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Also known as “The Sunshine State,” Florida hosts one the largest US economies. Top industries include tourism and agriculture, contributing $1 trillion to the state’s GDP as of 2018.
Florida is the third most populous state in the US, surpassing New York with over 21.9 million people.
Among Zippia’s list of 100 largest Florida companies in 2021, Publix is the largest employer, followed by the Darden Restaurants group, Jabil, and others like Bloomin’ Brands, Royal Caribbean Cruises, and Tyco Integrated Security.
Many startup businesses make Florida their home. According to the Blueprint, Florida is #3 on the list of top 10 states for new business startups in 2021. Inc. Magazine also reported that entrepreneurs have been swarming to the Sunshine State because it’s easy to start an LLC in Florida. Currently, Florida is ranked 17 out of 50 for its overall pro-business environment.
The three most common Florida business structure options are an LLC, a Corporation, or a Doing Business As or DBA (also known as a Fictitious Firm Name or Trade Name). Click here to learn more about these business structures.
The popular Limited Liability Company is formed as a separate entity, which provides limited liability protection to the owners, or members. A Florida LLC pays less in taxes and is less formal to maintain than a corporation, and you only need one member, so it’s the business structure of choice for many startups.
The Corporation, or Corp, is also formed as a separate entity and offers the owner or owners liability protection. Instead of being owned and managed by members, the Corporation is run by shareholders, directors, and officers. An S-Corporation means it carries the IRS Small Business designation which is more favorable for taxation. C-Corporations are usually formed by companies that intend to go public or have more than 100 shareholders. C-Corps are taxed twice, at the corporate and shareholder levels.
Corporations are more complex than LLCs and DBAs, but they are the ideal business structure for for-profit companies. Some professions require you to form a “Professional Corporation” or PC (doctors, lawyers, architects, etc.). Here is a complete list of professions that are regulated in the state of Florida.
A Doing Business As or Fictitious Name is often used as a simplified operating name, or to set a business apart from others with similar names. Florida Fictitious Names are also used to manage multiple businesses under one LLC or Corporation.
Example: Florida Auctions LLC could register a Fictitious Name like Orlando Auction House for its Orlando-based warehouse and Miami Auction House for another warehouse without having to form two separate LLCs or Corporations.
It may not seem important to pick a business name that will set you apart from competitors, but it’s essential to brand recognition. A unique business name also prevents a lot of legal and business problems in the future. While you can change your company name, it’s more efficient and cost-effective to use a name that will grow with your business. Before you search names in the Florida databases, we highly recommend taking the following steps:
When you’re gathering ideas for your business name, think of the type of industry you’re in and what appeals to your customers. If you’re selling car parts, you don’t want to just add “Motors” to the name. Your business name should tell a customer the products or services you provide without having to think too hard about it. Charlie’s Auto Parts tells us what the company sells, while a name like just Charlie’s might tell us who owns the business, but nothing about what’s for sale.
Once you have found a name you like, try it out on family and friends. Say it out loud in a sample phone greeting. Write it down and read it. These are just a few ways to test your name to make sure it represents your business.
Now that you have a name, you can search Google, Bing, and other search engines to find other businesses using that name, especially in your state or local jurisdiction. Ideally, you won’t find anyone else using your name, but it is very important for a Nationwide or International company to have a unique business name, especially if the name is not trademarked. See below.
Visit the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) visit to run a trademark search on the business name you have chosen. Searching the USPTO for conflicts before you officially register your Florida business name is the best way to know if there is a potential conflict. If you’re not confident about searching the trade name on your own, you can hire a Trademark Specialist to help. Their services can be expensive, and in our experience, you can usually clear a name yourself if you’re able to search Google, Bing, Yahoo, and even the Florida State Business Name database.
Business registration requirements vary by state. Now that you have chosen a business structure and your business name, here are the requirements to register your business in Florida.
TIP: Speak to a tax advisor about Business Structure and S-Corp election to prevent complicated business matters.
Our Florida LLC and Corporation formation packages include the following to get you started.
A Federal Employer Identification Number is like your company’s Social Security Number. Florida Corporations and LLCs, and DBAs with employees are all required to have a FEIN. If you are a DBA and don’t obtain an EIN you will be forced to use your Social Security Number on many documents, so many businesses obtain an EIN to prevent identity theft.
TIP: We will obtain your EIN for you if we form your company.
