Guide to Starting a Business in Florida
GUIDE TO STARTING A BUSINESS IN FLORIDA
the following state agencies to develop the Florida Business Information Portal
• Agency for Health Care Administration
• Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
• Department of Children and Family Services
• Department of Citrus
• Department of Economic Opportunity
• Department of Elder Affairs
• Department of Environmental Protection
• Department of Financial Services
• Department of Health
• Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
• Department of Management Services
• Department of Revenue
• Department of State
• Division of Emergency Management
• Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
• Florida Lottery
• Office of Financial Regulation
• Office of Insurance Regulation
• Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network
DISCLAIMER: While efforts were made to verify that the content of this Guide is accurate and comprehensive, it is recommended that you consult with
a professional (e.g., SBDC, attorney, CPA, etc.) to ensure you meet all requirements before starting your business. The Department is not responsible for the content of websites linked from the Guide or portal.
Why start a business in Florida?
Florida is the third largest state in the country, the 19th largest economy in the world and offers the following benefits to potential business startups:
Florida’s vigorous tourism industry helps drive the state’s strong economy. Florida is a top spot for visitors, tourists, and vacationers which continues to lead to a steadily increasing number of new businesses and new jobs within the state.
decision-making on a regular basis. If you are looking to secure startup capital or funding, a business plan is a must; most investors will not consider investing in your business without a formal plan that lays out the future potential of your
business. The U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA) provides a free
step-by-step Business Plan Tool that can help you build your business plan. After creating an account with a personalized password on the SBA website, you can view all of your business information and save your business plan in
electronic format. Using the SBA website, you can update and access your business plan at any time. You can also use your completed business plan to discuss your next steps with a mentor or counselor from an SBA resource partner such as the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), your local
Small Business Development Center (SBDC), or a Women’s Business Center (WBC).
Parts of the Business Plan
A business plan may include some of the following sections:
The executive summary is considered to be the most important part of a business plan. It should tell the reader or potential investor about your company, where your company is located, where you plan to take it, how you plan to get there, and why your business will be successful. This section should be interesting, clear, concise and to the point.
A company description provides a high-level review of your business that will help readers and potential investors understand your business model.
An informative section on market research shows that you have researched and developed a solid understanding of your business’s industry.
A detailed summary of what your product and service do and how it meets the needs of your customers is important. You should explain the benefits of your product or service, the advantages it has over the competition, and its current development stage (e.g., idea, prototype).
Marketing and Sales
A description of how your company will focus on its customers through its marketing and sales strategies shows how your business will reach its customers and sell its products.
This section is the most important for investors and lenders because it indicates that you built your company on a solid foundation. It also shows how your business will be able to meet its financial obligations while remaining profitable.
Choosing a business location is not an easy decision. Selecting a profitable location for your business is a strategic decision that should be based on the research, projections, and work that you have put into your business plan.
Most businesses choose a location that provides the best possible exposure to customers, but there are additional and less obvious factors that you should consider when selecting your business location.
For more information and to access additional resources, please visit the Small Business Administration’s website at https://www.sba.gov/starting-business/choose-your-business-location-equipment/tips-choosing-your-business-location.
Location – Things to Consider
Is the location consistent with the image you want to maintain?
Is the location convenient for your customers? Is it easily accessible? Does
the site have enough parking?
Are the businesses around you complementary or competing?
Local Labor Market
Does the area have potential employees?
What will their commute be like?
Plan for Future Growth
If you anticipate further growth, look for a building that has the opportunity
for extra space.
Proximity to Suppliers
Suppliers need to be able to find your business easily as well.
Consider the crime rate. Will employees and customers feel safe alone in the building or walking to their vehicles?
Have you checked to see if your proposed location will work in the designated zone?
There are numerous ways to finance your small business. Banks generally will not give loans to open a business. However, there are plenty of other options you can consider: rollover for business startups (use of retirement funds), personal loans, credit cards, home equity loans or lines of credit, and loans from friends or family members. While these are the most typical types of personal financing for your business, please consider exploring the other financing opportunities available to you.
In addition to personal financing, here are some of the most common financing options:
SBA Loans and Microloans
The U.S. Small Business Administration offers many different financial opportunities for starting a small business. Please visit https://sba.gov/loans-grants for more information.
Here are some of their resources:
The 7(a) Loan Program, the SBA’s most popular loan program, is designed to provide working capital for a broad variety of businesses. However, it cannot be used to buy assets.
The CDC/504 Loan Program aims to provide financing for major fixed assets such as equipment or real estate.
The SBA Microloan Program provides small (up to $50,000) short-term loans to small businesses through specially designated lenders. Microloans can pay for working capital, inventory or supplies, furniture or fixtures, or machinery or equipment.
Florida’s Microfinance Programs
The Florida Microfinance Act will help provide Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses in Florida access to credit. The act consists of two programs:
a Loan Program and a Guarantee Program.
