How to Register a DBA in Maine (Step-by-Step Guide)
When starting a business in Maine, many important decisions must be made. The amount of legal jargon and terms can feel overwhelming for small business owners. This article will explain what a DBA means, provide a step-by-step guide to applying for one in Maine, and explain when or why you might need a DBA.
What is a DBA?
The DBA acronym, meaning “doing business as,” refers to a company or individual conducting business operations under a fictitious name. They are also referred to as “fictitious business names,” “assumed names,” and “trade names.”
DBAs are viable if a business wants to use a more marketable trade name than its official title. A DBA allows a business to use a different name while still being legally accountable for the business under its legal name.
For instance, if John Smith operates a sole proprietorship that sells handmade candles, he can register a DBA name, such as “The Candle Co. by John,” to promote his products and services instead of using his own name.
The process for registering a DBA varies by state. Generally, the process involves
- Selecting a unique business name
- Verifying its availability
- Filing the appropriate forms with the relevant government agency, such as the Secretary of State or county clerk’s office.
- Paying a filing fee associated with the registration process
Maine DBA name registration
Choose your name
Before you search to see if your proposed name is available, you need to think of it. It’s important to keeping mind the naming guidelines and rules in Maine.
The state law mandates that the name should be unique or too similar to an existing business name in Maine.
In Maine, it is not allowed to use assumed names that contain:
- Words that may confuse your business and government agencies (such as the FBI, Treasury, State Department, etc.)
- Words that suggest the company is established for illegal purposes
- Obscene language
- Language that falsely indicates an affiliation with public institutions
- The terms savings, savings bank, bank, banker, banking, trust, trust company, trust & banking company, and credit union (including any plurals or variations) without prior approval from the Maine Bureau of Financial Institutions
Check name availability
You can do this by running a business name search on the Maine Secretary of State website.
The search will show whether another Maine business already uses the name.
After confirming that your name isn’t in use in Maine, we recommend checking to see if the web domain of your name is available. Buying the domain is a good idea to prevent others from getting hold of the URL. You can then set up your business website – a valuable tool for marketing yourself.
Register your name
Registering a DBA name differs for formal business entities (corporations and limited liability companies) and informal business entities (sole proprietors and general partnerships).
If you are a formal business entity, such as a corporation or LLC, you must file a “Statement of Intention to Transact Business Under an Assumed or Fictitious Name” form with the Maine Secretary of State’s office.
In Maine, there is a differentiation between an assumed and fictitious name, although both require the same registration form. An assumed name is similar to a DBA, whereas a fictitious name is utilized by a foreign company (i.e., not operating in Maine) that cannot use its actual name.
This form can be downloaded from the Secretary of State’s website or obtained in person at their office. The form will require you to provide the following information:
- Your business’s legal name
- The DBA name you have chosen
- The address of your business
- The type of formal business entity (e.g., corporation, LLC, etc.)
- The date your business started using the DBA name in Maine (if applicable)
- The signature of an authorized representative of your business
When you have completed the forms, you file them at:
Secretary of State
Division of Corporations, UCC, and Commissions
101 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0101
Sole proprietors and general partnerships must file in each city where their business is conducted or transacted.
We will provide a detailed guide if you require instructions for filing in the City of Portland.
To obtain instructions for other cities, please contact your city clerk.
You can obtain your city’s contact information from the Maine Secretary of State’s website.
In Portland, there are separate forms for general partnerships and sole proprietors.
The forms generally involve filling in the following:
- The full name and address of the applicant (individual or entity)
- The assumed name to be registered
- The address where the assumed name will be used
- A description of the business or activity
- The date when the business activity will begin
The form must be notarized before it is submitted.
You can submit your forms by mail or in person at:
City of Portland
389 Congress Street
Portland, ME 04101
Pay your filing fees
- For assumed names, the cost is $125.
- If you want your forms expedited, you can have them returned the next business day for an additional $50.
- You can have your forms returned the same business day for an additional $100.
- For fictitious names (for businesses outside of Maine), the cost is $40.
- You can pay by cash, check, or credit card.
- The cost is $10.
- If you want your forms expedited, contact your city office.
Renew, amend, or withdraw your DBA
- Renewal of Maine’s assumed business name is not required.
- To change the assumed name, contact the Maine Bureau of Corporations, Elections, and Commissions at (207) 624-7736.
- To withdraw the assumed name, fill out the appropriate form, including a $20 fee, and submit it to the Secretary of State.
