What this article won’t do is go into the crazy details of starting anything more complicated than a sole proprietorship in Florida. I found information somewhat intimidating and more than a little bit confusing when I was filing my forms and I could only imagine the same could be said for many other creatives in Florida looking to kickstart their business. So here’s a simple, hopefully easy guide, to help you start your business. 🙂
Please keep in mind that this is just a general guide I wrote to help reduce the confusion of wanting to start a business, but not knowing where to start. This guide cannot ever hope to trump the expertise and advice you will get from a trained professional. You are always better off talking to people who are trained to assist you in starting and developing your business!
With that having been said…
The Deciding Stage
1. Decide if you are going to operate under a fictitious name or if you are going to use your legal name for your business. This is important to discern because it determines whether you need to file for a fictitious name or not. For example, if your name was Jane Doe and you want to start an outdoor cat apparel company called Calico Coats, you would have to file for a fictitious name. However, if you called it Calico Coats by Jane Doe, a fictitious name would not be necessary.
2. Decide if you wish to file for a sole proprietorship or an LLC. Which one works for you is entirely your choice. LLCs require a bit more paperwork to set up over a sole proprietorship, but does give you some more legal protection that separates your business assets from your personal assets. This guide is aimed toward sole proprietorships with fictitious names.
1. Before you file for a DBA (Doing Business As, the form that you fill out to register your fictitious name), you need to advertise your business in a newspaper that gets circulated in the county your business will be operating in. For most of us, the local newspaper will often have a section that allows you to fill out a form to declare your business. Most people do their fictitious name ad through Orlando Sentinel.
There are other newspaper who will also do fictitious name ads too. Just for information purpose’s sake, you can check out public notices on FloridaPublicNotices.com.
2. Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number). An EIN is a number provided to you for free from the IRS that you can use in lieu of your social security number. It’s very useful to have, can be applied for and received online and best of all, it’s free! You can apply for an EIN on the IRS Website.
1. Once your ad runs in the paper, you can finally file for your DBA (fictitious name). Filing can be done through the mail using this form, but most people find it more convenient to file it online here: Sunbiz.org Fictitious Name Online Form. The form itself is very straightforward. No trick questions or information you have to dig around for. It costs $50 to file for a DBA and you have to renew it every 5 years.
2. Check with the state to see if you need to file for state sales taxes: MyFlorida.com. If your business is required to collect and remit state sales taxes, you should register for it at the Florida Department of Revenue’s Website. Thankfully, this part is free.
3. Next you will need to file for tax certificates for your city and county. Special care should be taken here because cities can vary slightly in how they work. First, you need to file for your city business tax. Here are some of the links to various cities in Florida and the number you can reach them at for help:
- City of Orlando (407.246.2204)
- City of Oviedo (407.977.6027)
- City of Winter Park (407.599.3290)
- City of Longwood (407.260.3442)
The certificates are valid for one year from September 30 to October 1. What this means is, if you apply on February 2nd, 2013 for example. You are still required to renew by September 30th, 2013. At this stage, it may also benefit you to determine if you need to do anything special for zoning. This is especially true if you are renting. Contact your city’s business offices and they should be able to give you some straightforward information about zoning and if it is necessary for your specific situation.
4. When you have received your city business tax certificate, you will need to take it and the county tax application to your county’s tax collector office. This will cost you around $60-80 depending upon your city and county.
Once you’ve done all that, you should be good to go. Remember to renew every year with the city/county, calculate and remit your state sales taxes, renew your DBA every 5 years, and pay your taxes quarterly to the IRS using Form 1040ES and other tax forms you may be required to pay depending upon the exact nature of your business.