DBA in West Virginia
Businesses looking to establish their unique brand and make lasting impressions with their customers need a good name to do that. Sadly, these names are limited by the business’s actual structure. Sole proprietorships, for example, use their owner’s real name to register their business.
Thankfully, businesses have a way to use a name different from what they used during their formation: DBAs. If you’re a business owner in West Virginia looking to use another name for your venture, you’re in the right place.
What Is a DBA?
DBA is an abbreviation that stands for “doing business as.” It’s a fictitious name used in place of the business’s actual registered name. It’s not a separate entity distinguishable from the business you own. It’s just an alias that allows you to operate using another name for your business.
DBAs are known as fictitious business names in other states, but in West Virginia, they are most commonly referred to as “Trade names.” Getting a trade name will benefit your business in many ways. Thankfully, it’s not hard to get them.
What Are The Advantages Of A DBA In West Virginia?
Trade names provide your business with some advantages that could help both your business and you, the owner. Here’s a quick look at them:
Branding made easier
Trade names are primarily used to help businesses establish their chosen brands. They play a crucial role in effectively communicating the services and products offered by a business to potential customers. In fact, trade names enable businesses to make an impression on potential customers even before they physically enter the business’s premises.
Consider Gabriel Brothers Inc., the American department store retail chain based in Morgantown, West Virginia. You might not know them by that name because they go by a name that is more consumer-friendly and memorable: Gabe’s. This retail giant has been using this trade name for a long time now and is one of the names associated with affordable goods like clothes and footwear, as well as food and general merchandise.
Business owners are able to hide behind an additional layer of privacy by operating using a trade name. Sole proprietors, for one, won’t have to put their names on promotional materials. By opting for a trade name, they can avoid having their personal names featured on posters, flyers, business cards, and even social media posts.
Bigger companies can also enjoy this added layer of privacy. In the example provided above, Gabriel Brothers. didn’t have to put the company’s whole name on their promotional materials and signages. The name “Gabe’s” is enough.
It can be used when diversifying
DBAs can help businesses diversify. Those looking to try their hands at different ventures do not need to form a new company for it. You can simply use a trade name for each venture you want to start on the side.
Consider the company named Darden Restaurants, Inc. While its headquarters can be found in Florida, it is one of the largest private employers in West Virginia. It uses DBAs to open new restaurants that offer different food and dining experiences.
This huge restaurant operator owns three fine-dining restaurants:
- Ruth’s Chris Steak House
- Eddie V’s
- The Capital Grille
The restaurant company also owns six casual dining restaurants, namely:
- Olive Garden Italian Restaurant
- LongHorn Steakhouse
- Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen
- Bahama Breeze
- Seasons 52
- Yard House
Each restaurant is different from another, not just by their names—but by their offering and target clientele. This strategic approach allows Darden Restaurants to effectively manage and differentiate its diverse dining establishments while maintaining the overall umbrella of the parent company. You can do something like this using DBAs.
For banking purposes
West Virginia doesn’t require all businesses to get DBAs, but most banks do. By opening a bank account using DBAs, you will also be able to separate your personal finances from that of your businessbusiness’s. If you have several ventures already, you will be able to segregate the finances for each business as well. This separation helps you avoid potential complications and pitfalls that often arise from mixing personal and business funds.
What Are The Disadvantages Of A DBA In West Virginia?
Trade names provide West Virginian entrepreneurs like you with many benefits. They do have some limitations, however, and not knowing these could be disadvantageous for your operations.
For instance, DBAs do not provide protections for your personal assets in case your business gets sued and loses the case. This is especially concerning for sole proprietorships and general partnerships since these business structures do not provide asset protection. If your business is a sole proprietorship, you must get insurance to protect your belongings. Those who run West Virginia LLCs and corporations don’t need insurance to protect their personal assets.
