How to Start a DBA in Florida
Entrepreneurs longing for long, sunny days and a business-friendly state should consider Florida to start their DBA. Florida has many coastlines, attractions that would make for good business-to-business contacts, and no state income tax. You could be ahead of the small business wave by researching before moving to this southern state. We’ve prepared a guide with lots of information, links, and tips to help you have smooth sailing wherever you land your business in Florida.
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What is a DBA?
DBA means “doing business as.” The acronym designates a company doing business in a name other than its legal business entity name. The DBA meaning can refer to any other name the business uses outside of its legal business name listed on state and federal forms and taxes.
It’s legal to do business under a Florida fictitious name or an alias in every state, but each state has its laws on how it deals with DBAs. Florida is no different and has guidelines and rules for those who want to operate under an assumed name.
Many reasons exist why businesses want to use a DBA. It can offer some legal protections as it separates business assets from personal assets. A DBA could have some tax advantages to sole proprietors, a limited liability company (LLC), and general partnerships.
How to run a fictitious name search in Florida
Most states require registered businesses to have a distinguishable name. That means no other business in the state can register with the same name. However, some states view DBAs differently and allow multiple businesses to use the same name. That is how it is in Florida. It is up to small business owners to defend their businesses against name infringement.
Even so, it’s a good idea to make your DBA name a unique name. After all, you don’t want your business confused with another one. It’s better for marketing, too, if you have a distinctive business name.
Those starting a DBA must check for name availability against all registered names to be assured they are choosing a unique name. The best place to start that search is with the Florida Division of Corporations, but you can also double-check local DBA names against business licenses at the county clerk’s office.
You may need to check several places as some holding general licenses may have the same name. Another place to check for trademarks is the U.S. Patent and Trade Mark Office. Those with more questions about trademarks in Florida can go here for answers.
Visit SunBiz, run by the Florida Department of State
Once you are on the Division of Corporations page, look for the free tool to check corporate entity name availability. Put your name proposal into the entity box. You can check as many names as you want.
Review the search results
The state list of registered businesses will pop up. This will include all registered businesses, like your LLCs and partnerships. See if any of them match or are too similar to the name you want.
Search the state trademark and trade name database
Florida has a separate page where you can search strictly trade names. This is helpful, so your new name doesn’t duplicate an existing one. That free tool is here.
Register a name you like
You will need to contact or go to your local county office in Florida to register your DBA name when you find one you like. Registrations are done in the prothonotaries’ office in the county. The filing information is sent by the county to the Florida Secretary of State’s office.
Have a name in mind? Check on name availability first here.
How to register a DBA in Florida
Florida has several steps to get a trade name registered there. However, the final steps can be done online with payment made by a credit card with the Division of Corporations rather than the Secretary of State.
Trademarks are a different category than trade names and can be complicated to protect. Those who want to file a trademark may also wish to consult an attorney to ensure the process is done legally and properly.
You must advertise your fictitious name
Florida law requires that you publish your intention of using a DBA name at least once in a local newspaper where you plan to base your business. However, the state doesn’t require you to prove you advertised it.
Fill out the proper paperwork
The state offers step-by-step instructions to help you fill out the registration paperwork.
Register the name and pay the fee
You can fill out the paperwork online and pay the filing fee. The form will ask for the business name, mailing address (not a P.O. box), and the principal place of business.
The online system lets you pay by using a debit or a credit card.
Get your questions answered
Entrepreneurs with questions can go here to get some answers about starting a business in Florida. Local cities and counties may have website pages that deal with specific issues like business licenses, zoning, and other related items.
Registration of a fictitious name in Florida can be done here.
What comes next
You may feel like you’re ready to do business in Florida once you file for your DBA name, but there are some other things to do before you open your doors. Some of these things are legal issues so be sure to take care of them right away.
Open up a business checking account
Once you get your trade name certificate from the state, you can use it to open a business bank account. Most banks require this for sole proprietors and partnerships wanting to use a DBA name. Having a separate business account keeps things clear for accounting and taxes. It also helps if you are ever audited by the IRS too. This should be one of the first things you should do for your new business to accept payments and pay for expenses.
Get an EIN
Getting a federal employer identification number associated with your business issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is another crucial legal matter for your business.
It’s issued online after providing basic business information, like your business address and contact details.
