How to File a DBA in Massachusetts
A Massachusetts DBA (doing business as) is called a business certificate name. Massachusetts business certificate name registration allows a business to operate under a name that’s different from its legal name.
Massachusetts DBA registration won’t protect your personal assets. Forming a formal business structure like an LLC or corporation will give you liability protection along with a business name
Forming an LLC is the best choice for most small businesses. Learn more in our DBA vs LLC guide.
Use our step by step guide below to get a DBA for your Massachusetts business. For a look at DBA filing in another state, check out our other How to Get a DBA guides.
Register a Massachusetts DBA
Registering a Massachusetts business certificate name, also known as a DBA, is easy!
A DBA is only used for branding. A DBA doesn't offer any protection for your personal assets in the event that your business is sued. For this reason, we strongly recommend that a DBA should only be used by a formal business structure such as an LLC or corporation for the purpose of adding new brands to an existing business.
If you are running an informal business (sole proprietorship or partnership), we strongly suggest forming an LLC to separate your business and personal assets. The name of the LLC can be selected to act as the brand name for the business.
Learn How to File a DBA in Massachusetts yourself in two steps:
- Start with a Massachusetts Business Certificate Name Search
- File Your Massachusetts DBA with the City
Note: A DBA is only used for branding. We recommend forming an LLC to separate your business and personal assets.
Step 1. Start with a Massachusetts Business Certificate Name Search
Your Massachusetts business certificate name must be unique and must also meet Massachusetts’s business name requirements.
Before you file, you will need to search city records to make sure your exact name isn’t already taken. We will provide contact information for city offices in Step 2. You will also need to consider any state naming rules.
Your Massachusetts business certificate name should NOT include:
- Any business entity suffix, such as LLC, Incorporated, Corp, etc., unless the business is actually an LLC, corporation, etc.
- Words that imply that the company is organized for an unlawful purpose
- Restricted words (e.g. Bank, Attorney, University) may require additional paperwork and a licensed individual, such as a doctor or lawyer, to be part of your business.
Need Help Choosing a DBA Name?
If you need help coming up with a DBA name, try our business name generator. You can use this tool to generate both business names and domain names.
We recommend checking if your name is available as a web domain (URL). You might not plan on starting a business website today, but you may want to prevent others from acquiring your URL.
Find a Domain Now
Once you reserve a domain name for your DBA, consider setting up a business phone system to help strengthen your customer service and boost credibility. We recommend Phone.com because of its affordable pricing and variety of useful features. Start calling with Phone.com.
Need Help Creating a Brand Name and Logo?
If you need help coming up with a DBA name, try our business name generator. Then, create a unique logo for your brand with our free logo generator.
Step 2. Register Your Massachusetts DBA
Massachusetts business certificate names are filed with the city or cities where your company does business.
A DBA does not offer any protection for your personal assets in the event that your business is sued. For more information on setting up a limited liability company, visit our How to Form an LLC page and select your state.
Filing a DBA With the City Clerk
The process of getting a DBA in Massachusetts is similar from city to city.
We will provide step-by-step directions to get a Boston business certificate name. If you need to file in a different city, contact the correct city clerk for instructions.
These links will lead you to the business certificate websites for some of the more populated cities:
- City of Worcester
- City of Springfield
- City of Lowell
- City of Boston (Full Instructions Below)
For a complete list of city contact information, visit the Massachusetts City and Town Directory.
How to File a City of Boston DBA
Business certificates can be filed by mail or in-person with the Boston City Clerk’s office.
The form needs to be notarized. This can be done in the City Clerk’s office if you bring a picture ID.
Reminder: Boston requires that you check their business certificate records before filing to make sure your name isn’t already taken.
File a Business Certificate in the City of Boston
File the Business Certificate by Mail or In-Person
$65 Filing fee
$35 Additional fee if a non-Massachusetts resident
City Clerk’s Office
1 City Hall Square, Room 601
Boston, MA 02201
Manage Your City of Boston DBA
Call (617) 635-4600 for general questions about business certificates in the City of Boston.
Renew Your Boston DBA
You are required to renew your Boston business certificate every 4 years. Submit the Business Certificate Registration form and check the box next to “Renewal.” The fee for renewing your business certificate is $65, plus $35 if you are a non-resident. The form must be notarized.
Change Your Boston DBA
The City of Boston allows you to change the address of your business certificate with the Change of Location form. If you would like to remove an individual’s name from the certificate, use the Business Certificate Name Withdrawal form. The fee is $50. You must fill out a new registration form to change the name of your DBA.
Withdraw Your Boston DBA
You can withdraw your Boston business certificate by filling out the Business Certificate Withdrawal form. The fee is $50.
If you want to use a professional service to get a DBA for your business we recommend:
Swyft Filings ($99 + state fee)
After Filing Your Massachusetts DBA
If filing a DBA marks the beginning of your business journey, then there are a few more steps that you should take before getting started:
- Create your Business’s Website - Every business needs a website. Luckily, drag-and-drop builders like GoDaddy and Wix make the job quick and easy. Check out our Best Website Builder article to find the tool that’s best for you.
- Get your Business Finances in Order - You’ll need to separate your business finances from your personal ones. This is accomplished by opening a business bank account. If your business has long lead times or other cash flow irregularities, you can also look into a business credit card.
- Protect Your Business - While an LLC will help to protect your personal assets in the case of a lawsuit, your business’s assets also need protection. Having the right business insurance will ensure that you’re covered if the worst happens. Most businesses start with general liability insurance as their base coverage.
DBA Massachusetts FAQ
How many DBAs can I have?
You can have as many DBAs as you can afford to create and are able to keep track of. Each one comes with additional incremental expenses and paperwork, meaning more is not necessarily better.
Can a DBA get an EIN or Tax ID?
DBAs aren’t required to have a separate EIN because DBAs aren’t a business entity. The business entity that the DBA is under would have an EIN if an EIN is required.
To learn more about EINs and when you need one for your business, read our What is an EIN guide.
Can a DBA become an LLC?
No. An LLC is a business entity, while a DBA is just a name for a business.
Sole proprietorships are often confused with DBAs, but they are not the same: a sole proprietorship is a business entity, therefore it can choose to become an LLC.
To learn how to form an LLC, visit our Form an LLC state guides.
Can a DBA have Inc. in the name?
A DBA can only have Inc. in the name if the business entity the DBA is attached to is a corporation.
How do I set up a DBA for a rental property?
Holding a rental property in your name and with a DBA will not afford you any protection. The best option is to form an LLC to protect your personal assets in the event of an issue with the rental property. In any case, it is always best to consult an attorney.
When would it be good to get a DBA vs a legal name change?
Getting a DBA is often a better choice than changing your business’s legal name. If you want to rebrand your company or focus on another line of business, filing for a DBA is a simpler process than filing for a legal name change.
Is my DBA protected from being used in other places?
Some state-level laws prevent DBAs that are too similar to existing ones from being used, but this varies from state to state. It is possible to trademark a DBA, which would offer stronger protection across state lines.