Starting a business in Florida? You may be wondering, ”Do I need a business license?” The answer is maybe. Not all Florida businesses require a license to operate in the state, but many kinds of businesses do. Licensing and permitting requirements depend largely on the kind of work you do and where you operate.
And if the state, or your county or city discovers you’re operating without a required license or permit, you could be ordered to stop doing business, pay a fine, or even face criminal charges. No, thanks.
In this guide, we’ll explain how to determine when a business license is required, how to get a business license in Florida and the requirements to register a Florida LLC if you need to.
Do you need a business license in Florida?
Florida doesn’t require or issue a state-wide business operating license. That means you don’t have to have a license from the state of Florida just to run your business in the state.
However, just like all other states, Florida law does require state licenses and certifications for occupations that require extensive training – or expose consumers to potential hazards.
Those occupations include:
- Medical professionals
- Building contractors and other construction-related occupations
- Barbers and cosmetologists
- Architects, Interior Designers, and Engineers
- Real estate brokers and salespersons, and
- Private investigators and other security services
The primary issuer of business licenses is the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).
They provide a comprehensive list of all of the occupations it regulates, a great go-to when you’re trying to determine if your business needs a license.
You can also find additional information on Florida business license requirements from:
- The Florida Board of Architecture and Interior Design.
- The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Read more on what an S Corp reasonable salary is.
Local business licenses in Florida
You might think you’re in the clear if your industry doesn’t require a statewide license or permit. Think again. There’s a strong chance you’ll need to get a local business license.
Almost all Florida counties require businesses to obtain a business tax receipt before doing business in the county. This requirement applies to all businesses, including one-person, home-based operations. Many cities (such as Miami) require a business tax receipt in addition to the county license. In order to receive a business tax receipt you must check with the county tax collector to see if you need a license and then register your business with the Florida Department of Revenue.
More on that below.
Federal licenses and permits
For most small businesses, the federal government doesn’t require licenses or permits. But some activities are regulated by one or more federal agencies – and those activities might.
You might need a federal license for starting a small business in Florida if you operate in these areas:
- Alcoholic beverages
- Firearms, ammunition, and explosives
- Fish and wildlife
- Commercial fisheries
- Maritime transportation
- Mining and drilling
- Nuclear energy
- Radio and television broadcasting
- Transportation and logistics
What does that look like in practice? Let’s say your business is involved with radio and television broadcasting. In this case, you’d be regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. That’s where you would start your search on federal licensing and permitting.
Contact the federal agency in charge of the activities relevant to your business, and find out which licenses you’re required to have.
Tip: You can access a list of all federally licensed activities, along with links to more information, through the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Is a business license the same as an LLC?
An LLC and a business license are not the same thing – though they’re both related to setting up a business in Florida.
An LLC (limited liability company) is a type of business structure that determines financial and legal liabilities. Unlike a sole proprietorship, it offers a layer of protection from the business owner – and separates the business from you as a person, protecting your things like your home and personal investments. That house? It’s yours and they can’t have it! Learn more about how to start an LLC for all 50 states.
You also have the ability to request a change to how you’re taxed when you’re an LLC. That’s where the S Corp election comes in – which is a fancy way of asking the government to give your taxes a little switcheroo.
“Business license” is a general term that refers to any licenses, permits, or certifications required to sell goods or services. Different types of licenses are required and issued by federal, state, and local government agencies that regulate business activities and services.
Which business licenses your business requires depends on where you’re located and what kind of services you perform.
How to apply for a business license in Florida
As you learn how to get a business license in Florida, be sure to keep the following in mind. Obtaining a business license in Florida varies by occupation and the location of your business. The state of Florida doesn’t require or issue a state-wide business operating license. Instead, it regulates some industries and professionals, like doctors, lawyers and accountants.
You likely have to get a business operating license from your city or county, though requirements vary. Localities in the state generally call this type of business license a “business tax receipt,” and it exists to register your business with the local tax authorities.
Steps to register a business in Florida
Follow these steps to set up your new business and get the necessary licenses to operate in Florida.
1. Name and form your LLC
Before you can apply for licenses in your business’s name, you have to form your business in the state of Florida. That’s true even if you’re a business of one, in which case you’ll form a single member LLC in Florida.
To form your business, you have to choose a name following Florida’s guidelines for naming an LLC, then file your articles of organization (or similar documents) with the Florida Department of State. If you are not using your own name for the business, you will need to apply for fictitious name registration.
Incorporation of your LLC in Florida costs between $125 and $160.
If you’re going to operate as a sole proprietor, you can skip this step and apply for business licenses in your name, instead.
2. Apply for your statewide license(s) (if applicable)
Now you know some occupations in Florida require a special license to perform services. Based on the information above, you can determine whether your business will be subject to any of those requirements.
