If you run a business under an assumed name in West Virginia, 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 West Virginia, 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 cheap LLC services that can help you take care of the paperwork.
Do You Need a West Virginia Trade Name?
Not all business entities in West Virginia 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 West Virginia 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.
In order to protect consumers from fraud, West Virginia requires registration of a Trade Name if an entity uses a name that’s different from its legal name. All entities will file with the West Virginia Secretary of State.
1) File Your Trade Name with the West Virginia Secretary of State
In West Virginia, there is no limit to the number of Trade Names you can register. However, any and all Trade Names must be distinguishable on the record of the Secretary of State. Essentially, your name must have at least one word’s difference from other names which have been filed.
To determine whether or not your name is available for you to use, you should check it. How you do so, however, depends on your entity type. Sole proprietorships, individuals, and general partnerships must inquire about name availability with the West Virginia State Tax Department. Other entity types can run a Business Organization Search to check their name against the Secretary of State’s records.
Once you’ve determined that your Trade Name is available to use, you can register it with the Secretary of State. The form you use will depend on your entity type. You can find the forms here as well as a link to the One Stop Business Portal where you can file online.
Fees for this registration are not always the same. Individuals, General Partnerships, and Sole Proprietorships can file for free; the fee is $25 for other entities. You can pay by check, money order, or credit card. (There may also be additional convenience fees for online filings).
Registering your Trade Name does not technically protect your name, even though future entities must make their names distinct from yours. That said, if you’d like to ensure that your name is protected, you can consider registering it as a trademark.
2) Maintaining your West Virginia Trade Name
In West Virginia, Trade Names do not expire, so you will not need to worry about filing any renewals. However, if you ever decide to stop using your name, you’ll need to file a withdrawal. You can find the forms you’ll need here.
The fees to withdraw a name are the same as the initial registration.
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 West Virginia Trade Name.