You’ll need to keep business and personal finances separate by opening a business bank and credit accounts. Learn more about how to build your business credit profile. Corporations and LLCs are required to operate these types of accounts, but they position your company for favorable loans and lines of credit. Call your preferred bank and ask how to open a business bank account. Typically you’ll need a) your filed paperwork, b) your EIN, and c) a company resolution authorizing your company to open the account (signed by the owners, members, officers or directors, etc.).
TIP: Our business formation service includes a free banking solution.
View Recommended Banks in our Vendor Network.
Set up your Accounting and Record-keeping system and learn about the taxes your new company is responsible for paying.
The IRS recommends keeping financial records for up to seven years. Employment tax records should be held for at least four years after any due taxes are paid. Most other records should be kept for three years, and all documents like leases, stock certificates, and vendor agreements should be kept for the life of the business. Read our Accounting & Financial Management Help Guide for help with setting up an accounting and record-keeping system.
Now that you’ve registered your business name, you may need a Florida business license and/or permits to do business in your city or county. At this point, you may also be required to register for state taxes as part of the licensing process. Check the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation website to see if your industry is required to be licensed to operate in Florida. Some industries also require special licensing, and you can check that list here.
You may have to register with appropriate State Agencies or obtain Workers’ Compensation Insurance or Unemployment Insurance (or both) if you’re planning to pay yourself or others as employees. Here is a great resource for everything you need to know about being an employer in the Sunshine State. You can also review our Employees & Payroll Help Guide for help with hiring employees and processing payroll.
Check Out the MyCompanyWorks Vendor Network for Recommended Payroll Providers.
The Federal Government requires all US businesses to carry Workers’ Compensation, Unemployment, and Disability insurance. Florida only requires Workers’ Compensation insurance, but you may want to research insurance that covers the business. For a few hundred dollars a year, you can save yourself a lot of peace of mind with a General Liability or Owner’s policy. The SBA offers a comprehensive guide on which insurance is required for your business.
Recommended Insurance Providers from the MyCompanyWorks Vendor Network.
It may seem like a waste of time to set up your business so anyone could run it for you. But if you prepare a system by which your company can run, you’ll be able to take vacations or extended time off and still operate. Setting up a system to manage all your processes, like fulfilling orders, paying bills, employees, and taxes, and maintaining permits, also helps with training new employees. The more you can automate various business functions, the better the business will run while you’re working on growing your business.
Visit our Manage Your Company page for help and ideas to systemize and automate your business.
Now that your company is set up for success, it’s time to let customers know you’re open for business. Creating a marketing plan will help to target your ideal customer. Our Marketing & Sales page is an excellent resource to help you understand sales and marketing.
DBA: Your DBA or Fictitious Name is valid for 5 years and expires December 31st of the final year. Changes to the company name or address should be reported on the renewal application.
LLC: Florida LLCs are required to file an annual report, due May 1 each year. The filing fee is approximately $139, and late filings will result in a $400 penalty.
IMPORTANT: Annual reports that are not filed before the third Friday in September will cause your LLC to be dissolved in the State of Florida.
Corporation: All Florida Corporations are required to file an Annual Report before May 1 each year. Currently, the cost is about $150 to file the report, and Florida Corporations can e-file here. Corporations are also penalized with a $400 late fee if the Annual Report is not filed before the May 1 due date.
Franchise Taxes: Florida requires all Corporations, including non-profits, that are doing business in the Sunshine State to pay an annual Franchise Tax. Payments are due on the last day in April, June, September, and the last day of each tax year. Franchise tax is calculated as a percentage of the company’s net income for that year. Find out here if you’re required to pay Florida Franchise Tax.
Automate Ongoing Compliance Tasks with MyCompanyWorks Premium™
Whether you’re just starting your business or just need small business management, MyCompanyWorks Premium™ includes annual reporting and compliance in your state, status monitoring, forms, storage, and top-notch support from our experienced and friendly team.
First, let me say how impressed I am with your service. You've responded swiftly and kept me completely informed. Excellent! Thanks for your time!
Thank you for all your help. Your company has been very helpful and supportive in my new venture. I would recommend you to anyone who wants to start a new business.
Excellent job on the LLC formation! Great follow-up info in the package to get me started, too! Thanks!!
THANK YOU for your professionalism and work done in the expected time period. I will gladly refer you to other businesses.
Service was professional and quick. I like the portal and how it stores my documents for me. I also liked the handbook and how it laid out everything for me.
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Excellent in all aspects. Perfect for new business owners with limited resources but wants to start it off right.