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Start a Business in Florida

Florida, situated in the Southeastern region of the US, is one of the largest economies in the world. It is home to a diverse market with manufacturing, tourism, and agriculture being key players in driving the economy. If you are planning to start a business in Florida then there are several industries and cities where your business can be set up with minimum startup costs and enjoys rapid growth including Coral Gables, Sebring, and the northern Orlando suburb of Maitland.

Entrepreneur’s guide to form a business in Florida

The state of Florida is one of the strongest economies and is home to 19 Fortune 500 companies including Publix Super Markets, World Fuel Services, NextEra Energy, and Office Depot. The state has also been ranked #4 by Tax Foundation in their list of best states for business tax climate in 2021 ahead of heavyweight states like California, Delaware, and Massachusetts. The pro-business climate makes it a popular destination amongst entrepreneurs to start a business in Florida.

Although Florida has consistently ranked among the top states for a startup; it is never really easy to start a business. Whether you are planning to start a home-based business, an e-commerce, or a mid-sized enterprise; there is a lot of attention required when it comes to visualizing the future prospects, growth patterns, existing and newer markets, and above all a strong strategy and revenue generation model. A Florida registered agent like IncParadise can assist you with the process of forming a new business but making it grow and expand will depend on how robust and strategy oriented your business plan really is.

This guide has been specifically created to help you understand the various requirements of a startup including filing requirements in Florida. The guide will take you through various stages of a startup right from choosing a business structure to preparing a business plan, applying for a Florida business license, the importance of attending entrepreneurial training programs, choosing the right location, and getting a Tax ID like EIN among others. This guide is essentially meant for small business owners planning to register a business in Florida.

Why do companies prefer to incorporate and register in Florida?

Entrepreneurs and new business owners prefer to start a business in Florida because of the numerous benefits that the state offers. The state has a pro-business climate, competitive costs of conducting business, pro-business state tax policy, streamlined regulatory environment, and business incentive programs that encourage growth. One of the salient aspects of this state is that the government, policy makers, and economic development agencies work hand-in-hand to ensure the stability and consistency of the existing business climate for all forms and sizes of businesses, thus making the process to incorporate in Florida easier. There are several other advantages for starting a new business in this state and they are:

  • Strong and Robust Economy – Florida popularly known as the “Sunshine State” has been experiencing rapid economic and industrial growth. The $1 trillion economy is now the 4th largest economy in the nation and is ranked 16th in the world. It is always beneficial to start a business in Florida during these times of robust economic growth as it drives consumer spending as well as business investment. In a growing economy, both existing and new businesses will enjoy greater prosperity. One of the top industries where high economic growth is now a trend is the tourism industry. You can incorporate in Florida online or offline in the tourism industry, which is one of the industries driving the economy. The industry encompasses a wide variety of sub-industries or sectors like the food and beverage (F&B) sector, accommodation services, travel services, conferences and events, and transportation services among others. The Tourism industry in Florida generated $27.6 billion in 2019, which was a 5.8% increase from tax receipts generated in 2018.
  • Low Tax Burden – There are several benefits that attract entrepreneurs to start a business in Florida. One that stands out is the state having a low tax burden. Florida is ranked 6th in the list of states having a low tax burden and this includes the fact that the state doesn’t impose income tax on individuals. The corporate income tax rate is currently 4.458% and will increase to 5.5% for tax years starting from Jan. 1, 2022. The corporate income tax rate is lower than some other states like Idaho, California, and New Jersey. One of the factors that also contribute to the low tax burden in the state is the availability of tax incentives in the form of tax credits and exemptions. You can leverage these incentives only after you incorporate in Florida or form your new business.
  • Access to Capital – One of the important reasons for first time business owners to start a business in Florida is the access to capital required in the initial stages of a startup. There is a startup cost for every small business and this cost will vary from one business to another. There is a wide variety of financing programs including loans and grants that you can apply for after you incorporate in Florida online or offline.

The state of Florida provides numerous benefits and advantages to first time entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses. These benefits or advantages help businesses to achieve stability and growth in the long-term.

Steps to start a business in Florida

Florida with its strong economy, robust infrastructure, and competitive tax climate has been attracting small businesses and startups to be formed across various industry sectors. The scale as well as scope of industry assets of Florida is almost unmatchable. There are nine key business industries and several sub industries where you can register a business in Florida but before you form a startup, it is important to identify the key requirements to incorporate in Florida.