Loan Program: The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) will competitively award funds to no more than three eligible loan administrators, who will in turn provide a 1:1 match to make short-term microloans of up to $50,000 to entrepreneurs and small businesses. The borrower(s) must participate in business training and technical assistance provided by the Florida Small Business Development Network.
Guarantee Program: Enterprise Florida, Inc., will utilize state funds to guarantee loans made by private lenders to entrepreneurs and small businesses in Florida. Loan guarantees may only be provided on loans
between $50,000 and $250,000, and a guarantee cannot exceed 50 percent of the total loan amount.
While the federal government typically does not provide grants for starting or expanding a business, certain businesses, particularly those in high tech/research and development fields may qualify for a government small business grant under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. Some business grants are available through state and local programs, nonprofit organizations and
other groups. The USA.gov site provides a tool to assist you in seeking out federal and state financial opportunities. For more information on the USA.gov portal, please visit https://www.usa.gov/funding-options.
Venture capital is a type of investment that provides financing in exchange for shares or partial ownership of the company. Venture capitalists and firms invest in startup companies that offer the possibility of profit with the risk of no guarantee that the company will make profit in exchange for equity in your company. While venture capital firms tend to have a lot of experienced consultants to help guide a new business, they also tend to take on more
active consulting and management roles.
Angel investors are typically individuals who provide capital for startups in exchange for higher rates of return on their investment than they might get in the stock, bond or real estate market. They tend to be a good option for many startups because due diligence is usually fast and they typically provide the investment in a lump sum. Like venture capital firms, angel investors may want to take an active role in key business decisions.
A surety bond is a document signed by the contractor and the surety company that assures the project owner they will fulfill the contract. If the contractor defaults, the surety company is required to either find another contractor to complete the project or compensate the project owner for the financial loss. The SBA offers a surety bond program for small business owners and startups.
Choosing your business structure is one of the most important decisions you will make. The type of business structure you choose will have a direct impact on how much you pay in taxes, the amount of paperwork your business is required to do, the amount of control you have over your business, the amount of personal liability you will face, and your ability to raise money. Florida’s Department of State (DOS) can help you file or register your business.
Some common types of business structures include the following:
Sole proprietorship are easy to set up and easy to disband. A sole proprietorship is an unincorporated business owned and run by one individual with no distinction between the business and you, the owner. You are entitled to all profits and are responsible for all your business’s debts, losses and liabilities. All business incomes and losses are filed on the owner’s individual income tax return.
For basic forms and filing fees, visit http://dos.myflorida.com/sunbiz/. For more information on starting a business, please visit http://dos.myflorida.com/sunbiz/start-business/know-before-starting/.
Partnerships (General and Limited)
Partnerships are as easy to form as sole proprietorship. In general partnerships, all partners have equal authority to actively manage or control the business unless the partners have a partnership agreement. Unlike general partnerships, limited partnerships require a partnership agreement and have both limited and general partners. Limited partners are more like investors. They have neither the authority to run the company nor do they have total responsibility for the debts of the company. These unincorporated businesses allow two or more people to share liability and provide capital. Each partner reports business income on their own individual federal income tax return. Limited partnerships must register with the Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations.
Limited Liability Company
Limited liability companies, or LLCs, are a hybrid form of business structure that combines elements of partnerships and corporations. In Florida, LLCs combine the pass-through taxation of a partnership or sole proprietorship with the limited liability of a corporation. On the federal level, LLCs with more than one member file a partnership return unless they elect to classify as a corporation. LLCs must file with the Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations.
Corporation (Subchapters C and S)
A corporation is a legal entity that is legally recognized as separate and distinct from its owner and providing limited liability to its owners. Corporations typically have most of the rights that a person has; they can enter into contracts, loan and borrow money, can sue or be sued, hire employees, own assets and pay taxes. Corporations must incorporate with the Florida
Department of State, Division of Corporations.
The two types of corporations are the C-Corporation and the S-Corporation. With a C-Corporation, the corporation, rather than the individuals, pays taxes and assumes liabilities. An S-Corporation allows up to 75 shareholders to share income and expenses and to report them on their individual income tax returns.
Once you have decided on your business’s structure, you will need to choose a name for your business. As a sole proprietorship, you can use your real name as your business name, however, if you decide to use another name for your business, you must file for a fictitious “Doing Business As” name. If you would like to see if the business name or fictitious name you have selected has already been registered, please visit http://dos.myflorida.com/sunbiz/search/.
For more information regarding fictitious names, please visit the Department of State website at http://dos.myflorida.com/sunbiz/start-business/efile/fl-fictitious-name-registration/ or register at http://dos.myflorida.com/sunbiz/forms/.
Filing and Paying Taxes
Your business structure (i.e., sole proprietorship,partnership, LLC, or Corporation) determines which income tax return form you must file with the federal government.
