How to File a DBA in Tennessee

Filing a Tennessee DBA (doing business as), also known as an assumed name, is a simple process done at the county level or with the Tennessee Department of State depending on your business structure. 

Follow our step-by-step How to Get a DBA in Tennessee guide to get started today.

Important: A DBA is only used for branding purposes. A DBA isn't a type of business structure and won't protect your personal assets.

Forming an LLC is the best choice for most small businesses. Visit our DBA vs LLC guide to learn what types of businesses need limited liability protection.

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How to Use This Guide

First, Choose Your Tennessee Business Type:

Sole Proprietorship or Partnership
A sole proprietorship is a business owned by a single individual that isn't formally organized.

LLC, Corporation, or LLP
If your business is a Tennessee LLC, Corporation, or LLP, the information on how to get a DBA can be found in this section.

Use a Professional Service

A professional service will handle filing your DBA in Tennessee, allowing you to focus on the other needs of your business.

four point eight out of five  MyCompanyWorks ($99 + state fee) for a personalized DBA service.

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Filing a DBA in Tennessee for Sole Proprietors and General Partnerships

General partnerships and sole proprietors are required to file their Tennessee DBA with the County Clerk in the county that their business is located. Estates and real estate investment companies are also required to file with the county.

A sole proprietorship is a business owned by a single individual that isn't formally organized. If you run a business and file taxes under your own name, you are a sole proprietor.

A DBA doesn't offer protection for your personal assets in the event that your business is sued. For more information on setting up an LLC (limited liability company), visit our How to Form an LLC page and select your state.

SKIP AHEAD

To create a DBA for an LLC or Corporation, you can click here to skip ahead.

Step 1. Start With a Tennessee Business Name Search

Tennessee assumed names must be unique and must also meet Tennessee’s business name requirements.

First, visit the Tennessee Secretary of State's website and search for your new DBA name to make sure it isn’t already in use.

Next, review the Tennessee naming requirements. In Tennessee, assumed names should NOT include:

  • Words that could confuse your business with a government agency (FBI, Treasury, State Department, etc.)
  • Words that falsely imply that your company is organized as, affiliated with, or sponsored by any fraternal, veterans', service, religious, charitable, or professional organization.
  • Words that imply that the company is organized for any 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.

Learn more about Tennessee naming guidelines on the Secretary of State’s website.

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.

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

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Step 2. Filing a DBA in Tennessee with the County Clerk

Sole proprietors and partnerships are required to file a Business Tax License Application with the appropriate county clerk’s office(s) in order to operate under a DBA.

Sole proprietors and partnerships (as well as other types of companies) must file in any county where your business conducts or transacts business.

We will give you step-by-step directions to get a Knox County DBA (Knoxville). For directions in other counties, please contact your county clerk.

You can find your counties' contact information from the Tennessee Department of Revenue.

How to File a Knox County DBA

Before you start the DBA filing process, it is a good idea to search the Knox County business database.

Once you have selected your name, you will then complete the Business Tax License Application and submit it to the Knox County Clerk. The certificate can be submitted either online or by mail.

File Your Knox County Assumed Name

Option 1: File Online With the Tennessee County Clerk Website

File Online

- OR -

Option 2: File the Application for Business Tax License by Mail

Download Form


Cost:
$15 Filing Fee

Mailing Address:
Knox County Clerk’s Office
Business Tax Division
P.O. Box 1566
Knoxville, TN 37901

Manage Your Knox County DBA

DBA Questions
Call Knox County at (865) 215-2392 for general questions about business licenses, assumed names, and DBA requirements.

Renew Your DBA
Your standard business license is automatically renewed when you file your tax return. If you filed for a minimal activity license, you will need to fill out the Application for Renewal.

Change Your DBA
You will need to file a new registration to change the name on your business license.

Withdraw Your DBA
You can cancel your business license by submitting a final tax return through the Tennessee Department of Revenue.

Filing a DBA in Tennessee for LLCs, Corporations, and LLPs

Incorporated businesses file their Assumed Name Registration with the Tennessee Secretary of State.

The following business types are considered incorporated:

  • For-profit Corporations, Nonprofit Corporations
  • Professional Corporations, Professional Associations
  • Limited Partnerships, Limited Liability Partnerships
  • Limited Liability Companies
  • Any Foreign Filing Entities

To file a Tennessee DBA for a sole proprietorship or general partnership, go back to the county-level requirements.

Step 1. Do a Tennessee Business Entity Search

Tennessee assumed names must be unique and must also meet Tennessee’s business name requirements.

First, visit the Tennessee Secretary of State's website and search for your new DBA name to make sure it isn’t already in use.

Next, review the Tennessee naming requirements. In Tennessee, assumed names should NOT include:

  • Words that could confuse your business with a government agency (FBI, Treasury, State Department, etc.)
  • Words that falsely imply that your company is organized as, affiliated with, or sponsored by any fraternal, veterans', service, religious, charitable, or professional organization.
  • Words that imply that the company is organized for any 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.

Learn more about Tennessee naming guidelines from the Secretary of State.

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.

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

Powered by GoDaddy.com

Step 2: Filing Your Assumed Name Registration

You are required to set up your DBA with the Tennessee Secretary of State if your business is incorporated.

The assumed name registration form will ask for your new DBA name and information about your business. There are different registration forms depending on your business structure.

Submit Your Tennessee Assumed Name

OPTION 1: File Online With the Tennessee Secretary of State

File Online

- OR -

OPTION 2: File the Application for Registration of Assumed Name by Mail or In Person

Corporation
LLC
LLP


Cost:
$20 Filing Fee

Filing Address:
Corporate Filings
312 Rosa L. Parks Ave.
6th Floor, William R. Snodgrass Tower
Nashville, TN 37243

Manage Your Tennessee DBA

DBA Questions
Call the Tennessee Secretary of State: (615) 741-2286

Renew Your DBA with the State
Your assumed name must be renewed every five years. The filing fee is $20. You can renew online or by submitting one of the following renewal forms by mail or in person:

Change Your DBA
You can change your assumed name by filling out a name change application. The filing fee is $20. Depending on your business type, submit one of these forms by mail or in person:

Withdraw Your DBA
You can cancel your assumed name by filling out the appropriate cancellation form and paying the $20 filing fee. Depending on your business type, submit one of these forms by mail or in person:

After Filing Your Tennessee 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.

Need Help Filing Your DBA in Tennessee?

Have a Professional Service File Your Tennessee DBA For You

A professional service will handle filing your DBA on your behalf, allowing you to focus on the other needs of your business.

Recommended: MyCompanyWorks ($99 + state fee)

DBA Tennessee 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 versus 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.

Useful Links for Your Tennessee DBA