Doing business in Florida requires several initial steps. Perhaps the most exciting step is choosing a name for your company. You'll want to come up with something unique that explains the type of business you're conducting. After that, you'll need to decide how to form your company, i.e., a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a corporation, or an LLC (limited liability company). Whether you're running an online business, an at-home business, or a brick and mortar, your first steps will be to register with the state and county and open a bank account.

Let's dive a little deeper into doing business in Florida.

Types of Taxes in Florida

Anyone who opens a small business in Florida must register for an identification number. You'll also need to secure a permit or license based on the type of taxes that line up with the services you're offering. Some businesses will be responsible for unemployment taxes, corporate income taxes, and sales and use taxes. Beware of other unforeseen taxes, too, such as a communications services tax, a fuel tax, or a pollutants tax. It all depends on the type of business you're establishing. The Florida Department of Revenue's website contains a wealth of information, as well as pertinent registration forms. 

Permits and Licenses

The state of Florida requires all businesses to acquire appropriate permits and licenses. Just like your taxes, your permits and licenses will vary based on your location and the type of business you're operating. Here are some of the most common permits and licenses business owners file for:

  • Business license
  • Tax permit
  • Building permit
  • Occupational permit
  • Alarm permit
  • Zoning permit
  • Health permit

Florida Division of Corporations

In Florida, the following entities must register with the Division of Corporations:

  • Non-profits
  • Corporations
  • LLCs
  • Partnerships

If you're planning to run a sole proprietorship, you don't need to go through the registration process. However, you will be required to use your personal name as the business name. If you don't like the idea of using your own name, then you must register a fictitious name with the same Division of Corporations. Your use of a fictitious name means you'll be "doing business as." 

Filing Taxes in Florida

It's advisable to retain all of your employment tax records. You'll want to keep your employer identification number (EIN), employee data, and tax deposit information on record at all times. The IRS has a wealth of information on their website regarding employment taxes and additional items you'll want to maintain in your records. Start maintaining accurate records early on. If you do this, you'll be able to:  

  • Track your growth
  • Monitor your deductibles
  • Track your receipts
  • Prepare future tax returns

Hiring Employees

It will be your responsibility to provide employee information within 20 days to Florida's Directory of New Hires. This includes their name, address, and social security number, and can be done online at the Florida New Hire Reporting Center

Each new hire must complete an I-9 form. This provides proof of their eligibility to work in the United States. It's important to have this form submitted within three days of their start date. Be sure to keep a copy on file for your own records, whether the new hire is a citizen or a non-citizen. You can find this form on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website. 

Along with the I-9, new employees will need to sign a W-4 form. This is required for tax withholding exemptions. Once signed, you can forward the W-4 to the IRS. You'll want to maintain tight records regarding taxes withheld and wages paid to each employee. You'll submit the tax and wage information from the previous year to the government via a W-2 form, or a Wage and Tax Statement.  

As soon as you have employees on staff, you'll also be required to pay an unemployment compensation tax. Those taxes will go into the UC Trust Fund. This is where partial payments are drawn from when workers are unable to find work. 

You'll also be responsible for worker's compensation insurance. This is available through the Florida Workers' Compensation Joint Underwriting Association. Alternatively, you can pursue a self-insured method. 

If you need help doing business in Florida, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.