Starting a new company can be an intimidating process, but it doesn’t need to be. If you do your research, the process of forming an LLC can be done efficiently in a short amount of time. However, there are many steps to take, so you’ll want to come prepared.
LLCs are a popular type of business for many entrepreneurs. They are relatively simple to set up (compared to a corporation), and offer substantially more liability protection than something like a sole proprietorship. LLCs separate owners from their businesses, so if your company is ever sued, your personal assets will be protected.
In Florida, LLC formation is handled by the Florida Division of Corporations (Sunbiz.org). You can start an LLC in Florida online, for just $125. This guide will show you everything you need to know about how to start an LLC in Florida. Let’s get started!
1. Consider using an LLC service
LLC formation services, such as ZenBusiness and Northwest Registered Agent, can help make the formation process more efficient and more accurate. These companies help walk you through the process from start to finish and work with the state of Florida to ensure everything is handled correctly.
Using an LLC service costs a bit extra, but for many businesses, it is well worth the cost. ZenBusiness has plans for just $49, so the cost is quite reasonable. While you can form a limited liability company in Florida on your own, you will almost certainly save time and hassle by using a company.
Also, keep in mind that these companies offer other complimentary services that you may need anyways. For instance, you will need a Registered Agent to represent your company – and ZenBusiness or Northwest Registered Agent can both fill this role.
Check out our roundup of the Best LLC Services
2. Name your Florida LLC
Choosing a name for your company is the first concrete step on your journey to forming the business. You will need to find a name that satisfies these requirements:
- Unique – It must be distinguishable from the names of other companies in Florida. You can search for existing business names here to confirm availability.
- LLC Terminology – It must contain the phrase “limited liability company” or one of the abbreviations, “LLC” or “L.L.C.”
- Restricted Terminology – It must not contain terms that are restricted. This includes government terms like “FBI” and protected terms like “Doctor” and “Lawyer” (these latter phrases require special permission).
Before you get caught up trying to find the perfect business name, it’s worth remembering that you can use trade names in Florida.
Florida Fictitious Business Names
In Florida, businesses can operate under what’s called a “Fictitious Business Name”. In most other states, this is referred to as a trade name or a doing business as (DBA) name. This is essentially a second (or third) name that you can do business with, other than your actual formal LLC name.
In Florida, you must register a new fictitious name with the state, and also need to advertise the new name in a newspaper in the county of your primary market. It’s not required that you use a fictitious business name (you can simply operate under your Florida LLC name), but if you do wish to use one, it must first be registered.
3. Appoint a Registered Agent in Florida
All Florida LLCs are required to select a Registered Agent in the state. This agent is tasked with representing the business and handling the receipt of legal documents, a notice of lawsuits, etc. In some states, this is called an Agent for Service of Process.
A Registered Agent can be any resident of Florida – so you could be your own agent, or appoint an employee. It can also be a company registered in Florida, so you can use a professional service like Northwest Registered Agent. Either way, you will need to select your agent before moving on to the next step, as you will need this information for the forms.
Keep in mind that if you do choose to be your own agent, your mailing address will become public record. It needs to be a physical street address, as PO boxes aren’t allowed. For this reason, many Florida businesses choose to appoint a Registered Agent service as their Registered Agent. ZenBusiness and Northwest Registered Agent are both good options.
Check out our roundup of the Best Registered Agent Services
4. File the Florida LLC Articles of Organization
The Florida Articles of Organization (Form LLC-1) are the main paperwork that you will need to fill out in order to form your new Florida limited liability company. This document collects key information about your business and establishes the legal framework to create the business entity.
The costs for this process are:
- Filing fee (required) = $125
- Certified Copy (optional) = $30
- Certificate of Status (optional) = $5
These Florida LLC costs are payable to the Florida Department of State and are nonrefundable. If you choose to use a service like ZenBusiness, their fee will be charged separately (starting at $49).
You can submit the document via mail to:
New Filing Section
Division of Corporations
P.O. Box 6327
Tallahassee, FL 32314
Alternatively, you can file the form online. Online applications are typically processed faster, so we recommend this method in most cases.
Note that the instructions above are for forming a new LLC in Florida. For existing companies expanding into the state, you’ll need to follow the process for setting up a foreign LLC in Florida.
5. Create a Florida LLC operating agreement (optional)
Note: This step is optional, but recommended.
All LLCs should draft an operating agreement. This legal document establishes many key components of your new business, most notably, its ownership structure. This makes it particularly important for multi-owner businesses, as it can help prevent ownership disputes. Even single-member LLCs can still benefit from an operating agreement. You can use a service like ZenBusiness to help you draft one, hire an attorney, or use an operating agreement template online.
The form is not required and is simply kept for your own records. So this is an optional step.
6. Wait for your documents
Next, you’ll need to wait for Florida to process your application. This typically takes 2-4 weeks, depending on the current backlog of applications. Current processing time estimates are listed here, so you can check that to get a feel for how long your application may take. Expedited processing (as little as 9-12 business days) may also be available for an additional fee.
7. Apply for business licenses and permits
The steps above will form your LLC as a business entity. However, you will need additional licenses and/or permits in order to actually do business in the state. For certain industries/business types, you’ll need to register with the state. More information can be found here.
You will also likely need a local business license in the city or county where you plan to operate. Check with your local government for their requirements. For specialized companies, like medical service providers, additional permits will be required.
That’s all you need to know about starting a Florida LLC! But before you go, check out the action items below to get further on your journey to running a successful business.
8. Apply for an EIN
An EIN is an employer identification number. This IRS tax ID is a federal tax identification number, similar to a social security number (but for your business!) This is handled on the federal level, not the state level.
EINs are required to hire employees, and even companies without employees should still likely have one. It is simple to apply for one online, and there is no cost. Simply head to the IRS website and complete the quick application to obtain your EIN.
9. Open a business bank account
A business checking account is essential for any new company. It allows owners to keep business and personal finances separate, which is important both for accounting and tax purposes, as well as for personal liability purposes.
Most financial institutions offer business checking accounts. You will need a business license, EIN, and other information about your company in order to apply. You may also wish to apply for a business credit card.
10. Keep your LLC in good standing
Once you’ve completed the LLC paperwork, you’re not done! You will need to file annual reports, income tax returns with the Florida Department of Revenue and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and more. In short, you’ll need to handle various ongoing requirements in order to comply with Florida law and federal law.
In Florida, you’ll need a Seller’s Permit if you plan to sell physical goods. This is to collect Florida sales tax. You’ll also need to pay employer taxes, including payroll taxes and Florida Re-employment tax. Businesses in certain industries may also be subject to additional tax requirements.
Florida requires an Annual Report to be filed each year, for any LLC or other business in the state. This is due by May 1st, otherwise, a $400 late fee will be assessed.
You will also need to stay on top of renewing permits and business licenses, filing state, local, and federal tax returns, and more.
There may be additional requirements to keep your small business in good standing with federal, state, and local governments – these are just a few examples. Be sure to research requirements, and add due dates to your calendar so you don’t miss anything.
This can all seem like a lot to keep track of, but it’s worth investing the time now to stay on top of everything from day one. If you need help, companies like ZenBusiness and Northwest Registered Agent can remind you of key due dates, and even help with certain filings.