How to Start a Business in Florida


Friday, February 28th 2020, 2:10 pm
By: News On 6


The Miami skylineFlorida enjoys a business-friendly regulatory environment and its population is growing -thanks, in part, to warm weather and lack of income tax. This can translate into rising demand for goods and services, making the Sunshine State is an attractive place to start a business. But before you start a business, there are certain things you should know, including business license and registration requirements.

Make a Business Plan

To start a Florida business, begin with the business plan. First, decide on a product or service to sell. Most entrepreneurs are guided in this by personal strengths and individual objectives as well as the realities of the market.

Florida is known for a dynamic tourism industry warmed by its position as the southernmost contiguous U.S. state. Agriculture, international trade, aerospace and aviation are also important. Although the state’s economy is diverse, new Florida businesses in these industries are especially likely to find ready-made markets, suppliers, and workers.

Creating an effective sales and marketing strategy is the next objective of business planning. Basic steps include identifying the most likely prospects and figuring out the best ways to attract them and turn them into customers. With a large Hispanic community and close ties to Latin America, Florida is ideal for marketing internationally.

Unless a business is envisioned as a one-person enterprise, a plan for staffing is next. The planner’s tasks include determining how many workers, what skills and whether to use independent contractors or full-time employees. Florida’s unemployment rate is often lower than the nation as a whole, so new businesses take extra care to see that staffing needs will be met.

Going into business requires money for fees, stationery, rent, salaries and other costs. Founder’s savings capitalize most businesses. Other sources may include bank loans, selling shares to the public, issuing debt or crowdfunding.

Florida offers business owners a number of financial incentives from state and local government and non-profit organizations. Enterprise Florida has information on loans, grants, credits, refunds, rebates and other financial assistance for businesses.

Choose a Business Structure

In Florida, the Department of State Division of Corporations handles registering business entities. Florida recognizes four main types of business structures:

  • Corporations. This structure insulates owners from liabilities and acts as a separate legal entity.
  • Limited liability companies. LLCs offer liability protections like corporations but have fewer paperwork and meeting requirements.
  • Partnerships, including general partnerships and limited partnerships. Partnerships have two or more owners who share in profits and losses. General partnerships distribute rights and responsibilities equally among partners. Limited partnerships have two types of partners with different degrees of liability and authority.
  • Sole proprietorships. Most businesses use this simple structure that makes no distinction between business and owner.

You can file registrations and pay fees online at the Division of Corporations website.

Register the Business Name

You have to file a Fictitious Name Registration if you are:

  • Doing business under a name different from your personal name if you are setup a as a sole proprietor, or
  • If you’re set up as a corporation or other separate legal business entity, doing business under a name different from your entity’s legal name.

Note that if you’re doing business as a sole proprietor under your name, or under the name of your legal business entity, you don’t have to file a Fictitious Name Registration.

To file a Fictitious Name Registration online, visit the Division of Corporations Fictitious Name Registration website. You can also file by mail.

Get Tax ID Numbers

Small businesses in Key West, FloridaAlthough Florida has no personal income tax, it does have a corporate income tax as well as other taxes. New businesses must register with the Internal Revenue Service as well as state taxing authorities.

To get a federal Employer Identification Number, businesses can apply with the Internal Revenue Service. The EIN is needed to facilitate withholding taxes on wages and salaries and to file the business’s federal tax return.

The Florida Department of Revenue website has information on corporate income taxes, sales taxes, unemployment taxes and the various forms and processes required to comply. The department also has information on state tax incentives that can benefit businesses.

In addition, most Florida counties collect occupational taxes and some cities also have business taxes. The Department of Revenue website has a tool to help businesses locate tax appraisers and collectors for each county. The Department of State website helps businesses connect with cities to learn about local taxes.

How Businesses Are Taxed in Florida

The Florida corporate income tax rate is 4.458% of net income reported on federal tax returns through the end of 2021. After that date, the rate goes to 5.5%. Florida also applies some adjustments, including a $50,000 exemption on net income.

Florida collects a 6% state sales tax from businesses located in or doing business in the state. Most counties in the state also collect sales taxes, up to an additional 1.5 percent.

Local governments collect property taxes at varying rates on business assets located in their jurisdictions. While Florida has no state income tax or state property tax, these local property taxes are higher than in most states.

Obtain Licenses and Permits

Here are the key agencies that oversee most licenses and permits in Florida.

The Bottom Line

Workers in a coffee shop.Low-tax, business-friendly Florida is home to more than two million businesses of all sizes. There’s always room for one more new business in the Sunshine State, as long as the proper procedures are followed.

Tips for Starting a Business
  • Many financial advisors specialize in working with business owners. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Picking the best structure for your new business is critical. Besides considerating how Florida taxes and regulates various business structures, it’s important to understand the benefits and liabilities of your choices. Check out this helpful summary of tips for making sure your new business is organized for maximum success.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/espiegle, ©iStock.com/csfotoimages, ©iStock.com/kali9

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