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Massachusetts DBA / Business Certificate In 5 Easy Steps

Massachusetts DBA / Business Certificate In 5 Easy Steps

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Massachusetts DBA / Business Certificate In 5 Easy Steps

If you’re planning to start a business in Massachusetts using a specific name, you may need to register for a business name. Business name registration is commonly referred to as a Massachusetts DBA or “Doing Business As,” but is officially called a Business Certificate. 

To see if you need to register for a Massachusetts Business Certificate and steps on how to register, check out our guide.

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 Massachusetts state statute, M.G.L. ch.110 §5,1 to protect consumers from business owners hiding anonymously behind the name of a business.

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.

The sole proprietorship and general partnership 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 Carl Smith starts a business detailing cars but doesn’t operate with a specific name, he doesn’t have to register. However, if Carl decides to name his business Carl’s Clean Classics, he will need to register.

A corporation and Limited Liability Company won’t typically register for a Massachusetts DBA since a unique entity name is created during the entity formation process. However, some will want to register for a DBA if they have another business or brand name they want to operate in addition to the legal name of the business. This can allow multiple businesses to operate with the liability protection of a Massachusetts corporation or Limited Liability Company without having to form another entity.

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

Step 1: Verify Name Availability

Before registering a name, it’s important to know that the names of registered business entities or trademarked names can’t be registered. To find out if your name is being used, you will want to do a few searches:

Step 2: Obtain the Business Name Certificate Application

A Business Certificate 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 Clerk or City Clerk’s website or at their office.

Step 3: Fill out the Form

Common information required on the form includes:

  • Assumed name being requested
  • Name and address of the owner
  • Type of business

Step 4: 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 5: 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, Bizee and LegalZoom offer a DBA registration service for $99, plus state fees.

Massachusetts DBA FAQs

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 must be renewed every four years.

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 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.

What is the difference between a Massachusetts Business Certificate Name and a business license?

These are actually two different business registrations. In addition to the Massachusetts Trade Name registration, most businesses will also need a business license. The licenses a business will need vary depending on what the business does and local registration requirements.

Related: What business licenses are needed in Massachusetts?

Sources

  1. Massachusetts State Statute, M.G.L. ch.110 §5 ↩︎

Author

  • 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.

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Massachusetts DBA / Business Certificate In 5 Easy Steps

Massachusetts DBA / Business Certificate In 5 Easy Steps

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