Business Insights

10 Steps for Starting a Business in Florida

One of the brightest aspects of the Sunshine State for entrepreneurs is that Florida is one of the top states in the U.S. for starting and owning a business. Why? There are a few reasons.

Florida has a positive reputation for a low corporate tax burden attractive to businesses and a robust labor market thanks to abundant opportunity. Plus, with a booming local economy and high tourism, Florida’s GDP growth rate has now made it the 14th largest economy in the world.

Starting a new business is an exciting time in any entrepreneur’s life, but with that excitement comes a lot of complex paperwork, planning and compliance. So, we have compiled a list of 10 steps to starting a business in Florida to make the process as easy as possible.

However, please note that while this article provides the essential information you will need to start your business, consulting the expertise of local financial advisors and law professionals as you begin your business journey can provide further clarity and expedite your process.

Now, let’s get down to business.

Step 1: Determine the Type of Business Ownership

Step 2: Register with the Florida Department of State

Step 3: Register the Business Name

Step 4: Register for an EIN Number

Step 5: Register with the Florida Department of Revenue

Step 6: Fund the Business

Step 7: Register for the New Hire Program

Step 8: Apply for a Business License or Permit

Step 9: Check Local Regulations

Step 10: Open a Florida Business Bank Account

Step 1: Determine the Type of Business Ownership

baker working on paperworkThe type of ownership structure you select for your business will largely depend on a few key items. Are you going through it alone, or do you have partners? Will you operate a for-profit or not-for-profit organization? What level of liability do you or your business require?

How you answer these questions, along with others, will help narrow down and determine which type of business structure is the best fit financially and legally.

To help you get started, let’s explore the most common types of business ownership structures in depth: Corporation, Limited Liability Company, Cooperative/Partnership and Sole Proprietorship.


If personal liability is a top priority for your business and its shareholders, corporations are an excellent choice as they offer the strongest protection for asset security.

However, while limiting liability for key stakeholders can be advantageous, developing a corporation can be time-consuming and expensive and requires a higher level of financial scrutiny and processes over time.

Click below to learn about the four types of corporations:

  • Passes income, losses, deductions and credits to shareholders for tax purposes.
  • Offers limited liability to shareholders.
  • Limited to 100 shareholders who must be U.S. citizens or residents.
  • Shareholders report profits and losses on individual tax returns.
  • Formed by licensed professionals such as doctors, lawyers or accountants.
  • Provides liability protenction for professional individuals.
  • Subject to specific regulations set by professional associations and state licensing boards.
  • Offers a separate legal entity from shareholders.
  • Provides limited liability protection to shareholders.
  • Subject to corporate income tax at the federal and state levels.
  • Unlimited shareholders permitted.
  • Formed for purposes other than profit.
  • Exempt from federal and state income taxes on income related to nonprofit activity.
  • Governed by a Board of Directors.
  • Revenues are reinvested into the organization to fulfill its mission in the future.


Limited Liability Company (LLC)

LLCs are simple and versatile, making them a popular option for smaller businesses. Unlike corporations, which are owned by their shareholders, LLCs are owned by one or more individuals. Still, LLCs offer the liability protection of corporations, protecting personal assets from company debts. Plus, LLCs offer pass-through taxation, so profits and losses are reported on the owners’ individual tax returns.

Click below to learn about the seven common types of LLCs:

  • Owned and operated by a single individual or entity.
  • Offers liability protection for the owner’s personal assets.
  • Profits and losses are reported on the owner’s individual tax return.
  • Owned and operated by two or more individuals or entities.
  • Provides liability protection for the owner’s personal assets.
  • Profits and losses are typically allocated among members according to the terms of the LLC operating agreement.
  • Managed by designated managers appointed by the members.
  • Members may not be involved in the day-to-day operations but have ownership interests.
  • This is common in larger LLCs where members want to separate ownership from management.
  • Managed by all members equally or based on their ownership interests.
  • Each member has a say in the company's operations and decision-making.
  • This is common in smaller LLCs or those where all members want to be involved in management.
  • Allows for creating separate "series" within the LLC, each with its own assets, liabilities and members.
  • Offers liability protection between series, meaning the debts and obligations of one series generally do not affect the others.
  • Each series operates as a separate entity for legal and liability purposes.
  • Formed by licensed professionals in fields such as law, medicine, accounting, etc.
  • Provides liability protection for professional services offered by members.
  • Subject to specific regulations and licensing requirements set by state licensing boards.
  • A specialized form of LLC designed for social enterprises and businesses with a primary goal of achieving a social or charitable mission.
  • Allows for-profit and nonprofit activities to be combined under a single entity.
  • Offers investors the potential for financial return while pursuing social or charitable objectives.



