Washington DC DBAOne of the most important parts of any business is its name. Your limited liability company’s name is your first impression with prospective clients, whether they hear about your business by word of mouth, drive past a billboard advertising your business on the freeway, or if they stumble upon your business as a result of a Google search.

One way to change your business name — or to add an additional name that your LLC can use interchangeably — is by filing a “doing business as” name application, commonly known as a DBA. There are many reasons to get a DBA — from marketing a new product line to granting a sole proprietorship the ability to use an assumed name — so this article will walk you through the process of registering a DBA for your Washington, D.C. LLC.

Keep in Mind: A DBA does not provide you with asset protection. However an LLC does and allows you to operate under the business name of your choice as long as it is not already claimed. Plus, it is fairly straightforward to file through an LLC formation service (like ZenBusiness) or on your own.
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What Is a DBA?

To begin, let’s quickly run down what exactly a DBA is. One point of confusion we often hear about is that a DBA is not a business entity, like an LLC, corporation, sole proprietorship, general partnership, etc. Instead, you can think of a DBA as an add-on feature of sorts.

The DBA allows you to create alternate business names for your entity, which you can then use interchangeably with your LLC’s official business name. In addition, for informal business entities that don’t have exclusive business names (like sole proprietorships and general partnerships), a DBA can be a great way to inject some additional professionalism into a business venture.

But let’s talk strictly about LLCs, shall we? Why would an LLC want an additional business name? There are several potential reasons, although they obviously vary considerably depending on what your business does. One popular reason is to differentiate a new product line from a company’s existing offerings.

Let’s say that you own a business called “Fine Footwear, LLC” that produces high-end shoes. If you decide to also start a new product line that sells inexpensive flip-flop sandals, you might want a way to differentiate this brand from your core business. In this circumstance, you could register a DBA for “Flip-Flops by Fine Footwear,” and you can use this name to market your new products, while your original product line remains unaffected if your sandal side business fails.

It could also be helpful if you decide to expand your local business into a new market. For instance, if you own a Washington, D.C.-based plumbing business called “Georgetown Plumbing,” and you want to expand beyond Georgetown, you can register a DBA for “Capitol Hill Plumbing” and use that name in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

The District of Columbia provides exclusive rights to your DBA name that prevent other entrepreneurs from registering a name that’s too similar to your trade name. This makes the DBA a better option in Washington, D.C. than it is in most states, and we wouldn’t hesitate to register a DBA for our D.C. LLC.

In the next section, we’ll walk through the process of DBA registration in Washington, D.C.

How to Get a DBA for a Washington, D.C. LLC

First off, we’ll note that Washington, D.C. typically refers to DBAs as “trade names,” but for the purposes of this article, we’ll continue to use both terms interchangeably because most states use the term “DBA.”

The process for obtaining a DBA in Washington, D.C. starts with a search of the District’s business database to make sure the name you want to register isn’t already in use. Once you’ve verified the eligibility of your desired trade name, you can fill out the Trade Name Registration form.

The information necessary to complete this form includes your LLC’s official business name, your business phone number and email address, the trade name you’re registering, an indication that your business is an LLC, your federal tax ID number (EIN), your full legal name and address, your LLC’s business address, your registered agent’s name and address, and your signature.

When you’re ready to file this form, you can submit it to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Corporations Division online, by mail, or by hand. This form has a $55 filing fee. Washington, D.C., processes most business filings within five business days, but you can expedite your order: $100 for same-day service or $50 for three-day service. It’s important to note that if you drop off your forms in person, you are required to purchase expedited service.

In Conclusion

To be honest, we often say that entrepreneurs shouldn’t bother with DBAs because they don’t provide any exclusivity for your business name. However, Washington, D.C. actually does a solid job in this regard compared to most states.

Washington, D.C.’s pledge to provide name exclusivity for any trade name registered here makes the DBA an interesting proposition in this jurisdiction, and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this option to any of our readers.

If you’re looking for a new way to market your LLC in Washington, D.C., a DBA isn’t a bad idea.

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