1. Prepare a Florida Business Plan

If you plan to register a business in Florida then there are several processes involved but before taking a deep dive into these processes, you need to focus on creating a business plan. It is known by different names like strategic plans, internal plans, operational plans, and even lean plans and they will vary according to the specific requirements of a business. Such a plan is an important as well as strategic tool for any new business or startup as it encompasses several areas and considers key aspects that help define business goals, planning, operations, objectives, and revenue generation. Some of the key aspects of a good business plan are:

  • Company Description / Executive Summary
  • Market Analysis
  • Business Model and Competitive advantage
  • Analysis of Competition
  • Business Structure, Management and Organization
  • Products and Services
  • Marketing Plan
  • Financial Plan
  • Income projections and Sales forecasts

A business plan is an essential requirement to incorporate in Florida as it will also identify state based requirements like Tax ID or EIN, business license, annual requirements of the business, name registrations, and much more. A strong and detailed business plan will also help you in raising money for your business through loans, grants, and other investments. There are several short and long-term benefits of a good business plan including the fact that it will help you to identify potential risks or risk areas and ensure you are able to address them.

2. Attend Entrepreneurial Training or Development Programs in Florida

The Early-Stage Entrepreneurship series is a report under the Kauffman Indicators of Entrepreneurship and it indicates that Florida is considered a state conducive for starting a new business or startup. You can start a business in Florida anytime as it has a pro-business climate and this environment also consists of access to relevant resources like entrepreneurial training and new business development programs.

The importance of an entrepreneurial training program lies in the fact that it provides individuals with an aptitude for identifying various business opportunities, helps boost their self‐esteem, and imparts necessary knowledge and skills. Such programs also include instruction regarding chance identification, commercializing of a business idea or concept, managing of resources, and initiation of business speculation. These development programs help in bringing out leadership qualities in a small business owner or entrepreneur and thus help them to incorporate in Florida successfully.

You can enroll for a variety of Entrepreneurial Training or Development Programs before you register your business in Florida. This will ensure you have the necessary skill sets and knowledge to make the business operational. The Florida Department of Education provides Entrepreneurship Education and Training (EET) Grants and Webinars related to Entrepreneurial Training opportunities.

There are several Entrepreneurship & Innovation Centers across the state that offer business development courses and workshops targeted at small business owners. You can also participate in different entrepreneurship events including inspirational startup events and entrepreneurial meet-ups across the state before or after you incorporate in Florida online.

3. Choose a Business Structure for your Florida Business

One of the important requirements to incorporate in Florida is choosing the right business structure. A business structure or form of business plays a defining role when it comes to cost of new business formation, annual maintenance requirements, and the type of taxation applicable. You should ideally register a business in Florida only after you have identified the structure that fulfills all your requirements or needs. Some of the aspects of a business structure that are considered for making this decision include the following:

  • Federal and state taxation
  • Asset protection
  • Access to loans, grants, and capital
  • Startup and business maintenance as well as operational costs
  • Business management
  • Flexibility of the chosen structure
  • Ownership change and existence of business
  • Transferability of ownership interests

You will need to compare the above aspects with the different business structures that are allowed in the state of Florida. You can start a business in Florida as any of the following:

4. Naming Your Florida Business

Every new business or startup requires a business name. The purpose of a name whether of an individual or a business is the same, which is providing a unique identity. When it comes to creating a business name, the process can be challenging for entrepreneurs as the name has to be in accordance with the Florida Statutes for business organizations. There are a few steps for identifying a name that will help you to register your business in Florida.

  • Step #1 – You need to ideate. A business name should be simple and easy to pronounce for customers. It should also state what type of products or services the business is offering.
  • Step #2 – Once you have identified such a name, you need to ensure it follows the Florida statutes.
  • Step #3 – Once a name has been created, you need to conduct a name availability search. If the name is unavailable or has already been taken then you need to go through steps 1 and 2 again.
  • Step #4 – If the chosen name is available then you need to register it. In most states, a business name is reserved using a name reservation form but in Florida, you have to file an “Application for Registration of a Fictitious Name”.

    For example: If you are planning to incorporate in Florida online or offline then the name should contain the words “corporation” or “incorporated”. Alternatively, you can also use abbreviations like “Inc.” or “Co.” There are several other requirements pursuant to FL Stat § 607.0401 (2014) like it should be distinguishable from any other name or entity that exists in the records of the Division of Corporations.

