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How to File a Massachusetts Business Certificate (DBA)

How to File a Massachusetts Business Certificate (DBA)

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How to File a Massachusetts Business Certificate (DBA)

In Massachusetts, a business operating under a fictitious name will need to register a DBA.  Learn more about what a DBA is, who needs one, and how to register.

Related: How to start a business in Massachusetts

What is the Business Certificate?

A Business Certificate, commonly known as a “Doing Business As,” DBA, Trade Name, Assumed Name, or Fictitious Name, is a name used by a business that is different from the legal name of the business.

When a business wants to operate under a name other than its legal name, the state of Massachusetts, like most states, requires the business to register its business name.  The registration requirement is under state statute, M.G.L. ch.110 §5, to protect consumers from business owners hiding anonymously behind the name of a business.

What is the Business Certificate good for?

A DBA is required for Massachusetts businesses that want to operate under a name that is different from the legal name of the owners or entity. The DBA registration provides information on the people operating a business, so if there is an issue, the owners of a business can be tracked down.  

In addition to the legal requirement, a DBA offers other benefits such as proving the existence of a business, opening a business bank account, registering a merchant account to accept credit cards, and others.

Who needs to register for a Massachusetts Business Certificate?

The requirements and need to register for a Trade Name vary depending on the type of business entity.

Sole proprietorships and general partnerships are the most common entities to register for a Business Certificate.

The legal name of a sole proprietor or partnership can be the owner’s full first and last name, which can be used without registering.  For example, if John Smith starts a Maryland business repairing computers but doesn’t use a business name, he doesn’t have to register.  If John decides to name his business John’s Computer Repair, he will need to register.

Corporations and Limited Liability Companies won’t typically register a fictitious name since a unique entity name is created during the formation process.  Some will file for a DBA if they have another business they want to operate under their corporation or LLC umbrella to keep the liability protection without forming another entity.

How much does a Business Certificate cost in Massachusetts?

The cost to register a Trade Name varies by city but is typically between $30 and $65.  The name will need to be renewed every four years.

What are the steps to file a Business Certificate in Massachusetts?

Step 1: Obtain the Form

A Trade Name form can be obtained from the Town Clerk or City Clerk in the community where the business is located.  The form is usually available on the Town / City Clerk’s website, or it is available at their office.

Step 2: Fill out the Form

Common information on the form includes:
– Assumed name being requested
– Name and address of the owner
– Type of business

Step 3: Notarize the Form

Before signing the form, be sure to have the form notarized. Most Town or City clerk offices have a notary on site.

Step 4: File the Form

Submit the Trade Name form with the Town / City Clerk along with payment.

If you would prefer to have a someone else research DBA name availability and file the required forms, Swyft Filings, MyCompanyWorks, and LegalZoom offer a DBA registration service for $99, plus state fees.

Are there any naming restrictions when filing a Massachusetts DBA?

A DBA can’t use a business entity suffix that is different from the type of entity. For example, a sole proprietorship can’t use LLC or corporation in its name.

Additionally, DBAs can’t be registered using words that are related to military branches, fire, police in addition to state or federal departments.

Can someone use my business name after registering a Massachusetts DBA?

There is no protection from anyone else using your same name.

If stopping others from using your business name is important, you can protect it through a federal trademark through the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Learn more about trademarking a business name.

Does Massachusetts require a DBA?

Any Massachusetts sole proprietorship or partnership that wants to do business under a name that is different from the owner’s full name or a Massachusetts corporation or LLC that wants to operate under a name that is different from the legal name of the entity is required to register the name.

Does a DBA need an EIN?

An EIN or Employer Identification Number is a unique nine-digit number that some businesses will register for through the Internal Revenue Department (IRS). An EIN is required for partnerships, corporations, multi-member LLCs, or any business that has employees.

Sole proprietorships and single-member LLCs without employees can use the owner’s social security number to identify the business.
There is no cost to get an EIN when registering directly from the IRS.

Related: How to register for an EIN in Massachusetts

How many DBAs can you have in Massachusetts?

There is no limit to the number of DBAs that can be registered in Massachusetts.


  • Greg Bouhl

    With over two decades as an entrepreneur, educator, and business advisor, Greg Bouhl has worked with over 2,000 entrepreneurs to help them start and grow their businesses. Fed up with clients finding and acting on inaccurate and outdated information online, Greg launched StartUp101.com to be a trusted resource for people starting a business.

How to File a Massachusetts Business Certificate (DBA)

How to File a Massachusetts Business Certificate (DBA)

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