Different government agencies issue licenses for different occupations. Florida’s online resource, SunBiz.org, provides additional guidance.
3. Determine which local licenses you need
Most Florida counties require a local business tax receipt. Many Florida cities require a city-specific tax receipt on top of that. Whether your city or county requires these depends on their tax collection policies and your business location.
Check with the city and county governments where your business is located to determine their requirements. If you work online and/or from home, your location is your home — or a unique address you adopted for the business, which you would have included when you went through the registration steps of starting an LLC in Florida.
4. Apply for your Florida business license(s)
You usually have the option of applying for your license online. If not, you can download an application and email or mail it to the appropriate party.
Here’s the information you’ll likely need to provide when applying for a county or local business license in Florida:
- Social Security Number or Federal Employment Identification Number
- A description of your business activities
- Your legal business name and any fictitious name (a.k.a. Doing Business As or “DBA”)
- Your business start date
- Number of employees and expected annual sales
- Business address and contact information
- Each business owner’s contact information
- Your business sales tax number, if any
- Your industry code under the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) — an online application generally has a lookup option for this code.
- Evidence of required professional or commercial certifications for your occupation
5. Apply for federal licenses and tax treatment as necessary
Like the state of Florida, the U.S. government does not require or issue a general, nationwide business operating license. Various government agencies regulate some industries, though. Keep reading for our detailed list of which industries require federal licenses or permits.
If you’ve organized your business as an LLC (or corporation), you can also elect corporate federal tax treatment with the IRS, typically as an S Corp or a C Corp.
The Florida Department of Revenue lists searchable links to county tax collectors.
How long does it take to get a business license in Florida?
After submitting your application, you’ll usually receive your business tax receipt within a few weeks in the mail or you may be able to download it from your county or city website.
Once you get it, you might be required to post it at your place of business — generally the case if you’re open to the public. Read the instructions that accompany the license to determine any requirements.
Cost to get a business license in Florida
The steps above provide insights on how to get a business license in Florida, but costs should also be kept in mind. Florida business license fees vary by locality, as well as the nature and size of your business. They could range from as low as $25 to as high as a few hundred dollars. You have to renew the license and pay a fee every year.
If you organize your business as an LLC or a corporation, you’ll also have to pay the fees associated with filling those with the Department of State.
How to renew a Florida business license
Most state of Florida business licenses must be renewed annually or every few years. Depending on the type of license(s) you have, you may have to renew directly with the issuing agency.
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation offers resources and portals to help you connect with the right information to keep your licenses up to date.
FAQs about a Florida business license
Does an LLC need a business license in Florida?
Florida doesn’t necessarily require all businesses of any structure to obtain a license. The state doesn’t issue or require a business operating license. It regulates and requires licenses or permits for some business activities. Most businesses are required to obtain a business license, called a “tax receipt”, with their county and/or city.
Do I need a business license in Florida to sell online?
The operating location of your online business is typically the physical place where you do business. This is usually the address you list as your business address for tax purposes, whether it’s your home or another location. Your business is regulated by the state, county and city where you operate. If you’re located in Florida, follow Florida and local regulations to obtain the proper licenses and permits to sell goods and services.
How much does an LLC cost in Florida?
The fees to file Articles of Organization for an LLC in Florida are between $125 and $160, depending on which optional add-ons you choose.
Do LLCs pay taxes in Florida?
For tax purposes, an LLC is considered a “pass-through entity.” This means business profits and losses are passed onto the owner to be taxed as personal – as opposed to corporate – income. Because Florida doesn’t collect personal income tax, LLCs are exempt from paying income tax, as well.
You’ll still pay federal income taxes, and need to be aware of requirements for estimated tax payments, payroll tax obligations, and other federal requirements.
TL;DR: You probably need a business license in Florida
Even a Business-of-One is likely required to get a business license in Florida. Some businesses need to get special licenses and permits from the state, but most just need a business tax receipt (i.e. general business license) from their local county and maybe their city.
The operating requirements — including annual renewals — can become overwhelming and hard to keep track of, which is why we created Collective to help.
After you join Collective, we’ll sort through all of the important details of your licensing requirements. Plus we remind you when it’s time to renew, so you never miss a deadline or pay a late fee. This way, you can focus on running your business.
Stephen has dedicated his career as an attorney and author to writing useful, authoritative and recognized guides on taxes and business law for small businesses, entrepreneurs, independent contractors, and freelancers. He is the author of over 20 books and hundreds of articles and has been quoted in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, and many other publications. Among his books are Deduct It! Lower Your Small Business Taxes, Working with Independent Contractors, and Working for Yourself: Law and Taxes for Independent Contractors, Freelancers & Consultants.