The fictitious name also known as DBA is one of the requirements to incorporate in Florida and has to be renewed every year by December 31st irrespective of the date you register a business in Florida.

5. Choose Your Location for your Florida Business

One of the key areas to focus on before you start a business in Florida is identifying the right location for your business. There are several factors that govern whether a specific location is good for the growth of a business or not; for example, accessibility to ports or transportation hubs. The choice of location is also dependent on the requirements of a business. For instance a retail store can be opened in any of the top cities but a manufacturing unit would need to be located in economic development regions or zones. The important factors to consider before you incorporate in Florida online are:

  • Accessibility – This includes local, national, and international access in terms of transportation
  • Central Location – This refers to how accessible your establishment for customers and employees are and takes into account roadside visibility and parking space
  • Security – Is your location a crime prone zone or is it a low risk zone?
  • Proximity to competing businesses – This factor is a growth determinant as more competition in your area can be a deterrent
  • Skill base availability – If you start a business in Florida that requires employees then you will need to zero in on a location where skilled employees are easily available.
  • Demographics – Does your target audience reside in the chosen location especially if you have a physical business like a law firm or a restaurant
  • Local Ordinances – Most states have zonal permits and local ordinances that govern the operations of a business and hence you need to check them prior to applying for a Florida business license.

6. Register Your Business with the Florida Department of State

Florida is considered as one of the favored destinations for new businesses, startups, and especially manufacturing businesses that account for nearly 5.39 percent of the total state output. As an entrepreneur you can start a business in Florida in manufacturing or any other industry including tourism, which is considered as the largest economic industry in the state. The question is how do you form a new business or what is the process? One of the primary requirements to incorporate in Florida is to register your business.

The registration application will depend on the type of business structure. For instance, forming an LLC will require you to file “Articles of Organization”. Similarly, if you were to incorporate then you will be required to file the “Profit Articles of Incorporation”. The formation of either type of business will be governed by Florida Statutes, Title XXXVI – Business Organizations and you can form or incorporate in Florida online. The filing fee is different for different business structures. It is $35 for a corporation and $100 for a limited liability company.

The process to register a business in Florida will require you to be compliant with all requirements as mentioned by the Division of Corporations and the Florida Statutes. You will be required to submit the application to form a new business in Florida while ensuring all information provided is correct and factual. This is where a reputed Florida registered agent like IncParadise can provide valuable assistance by helping you to incorporate or for your startup in the state.

We can assist you with new business formation in Florida

7. Get Your EIN

One of the important requirements for most entrepreneurs planning to register a business in Florida is the Employer Identification Number (EIN). This is basically a Federal Tax Identification Number (FEIN) that is issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This unique identification number is required by businesses for filing their annual tax returns although having an EIN has many more benefits depending on the type of business. You can use an Employer Identification Number to apply for credit and also for opening a business bank account.

8. Open a Business Bank Account for Florida Business

As an entrepreneur or a new business owner, it may seem easier and quite convenient to use your personal bank account for all your new business transactions. However, applying for a business bank account is always a better idea. This type of account is often known as a checking account or a merchant services account. The primary use of this type of bank account is to facilitate business transactions like accepting payments from customers as well as vendors. You can apply for and open a business banking account before or after you register a business in Florida. Some of the benefits of a business checking account are:

  • It will help in separating personal and business expenses and gains
  • The account will keep your business records organized
  • The business bank account helps build a business credit rating
  • Since it is separate from personal banking, it will ensure your tax return filing is simple
  • The account will help you to set up retail point of sale systems
  • Your business bank account can have a single or several signers

9. Obtain Necessary Business Licenses and Permits

Once you register a business in Florida, the immediate requirement to start operations is a business license. A Florida business license will help make your business operational according to the state statutes and local laws. Businesses cannot transact in the state without proper licensing or permits. Depending on the type of business, you may require a single license or permit or multiple licenses. Permits and licenses in Florida can be categorized as under:

Business Tax Receipt

In the state of Florida, there is no general Florida business license as such but it is known more commonly as a “business tax receipt”. The Local Business Tax Receipt is issued by the county in which your business is situated. The business tax receipt is applicable only for those businesses or entrepreneurs that are selling services or merchandise in the county they are located in. You will also be required to obtain city or municipal zoning approvals while ensuring complete compliance with regulations of zoning, health and other lawful authorities.