FEDERAL EMPLOYER ID NUMBER
An Employer Identification Number (EIN), also called a Federal Tax Identification Number, identifies a business entity for business tax purposes. You will likely need an EIN to open a business bank account, for identification purposes when applying for state and local licenses, for filing income tax forms and federal payroll/employment tax forms, and for identification purposes when filing electronic returns using the Electronic Federal Tax Filing System
For more information on obtaining your EIN, please visit https://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Apply-for-an-Employer-Identification-Number-(EIN)-Online.
The Federal government levies several different types of business taxes:
You must file an income tax return if your net earnings from self-employment
exceed a defined threshold. You may still have to file an income tax return if you meet any other filing requirement.
Self-Employment Tax (SE Tax) is a Social Security and Medicare tax primarily for individuals who work for themselves. It is similar to the social security and medicare taxes withheld from the pay of most wage earners.
if you have employees, you will need to file forms to report employment taxes. Employment taxes include the following items:
• Social Security and Medicare taxes.
• Federal income tax withholding.
• Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax.
in addition, there may be excise taxes and federal forms to file if you do any of the following:
• Manufacture or sell certain products.
• Operate certain kinds of businesses.
• Use various kinds of equipment, facilities, or products.
• Receive payment for certain services.
GENERAL STATE TAXES
The General Tax Administration Program of Florida’s Department of Revenue (DOR) administers over 30 taxes and fees, which are used to fund state and local government services for Floridians. When starting a business in the state of Florida, you will have to determine which taxes apply to your business type and activity. For most taxes, you must register with DOR before you begin collecting, reporting or paying state taxes.
Sales and Use
If you will sell, rent, lease or repair goods, provide certain services, rent or lease short-term lodging or housekeeping accommodations or commercial real property, or purchase and use in your business taxable products which are not taxed when purchased, you must register with DOR before you start your business.
Reemployment assistance gives partial, temporary income to workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own and who are able and available to work. Reemployment tax is paid by Florida employers. If your business will employ workers in Florida, you must register with DOR.
Most corporations and certain entities that do business, or who are incorporated in Florida, including out-of-state corporations, must file a Florida corporate income tax return, unless the business is exempt.
OTHER STATE TAXES
DOR administers several other taxes that may apply depending on the type or activities of your business or situation:
A communications services tax applies to telephone (including mobile), video, direct-to-home satellite, and related communications services. The tax is comprised of two parts: the Florida communications services tax and the local communications services tax. Businesses selling or reselling communications services must register.
Discretionary Sales Surtax (local option county taxes)
Discretionary sales surtax, also known as local option county sales tax, is a sales tax imposed by most Florida counties. The surtax applies to most transactions subject to sales or use tax. Sales tax dealers must collect discretionary sales surtax and the 6 percent state sales tax from the purchaser at the time of sale. Depending on the county of the dealer, registration for Discretionary Sales Surtax is included with Sales and Use Tax registration.
The following are subject to documentary stamp tax:
• Documents that transfer an interest in Florida real property, such as a deed;
• Written obligations to pay money that are signed or delivered in Florida, such as a car loan; and
• Mortgages that secure the obligations, when recorded.
A party involved in five or more taxable transactions in any given
month where the tax is being paid directly to the Department must
register with DOR.
Anyone who stores fuel in a terminal, transports fuel to or from a Florida destination, imports or exports fuel into or outside of Florida, or sells fuel in Florida is required to obtain a license and file a return. In addition, anyone who imports product by truck or rail, sells product through the loading rack of a terminal, produces bio-diesel, or blends fuel outside of a terminal for use is required to remit state and local option taxes. An inspection fee is also due if
you sell gasoline or gasoline equivalent products. In order to obtain a license, you must submit a completed Florida Fuel or Pollutants Tax Application, Form DR-156, undergo a background investigation, and pay applicable fees prior to conducting business. A bond is also required if you export fuel or have a tax obligation greater than $50.00. Additional documentation may be requested prior to the State issuing a fuel license.
Gross Receipts Tax on Utility Services
A tax applies to the gross receipts from the sale, delivery, or transportation
of natural gas, manufactured gas, or electricity to a retail consumer in
Florida. Businesses selling, delivering or transporting electricity or natural/
manufactured gas (excluding liquefied petroleum gas) must register.
Every authorized domestic, foreign, and alien insurer engaged in the business of entering into contracts of insurance or annuity in Florida must file an insurance premium tax return.
Motor Vehicle Warranty Fee (“Lemon Law Fee”)
Motor vehicle dealers and other persons in the business of selling or leasing
motor vehicles must collect a motor vehicle warranty fee, also called the
‘lemon law’ fee, from the buyer or lessee. The fee is normally remitted to the
County Tax Collector. If the vehicle is titled and registered outside of Florida,
the fee is remitted to DOR.
Florida law levies an excise tax on the privilege of producing in, importing
into, or causing to be imported into Florida a pollutant for sale or use.
