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How to get a business license in Florida?

The fourth-largest economy in the nation; Florida is home to 2.8 million small businesses and startups. It is ranked #2 in the list of best states for first time entrepreneurs with 0.46% of its population comprising startups or new business owners. You can also join the elite entrepreneur league in the state by establishing your startup but in order to make the business operational, you will first need to obtain a license for Florida business. This guide will provide information on everything you should know about licenses and permits in the state including the cost of a Florida business license, types of licenses, process of obtaining a permit, and renewal among others.

Business License in Florida

If you have an idea and are wondering how to start a new business then you need to apply for new business formation after you have identified a business structure. What’s next once your business has been formed? Even after incorporation, you will not be able to operate or transact in the state till you apply for a business license in Florida. The licensing and permit requirements as well as the cost of a Florida business license can vary from one state to another, one county to another, and also according to the type of business activity. A business license also referred to as a permit in certain scenarios may also require a business to be compliant with zoning requirements. For example, repair businesses are normally not allowed near schools or clinics.

What business license do I need in Florida?

If you are planning to start a new business in Florida then there are several state requirements to fulfill and obtaining a business license in Florida is one of them. Now, you are probably wondering if all businesses require permits or licenses and the answer is that most businesses require some form of licenses although it is not mandatory for all. Licensing and permitting including the cost of obtaining a Florida business license will be dependent largely on two factors:

  • The business activity or what your business does. This includes: retail, restaurants, hotels, travel agency etc
  • The city or county from which a business operates, ie. the City of Orlando, Dade County, Pinellas County, and City of Sarasota among others.

Each state has its own rules and regulations for licensing and this is true for Florida as well. The business licensing regulations, rules, fees, are different from that of other states and can also vary from one city or county to another. As a result, a business license in Florida is defined under two categories, which are general business licenses and license or permits for specific industries or professions.

General business license (business tax receipt)

If you are forming a startup in Florida then your business may require a general business license. This type of license is also known as a business tax receipt and is required by specific business activities. If your business indulges in activities like selling goods or services then you will be required to apply for and obtain a license for Florida business. This is irrespective of where you are operating your business from whether from a rented commercial space or from your home.

Florida business tax receipts or general business license can be obtained if you register with the tax collector’s office in the region or county your business is situated in. If the location of your business is within a specific municipality then you have to apply for business tax receipt and Florida business license renewal in the city licensing division or permitting services division of the city your business is located in.

Business license/permits for specific industries or professions

Apart from the business tax receipt, most startups depending on their industry will need to apply for a business license in Florida. There are several industries and business activities that are categorized under the “regulated profession or business” and hence have to apply with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). Some of the regulated profession or business as mentioned by DBPR includes the following:

  • Alcoholic Beverages & Tobacco
  • Real Estate Appraisers
  • Architecture & Interior Design
  • Hotels and Restaurants
  • Certified Public Accounting
  • Veterinary Medicine
  • Electrical Contractors
  • Construction Industry
  • Harbor Pilots
  • Engineers

If your business activity falls under any of the regulated professions or businesses as mentioned by DBPR then you can apply for a permit or license using the Sunbiz business license portal. The license fee will also be different for different activities. In some cases, you may be required to obtain a license for a Florida business for multiple services rendered.

Example: If you are planning to start a restaurant with seating capabilities then it will be categorized under “Permanent Food Service (Seating)”. In order to obtain a license for Florida business in food services, you will have to create a facility plan for sanitation and safety and it has to be approved by the Division of Hotels and Restaurants, Plan Review Office. Post approval, you will have to apply for a new “Seating Food Service Establishment license” using the Sunbiz business license DBPR portal. Now, if you want to keep a vending machine within the premises of the food establishment then you would have to apply for an additional Vending Machine license.

Want to know what business licenses you need for your Florida Company?

Obtaining Business Licenses in Florida

A business license is essential for most new businesses as it ensures the business is able to operate or transact in the said jurisdiction. You have to first identify your licensing requirements and then apply for a business license in Florida, which depends completely on the type of business activity, location of the business, and the industry. As a small business, you may be required to obtain a regulated industry license as well as a business tax receipt.

