trade name. But if you plan to use a Washington DBA, RCW 19.80.010 requires that you register it with the state. If you use a DBA without registering it with the state, you won’t be allowed to file any legal suits until you’ve registered your trade name. (RCW 19.80.040). There are of course other reasons to get a DBA in Washington. Here are a few:
You operate as a sole proprietor or general partnership
If you’re a sole proprietor, the legal name of your business is your full name (for example, “Lauren Sanchez”). Operating a business using just your name might not be the best look. If you walks dogs, you might want to use a DBA like “Take Paws” to help your business appeal to more customers. Now you’ll be able to use your DBA on all sorts of marketing materials like social media accounts, business cards, and even a website.
You want to expand your brand
If you want to expand the reach of your business by adding a new brand, a DBA can help to separate it from the main part of your business. For example, if you run an adult clothing store under one business name, but you want to also sell baby apparel, a DBA can help. You’ll still be able to do business as your adult clothing store brand, while expanding your business to include baby clothing with a DBA. Essentially you can run two separate businesses, each with their own names, brands, and marketing, all for the cost of registering a DBA in Washington. If your business is a formal entity like an LLC or corporation, both businesses will still enjoy liability protection under the umbrella of the original entity.
You want to use your domain name as a business name
If you’ve got a business, “Fast Fried Chicken, LLC,” and you buy a domain name for your business, “fastestchicken.com,” and then use that domain name as your business name on marketing materials or social media accounts, you’ll need to register a trade name for your domain.
How to Register a Trade Name in Washington
To register a trade name in Washington, you’ll need to file a Business License Application with the Department of Revenue. Here are the steps:
Before attempting to register your trade name in Washington, you’ll need to make sure no other business is using your preferred name. Use Washington’s Business Lookup for a basic search of registered business names in the state.
Washington’s Business Licensing Service will do a search for you over the phone if you call (360)705-6741. You can even mail a letter to the Business Licensing Service that includes your preferred trade name(s) and a return address, and you’ll be mailed a response as to whether the name is available.
It’s also a good idea to do a quick online trademark search of your DBA name to make sure it isn’t registered at the federal level.
Along with making sure your preferred name is available, your trade name can’t:
- include an entity identifier like “LLC,” or “Inc.,” if the business is neither.
- use words like “bank,” “cooperative,” “association,” or any name (like a government agency) that could mislead customers.
- can’t be the same or overly similar to other business names already registered in the state.
Almost all businesses in Washington that have sales will need to apply for a business license in order to collect state sales tax. Washington’s Business License Application is also how you register a trade name. Heck yeah, two birds, one stone! If you haven’t filed for a license yet, you can get a license and a trade name at the same time. If you’ve already filed an application, you’ll still need to file one to get a trade name. While completing your application, you might notice that it allows multiple trade names to be registered at once. Each trade name you list will cost $5.
If you’ve previously filed, your business will have been assigned a UBI number (a nine-digit number business ID number that allows you to collect sales tax in Washington State). If you’re filing for the first time, you can skip the UBI number part, it will be assigned after you complete the application.
The information you’ll need in order to get a DBA includes:
- Legal name of business
- UBI number (if you have one)
- EIN number
- Purpose of application
- Trade name(s)
- Ownership structure (sole proprietor, partnership, LLC, corporation, etc…)
- Business open date
- Business name/trade name (if previously registered)
- Business mailing address/location
- Owner information (social security number, phone number, etc…)
- Whether you have employees
- Business type (drywall, logging, media, etc…)
- Signature of business owner or legal representative
The processing fee for a trade name varies. The initial application filing fee is $50, plus $5 per trade name. If you’ve previously filed an application and are just now getting a trade name, the filing fee will be $10, plus $5 per trade name. You can file online, by mail, or in person.
Washington Department of Revenue
Washington Department of Revenue
Business Licensing Service
PO Box 9034
Olympia WA 98507-9034
Local office locations
Filing a DBA vs. Starting a Business in Washington
Filing a DBA and starting a business are not the same thing. A business is an entity that usually exists to make a profit. A DBA is just a nickname for a business and not an entity on its own. A DBA can be used by a business to operate under a different name, but it isn’t a business itself. There are two ways to start a business in Washington:
Sell a product or service: Being in business is as easy as getting paid to provide a product or service. Sole proprietors (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. The minute you make a sale, you’re in business. However, you will still need a Washington business license. Neither a sole proprietorship nor a general partnership offer liability protection.