“Pollutants” includes any petroleum product, as well as pesticides, ammonia,
chlorine, and solvents, including perchloroethylene. The definition does not
include liquefied petroleum gas, medicinal oils, and waxes. Pollutants tax
on non-petroleum products is imposed on each barrel or barrel equivalent
when product is first removed from storage or first sold in Florida. Pollutants
tax on petroleum products is imposed on each barrel or barrel equivalent
when product is imported by truck or rail, sold through the loading rack
of a terminal or blended outside of a terminal. In order to obtain a license,
you must submit a completed Florida Fuel or Pollutants Tax Application,
Form DR-156, undergo a background investigation, post a bond if you
have a tax liability greater than $50.00, and pay applicable fees. Additional
documentation may be requested prior to the state issuing a pollutants
Prepaid Wireless E911 Fee
Retail sellers of prepaid wireless services are required to register and collect the E911 fee on the sale of each prepaid wireless service that allows a caller to connect to and interact with the Enhanced 911 (E911) System.
Secondhand Dealers and Secondary Metals Recyclers
Most businesses that sell secondhand goods (e.g., household furniture, jewelry, sporting goods, video games, CDs), must register as secondhand dealers and comply with record keeping and holding period requirements.
Businesses that operate in Florida and contract with persons or entities to buy precious metals or jewelry through a website, the U.S. Mail, or telemarketing must register as mail-in secondhand precious metals dealers and comply with record keeping and holding period requirements. Salvage, scrap metal, and recycling center businesses must register as secondary metals recyclers
and comply with record keeping and holding period requirements.
Anyone who severs oil, gas, sulfur, solid minerals, phosphate rock or heavy minerals must register, file a return, and pay tax to the state of Florida. In addition, anyone who extracts lime rock or sand from the Miami-Dade County Lake Belt area and township must register, file a return, and pay Lake Belt Mitigation and Water Treatment Plant Upgrade Fees. In order to obtain a license, you must register with DOR.
Solid Waste Taxes and Fees
Businesses selling new tires, new or remanufactured batteries, renting or leasing motor vehicles to others, or selling dry-cleaning services must register to report and pay the applicable fee, surcharge or tax.
Tourist Development (Transient Rental) Taxes
Counties may impose local option tourist development (i.e., transient rental) taxes. These local taxes apply to rentals, leases, and licenses to use living quarters or sleeping or housekeeping accommodations for six (6) months or less.
In addition to sales tax, applicable tourist development tax must be collected from the purchaser at the time of sale. If the tax is administered by DOR, it must be remitted with sales and use tax and no additional registration is required. If the tax is administered locally by the county, it must be reported to the county and registration with the county is required.
For more information, please visit DOR at http://floridarevenue.com/Pages/info_business.aspx.
COUNTY BUSINESS TAX
In addition to federal and state taxes, you should check with your local county tax collector’s office to see what taxes are required for your business. You can find your county’s tax collector’s website at http://floridarevenue.com/dor/property/taxcollectors.html.
CITY BUSINESS TAX
You should also check with your local city government to determine if any city taxes are required for your business. The Florida League of Cities has provided a municipal directory, which you can use to easily find your city’s contact information at https://www.floridaleagueofcities.com/research-resources/municipal-directory
The State of Florida, the federal
government, your local county government, and/or your local city or municipality may regulate your business and require specific business licenses.
STATE BUSINESS LICENSE REQUIREMENTS
Many businesses or occupations in Florida require you to have a state-issued license, permit or registration before you can legally open
your business. The type and cost of a license or permit varies according to the location of the business and the nature of its services. Operating a business without a required license could lead to fines, closure of your business, or other legal consequences. A list of state agencies and the businesses they regulate can be found in Appendix A.
In the Oxford English Dictionary, one of the definitions of the term “business” is “a commercial operation or company.” Alternately, a “profession” is “a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification.” This distinction becomes important when applying for a state license.
Before starting a business, you should be aware of the following:
The State of Florida created the Business Information Portal to guide you through the process of understanding which Florida agencies regulate your business. The portal will provide a checklist of the licenses, permits, and registrations necessary to start your business in Florida. Please visit www.OpenMyFloridaBusiness.gov for more information.
(As Requirement for Business License)
In addition to required business licenses or permits, many business licenses require employment of a professional, licensed individual as a qualification for licensure. For example, to obtain a physician’s office license, you must have a state-licensed doctor on staff.
(Without a Business License Requirement)
Many enterprises in Florida do not require a business license to open, but require a professional license to legally operate. For example, a business license is not required for a home inspection business; however, you must have a state licensed home inspector on staff in order to legally operate. If you find that your business does not require a state-issued business license, please be sure to verify that your business does not require a professionally
licensed individual on staff.
Certifications, Professional Organizations and Accreditation
A certification is an official document attesting to a status or level of achievement. Accreditation is a type of certification that attests that a business has met standards set by an external body. Like the previous examples, some business licenses require certification of an employee or accreditation in the particular field as part of the license process. Also, while some professions do not require a license to operate
legally, the state and many employers require or prefer certification or membership in a professional organization in the relevant business area to operate. As an example, attorneys must pass the bar exam and be admitted to the Florida Bar to be allowed to practice law in this state.