An EIN is used as a Tax ID and is used to hire employees and deal with vendors. Most require it on contracts or other financial forms. Lenders and investors also require it most of the time.
Typically, an EIN isn’t required for sole proprietors but will be needed if you hire anyone for your business or file separate taxes. Those who file for a DBA will need one because they will file separate taxes.
Check state tax requirements
Florida is a tax-friendly state, but you still need to check to see what you could owe as a DBA. Businesses are required to have state employer tax numbers in Florida, although most sole proprietorships are not required to have them. That means you must register your business with the Florida Department of Revenue, even if you have a Florida DBA business. You can find out more here.
Check with state insurance and hiring requirements
Florida has laws regarding workers’ compensation, and businesses must abide by them or face fines and penalties. Florida requires businesses with one or more employees to have workers’ compensation insurance. Find out more about the state’s rules here. States typically don’t require businesses to carry liability insurance, but getting it is a smart idea. Liability insurance will pay any claims if your business is sued for things like an injured customer or a harmful product. You should include liability insurance in your plan to have liability protection.
Set up your business goals and policies
A business plan provides for a solid business structure, even if you are running your business alone. It is a basis for decisions and can help get loans and investors. Having policies and standards written out is also a good foundation for how you handle problems like customer complaints or vendor payments. It’s a way to keep all decisions consistent and fair.
Establish a marketing plan
Every business, including a new DBA, needs to start with a marketing plan to attract customers. It helps establish your brand and keeps your DBA in front of the public.
Marketing plans should include a variety of exposure, from online ads to radio, television, and local newspaper ads. Ideally, a marketing plan should be in place before you launch your business to ensure you have customers from the start.
Connect with resources for help
Florida has many resources to help small businesses thrive, and that includes those using a DBA. Some resources include:
If you plan to get an EIN, you can do so on the IRS website.
Who is a DBA best for?
Any business that wants to protect personal assets by separating the business name from its personal name. Personal names are typically used in their sole proprietorships or general partnerships, so using a DBA name offers more legal protection.
Any other type of business can do business under a Florida DBA. Many use assumed names to build a branded image or because they have multiple niche businesses they wish to keep as separate legal entities. There are some tax advantages as well regarding deductions and expenses. The idea is to keep a DBA name separated from the legal name.
Why would entrepreneurs choose to set up a DBA in Florida?
Florida is a destination spot for business, and there’s a good reason for that.
- Florida has lower costs to operate than many other states.
- It has some of the lowest business and personal taxes in the country.
- The lower cost of living attracts would-be employees from other states.
- Florida has a good post-secondary educational system, so it has educated workers.
- The state has a variety of industries, from aerospace to agriculture.
- The state has a solid infrastructure for power generation, transportation, and distribution.
- The weather is good most of the year, with mild winters.
- There is no personal income tax, so you can enjoy your revenues.
Cost to get a DBA set up
Florida has some of the more expensive filing fees for DBA registrations. However, the overall cost isn’t that much compared to other expenses involved in starting a business.
- State fees for fictitious name registration are $50.
- You must place a legal notice in the paper advertising the DBA, which can cost between $30 and $100.
- A certified copy of the DBA registration is $30.
- A certificate of status for a DBA registration is $10
What happens if you don’t advertise your intent to register your DBA in Florida?
Failure to follow through with the legal advertisement of your fictitious business name could amount to fines, your DBA being revoked, and a suspension or revocation of your business license or registration.
Can one company have more than one fictitious name in Florida?
Yes, a company can have multiple fictitious names. However, each different name must have its own application, as you can’t put multiple names on a single application. Also, each trade name will need to be advertised in a local newspaper where you are doing business.
Can two businesses have the same DBA legally in Florida?
Legally, two DBA businesses can have the same name, but it is frowned upon by the state and isn’t a good idea. The state wants all business names to be unique.
Does a DBA need a business license in Florida?
Every business needs a business license in the town or county they operate. The business license is in the legal name but will also have the DBA name on it. You will go to the local municipality to get a business license.
How much does a business license cost in Florida?
The cost of a business license is governed by local governments, including city and county municipalities. Some charge a one-time fee, and others charge an annual fee. Generally, a business license costs between $50 and $100.
Is there a sales tax in Florida?
All businesses collect a 6% sales tax. Corporations must pay a 5.5% income tax. Sole proprietorships, S-corporations, and LLCs are exempt from paying a state income tax.
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