Choosing a partnership structure for your business offers shared expertise, resources and workload. Partnerships also provide diverse perspectives and thought that can promote innovation and more efficient problem-solving.

When partners pool their resources, skills and networks, businesses have an opportunity to grow and expand at a faster pace. Generally, there are three types of partnership-based business structures:

  • Partners share equal responsibility and liability.
  • Management activities and decisions are often shared equally.
  • All partners are personally liable for the business’s debts and obligations.
  • Includes general partners with unlimited liability and limited partners with liability limited to their investment.
  • General partners manage the business and enjoy unlimited liability.
  • Limited partners are passive investors with limited liability for their investments.
  • Provides liability protection to all partners.
  • Partners are protected from personal liability for partnership debts—excluding instances related to their own negligence or malpractice.
  • Most commonly used for professional services such as law or accounting firms.

Sole Proprietorship

The simplest form of business structure, a sole proprietorship, is owned and operated by a single business owner. Many small businesses begin as sole proprietorships due to their low barrier to entry, and owners enjoy minimal paperwork and governmental regulations.

During tax time, the business owner and business are considered one entity, so all income and expenses will be reported on your individual tax returns.

A consideration for this type of structure is that it does not provide liability protection like other types and that all risk to the business belongs to the owner. However, as your business grows, you can evolve your business structure to include more protection to secure your assets.

Step 2: Register with the Florida Department of State (DOS)

In Florida, most business types are required by law to register with the Florida DOS. Registration establishes a legal entity separate from the individual to protect you from risk and secure personal assets. You must also register your business for tax purposes and comply with local state tax laws on collecting sales tax and payroll withholding.

Depending on whether you choose a corporation, LLC or partnership structure—sole proprietors are not required to register their business with the state—you will need to provide specific information when you file your Articles of Incorporation or Articles of Organization with the Florida DOS Department of Corporations (DOC). Information you will need for registration is not limited to but will include:

    • A distinguishable business name. Doing a preliminary Search by Name before submission is essential to ensure your name is compliant.
    • Provide the addresses for both the business and the registered agent, who will be the primary point of contact for the business.
    • A corporate purpose that defines the nature of your business.
    • An effective date on which your business will begin.
    • The number of stock shares you will issue, if applicable.


For a more in-depth explanation of what information and documentation you will need and to obtain the appropriate forms, please visit the DOC’s web portal for starting your business in Florida.

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Step 3: Register the Business Name

business owners working on paperworkAs required by the Fictitious Name Act (s.865.09, F.S.), any business entity or individual must register a “fictitious name” or “dba” (doing business as) with the DOS before they are legally able to operate their business in Florida.

Registering a fictitious name with the DOS serves a couple of key purposes. First, it offers public transparency into the identity of business owners operating under that name, and fosters trust in the businesses consumers engage with. Also, business name registration in Florida ensures your business is compliant with state regulations and may offer levels of legal protection.

Visit the Florida DOS website to learn more about specific requirements and exemptions for this step of the process.

Step 4: Register for an Internal Revenue Service Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Like a social security number for private citizens, an EIN is a nine-digit number that identifies your business with the IRS for tax purposes. Most businesses in Florida must obtain an EIN before they can begin operating in Florida and experience other EIN benefits, including hiring and paying employees, business banking options, lines of credit, and more.

How to Get an EIN Number in Florida

To obtain your EIN, please complete and submit Form SS-4 to the IRS by telephone, mail, fax or online.

An EIN is required in Florida for businesses that meet the following criteria:

      • The business has employees.
      • The business operates as a partnership or corporation.
      • The business withholds taxes on income—excluding wages—paid to non-U.S. citizens or nationals.
      • You have a Keogh plan—more commonly referred to by the IRS as a qualified retirement plan for self-employed individuals.
      • You are involved with an estate, trust, nonprofit or farmers' co-op.


If your business is a Florida LLC and none of the above applies to your business, you are not required to file for an EIN. However, please note that some financial activity provided through business banking accounts may require one in any case.

Step 5: Register with the Florida Department of Revenue (DOR)

Most businesses will be required to register with Florida’s DOR before conducting any business activity that is subject to Florida state taxes and fees. By registering with the DOR, your business can comply with state tax laws, avoid penalties or legal matters and fulfill any tax obligations your business structure dictates.