No State License Requirement
Some businesses in Florida may not require a business license or professional license to open legally and operate. In the event that your business falls into this category, you will likely be required to register your company with the Department of State, get your EIN from the IRS, pay state taxes to the Department of Revenue, and be subject to local taxes and licensing requirements.
State Permits Needed After Starting Business
In addition to requiring a state-issued license to open your business, many state agencies require permits for a business to complete a task or project as part of their day-to-day operations. For example, in addition to their business licenses, elevator companies must apply for permits from the Bureau of Elevator Safety to alter or install elevators in the state of Florida. Such operational permits are not covered under the Florida Business Information Portal, so please make sure to check with the appropriate state agency to secure all necessary permits and make the continued operation of your business a success.
Hazardous Chemical Reporting
If your business handles hazardous materials that fall under the Tier II reporting requirement under Section 312 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986, then you will be required to annually register with Florida Department of Emergency Management’s State Emergency Response Commission. For more information, please visit
LOCAL GOVERNMENT REQUIREMENTS
Please check with your local (county and city/municipal) government to obtain a list of local licenses and permits required to start a business. More information can be obtained from:
The Florida Association of Counties at http://www.fl-counties.com,
The Florida League of Cities at http://www.floridaleagueofcities.com, or
The Florida Small Business Development Center Network floridasbdc.org/.
FEDERAL BUSINESS LICENSE REQUIREMENTS
While most businesses do not require a federal license or permit, some do. Here is a sample list of business activities that require federal oversight:
If you import or transport animals, animal products, biologics, biotechnology or plants across state lines, you may need to apply for a permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco products
If you manufacture, wholesale, import, or sell alcoholic beverages at a retail location, you may need to register your business and obtain certain federal permits (for tax purposes) with the U.S. Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).
If your business involves the operation of aircraft or the transportation of goods or people via air or aircraft maintenance, you may need to apply for a license with the Federal Aviation Administration.
If your business is involved with commercial fishing, you may be required to obtain a license for fishing activities from the NOAA Fisheries Service.
If your business is involved in drug manufacturing, you may need a license from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Firearms, Ammunition, and Explosives
If you manufacture, deal or import firearms, ammunitions or explosives, you may need to apply for one or more licenses with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Fish and Wildlife
If your business is engaged in any wildlife-related activity, including the import/export of wildlife and derivative products, you may need to obtain an appropriate permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Ground Transportation and Logistics
If you or your business are involved in ground transportation, trucking, or operating an over sized or overweight vehicle, you will be regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation, which has specific guidelines on maximum
weight. The Florida Department of Transportation issues permits for over sized and overweight vehicles.
If your business provides investment advising services, you may need a license from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
If you provide ocean transportation or facilitate the shipment of cargo by sea, you may need to apply for a license from the Federal Maritime Commission.
Mining and Drilling
If your business is involved in drilling for natural gas, oil or other mineral resources on federal lands you may be required to obtain a drilling permit from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement
(formerly the Minerals Management Service).
Radio and Television Broadcasting
If your business broadcasts information by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable, you may need a license from The Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
For more information, it is recommended that you visit the website hosted by the applicable agency.
Finding the best insurance plan or plans to protect your business is one of the many important decisions you will have to make prior to opening or operating your business. To determine your business’s insurance needs, you will need to review your property, risks and other business requirements. The following are types of insurance business owners should consider.
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION INSURANCE
Florida law requires business owners that have employees to maintain this kind of insurance. Workers’ compensation insurance provides medical and wage replacement benefits to employees who are injured on the job. Specific state coverage requirements are based on the type of business, the number of employees, and the business’s structure.
Some of the specific workers’ compensation insurance industry requirements are:
Construction Industry— One or more employees, including the
business owner, who are corporate officers or LLC members.
Non-Construction Industry — Four or more employees, including the
business owners, who are corporate officers or LLC members.
Agricultural Industry — Six regular employees and/or twelve
seasonal workers who work more than 30 days during a season but not
more than a total of 45 days in a calendar year.
More information about worker’s compensation insurance can be found
at the Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of Workers’
Compensation website at http://www.myfloridacfo.com/division/wc/.
COMMERCIAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE
If your business owns, leases or operates motor vehicles, you must have commercial automobile coverage. Commercial automobile coverage is similar to personal automobile coverage. Most policies include coverage for your business’s vehicle, as well as liability coverage for any damage caused by an
employee while driving your business’s vehicle. If you are using your personal vehicle for company business, you should review your policy with your insurance agent since business use may not be covered under the terms of your personal policy.
COMMERCIAL GENERAL LIABILITY INSURANCE
Commercial general liability insurance pays for your legal defense in many cases and protects your business from financial loss due to injuries, deaths, advertising injury or property damage caused by your products, business operations or employees.
PROFESSIONAL LIABILITY INSURANCE
Professional liability insurance pays claims arising from wrongful practice by physicians, attorneys, or other professionals.
