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Common Mistakes to Avoid in California DBA Filings: A Guide For Businesses

When starting a business in California, it’s crucial to understand the process of registering a “Doing Business As” name, also known as a DBA.

This legal filing allows business owners to operate under a name that is different from their legal name. While the concept of a DBA may seem straightforward, there are common mistakes that entrepreneurs make when filing for a DBA in California.

This comprehensive guide will delve into the intricacies of registering a DBA, address potential challenges, and provide solutions to ensure a smooth and successful filing process.

What is a DBA?

A DBA, or “Doing Business As,” is a legal filing that enables individuals or companies to conduct business under a name that is different from their legal name.

In California, a DBA is often called an assumed, fictional, or trade name. It is important to note that each state has specific DBA terminology.

When Do You Need a DBA in California?

There are several instances in which filing for a DBA in California is necessary. The most common scenario is when an individual operates a business as a sole proprietorship or general partnership without forming a legal business entity.

In these cases, the individual has two options: to use their full legal name or file a DBA to adopt a different name. Opting for a DBA protects the privacy of the individual and their partners while allowing for branding and marketing opportunities.

Besides privacy concerns, there are other reasons why business owners may choose to file a DBA in California. These reasons include:

  • Opening a business bank account under the assumed name.
  • Expanding the business to new markets.
  • Growing the business via new product offerings or service lines.
  • Establishing a more reputable and legitimate business image.
  • Avoiding the use of the legal name in business operations.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Registering a DBA in California

While registering a DBA may seem simple, many entrepreneurs make mistakes that can lead to delays, rejections, or complications down the line. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when filing for a DBA in California:

Failing to Conduct a Comprehensive Name Search

One of the most common reasons for DBA application rejections is selecting a name that is already registered with another business in the same state or county. Conducting thorough name searches in state and local databases is crucial to ensure the chosen name is available.

Neglecting this step can result in wasted time and the need to start the filing process again. Always double-check the availability of your desired name before submitting your DBA registration paperwork.

Ignoring Formatting Guidelines

Another reason for DBA filing rejections is failing to adhere to the formatting guidelines specified by the state. Some states require specific formatting for business names, including abbreviations or punctuation.

It is essential to carefully study the regulations and ensure that all information, such as capitalization and entity type, is entered correctly on the forms. Paying attention to these details can prevent immediate rejection of your filing.

Providing Incomplete or Missing Information

Government officials frequently reject DBA registrations due to incomplete or missing form information. It is crucial to review the forms diligently before submission and ensure that all required fields are filled in completely and accurately.

Failure to provide the full legal name and address of all owners is a common reason for rejection. Taking the time to double-check and verify all information can help avoid mistakes that may lead to application denial.

Not Meeting Legal Standards

Specific business names do not meet legal standards and will automatically be rejected. Names intentionally misleading or suggesting a type of business that the company does not engage in, such as using the term “bank” when not a financial institution, are considered non-compliant.

Additionally, names containing obscenities or racial slurs will also be rejected. Choosing a name that aligns with legal standards is essential to ensure a successful DBA registration.

Incorrect Fee Payments

Paying incorrect registration fees is another oversight that can result in a DBA filing rejection. Fees vary by state and county, so thorough research is necessary to understand the specific requirements.

Some locations may also require additional fees if the business owners are based out of state. Making incorrect payments displays a lack of understanding of the policies and can lead to the denial of your application. Careful attention to fee requirements will help ensure a successful DBA registration.

Neglecting Newspaper Publication Requirements

Most states, including California, require the publication of the fictitious business name in a local newspaper for a specified period after the initial registration. Failing to complete the mandated publication period can result in the rejection of your DBA filing.

Submission of publication affidavits as proof of compliance with this requirement is crucial. Be sure to fulfill this publishing obligation promptly to avoid complications in the registration process.

Outdated Business Details

Business owners often forget to update their DBA registrations when there are changes in locations or ownership structures. Neglecting to renew or update registration information can lead to rejection of renewal filings.

