Georgia is known as one of the best places to do business in the US. While the state doesn’t have the lowest tax rates, it does have many characteristics making it very friendly to businesses. One key benefit is its low cost of living, which attracts a large customer base that businesses aim to serve. The Peach State is also home to some of the biggest and most well-known companies in the world, including the United Parcel Service (UPS), Home Depot, Delta Air Lines, MailChimp, Coca-Cola, and Calendly.
However, if you’re looking to grow your business enough to be like these, you’re going to need more than just a good place to set up shop. You’re going to need a good name, too—one that’s striking and compelling enough to draw potential customers into your doors. But how do you choose a good business name if your business is stuck with the name it’s registered with? You can use something called a DBA.
What Is a DBA?
A DBA, an acronym that stands for “doing business as,” is a fictitious name that can be used for your business in place of its real name. It’s an alias you register with your county so you can operate your business using a name that you prefer.
DBAs are usually referred to as “fictitious names,” “fictitious business names,” “assumed names,” or “assumed business names” in other states; the Peach State simply refers to them as “trade names.”
In Georgia, not all businesses are required to have a DBA, but they encourage those who want to operate under a different name to apply for one. Plus, while DBAs are primarily used for branding purposes, they have other uses and benefits you can take advantage of.
What Are The Advantages Of A DBA In Georgia?
Georgia DBAs provide you and your business with advantages to help your venture grow. They also make doing business somewhat easier to some extent. Here’s a quick look at how DBAs help you:
Provides a boost to your branding
The names businesses are stuck with depending on their structure. For example, sole proprietorships and general partnerships typically use the owners’ real names as the business name. Since trade names allow you to use any name you want, they can help your business establish your chosen brand.
The international hardware and software company based in Gwinnett County in Georgia, American Megatrends International LLC, is one example of this. While this company is known by its name, it mainly operates using the DBA name “AMI.” The acronym is easier to remember and also easier to pronounce.
Protects your personal information
DBAs can be used to protect your personal information and hide it from the public eye. While they do not necessarily obscure your details from the county records, they allow you to hide your name from consumer-facing materials. If you’re a sole proprietor and your business doesn’t have a DBA, you will have to put your name on promotional materials like posters and flyers.
It helps you diversify your business
DBAs can also help you expand your business’s offerings and services. If you plan to offer products that are very different from what you already have or want to try your hand at a separate project, you won’t need to form a new company for that purpose. Simply apply for a DBA for that project, then list the new venture under your existing business. The new venture gains its own name but remains a part of your primary business.
Necessary when franchising
If you’re thinking of purchasing a franchise from a well-known brand, then you’ll need a DBA to operate using its name. When you purchase a franchise from the well-known Georgia-based cookie company known as the Great American Cookie Co., for instance, you will have to first register the business with the state using a different name and then file a DBA for it. The company uses the DBA name “Great American Cookies.”
First, register the franchise first as “Great American Cookie Franchise 375 Macon” if you plan to set it up in Macon City. You will then need to file a DBA for the name “Great American Cookies.”
Banks will ask you for it
Georgia does not require businesses to have DBAs unless they plan to operate using another name. Most banks in the state, on the other hand, require businesses to have one. DBAs are used to open bank accounts for your businesses. Having separate bank accounts allows you to segregate your personal and business finances. If you have more than one venture and have DBAs for each, you can even open individual bank accounts for them. This will help you manage your finances more properly.
What Are The Disadvantages Of A DBA In Georgia?
Although DBAs bring many benefits to you and your business, they also have some limitations. For instance, DBAs do not protect your personal assets from the effects of lawsuits hurled at your business. If your business gets sued for valid reasons, such as negligence, and loses in court, you might be forced to pay penalties using properties and other assets under your name. You need to get insured to protect your personal assets, specifically if your business is not a Georgia LLC or corporation.
Also, while your DBA has to be unique and creative enough to accurately present your business’s identity, it has to abide by Georgia’s naming requirements. This means your DBA must not include the following:
- Words or terms implying that the business was set up for illegal purposes
- The words “bank,” “banking,” “loan,” “savings,” “trust,” and other words used in the finance industry. You must receive prior approval from the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance to use them.
- Words and suffixes used to indicate a business structure, such as “Corporation,” “Corp.,” “Incorporated,” “Inc.,” “LLC,” “LLP,” and so on—unless these are your business’s actual structure.
- The words “college” and “university” unless you have prior approval from the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission
- The words “assurance,” “reassurance,” “fidelity,” “Insurance,” “indemnity,” “surety,” and other words used in the insurance industry. You can use these if you have prior approval from the Georgia Office of Insurance and Safety Commissioner.
Lastly, if you want to protect your Georgia DBA name from being used by others, you need to get a trademark for it. You register your DBA with the local county but file a trademark with the Georgia Secretary of State.
How To Get A DBA In Georgia
The process of filing and registering a DBA for your business in Georgia is straightforward and easy to understand. You might have to do a bit more compared to other states, however. Here’s what you need to do:
Prepare a few DBA names
Prepare a few trade names you want to use for your business. You will need at least three since only three can be submitted at a time when you reserve a name. Make sure the names do not include words prohibited by the state.
Search for your DBA name’s availability
Next, visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s website, as well as the local Superior Court county clerk’s office, to verify the availability of your preferred DBA name. Visit the Georgia Superior Courts website to find a complete list of county clerk offices. After verifying the availability of your preferred DBA, you can reserve it for 30 days.
File your DBA with the county clerk
After reserving your preferred DBA, or at least verifying its availability, you must then file it with the local Superior Court county clerk in the county where you are doing business in. Complete the Application to Register a Business to be Conducted Under a Trade Name form and submit it by mail or in person.
Place a Public Notice of your Registration
Lastly, you must publish a copy of your DBA name registration in an approved local newspaper at least once a week for two consecutive weeks. The notice must be published in a newspaper the sheriff’s office uses for legal advertisements. Make sure to provide the newspaper with accurate information, and keep a copy of the Publisher’s Affidavit after the notice has been published.
How Much Does A DBA Cost In Georgia?
The cost of filing DBAs in Georgia varies by county, so make sure to inquire before proceeding. DBAs in Fulton County, for example, cost a total of $172. Georgia DBAs do not expire and do not need to be renewed.
Before filing a DBA, you have the option to reserve your chosen name by paying a fee of $25 every 30 days. This allows you to hold the name temporarily while you prepare to file the DBA. If you need more time to finalize your plans, you can reapply for the name reservation and pay the $25 fee again to extend the reservation period.
Frequently Asked Questions About A DBA
Here are the most commonly asked questions about forming a DBA:
Georgia DBAs can take as many as four weeks to process. The exact duration, however, varies with the county. Make sure to apply ahead of time if you plan to use them earlier. File in person if you want a time-stamped hard copy.
Can I have more than one DBA in Georgia?
Yes. You can have as many DBAs as you need. Make sure to file in the local Superior Court county clerk.
Yes. You will need to complete a new Application to Register a Business to be Conducted Under a Trade Name form, submit it, and pay the filing fee along with a cross-referencing fee. The amounts vary with the county.
Yes. To cancel or withdraw your DBA, you will need to course it through the Superior Court county clerk where you registered it. You need to complete an Affidavit to Cancel Registered Trade Name or similar form and pay a fee to cancel your DBA.
No. DBAs do not protect your personal assets from lawsuits. You need to get insurance to cover possessions and properties under your name in the event that your business gets sued and loses.