Property insurance offers coverage for real or personal property as well as physical assets lost or damaged by a covered peril. There are three main types of property insurance:
Named Peril Provides coverage for losses caused by specific events, such as fire, smoke and explosions.
Comprehensive Coverage – Provides broad coverage for all perils except those specifically listed in your policy.
Windstorm Insurance – Provides coverage for losses caused by windstorms and hail. Hurricanes and tornadoes are types of windstorms covered by windstorm insurance.
Flood insurance covers business losses for damage to your business’s property caused by floods. Flooding is a serious risk in Florida due to the state’s geography and proximity to water, both inland and on the coast. Insurance to cover this risk is typically purchased separately. A vast majority of flood insurance coverage is federally regulated and provided through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is administered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
For more information, please visit https://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program.
BUSINESS INCOME INSURANCE
Business income insurance (sometimes called business interruption insurance) provides coverage if your business suffers a loss of income due to a natural disaster. This type of insurance typically reimburses the business owner for lost earnings, rent, salaries, net profits, interim operating expenses and property loss when covered events cause a suspension of normal business operations.
BUSINESS LIFE INSURANCE
Business life insurance protects a business or the family of a business owner from financial loss resulting from the death of someone associated with the business.
CARGO AND TRANSPORTATION INSURANCE
Cargo and transportation insurance covers your company’s goods or products while they are in transit by ship, truck, railroad, airplane, etc.
DATA BREACH INSURANCE
Computer security is essential to businesses dealing with sensitive or confidential data. Lawsuits resulting from data breaches can be extremely expensive for technology companies, as well as other businesses that keep personal information about their customers or employees. Data breach insurance (also called cyber liability insurance) can help reimburse businesses in cases involving information security attacks or leaks.
For more information regarding insurance options in Florida, please visit the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation’s website at http://www.floir.com
If your business is booming, but you are struggling to keep up, perhaps it is time to hire some help. The steps below can help you start the hiring process and verify you are compliant with key federal and state regulations.
OBTAIN AN EMPLOYER IDENTIFICATION NUMBER (EIN)
Before hiring your first employee, you need to get an employment identification number (EIN) from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Your EIN is required for reporting taxes to the IRS as well as reporting employee information to state agencies. The EIN is covered in more detail in the previous
section on taxes.
SET UP RECORDS FOR WITHHOLDING TAXES
According to the IRS, you must keep records of employment taxes for at least four years. Keeping good records can also help you monitor the progress of your business, prepare financial statements, identify sources of receipts, keep track of deductible expenses, prepare your tax returns and support items reported on tax returns
Below are some vital considerations for your business if you have employees:
Federal Income Tax Withholding – Every employee must provide an employer with a signed withholding exemption certificate, Form W-4, on or
before the date of employment. The employer must then submit Form W-4 to
Federal Wage and Tax Statement – Every year, employers must report to
the federal government wages paid and taxes withheld for each employee by
filing Form W-2, wage and tax statement. Employers must complete a W-2 form for each employee to whom they pay a salary, wage or other compensation.
Social Security Reporting – Employers must send Copy A of W-2 forms to the Social Security Administration by the last day of February to report wages and taxes of your employees for the previous calendar year. In addition, employers should send copies of W-2 forms to their employees by January 31 of the year following the reporting period.
EMPLOYEE ELIGIBILITY VERIFICATION
Federal law requires employers to verify an employee’s eligibility to work in the United States. Employers verify the employment eligibility of newly hired employees by registering at the E-Verify website sponsored by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. To access this resource, please visit https://www.e-verify.gov/.
REGISTER WITH FLORIDA’S NEW HIRE - REPORTING PROGRAM
All employers are required to report newly hired, re-hired or temporary
employees to the Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) within 20 days of their hire or rehire date.
OBTAIN WORKERS’ COMPENSATION INSURANCE
As covered in the previous section about insurance, workers’ compensation is a type of insurance purchased by an employer that provide benefits to its employees if a job-related injury occurs. Florida law requires all employers to purchase workers’ compensation insurance.
For more information, please visit the Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of Workers’ Compensation website at http://www.myfloridacfo.com/division/wc/.
POST REQUIRED NOTICES
Employers are required to display certain posters in an easily-viewed area of the workplace to inform employees of their rights and employer responsibilities under federal and state labor laws. Some of the notices required by state and federal law include:
• Florida’s Minimum Wage Poster
• Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment
Right Act (USERRA) Poster
• U.S. Department of Labor FirstStep Poster Advisor
• Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Poster
• Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Minimum Wage Poster
• Job Safety and Health: It’s the Law Poster
• Florida Law Prohibits Discrimination Poster
• Florida Reemployment Assistance Program Law Poster
For more information and to access downloadable posters online, please visit the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) website at http://www.floridajobs.org/business-growth-and-partnerships/foremployers/
GET ORGANIZED AND KEEP YOURSELF INFORMED
Being a good employer does not stop with fulfilling your various tax and reporting obligations. Maintaining a healthy and fair workplace, providing benefits and keeping employees informed about your company’s policies are key to your business’s success.
