If you register a business in Florida, you'll be in good company. Florida's popularity for business startups is booming, especially in the southern part of the state. You'll find major companies like ADT, Office Depot, AutoNation, HSN, and Publix all have their headquarters in Florida.

To get started with your own startup, you need to decide on a business structure. There are three options for this, including a DBA, LLC, or corporation.

Choosing a Business Structure – DBA

It's important to point out that a DBA, which is a “Doing Business As” or a “Fictitious Business Name,” is not a defined business structure. It's an option that sole proprietorships and partnerships use to do business under a different name. Many startups choose this route if they aren't positive the company will take off. This way they can start off small and work toward incorporation down the line. One downside to a DBA is there is no liability protection. If someone sues your business, it's your personal assets that are subject to attachment.

If you're not worried about personal assets, then a DBA is likely fine. Once you file the information, you'll need to place a legal notice in the newspaper. Next, you need to obtain a business license in your respective county. Check with your local tax collector's office to verify what is necessary. Most counties in Florida require an occupational license or business license to conduct business in the county.

Choosing a Business Structure — LLCs and Corporations

If you opt for an LLC, you'll need to choose a name and include some version of the abbreviation LLC or the words “Limited Liability Company” in it. You'll have to decide whether you want a member-managed LLC or a manager-managed LLC. LLCs must have a registered agent on file as well. While not required in Florida, you should have an operating agreement in place. With an LLC, you need to understand the specific rules of dissolution. If you don't want to conduct business any longer, you have to take formal steps to dissolve it, including filing Articles of Dissolution. If you don't, you may be subject to tax liabilities, fines and penalties, and even legal issues.

If you opt to form a corporation versus an LLC in Florida, you will need your company name, a physical address in Florida, and a company mailing address. Ensure you have all the names and addresses of all the owners, and the state requires an email address on file as well. Like an LLC, you need a registered agent. You have to host an organizational meeting, and whether you want the company taxed as a traditional C-corporation or file for S-corporation status with the IRS.

Picking a Business Name

This is one of the hardest parts of starting a new business. You run the risk of problems, including legal issues, down the line if you start off with a bad name. Make your business name easy to understand and pronounce, unique, and something that can survive over time.

It's important to research your intended name to make sure it doesn't conflict with any other businesses and is easily searchable by potential customers. If you plan to do business on a national and/or international scale, it is even more crucial you verify your name is unique.

Keep in mind some helpful naming guidelines:

Additional Steps to Business Registration in Florida

Once you've decided on your business structure and a name, it's time to start the process:

  • File your business registration with the Department of Revenue.
  • File for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) if applicable, which is a unique tax ID and used for all business transactions.
  • Open any business accounts like bank accounts and company credit cards. You should always keep your business expenses separate from your personal ones.
  • Apply for any permits and business licenses.
  • Prepare your ongoing and annual requirements, like renewing your DBA or filing the LLC's annual report.
  • Make sure you comply with employer requirements, like keeping records of tax deposits, wages, pension payments, etc.

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