Business Certificates or "DBA" FAQs

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What is a Business Certificate?

A business certificate is a registration of a business that is being conducted within the Town of Sterling.  It is commonly referred to as a DBA or "Doing Business As". Its purpose is primarily for consumer protection and public information.
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Who Must File a Business Certificate?

MGL Ch 110:5 states that a person conducting business (other than the owners name) must file a business certificate.  A person is defined as an individual, a partnership or a corporation.

Exemptions to filing are allowed under section 6 if the corporation is doing business in its true corporate name, or if a partnership is doing business under any title which includes the true surname of any partner.  Certain other exemptions exist for trusts and limited partnerships. See the Massachusetts General Laws for further details.

Who Must Sign the Business Certificate?

If the business is owned solely by one person only that person need sign.  If it is a partnership, both or all of the partners must sign.  If it is a corporation, an officer who has signatory authority must sign.  All signatures must be made in front of a notary or the Town Clerk and sealed.

An individual must be 18 years of age or older to legally sign a business certificate.

How long are they valid?

Business certificates are valid for a period of four (4) years from the date of its original filing.  They must be renewed every four (4) years.
The Town Clerk's Office is not required to send out reminder notices for renewal.

What if I go "Out of Business", change my residence, change the location of the business or want to change the name of the business?

If you change your residence as listed on the certificate, or change the location of the business within town (but keep the same name,) you must file the change with the Town Clerk's Office.

If you discontinue your business, retire or withdraw from conducting business (i.e. go out of business or move it to another town,) you must file a statement of discontinuance with the Town Clerk's Office.
If you wish to change the name of your business, you must first file a discontinuation and file a new certificate for the new business name.  You cannot simply change the name of the business because technically, you are stopping business in one name and starting business in a new name.

In case of death of such a person, a statement may be filed by the executor or administrator of the estate.

How much does it cost to file a Business Certificate of "DBA"?

The cost to file a business certificate is $60 for 4 years.

Must I display a copy of my Business Certificate?

The law states that copies of your certificate must be available at the address at which the business is conducted and shall be furnished on request during regular business hours to any person who has purchased goods or services from such business.

What is the penalty if i do not file a Certificate or statement?

The law states that violations will be punished by a fine of not more than $300 each month during which the violation continues.

What if my business is operated out of my home?

If your business is operated out of your home you must file an application for a Home Occupation permit with the Building Inspector/Zoning Officer prior to the issuance of the Business Certificate.

Under Sterling's Protective Bylaws, article 4 section 4.1 "Home Occupations", this form must be filed with the Building Inspector and approved, prior to the issuance of a Business Certificate/DBA. 

Where do I get the forms and how do I file?

All forms may be obtained from the Town Clerk's Office. You may also obtain the forms here.