SET UP RECORDKEEPING
In addition to requirements for keeping payroll records of your employees for tax purposes, certain federal employment laws also require you to keep records about your employees. The following bullets highlight additional federal reporting requirements:
• Tax Recordkeeping Guidance
• Labor Recordkeeping Requirements
• Occupational Safety and Health Act Compliance
• Employment Law Guide (employee benefits chapter)
• Apply Standards that Protect Employee Rights
• Complying with standards for employee rights in regards to equal opportunity and fair labor standards is a requirement. Adhering to statutes and regulations for minimum wage, overtime, and child labor can help you avoid errors or lawsuits.
For more information, please visit https://www.sba.gov/businessguide/manage-your-business/hire-manage-employees.
Contracting With State Government
The Florida Department of Management Services (DMS) works closely with the business community to provide an open and competitive process for doing business with the State of Florida.
The DMS website provides information and resources to a vendor who wishes to do business with the State of Florida. MyFloridaMarketPlace (MFMP) is the state’s online purchasing system that connects state agencies with registered vendors.
When you register with MFMP at https://vendor.myfloridamarketplace.com, benefits include:
• The ability to self-register and maintain your vendor account using the Vendor Information Portal (VIP);
• The ability to receive email notifications of State of Florida business opportunities;
• Online access to business opportunities through MFMP Sourcing and the Vendor Bid System (VBS);
• Electronic purchase order delivery; and
• Faster invoice-to-check cycle time.
MFMP offers free training for interested vendors on a variety of topics. Visit MFMP U to find out more.
State Assistance for Businesses Owned by Women, Veterans and Minorities
The Office of Supplier Diversity (OSD) comprises a specialized team under DMS’s Division of State Purchasing that seeks to improve business opportunities for Floridabased businesses owned by women, military veterans, and minorities. If your business is owned by one of these groups, the OSD:
• Provides assistance with applicable state certification and recertification;
• Provides advocacy for your business;
• Plans, hosts and supports events targeted to your demographic group
• Provides educational and other resources to state government procurement professionals to help increase the use of these businesses in the state and local government procurement contracts.
For more information on the Office of Supplier Diversity and its mission, please visit the OSD at http://www.dms.myflorida.com/agency_administration/office_of_supplier_diversity_osd.
U.S SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION
The U.S Small Business Administration (SBA) is a federal agency that counsels and assists small businesses in America. The SBA helps business owners with starting and managing their small business as well as those who are interested in building and growing their business. The SBA:
• Offers online training to assist entrepreneurs in opening their business;
• Provides counseling and mentoring at local centers throughout the United States;
• Provides comprehensive tools to assist entrepreneurs and small business owners research, plan, finance and open their businesses;
• Provides loans, surety bonds and grants to eligible business owners; and
• Provides resources for businesses that want to contract with the government.
For more information on the SBA and its resources, http://www.sba.gov.
SMALL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT CENTER NETWORK
Florida’s Small Business Development Center Network (SBDC) is the only statewide provider of entrepreneurial and business development services in the state. By assisting entrepreneurs in every stage of the business life cycle, the SBDC plays a vital role in Florida’s economic development and success.
New or existing business owners can grow their business by taking advantage of the SBDC’s confidential, no-cost professional business consulting services which include: business and strategic plan development, market research, financial analysis, strategic planning, capital access and loan packaging, and market and revenue growth development. The SBDC also provides access to
more than one thousand training workshops and seminars annually that provide current and practical information on various business topics.
Access to data and information for existing and aspiring small and medium-sized businesses is available through affiliations and partnerships with higher education institutions, professional databases, business research resources and tools, all of which are typically unaffordable and unavailable for small and medium business owners.
For more information, please visit the Florida Small Business Development Center Network at http://floridasbdc.org.
Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI) is a public-private partnership between Florida’s business and government leaders and is the principal economic development organization for Florida. EFI’s mission is to expand and diversify the state’s economy through job creation. In pursuit of its mission, EFI works closely with a statewide network of economic development partners and is funded both by the State of Florida and by private-sector businesses. Additionally, the EFI
website provides tools to identify business locations in your area that
will maximize your success.
EFI’s Minority & Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Capital division connects with outside organizations to provide small, minority and entrepreneurial companies with training, development and financing
options. EFI has an extensive network of state, federal and non-profit
resources ready to assist small businesses in accessing capital, entering new markets, and creating revenue growth and job creation.
Please visit https://www.enterpriseflorida.com for more information.
DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY
Florida is committed to increasing its global competitiveness as a destination for business, capital, talent, innovation and entrepreneurship. The Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) utilizes public and private sector expertise to attract, retain and grow businesses and create jobs in Florida. It also provides
valuable resources for businesses and entrepreneurs; assistance with recruiting workers; and statistical information regarding Florida businesses and employment. Your business may qualify for various state or federal assistance, including the following:
Community Contribution Tax Credit Program
This program provides financial assistance (up to 50 percent tax credit or sales tax refund) to encourage Florida businesses to make donations toward community development and housing projects for low-income persons. The tax credit is easy for a business to receive. Businesses located anywhere in Florida that make donations to approved community development projects
may receive a tax credit of up to 50 percent of the value of the donation.