How do I get a business license in Florida?

There are primarily two types of licenses in Florida, which are general licenses also known as a business tax receipt and licenses or permits for regulated industries and professions. You need to first identify whether your business requires to obtain a license for Florida business in either categories or a single category. In certain cases, you may even require local permits and approvals from local fire, police, health and zoning authorities. If you have a company office like a retail outlet in different counties or cities then you will have to apply for a local business license in each of those cities or counties. Similarly, you have to apply for Florida business license renewal in each of the counties or cities.

Application for a General business license

A general business license in Florida is also known as a Business Tax Receipt (BTR) or even an Occupational License. A BTR is required by law or municipal ordinances as it is issued by the local tax collector office in each city or county. In order to obtain a license for Florida business, you will have to apply with the Tax Collector’s Office in the city or county you are operating your business from.

Example: If your business is situated in Palm Beach County then you will have to apply for and obtain a license for Florida business from the Palm Beach County Tax Collector’s office. You will have to complete and submit the “Application for Local Business Tax Receipt” pursuant to County Ordinance No. 17-2. According to Sec. 17-17 of PBC Ordinance No. 72-7, you will not be issued any business tax receipt until you have complied with relevant county laws related to zoning, building, fire control, construction, and health. The cost of a Florida business license will vary according to the type of business activity and business tax will be generated accordingly.

IncParadise is one of the most reputable Florida registered agents and we offer a specialized “Business License Research Report” service to help you with all requirements pertaining to licensing and permits in this state. This research report contains detailed information that will help you to apply for a Florida business license.

What do you need to provide when applying for a Florida business license?

As a new business or startup, you will have to apply for a business license in Florida to make your company operational. Depending on the type of business activity, you may have to submit different types of documentation along with the permit or license application as well as for business tax receipts. The documents required are:

  • Registration Documents – You will have to provide a copy of the Articles of Organization or Articles of Incorporation or any other formation documents depending on the form of business.
  • Tax ID – One of the important documents required for new license application as well as Florida business license renewal is a copy of the Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Tax ID Number. If it is not available then you can submit a copy of your Social Security Number (SSN).
  • City Business Tax Receipt – If you are applying for a regulated business license in Florida and if your business is situated within the city limits then you will be required to provide a City Business Tax Receipt. If your business is situated outside city limits then a certificate of use from the Planning & Zoning Division will be required.

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How much does a business license cost in Florida?

There are two types of licenses in Florida; one is the small business license in Florida also known as the business tax receipt and the other is the license for regulated industries and professions. The cost of a Florida business license in either case would vary from one business to another and according to the business activity or industry.

For example: the license fee for a permanent food service or restaurant would be $262 for 1-49 seats and the fee for non-seating food establishments is $242 annually.

Renewing Florida Business License

Once you apply for and obtain a license for your Florida business, it is important to ensure it is renewed as and when required. If you have paid an annual license fee then it will be renewed annually and if you have paid a 1/2 year fee then you will have to apply for a Florida business license renewal after 6 months. If you fail to renew your business license or operate without obtaining a license then there can be fines and penalties for non-compliance and can even lead to business closure.

It is important to note that local business tax receipts or a business license in Florida has a validity of one year and expires on Sept 30 each year. If you fail to apply for a Florida business license renewal or local business tax receipts before October 1 each year then your business will be considered to be delinquent. There is a delinquency penalty of 10% for the month of October and an additional 5% penalty for each month till March 1 after which legal action will be filed.

Need any Assistance in Obtaining Your Florida Business License?

If you are planning to start a new business in Florida state then it is important to obtain a license for Florida business to meet state compliances and make your business operational. Depending on the type of activity and industry, your company may require single or multiple licenses and permits. This is where the Business License Research Report service offered by IncParadise can be helpful towards providing you with information and guidance pertaining to licensing in the state.

Do you have any questions regarding a Business License in Florida?