Example: If you start a business in Florida and it is located in Palm Beach County then you will need to first get local zoning approvals pursuant to Section 17-17 of Palm Beach County Ordinance No. 72-7. You will then need to file an Application for Palm Beach County Local Business Tax Receipt with the office of the Palm Beach County Tax Collector. You will also need Regulator Signatures from the departments of Fire Marshal, Health, and other Zoning authorities depending on the type of business activity.

Industry Specific Licenses

Industries are an important part of the Florida economy and if you start a business in Florida in a specific industry then you may need to apply for a business license. Florida Statutes and local regulations require licensing and permits for certain industries. This is a type of Florida business license that is issued by a governing body or a state agency. Let us look at an example to understand how it works.

Example: If you were to register a business in Florida as a restaurant or a food establishment then you will need to apply for a license from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The Retail Food Establishment industry requires permits or Florida business licenses for a variety of food establishments including grocery stores, coffee shops, convenience stores, retail meat markets, bakeries, juice and smoothie bars, retail seafood markets, and businesses selling pre-packaged food among others. The fee for the permit or license will vary according to the type of establishment. For example, an annual fee for a retail bakery is $355 while the fee for a mobile vendor is $300.

If you want to know more about a Florida business license then you can find information and resources with the Division of Library and Information Services or alternatively, you can opt for our “Business License Research Report” service, which entails providing a research report containing a list of filing instructions, supporting document requirements for business licenses and fees for all business permits and licenses in Florida.

10. Register for Taxes

There are several requirements to incorporate in Florida and one such requirement is registering for taxes. As a new business or startup, you may be required to register with the Florida Department of Revenue for collection and remittances of fees and taxes especially if your business is engaged in taxable activities. If you incorporate a business that proposes to sell taxable goods or services in Florida, then you will be required to register for sales and use tax prior to conducting business in the state. In order to register for taxes, you will have to file the “Florida Business Tax Application” or register online with the state Department of Revenue. This registration will enable the collection and payment of the following taxes and fees:

  • Sales and Use Tax
  • Communications Services Tax
  • Prepaid Wireless E911 Fee
  • Documentary Stamp Tax
  • Reemployment (Unemployment) Tax
  • Gross Receipts Tax on Dry-Cleaning
  • Gross Receipts Tax on Utility Services
  • Rental Car Surcharge
  • Lead-Acid Battery Fee
  • Severance Taxes
  • Miami-Dade County Lake Belt Fees
  • New Tire Fee

The registration for taxes is compulsory if you are planning to start a business in Florida. There is specific information that you have to furnish during tax registration depending on the type of business and form of taxes like business activity, location of the business, and starting date of the company. A Florida registered agent like IncParadise can provide you with information pertaining to taxes in Florida and how to apply for and obtain an EIN. The Employer Identification Number (EIN) will be required for filing of any taxes in the state.

11. Annual and Ongoing Requirements

Every form of business in Florida has certain state based requirements that they are required to fulfill. Once you register a business in Florida, you have to ensure complete compliance with state laws and regulations and this can be achieved by ensuring all annual and ongoing requirements are fulfilled. These requirements can be business and business activity specific. Let’s look at the annual and ongoing requirements to incorporate in Florida.

  • Annual Report – If you register a business in Florida then one of the primary annual compliance requirements is filing of the annual report. The annual report is a document that helps in updating or confirming the status of a business in the records of the Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations. The annual report is filed by the following entities:

    • Profit Corporation
    • Non-Profit Corporation
    • Limited Liability Company
    • Limited Partnership
    • Limited Liability Limited Partnership

    The annual report fee varies according to the type of business. For example, the fee for a profit corporation is $150 while that of an LLC is $138.75. The first annual report has to be filed between January 1 and May 1 in the year following the year when the business was formed.

    For example, if you incorporate in Florida online on Oct 05, 2021 then the annual report has to be filed by May 01, 2022 pursuant to FL Stat § 607.1622 (2014). There is a late fee of $400 if you fail to file by the due date.

  • Franchise Taxes – Certain businesses in Florida have to file taxes annually. Your company may be subjected to a state income tax of 5.5% or an alternative minimum tax of 3.3%.
  • DBA – This is known as a “Doing Business As” name or a fictitious business name that is valid for a period of 5 years unless you change your company name. Once the 5-year validity expires, you will need to renew it.
  • Business Licenses and Permits – Depending on the type of Florida business license and duration of the permits, you will have to renew them on the due dates as specified by the issuing authority.

