Thursday, July 5, 2012

How I set up a DBA in Massachusetts

DBA in Massachusetts

A few days ago, I set up a DBA in my home state of Massachusetts. DBA stands for "doing business as". It's a legal way to set up an alternate business name, if you don't want to use your real name when conducting business. Setting up a DBA is a common practice among freelancers, contractors, and people involved with software or design services. Each state has its own DBA requirements. In Massachusetts, setting up a DBA requires going down to City Hall and filling out two forms:

  1. A form that establishes the DBA
  2. An affidavit with the Inspectional Services that basically serves as a declaration that the business isn't violating local zoning laws.

The affidavit states:
The term "home business" shall include but is not limited to, the studio of an artist, musician, photographer or writer; small group or individual instruction or tutoring; tailoring; millinery; crafts; word processing; computer software development; telephone solicitation; a manicurist; an office of a sales or manufacturer representative; and an office of a physician, dentist, lawyer, architect, registered engineer, accountant, psychologist, social worker or other professionals.
The term "home business" shall not include the following: a clothing rental business; a barber shop; a hairdresser; a restaurant; a repair shop, whether for small appliances or otherwise; a real estate broker; an orchestra or an instrumental music group; an antique shop; an animal hospital; or businesses similar to those enumerated.
It seems that the affidavit aims to thwart people who don't want to deal with local zoning requirements. Not an issue for me.

Note that setting up a DBA in Massachusetts is not the same as setting up an LLC or other corporate entity. If you're unsure about the DBA vs. LLC pros and cons, the best bet is to talk with a lawyer and/or experience small business accountant.

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