- Your new business name doesn’t expire.
- Contact your local city office to withdraw a DBA for a sole proprietorship or partnership.
- For the City of Portland, you must fill out and return this form, along with a $10 fee.
Obtain an EIN
The IRS issues an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to identify business entities for tax purposes.
Using a DBA does not create a separate legal entity.
Sole proprietors without employees can use their Social Security number as a tax ID. Still, an EIN is required if the DBA hires employees or establishes a separate business bank account.
You can apply for an EIN online or by mail.
Open a business bank account
Once you have your EIN, you can open a business bank account under your new name.
A separate bank account helps keep your business finances separate from your personal assets.
- Maine Department of the Secretary of State corporate name search portal
- Maine Secretary of State’s city directory
- Maine Corporate Filings
- Formal Forms
- Withdrawal forms
- Informal Forms
- Portland – General Partnerships
- Portland – Sole Proprietorships
- Portland – withdrawal form
- EIN online application
Advantages and disadvantages of a DBA
There are many advantages to registering a DBA:
- Enhanced flexibility: A DBA name can be altered or updated more quickly and efficiently than a legal business name, which allows business owners to adapt to shifts in their products, services, or market conditions with greater flexibility.
- Segregation of personal assets and business finances: Registering for a DBA allows a business bank account to be opened, allowing for using the business name on financial transactions instead of the account holder’s name. This permits the receipt and issuance of checks using the new name.
- Increased branding opportunities: A well-crafted name can be more descriptive and memorable than a legal name. This alias can help increase brand recognition and improve marketing and advertising opportunities. Filing for a DBA protects brands by prohibiting others from using the same name in certain states and counties.
- Cost-effective solution: Compared to other business structures, such as Corporations or Limited Liability Companies (LLCs), registering for a DBA is generally less expensive and less complex, making it a cost-effective alternative for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
There are a few drawbacks to registering for a DBA, such as:
- Limited legal protection: Unlike other business structures, such as LLCs, DBAs do not offer liability protection. This can mean that the owner is personally responsible for all debts, obligations, and lawsuits related to the business.
Who needs a DBA?
- Sole proprietors: Individuals who run a business independently without creating a separate legal entity can benefit from a DBA. It allows them to use a different name for marketing their products or services and adapt to market changes more easily.
- Partnerships: Joint ventures between two or more individuals who want to operate under a different name than the partners’ names can use a DBA to represent their partnership and increase brand recognition.
- Corporations: A business specializing in web design and development may file a DBA such as “Web Design Solutions” to differentiate its services from other web design businesses. Additionally, if a company has a subsidiary that offers recruitment services under the name “Casting Solutions LLC” but they also want to provide printing services, it can form a DBA named “Printing Services” to distinguish the two activities.
- Limited liability companies (LLCs): LLCs can file a DBA to conduct business under a different name or brand while enjoying the benefits of a flexible business structure that limits personal liability and protects assets.
Why or why wouldn’t you need a DBA?
You would need a DBA if:
- Operating under a different name: A DBA is necessary if you want to operate your business under a name that isn’t your legal or company name.
- Better marketing and branding: If you want to use a trading name that is more memorable or descriptive of your products or services, a DBA can help.
- Diversifying business activities: If you’re a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or LLC looking to conduct business under multiple names, a DBA is required.
- Testing new products or markets: A DBA can allow you to try new products or markets without changing your legal name.
You may not need a DBA if:
- Using legal name: A DBA is not needed if you’re operating your business under your personal or legal company name.
Do I need to publish my DBA in a newspaper?
It is not necessary to publish your DBA in a local newspaper in Maine, but there are many benefits to advertising your new business name.
Does a DBA mean I now have a business license?
No, you may need to obtain a business license separately to legally operate your business in your area. The specific requirements and procedures for obtaining a business license vary by location and the type of business.
Can I file online?
There is no way to file for your new DBA name online, but you can download many online forms and mail them in.
Can my Maine DBA be used in other states?
State-level laws exist to prevent similar DBAs from being used, but there is no protection for your name outside of Maine. Creating a federal trademark for your DBA can offer stronger protection across state lines.
How long does it take to process my DBA?
It can take Maine 10-15 business days to process a DBA. You can file for expedited services if you are in a hurry.
Can I sell my DBA name?
Yes, you can sell your DBA name but you must transfer the registration to the new owner.
Find out how to register a DBA in your state
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