How to operate under a name which is different than your own

By Michael Banner - Jan 13, 2016     

If you operate a business under a name which is different than your own--whether you are a sole proprietor, a corporation or an LLC, there are several issues you must consider.

Should you register a DBA or not?

Should you do this on a county or state level

What is the difference between a DBA or Assumed Business Name?

What about forming a separate entity under a different name?


I will explore all the different options you have for operating your business under a different name so that you can better decide what is best for you.

 

What is a DBA/Assumed Business Name Anyway?

When you (again "you" could be a person or "you" could be an entity, such as an INC or LLC) are operating a business under a name which is different than your own, traditionally you would file a public document announcing that you are using this fictitious or assumed name: In other words, you are "doing business as" another name.  For instance, if you had a corporation, "ABC, Inc." which wanted to operate under the business name, "ABC Realty", often the answer would be to file a DBA.  That is, "ABC, Inc. doing business as ABC Realty."  This action is like raising a flag so that others can see the name that you are using.  Filing a DBA with either county or state government often makes this process "official".  In fact, in many states, this "official" act of filing is actually required. 

However, in Wyoming, it is not required, and currently, neither the state (i.e. Secretary of State of Wyoming) nor do the Counties of Wyoming offer any sort of process for DBA registration.
 

Other reasons for a DBA

Even though it is not required in Wyoming, what if you needed or wanted some sort of official recognition of your business name?  For instance, if you wanted to open up a new business and you wanted your customers to write checks in your business name, rather than your personal name, how would you do this?    Or maybe you have an entity name that is really general (like our example above with ABC, Inc.) and your entity will own and operate a business which has a slightly different name (i.e. ABC Realty), how would you do this in Wyoming?  Still, you may have other reasons for wanting to establish a business name which is different that your own. 
 

Alternatives to the DBA in Wyoming

Regardless of the reasons why, if your business is in Wyoming, you must look to other alternatives than the DBA.

Form an LLC (or INC)

The simplest and often the only action you may be able to take to have your business name officially recognized in Wyoming, maybe to form an entity in Wyoming.  For instance, if you wanted to collect checks from your customers in your business name and not your personal name, your bank will not let you do this unless you have something official establishing that name and that connects you to that name.  In Wyoming, your only choice may be to form a new LLC or INC using that name.  Even if you already formed an INC or LLC, and that entity wishes to operate a business of a different name, it (the entity) might want to form another INC or LLC to own and operate that particular business.  It is not uncommon to see an entity, often referred to as a holding company, which owns other entities, each owning a separate business.

  

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Trade Name

Filing a Trade Name in Wyoming might be one of the best alternatives to the non-existent DBA.  Unlike a DBA, with a trade name registration (filed with the Secretary of State of Wyoming), you are actually saying "Hands off: this is my property!"  Again, a DBA is just an announcement that you are using a name, but that announcement doesn’t confer any ownership of the name.  However, a trade name does just that.  Consequently, filing a trade name in Wyoming comes with several requirements:

Name must be available - It cannot already be used in Wyoming

Must be using name - To register a trade name with the state, you must already be using that name (i.e. on a website, a brochure, signage, business cards, etc.)

Business must be located in Wyoming - To register a trade name for your business in Wyoming, your business must be physically operating in Wyoming.  This is not the same as forming an entity in Wyoming.  Your business must be physically present (i.e. have operations, such as a store front) in Wyoming.


Other State or County Registration

Although your business may not be able to register an assumed name or DBA, with one of the state or county agencies, there are other registrations that your business may need to make anyway which involve also listing of your fictitious business name.  Below are a few considerations.

Business License (on state level)

When a business is providing professional services, the owner of that business (whether a person or an entity) must often license or obtain a permit for that business with the state board that provides oversight.  For more information, and to see if your business type will be required to obtain a state license or permit, see Wyoming Permitting and Licensing document (pages 22 through 25) by the Wyoming Business Council.

Business License (on city or county level)

This type of licensing (or permit) is usually based more on location rather than business type, although most businesses will not be required to obtain such a license/permit.  Often, when a DBA name is used, it will be displayed on the local permit or license along with your name.  To see if your city or municipality has a licensing requirement, visit your city/county’s webpage.  For a list of city/county sites in Wyoming CLICK HERE.

Department of Revenue Registration (sales tax)

Businesses that must collect sales and excise taxes as part of their business operations, must be registered with the Department of Revenue (http://revenue.wyo.gov/Excise-Tax-Division).   On the Sales/Use Tax form, you will list your "DBA/Doing Business As Name".

File a DBA in another state

If your business is actually physically operated in another state (outside of Wyoming), you should probably look into registering your DBA/assumed/fictitious name in that state.  However, if your business is owned by an INC or LLC, which is registered in Wyoming, your INC or LLC will most likely be required to register in that other state first (see Foreign Authority in Another State) before you can register your DBA.
 

Just operate!

So what is the bottom line?  Simply this: if the business name you are operating under in Wyoming is different than your own, whether "you" are a person or an entity, just go ahead and operate using that name!  You do not have to worry about registering the name as a DBA or assumed or fictitious name.  However, if you have a good reason for having that fictitious name be "officially" recognized by a government agency, you now know your alternatives.
 

Other related articles/links

INC or LLC - Not sure which to form - Let our decision maker help you with this

Wyoming Business Permitting and Licensing - By the Wyoming Business Council

Wyoming Sales/Use Tax application

About Michael Banner
  CEO & Founder of SmallBiZ.com, created over seventeen years ago to help small business owners simplify the process of starting & managing their small businesses. SmallBiZ.com now serves over 10,000 businesses per year with various filing and subscription services; in addition to the 1000's of daily visitors to www.smallbiz.com, accessing free services, help pages, & educational videos & webinars.


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