Next, the state of West Virginia has a couple of naming restrictions you need to abide by when choosing a trade name. This means you cannot just use any name you want. Per the state’s rules, business trade names must not include the following:
- Words or terms that would falsely imply that your business is a government agency. These include “Agency,” “Board,” “Bureau,” “Commission,” “Department,” “Division,” “Municipal,” and so on.
- Words or terms that are vulgar and offensive. West Virginia respects free speech but will not allow business names to have offensive language in them.
- Words or suffixes indicate the business’s structure unless the business actually uses that structure. These include “LLC,” “L.L.C.,” “Limited Liability Company,” “Corporation,” “Corp.,” “LLP,” “L.L.P.,” and so on.
- Words that could falsely imply that your business deals with banking, finance, and insurance—your business is actually in that sector unless. These include words such as “bank,” “banking,” “insurance,” and so on.
- The word “engineer” in any form whatsoever, unless your business is in this sector.
How To Get A DBA In West Virginia
The process of getting a DBA (Doing Business As) in West Virginia is easy and straightforward. If you follow these steps correctly, you’ll get your business trade name without any problems.
Search for your preferred DBA
First, visit the West Virginia Secretary of State’s website to search for your preferred trade name’s availability. Come up with a few preferred DBAs so that you have alternatives in case the one you really want is not available. The name you want must follow the naming restrictions above.
West Virginia doesn’t allow businesses to have exclusive trade names, meaning that even if you successfully register a DBA, there’s a chance that others will be able to use the same name as well. Still, be sure that your trade name is unique. This will help you successfully establish the brand you want for your business.
If the name you want is available, but you aren’t ready to file a DBA for it yet, you can have it reserved for $15. Once reserved, the name is yours for 120 days.
File your DBA with the West Virginia Secretary of State
After verifying that your preferred DBA is available, proceed to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s website to file it. You can also download forms corresponding to your business’s structure, complete them, then submit them by mail or in person.
Regardless of business structure, the forms will require you to provide the following information:
- The trade name you want to register
- Your details, including your contact information
- Your business’s address
Sole proprietorships and general partnerships registered through the West Virginia State Tax Department need to use the Trade Name Registration form TN-1. Other business structures, such as corporations, LLCs, and LLPs, are to use the Application for Trade Name (DBA) form NR-3 and mail it back to the Secretary of State’s office.
File the appropriate forms and pay the required filing fee to have your DBA registered. Sole proprietors and general partnerships do not need to pay anything, but other business structures do. Once your DBA is registered, you won’t have to worry about it expiring and needing periodic renewals. West Virginia trade names do not expire and do not need renewing.
How Much Does A DBA Cost In West Virginia?
West Virginia doesn’t charge sole proprietors and general partnerships a dime to file DBAs. Other business structures, such as corporations and LLCs, on the other hand, need to pay $25.
Those who want to register their preferred DBAs can take advantage of the West Virginia Secretary of State’s expedited processing services for a fee.
- 24-hour processing time – $25
- 2-hour processing time – $250
- 1-hour processing time – $500
Frequently Asked Questions About A DBA
Here are the most commonly asked questions about forming a DBA:
West Virginia will take 5-10 business days to process a DBA. If you’re in a hurry, you can avail of the state’s expedited services to get your DBA in a very short time. It’s costly to expedite the process, however.
No. West Virginia doesn’t allow making changes to existing trade names. You will have to file for a new DBA with the Secretary of State if you want to change your business name.
Yes. You have the option to cancel or withdraw your existing DBA. You can do this online via the West Virginia Secretary of State’s website or by downloading the form that corresponds to your actual business structure:
- Trade Name (DBA) Withdrawal (form TN-2) for Sole Proprietorship and General Partnerships
- Certificate of Withdrawal of Trade Name (from NR-4) – for corporations, LLCs, and so on.
Yes. You can have as many or as few DBAs in West Virginia as long as you pay the filing fees required by the state. Each DBA you register in the state must go through the complete application process.