Florida Enterprise Zone Program
This program offers an assortment of tax considerations to businesses that choose to create employment within an enterprise zone, which is a specific geographic area targeted for economic revitalization. Particulars of this program include a sales and use tax credit; tax refund for business machinery and equipment used in an enterprise zone; sales tax refund for building materials used in an enterprise zone; and a sales tax exemption for electrical energy used in an enterprise zone.
Florida’s Brownfield Area Loan Guarantee Program
This program is just one of the benefits available for developers of brownfield sites. A brownfield is property for which the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. The limited state loan guaranty applies only to 50 percent of the primary lender’s loan for redevelopment projects in brownfield areas with two exceptions for healthcare facilities or affordable housing, provided they meet the additional criteria: (1) Florida Department of Environmental Protection - Brownfields Redevelopment Program and (2) Florida Brownfields Association.
Florida New Markets Development Program
This program encourages capital investment in rural and urban low income
communities. It allows taxpayers to earn credits against specified taxes by investing in qualified community development entities that make eligible low-income community investments in qualified active low-income community businesses to create and retain jobs.
Florida’s Economic Gardening Technical Assistance Program, GrowFL, provides strategies, resources and support to second-stage companies for next level growth. By supporting companies with Strategic Research and peer-to-peer CEO Learning, GrowFL helps companies overcome obstacles to growth and leads them towards prosperity. Based on the philosophy of Economic Gardening–to grow existing businesses in a community, region or state–GrowFL at the University of Central Florida is a critical component to the state’s economic development strategy and Florida’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Minority-Owned Business Assistance
Florida assists developing and expanding minority-owned business enterprises by evaluating their unmet needs for capital, providing technical assistance and creating partnerships between state and local governments and private enterprises to aid in business development. Find out more about the Black Business Loan Program and other resources available to minority businesses.
For more information on the Black Business Loan program, please visit the DEO website at http://www.floridajobs.org/business-growth-and-partnerships/for-businessesand-entrepreneurs/business-resources/small-usiness-programs/minority-owned-businessassistance.
Research and Development Tax Credit Program
Florida provides a corporate income tax credit to qualified target industry businesses that incur research expenses in Florida. The Florida Corporate Income Tax Credit is contingent, in part, on the eligible business receiving the federal research and development tax credit. Applications for an allocation of the available credit for the state research and development tax credit may be made each year in March.
Rural and Urban Job Tax Credit Programs
These programs offer job creation stimuli for eligible businesses located within one of the 36 designated rural areas or within one of the 13 designated urban areas.
State Small Business Credit Initiative
These programs include the Florida Capital Access Program, Florida Venture Capital Program and the Small Business Loan Support Program. They provide Florida’s small businesses access to debt and venture capital financing that may not otherwise be available.
For more information, please visit the DEO’s site - http://www.floridajobs.org.
Disaster Preparedness and Recovery
The Florida Division of Emergency Management works with Floridians to
ensure that the state is prepared to respond to emergencies, recover from
them, and mitigate their impacts. The division plans for and responds to
both natural and man-made disasters ranging from hurricanes and floods to
hazardous material spills. The division recommends that all new businesses
develop and maintain a business disaster plan, which should include:
• Alternate locations for your business location in the event of business damage;
• A list of important business contacts, including utilities, suppliers, employees, etc.;
• Important business records and documents that your business needs to operate; and
• Emergency contacts for your employees and disaster resources for your business.
Preparing for a disaster in advance could make your business’s recovery easier in the event of a disaster. The division provides
an online tool that can assist you creating your own disaster plan
REGISTER WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE (DOS)
Determine the business structure for your business (e.g., sole
proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, corporation,
Register your business at http://dos.myflorida.com/sunbiz/forms/.
Florida law requires most business entity names to be
distinguishable. Check with the Division of Corporations at http://
dos.myflorida.com/sunbiz/search/ to determine if your business
name is already in use. Most individuals and businesses operating
under a “doing business as” name are required to file a fictitious
name registration. Visit the Division of Corporations’ website to
determine if you are required to register a fictitious name.
Register your fictitious name at
Quick Reference Guide for Opening a Business in Florida
REGISTER WITH THE INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE (IRS)
If you have employees or file certain types of tax returns, you may be
required to register for an Employer Identification Number (EIN). Check
with the IRS to determine if your business requires an EIN.
Register for an EIN at https://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-
REGISTER WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE (DOR)
State Tax Registration
Your business may be required to pay state taxes. Your business
structure and type of business determines your tax obligations. Visit
DOR to determine and register for your required business taxes at
New Employee Registration
Federal and state law requires all employers to report newly hired and
re-hired employees to the DOR.
Register for the new hire program at https://servicesforemployers.