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Pennsylvania DBA / Fictitious Name In 4 Easy Steps

Pennsylvania DBA / Fictitious Name In 4 Easy Steps

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Pennsylvania DBA / Fictitious Name In 4 Easy Steps

If you’re planning to start a business in Pennsylvania under a name other than your own, you will need to register for a business name. Business name registration is commonly referred to as a Pennsylvania DBA, “Doing Business As,” Assumed Name, or Trade Name, but is officially called a Fictitious Name. 

To see if you need to register for a Pennsylvania Fictitious Name and the steps on how to register, check out our guide.

Related: How to start a business in Pennsylvania

Who Needs to Register for a Pennsylvania Fictitious Business Name?

The requirements for registering for a Fictitious Name are organized under the Pennsylvania Fictitious Names Act1.  These requirements vary depending on the type of business entity.

Sole proprietorships and general partnerships are the most common business structures to register for a Pennsylvania DBA. By default, the name of a sole proprietorship and general partnership is the owner(s) legal name, but if the small business owner wants to operate under a specific name, they will need to complete the Fictitious Name registration. 

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 Pennsylvania business repairing computers operating under John Smith, he doesn’t need to register.  If John decides to name his business John’s Computer Repair, he will need to register.

Related: How to start a sole proprietorship in Pennsylvania

A corporation and Limited Liability Company won’t typically register for a Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania corporation or Limited Liability Company without having to form another entity. 

Pennsylvania Fictitious Name Form

Steps to Register for a Pennsylvania Fictitious Name

Step 1: Verify Name Availability

A business may not register a fictitious name that is the same or similar to another business in Pennsylvania. To find out if the name you want is available, you can do a Pennsylvania business name search on the Pennsylvania Secretary of State’s website. 

Step 2: Fill out the Fictitious Name Form

The Registration of Fictitious Name form is available as a PDF or can be filled out and submitted online.
PDF Form DSCB:54-311
Online Form

Information requested on the form includes:

  • Fictitious name being registered
  • A brief statement concerning the character or nature of the business or other activity to be carried on under or through the fictitious name
  • Address of the principal place of business
  • Name and address of owners/members/officers

Step 3: Submit the Fictitious Name Application

Submit the filing fee and form. The form can be submitted online, but if mailing, the address is:

Pennsylvania Department of State
Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations
P.O. Box 8722
Harrisburg, PA 17105-8722

If you have questions about the process, you can contact the Pennsylvania Department of State at 717-787-1057.

Last, the applicant has to publish a notice they have filed or intend to file an application for registration of the fictitious name.  The legal notice advertisement should be placed in two legal newspapers that have general circulation in the county where the business will be located.  If there is only one newspaper with circulation in the county, that publication will be sufficient.

Each county provides a list of approved newspapers, which can be viewed on the Department of State’s website: https://www.dos.pa.gov/BusinessCharities/Business/Resources/Pages/Geographical-Listing-of-Legal-Publications.aspx.

After the notices run, an affidavit will be returned to the applicant.  This proof of publication isn’t filed but should be kept with the business records as it may be requested at a later date.  If the notice isn’t published or proof of the publication isn’t available, the name isn’t enforceable, and the owner may receive a $500 penalty.

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.

Pennsylvania DBA FAQs

How much does a Pennsylvania Fictitious Name cost?

The filing fee to register a Fictitious Name in Pennsylvania is $70, plus the cost of publishing a legal notice.

Are there any restrictions on words used in a Pennsylvania Fictitious Name?

DBAs can’t be registered using words related to banking, education, or occupations that require licensing (engineering, architecture, etc.) unless the business is licensed to provide these services.

Names may also not contain a business entity suffix such as LLC, corp, limited, etc., unless the business is that type of entity.

After registering the Fictitious Name, can someone use my business name?

While registering your Fictitious Name will keep someone else from registering the exact same name in Pennsylvania, it does very little to stop someone else from operating a business under that name in other states.

If stopping others from using your business name is important, you can protect it through a federal trademark by registering with 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 Pennsylvania

Is a fictitious name the same as a DBA in Pennsylvania?

The terms fictitious name and DBA (or Doing Business As) are the same.

What is the difference between a Pennsylvania Fictitious Name and a business license?

These are actually two different business registrations. In addition to the Pennsylvania Fictitious 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 Pennsylvania?

Sources

  1. https://www.pacode.com/secure/data/019/chapter17/subchapctoc.html ↩︎

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.

Pennsylvania DBA / Fictitious Name In 4 Easy Steps

Pennsylvania DBA / Fictitious Name In 4 Easy Steps

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