If you run a business under an assumed name in Maryland, you may want to set up a DBA. Short for “Doing Business As,” a DBA serves as an alternate title for your business. Often, a DBA is the name customers will use to refer to your company. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about DBAs: who needs one, who doesn’t, and two easy steps to filing with the state.
In Maryland, the DBA is actually called a “Trade Name.” Essentially, they’re the same concept. “Trade Name” is just the terminology used by the state. For consistency, we’ll call it a Trade Name throughout the rest of this guide.
NOTE: Keep in mind that filing a trade name will not give your business protection through the corporate veil like an LLC will. If this is something you want or need, don’t fret, there are many online services that can help you take care of the paperwork.
Do You Need a Maryland Trade Name?
Not all business entities in Maryland need a Trade Name. Ordinarily, a business needs a Trade Name when the name of their business differs from the name registered with the state.
So let’s say that Lauren operates a sole proprietorship; her legal business formation documents list her full name as the legal owner of the business. But if she wants to run her shop under the name Sew Sweet Creations, she’d need to file a Trade Name in order to use that name. A Trade Name is also useful for corporations which want to establish additional businesses or locations with a name that’s different from the Corporation name.
Limited liability companies, nonprofit corporations, and corporations operating exclusively under the name on file with the state usually do not need a Trade Name. They may choose to use one if they want to establish a new product line or chain of businesses under their original parent company.
A Maryland Trade Name does present a few advantages. While it doesn’t offer any specific legal protections or tax incentives, a Trade Name allows you to get a business bank account. You can also give your customers peace of mind—most people are more comfortable writing a check to a business than an individual.
Unlike some states, Maryland does not require entities to register their Trade Name. That said, it is recommended.
1) File Your Trade Name with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation
In Maryland, your name needs to be distinguishable from other entities on the state’s record. Basically, you cannot choose a name that is already in use by another entity.
To determine what names are already in use, you’ll need to run a Business Entity Search. You can simply type in your desired trade name; the search will pull up any business records which match that name. If no exact matches pop up, then your name is available to use.
Now that you know you’re name is available, you can file the Trade Name Application. This form includes some important information about your business, including your address, the legal name of your entity, and signatures of the business owners. You can file this form in person at the Department of Assessments and Taxation office or by mail, or you can use Maryland Business Express.
There is a $25 fee for this application. You can pay by check, cash, money order, or credit card. Checks should be made payable to the Department of Assessments and Taxation. A card is not accepted for in-person filings; these are considered to be expedited filings. The expediting fee is an additional $50.
2) Maintaining your Maryland Trade Name
Your initial name registration lasts for five years. After that, you’ll need to file a renewal with the Maryland Business Express. If you do not file a renewal, you’ll forfeit your Trade Name and need to file a new application. Similarly, you’ll need to file an amendment whenever you make changes to your name.
Like the initial registration, the amendment fee is $30.
Need Help Filing your Trade Name?
If this process sounds like a hassle, you can get help with setting up your business’s name with a service like Legalzoom. They make the process simple: you simply provide them with the necessary information about your company, and they’ll fill out the paperwork so you don’t have to. The process is both easy and affordable, letting you focus on running your business.
Your name is an important part of your business, but keeping compliant with state requirements can be tricky! We hope this guide made it quick and easy to set up your Maryland Trade Name.