While the process of starting a business in Florida isn't necessarily difficult, there are several steps that you need to take to ensure that you can legally operate. One such step: obtaining the right permits and business licenses. Depending on your industry and your county/city, there may be several permits that you need to obtain. Business licenses for Florida based companies may include federal, state, and/or local permits. The key is to gather as much information as you can regarding what your specific sectorlocale demands as far as licensing goes. You do not want to overlook a crucial permit as this can ultimately end in penalties and even steep fines. In this article, we look more closely at some of the business license requirements for Florida.
Business License Requirements – County Wide
The state of Florida has no general business license that companies need to apply for. That said, individual counties and some cities do have certain regulations in which a license or permit may be required. Below are a few of the business license requirements by county and/or city.
Jacksonville / Duval County – Within Jacksonville, there is an across the board requirement for all business owners. To operate a Jacksonville based business you will need to obtain a City Business Tax Receipt from your specific municipality. Additionally, if you are operating from a fixed location, you will need to apply for a Certificate of Use from the Zoning Board—this also applies to home-based entities.
Miami-Dade County – Unlike in Jacksonville, there is no requirement in Miami which encompasses all operating businesses. However, there are industry-specific business licenses that certain companies will be required to get in Miami-Dade County. These include contractors, towing companies, pool cleaners, and locksmiths among others.
And again, as in Duval County, if you are operating from a fixed location you will need to get a Certificate of Use from the local Zoning board. Given that you are operating from a building, Miami-Dade County requires that you get a yearly inspection of the property and also that you obtain a Life Safety Operating Permit from the Fire Department.
Tampa – If you operate out of the city of Tampa you will need to get a Local Business Tax Receipt—this goes for all businesses up and running with the city limits.
Orlando – As with other major Florida cities, if working within the city limits of Orlando, you will need to get a City and County Business Tax Receipt. Orlando has a Permitting Services Division which handles such transactions. The County Business Tax Receipt is handled by the Orange County Tax Collector.
Owners of commercial buildings along with any tenants conducting business in such buildings have to apply for a use permit as well.
St. Petersburg – Much as with the other cities on this list, if operating out of St. Petersburg, your business will need to get a Business Tax Certificate Receipt. Also in St. Petersburg, certain types of companies will have to apply for additional permitting; these include food trucks and contracting services among others. If your business is in a commercial building, you will have to apply for a Certificate of Occupancy on top of the other required permits/licenses.
Employer Identification Number
While not all businesses need to obtain an EIN, many in Florida do. Your EIN is much like a social security number but business-specific. It is used by the IRS for taxation purposes. If you are a sole proprietor or an LLC with no employees, you do not need to apply for an EIN. In terms of taxes, it will all be under your returns using your social security number. That said, it is not a bad idea to get one even if you are not required to, as this helps maintain greater separation between business and personal. It is free to obtain your EIN and can be done online.
Sales Tax Permits in Florida
In terms of licensing at the state level, the most common one is a Florida Sales Tax Permit. Any company that sells goods in a retail capacity will need to get one before launching their company.
So essentially, when selling a product you will charge a sales tax on that item. Services usually are not taxable, though there are a few that are such as cleaning and pest control for example.
If your company is a reseller—you buy goods and then resell them under your brand, you will need to first get a Florida Resale Certificate. This will prevent you from having to pay sales tax on the merchandise which you are reselling.
Some businesses are regulated at the state level and thus will need to get requisite permits to operate. This includes veterinarians, accountants, landscapers, and a host of other businesses. If you are unsure if your business falls in this category you must check with the state department to find out.
Fictitious Name Registration
If you are a sole proprietor and/or unincorporated, often owners will file for a Fictitious Name Registration—this is also called a Doing Business As (DBA/). This would be done at the state level and will thereby allow you to operate under a name other than your name.
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