Some Important Quick Resources for Florida Businesses

Once you come up with an idea, the next step is to identify how you can form a startup and finally register a business in Florida. You will need to conduct research and find information on every possible aspect related to your new business. Where do you find the right resources and authentic business related information? We have created a list of such resources that are focused on helping startups, entrepreneurs, and new businesses.

Florida Department of State

The Florida Department of State also known as the Florida Secretary of State is one of the primary agencies that you need to look for information and resources from while planning to incorporate in Florida. The office manages several aspects of the state including elections, businesses, arts and culture, and library and information services. This department provides information on how you can start a business in Florida, business structures in the state, registration of DBA or fictitious names, and managing or changing existing businesses.

The contact information for Florida Department of State is:

Florida Department of Financial Services

The Florida Department of Financial Services (FLDFS) is a state agency that consists of 13 divisions that provides information of varying degrees from Accounting and Auditing to Workers’ Compensation, Risk Management, Rehabilitation and Liquidation, Insurance Agent and Agency Services, and Consumer Services among others. The headquarters are situated in Tallahassee.

The contact information for Florida Department of Financial Services is:

State of Florida Business & Professional Regulation

The State of Florida Business & Professional Regulation is a state department and regulatory body that provides information on all regulated industries & professions in Florida. You can find important information regarding requirements to incorporate in Florida including License Search, Construction Industry Licensing, Florida Real Estate Regulations, Florida Permits Guide and a guide focusing on how you can start a business in Florida.

The contact information for the State of Florida Business & Professional Regulation is:

Department of Business and Professional Regulation

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) is a state agency that provides detailed information and guidance on Florida business license, business licensing and permits requirements. You can also benefit from information pertaining to requirements and processes involved in applying for a permit or license before or after you register a business in Florida. You can also check the status of an existing application or even access the online DBPR application system and check the fee of license or permits required by your business or profession.

The contact information for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation is:

  • Department of Business and Professional Regulation
    2601 Blair Stone Road,
    Tallahassee FL 32399-1027
    Phone: 850.487.1395
    Website – https://www.myfloridalicense.com/

Division of Workers’ Compensation

The Division of Workers’ Compensation is a state department under Florida’s Chief Financial Officer. The agency provides necessary tools and resources for businesses to understand and participate in the Florida workers’ compensation system. One of the responsibilities of this division is to ensure proper adjustment and reimbursement of claims. They also provide information pertaining to various aspects of workers’ compensation law like exemption, reimbursement, and compensation insurance among others.

The contact information for the Division of Workers’ Compensation is:

Florida Chamber of Commerce

The Florida Chamber of Commerce is a state department that is devoted to advocacy of startups and private businesses in the state. If you start a business in Florida then the chamber of commerce is one place where you can find information and guidance pertaining to taxation, right-to-work laws, transportation, tort reform, economic development, growth management, and international trade. They also host several events including the Florida Chamber Annual Meeting as well as Future of Florida Forum. They also host a number of training courses and depending on the business activity and industry, you can even participate in such training programs before or after you incorporate in Florida online.

The contact information for Florida Chamber of Commerce is:

Florida Department of Environmental Protection

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) is a government agency that is responsible for environmental protection. When you register a business in Florida there are certain environmental norms and laws that your business needs to be compliant with especially if you are in the manufacturing industry or are producing industrial waste. As a new business, you can find important information regarding regulatory programs that are responsible for safeguarding natural resources by overseeing compliance and permitting activities, which protect water and air quality as well as management of waste cleanups. The department is responsible for reviewing permit applications submitted by businesses that incorporate in Florida, conduct site inspections of permitted business and industrial facilities, and conduct enforcement activity.

The contact information for Florida Department of Environmental Protection is:

Ready to start a business in Florida?

Florida is one of the most favored destinations for entrepreneurs and small business owners as the state provides a pro-business environment, strong infrastructure and a variety of business incentive programs. You can start a business in Florida as a Limited Liability Company, Corporation, or any other form of business. If you are wondering how you can ensure the proper formation of your new business, then IncParadise can provide you with the right guidance and support.

We are an expert registered agent and incorporation service provider in Florida. We have already helped thousands of businesses in Florida to start their LLC or INC. As your Florida registered agent, we will not only help you understand all new business requirements but also provide a plethora of additional services like EIN assistance, and foreign qualification among others.

IncParadise can assist you with new business formation in Florida!