If you run a business under an assumed name in Montana, 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 Montana, the DBA is actually called an “Assumed Business Name” (ABN) Essentially, they’re the same concept. Assumed Business Name is just the terminology used by the state. For consistency, we’ll call it an ABN 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 cheap LLC services that can help you take care of the paperwork.
Do You Need a Montana ABN?
Not all business entities in Montana need an ABN. Ordinarily, a business needs an ABN 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 an ABN in order to use that name. An ABN 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 an ABN. They may choose to use one if they want to establish a new product line or chain of businesses under their original parent company.
An ABN does present a few advantages. While it doesn’t offer any specific legal protections or tax incentives, an ABN 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.
Montana requires all entities to register their ABN, even if their business name includes the legal name of their entity. For example, if Jane Smith, a sole proprietor, wants to run her business as Jane Smith’s Cupcakes, Montana requires her to register that name.
1) File Your ABN with the Montana Secretary of State
In Montana, all ABNs must be distinguishable from other business names in the state. This is different from other states, where there could be multiple businesses using the same name. Registering does not technically grant you ownership of the name, but since no other entities can use a name that’s already on the record, you do have a sort of name protection.
Before you file your ABN with the Secretary of State, you’ll need to make sure your name is distinguishable from those on the record. You can do so by running a Montana Business Search. This search will let you know if there are any businesses already using the ABN you have in mind. If no exact matches pop up, then your ABN is probably free to use.
Now it’s time to register your name with the Secretary of State. Montana exclusively offers an online filing option using ePass. If you’re already operating in Montana, you likely already have an account. If not, you’ll need to set one up before filing. This online form will include information about you and your business, including contact information and, of course, your desired ABN.
There is a $20 fee for this registration. Since you’re filing online, it’s easiest to pay by credit card.
2) Maintaining your Montana ABN
Your initial registration is valid for five years. After that, if you want to continue using your ABN, you’ll need to file a renewal. You can file this with ePass, and the fee is the same as the initial registration.
If there are any changes to your name, you’ll need to alert the Secretary of State. The same applies if you want to cancel use of the ABN. There is no fee to cancel, but there are fees to file amendments. You can consult this PDF for a full list of business filing fees.
Need Help Filing your ABN?
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 Montana ABN.