Registering your business may be necessary for the following reasons:

      • Sales Tax Collection: If your business deals in goods or provides services, you are likely required to obtain a sales tax permit that allows you to collect and remit sales tax to the state.
      • Use Tax Reporting: If you make taxable purchases to operate your Florida business without paying sales tax at the time of purchase, you must report and remit use tax to the state.
      • Corporate Income Tax: Certain types of business structures, such as corporations, among others, are subject to Florida’s corporate income tax. Registration with the DOR meets tax compliance and requirements.
      • Withholding Tax: If you are a business with paid employees, withholding state income tax from wages may be a requirement.


To learn more about the benefits and how to register your business with the Florida DOR, please access their New Business Start-Up Kit for resources and forms.

Step 6: Fund the Business

Funding a business of any size can feel like one of the more daunting pieces of the startup process—especially when considering the wide range of capital needed depending on your business type and structure. However, you are not alone in the process. If self-funding is not an option, there are several avenues you can take to access the capital your business requires.

Options such as angel investors, venture capitalists and even crowdfunding sites are all viable choices to get you started, but one of the more popular options for many business owners is to take the route of business loans. Numerous types of business loans can come from many sources, including family, friends, or community banking institutions with expertise in various business loans and financial services.

Step 7: Register for the New Hire Program

The New Hire Program is a federal and state initiative that promotes the enforcement of child support orders and the administration of other governmental programs.

If your business has employees, Florida law requires you to report all newly hired or rehired employees to the New Hire Program within 20 days of the employee’s start state. This requirement applies to employees of all types—full-time, part-time, temporary, seasonal and independent contractors.

Failure to report employees to the New Hire Program is not only unlawful but also costly. Noncompliance may result in fines, penalties and other consequences for a business that fails to register.

More information can be found on the website of the Florida Department of Revenue.

Step 8: Apply for a Business License or Permit

Florida does not require business licenses on a statewide level. However, depending on the type of service your business provides, specific permits and licenses may be mandated by specific state government agencies.

In Florida, three state-level agencies oversee various business licenses. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) manages licenses for construction, real estate and tobacco or alcohol businesses.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) handles licenses for agriculture, food-related services, gambling, oil/gas and private investigation/security. The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) regulates healthcare professions and institutions, such as trainers, massage therapists and nutritionists.

If your business deals with hazardous materials or requires certification or special training, you will likely need to register for a business license or permit.

Types of Business Licenses

Depending on the nature of your business, various business licenses and permits may be required to operate your business in Florida:

        • Occupational License: Also referred to as local business tax receipts, occupational licenses are required by cities or counties when operating within their jurisdiction.
        • Professional License: This license type is required for regulated professions such as legal services, real estate and healthcare.
        • Industry-Specific License: This license is necessary for Florida businesses in specific industries such as healthcare, food service and construction.
        • Health and Safety Permits are for businesses that handle products such as food, alcohol, or hazardous materials.


How to Get a Business License in Florida

small business owners standing with bakery breadVarious business licenses may be required in Florida based on your particular business activity. Florida state agencies such as DPBR, DACS, and FDOH each regulate unique industries.

To learn more about your business requirements and how to apply for licenses and fee schedules, please visit the Florida Business Information Portal and enter your business type to get started.

Step 9: Check Local Regulations

While some licenses, permits and other types of registrations are required at the state level in Florida, various municipalities throughout the state also require registration through local government agencies at the city or county levels.

To learn if your area of operation requires localized licensing and permits, please visit the official government website of your specific city or county in Florida.

Step 10: Open a Florida Business Bank Account

While a business bank account is not required unless your business is incorporated, it is often a best practice to keep your business and personal finances separate. This is not only a benefit come tax season—a business bank account also frequently offers perks and services that add value and ease for the business and its owner(s).

Another beneficial option for businesses is to work with a community bank with a vested interest in the areas they serve, like Seacoast Bank. Community banks are well-versed in local, regional and state regulations and offer relationship-based banking and financial advice that makes you and your business feel like more than just a number.

What Do I Need to Open a Business Account?

With Seacoast Bank, opening your business checking account is easy. You simply need to provide your business’s information, determine how you will fund your account and submit your application.

Even better, business checking at Seacoast offers a $0 monthly fee on all accounts that maintain a $1,000 average monthly balance—in addition to several other attractive features and benefits.

Get Started with Florida Business Banking

Aligning with a bank for business banking services is a good step early in the business start-up process. In addition to business checking accounts and loans, Seacoast offers additional business services that can benefit new business owners, such as payroll services, an Automated Clearing House (ACH) network, merchant services, reconcilement services, remote deposit capture, security and more.

To learn more about how our banking services can help support your new business startup in Florida, contact a local business banking specialist by filling out the form below or finding a local branch near you.


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