Register your business with the state: To form a business entity like an LLC or corporation, you’ll need to file formation documents with the state and pay any required fees. Formal entities like LLCs and corporations offer liability protection to their owners in the event of a lawsuit or bankruptcy.
DBA vs. LLC in Washington
A DBA is just a name for your business. It doesn’t offer protection of your personal assets like a Washington LLC. An LLC is a legal business entity that gives business owners liability protection in the event of a lawsuit or bankruptcy. Registering an LLC with the state creates a distinct legal entity, separate from the owners (members) of the business. It’s this separation that protects the personal assets (401k, car, house, savings, investments) of the owners of an LLC. A DBA is a tool that an LLC can use to operate under a different business name, but a DBA does not offer any liability protection.
For sole proprietors or general partnerships that just want an affordable way to get a unique business name, a Washington trade name (DBA) might be the way to go. But if you want an entity that will protect your assets, a Washington LLC is what you’re looking for, and Northwest can help you get one.
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Washington DBA FAQs
Is a DBA required in Washington?
A DBA is only required if you plan to do business under a name that isn’t the legal name of your business. Any business that uses a name that isn’t its legal name will have to register a Washington trade name.
What is the legal name of my business?
Your business’s legal name is the name your business uses on things like state and federal tax filings, business licenses, and other formal paperwork. If you’re a sole proprietor, your legal business name is your full name. The business name of a general partnership needs to contain the last names of its owners. The legal business name of registered business entities, like LLCs or corporations, is the name listed on the formation documents that were filed with the state.
How do I register a DBA in Washington?
You need to fill out a Business License Application (online or paper copy)and submit it to Washington’s Department of Revenue.
How much does it cost to get a DBA in Washington?
The base cost for a DBA in Washington is $5. However, to get a DBA you’ll need to file a form called a Business License Application. The first time you file a Business License Application, it will cost $50 plus $5 for a DBA. Most businesses will need to file a Business License Application in order to register their business with the state. So if you already filed for a license, but didn’t need a DBA for your business until later, the application cost will be $10 plus $5 per DBA that is registered.
How long does it take to get a Washington DBA?
Online filings are processed in about 10 business days. Paper filings can take up to three weeks to be processed.
Will I need to renew my Washington trade name?
No. Once registered, Washington trade names last for as long as you want them to.
Can I sign a business contract with my DBA?
When it comes to entering into a contract, you’ll need to sign using your legal business name. You can, if you want, include your DBA after your legal name.For example, imagine Lauren Sanchez has a DBA, “Weddings by Lauren,” for her wedding photography business. As a sole proprietor, her legal business name is her name. In order to ensure that her contracts hold up in court, she should sign as “Lauren Sanchez, DBA Weddings by Lauren.”
Can I change my trade name name in Washington?
Can I cancel my trade name in Washington?
Do I need a separate bank account for my DBA?
Nope. There is no legal requirement for a DBA to have a separate bank account. However, some business owners find that opening a business bank account that is dedicated to their DBA can help keep their finances better organized
Do I need a separate EIN for my DBA?
No. Certain businesses, including multi-member LLCs, corporations, and any business with employees, need an EIN, but you don’t need a separate EIN for a DBA.
How many DBAs can I have in Washington?
Washington allows businesses to register an unlimited number of DBAs.
How can I keep my personal information off the public record?
Hiring a Washington registered agent to form a Washington LLC is the best way to keep your personal information off public record. Not only does an LLC allow you to get the business name you want (as long as no one has already taken it), but if you hire Northwest to form your Washington LLC, we’ll use our address (where we can) in place of yours on all public filings. At Northwest, we do our best to help you live privately by keeping your name off public record as much as possible, which goes a long way to helping you avoid scammers, spammers, and all those other annoying grifters of modern life.