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By Stephanie C. Smith

For many different reasons, individuals and business entities can find it beneficial to conduct business under a name other than their legal name. Such names are known in Virginia as fictitious or assumed names, and they are often identified with the individual or business entity’s legal name followed by an abbreviation such as “t/a” (“trading as”) or “dba” (“doing business as”).

Before a person, partnership, limited liability company, or corporation conducts any business in Virginia using a fictitious name, the person or entity must file a fictitious name certificate in the Circuit Court Clerk’s office in all of the cities and counties in which the fictitious name will be used. The certificate must provide the name under which business will be transacted, and the name of the person, partnership, limited liability company, or corporation who owns the business, as well as other information. The owner’s signature must be notarized. If the entity planning to use a fictitious name is a corporation, limited liability company, or limited partnership authorized to transact business in Virginia, the entity must also file a copy of the fictitious name certificate, duly attested by the clerk of the court in which the original is on file, with the State Corporation Commission. There are fees for filing in the Circuit Court Clerk’s office, and for the certified copy, and also a fee charged by the State Corporation Commission for filing the fictitious name certificate.

An individual or business entity that conducts business under a fictitious or assumed name without filing the required fictitious name certificate(s) is subject to being convicted of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine not exceeding $2,500 or confinement in jail for not more than one year, or both.

If you are an individual or business owner interested in conducting business under a name other than your legal name, please contact us at 757-687-8888 to ensure compliance with Virginia law and to avoid the above mentioned potential penalties.