It is essential to keep addresses, partners, and other key details current to ensure a smooth renewal approval process. Promptly updating registrations after any significant business changes will help maintain accurate and up-to-date records.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can streamline the DBA application process and increase the likelihood of a successful registration.

How to File For a DBA in California

Now that you are aware of the potential pitfalls to avoid let’s explore how to file for a DBA in California. The process involves several steps, which we will outline below:

Choose a Name

Selecting a trade name for your DBA can be a challenging process. It is crucial to choose a name that is not already being used by another business and does not sound too similar to existing businesses.


To ensure the availability of your chosen name, you can search registered business names on the California Secretary of State (SOS) website or use online tools like Bizee’s free Business Name Search Tool. Performing a comprehensive search will help you avoid potential conflicts and rejections.

Check Filing Requirements

In California, DBAs are typically filed at the county level rather than with the Secretary of State. It is essential to check with your County Clerk’s office to determine where to apply for your DBA.

Some counties may offer online registration, while others may require in-person visits or mailed forms. Contact your County Clerk’s office to obtain the necessary forms and instructions for filing your DBA.

Register The DBA

Once you have obtained the required forms from your County Clerk’s office, complete the registration process by providing all necessary information. This includes your chosen DBA name, your business address, and the names and addresses of all owners.

Ensure that you accurately and comprehensively fill out the forms to avoid any potential rejections due to incomplete or incorrect information. Submit the completed forms and the required filing fees to the designated office.

Publish The DBA

In California, after filing your DBA, you must publish a notification of your new business name in a local newspaper within 30 days of filing your Fictitious Business Name statement. The publication must appear once a week for four consecutive weeks.

Contact your County Clerk’s office or local publications for recommendations on newspapers that fulfill the publication requirement. After the final notification, file an affidavit with the County Clerk’s Office within 30 days to complete the publication process.

Renew Your DBA

DBAs in California are valid for five years. It is crucial to keep track of the expiration date and renew your DBA before it expires.

Failure to renew in a timely manner can result in the loss of your DBA registration. Stay organized and set reminders to ensure that you renew your DBA before the expiration date.

Remember, the renewal process may require additional fees and the publication of a new notification, depending on your county’s requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

To further clarify any lingering questions about DBAs in California, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions and their answers:

How Much Does it Cost to Get a Dba in California?

The cost of filing a DBA in California varies depending on your location. Typically, you will pay a registration fee to your county clerk or registrar’s office ranging from $25 to $50.

Additional fees may apply if you are filing multiple DBAs or if your business is located outside of California but acquiring a DBA to operate within the state. It is essential to research the specific fees associated with your county and comply with the payment requirements.

How Long Does it Take To Get a Dba in California?

The processing time for a DBA in California varies based on your county and whether online registration is available. Counties with online registration options expedite the process.

However, remember that even with online registration, you must still fulfill all the necessary steps, including choosing a name, registering the DBA, publishing the notification, and filing the affidavit.

Allow a minimum of five weeks from the time of registration before you can begin operating under your DBA.

Is a DBA Required in California?

A DBA is not required for every business operating in California. You must file for a DBA if you are a sole proprietor or general partner without a legal business entity and do not wish to operate under your legal name.

A DBA is required for legal business entities such as LLCs and corporations if you plan to operate under a name different from the one originally filed with the California Secretary of State. It is crucial to understand the specific requirements for your business structure and comply with the necessary filings.


Registering a DBA in California is a crucial step for businesses that wish to operate under a name that differs from their legal name. You can successfully navigate the DBA registration process by avoiding common mistakes, conducting thorough research, and following the necessary steps.


Remember to conduct comprehensive name searches, adhere to formatting guidelines, provide accurate and complete information, meet legal standards, pay the correct fees, fulfill publication requirements, and keep your business details current.

By following these guidelines, you can confidently register your DBA in California and establish a distinct identity for your business.