How to Register a DBA in Florida (Step-by-Step Guide)
Starting a new business venture in Florida requires a lot of thought. Understanding the legal terminology and acronyms can be daunting, but staying informed is important. This article highlights the significance of a DBA (Doing Business As), including its definition, when it’s required, and the process to obtain one in Florida.
What is a DBA?
The acronym DBA, which stands for ‘doing business as,’ represents a company or individual operating under a fictitious business name. A DBA is a solution if your company desires a more marketable trade name than its official title.
For example, if Steve Clarke owns a sole proprietorship selling handmade instruments, he can register a DBA name, such as “Handmade guitars by Steve,” to market his products and services instead of using his name.
Registering a DBA is common for sole proprietors, partnerships, and corporations who want to use a fictitious name that is more descriptive of their services or products or simply want to use a different name.
Registering a new DBA varies by state but typically involves:
- Choosing a unique business name
- Checking for availability
- Filing the proper forms with the relevant government agency, such as the Secretary of State or the county clerk’s office
- Paying a filing fee
Florida DBA name registration
DBA designations vary in different states. Some states use the term “DBA,” while others refer to it as “assumed names” or “trade names.” Florida specifically uses the term “fictitious names.”
Choose your name
In Florida, any business entity, whether a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or corporation, must submit a DBA filing if it intends to operate under a name other than its legal name.
The first step is to think of your new name. To ensure compliance with Florida naming regulations, it’s important to note that your fictitious name cannot contain the following:
- A business entity suffix (e.g., LLC, Incorporated, Corp) unless the business is registered as such.
- Financial terms, such as “bank,” “banc,” “banco,” “trust company,” “savings and loan association,” “savings bank,” “credit union,” or related expressions.
- DBA names in Florida need to be unique to meet the state requirements.
Check name availability
Visit the Florida Department of State’s Division of Corporations website, Sunbiz.org.
Go to the Sunbiz Florida Fictitious Name Search and search by name.
Once you have confirmed your name is unique, we recommend seeing if you can buy the domain. Having a business website is an excellent marketing tool, and buying the domain will stop others from being able to do so.
Advertise your fictitious name
Under Florida law, it’s mandatory to publish a “legal notice of intent to file a fictitious name.”
- Pick a newspaper within the county where your principal place of business is situated.
- You only need to publish the ad once. It’s crucial to advertise your proposed fictitious name before applying to register it.
- For guidance on the necessary procedures and documentation, refer to Chapter 50 of the Florida statutes website, which outlines the essential requirements for publishing the notice.
When you publish your notice in a newspaper, you must make sure that:
- At least 25% of the content must be in the English language.
- The newspaper must be published or printed once a week.
- The newspaper must meet the standards for being classified as a periodical by the post office in the county, and it should be available and appealing to the public.
- The newspaper must have been in circulation for at least one year.
Register your name
Registering your fictitious name in Florida means filing the application online or mailing it to the Secretary of State’s office.
- To file online, you can use the SunBiz Fictitious Name Portal.
- Alternatively, you can complete the Application for Registration of Fictitious Name and mail it to the appropriate office.
When filling out the application for the registration of a fictitious name in Florida, it’s important to pay attention to certain sections, such as:
- Section 1: Provide the details of your new fictitious name, address, primary place of business (county), and Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) if applicable.
- Section 4: You can use this section to modify or revoke an existing registration or change the registration name (this is only possible through the application form and not the online portal).
- Bottom of the form: Indicate if you want to be sent a “Certificate of Status” or “Certified Copy” for your registration.
If you choose to mail your documents and payment, you should send them to the mailing address:
Fictitious Name Registration
PO Box 6327
Tallahassee, FL 32314
If you decide to hand deliver your documents, the office address is:
Division of Corporations
2661 Executive Center Circle
Tallahassee, FL 32301
Pay your filing fees
You need to pay a fee of $50 and an additional charge of $30 to obtain a certified copy of your registration.
If you require a Certificate of Status for Fictitious Name Registration, you can obtain it for $10. You can pay with cash or a credit card.
In addition to the registration fee, you’ll also need to bear the cost of publishing a notice about your fictitious name registration in a local newspaper. The cost of the publication will vary depending on the charges by the newspaper.
Renew, amend, or withdraw your DBA
- After your fictitious name registration is approved, getting a hold of certified copies of the registration is recommended.
- Your DBA registration will remain valid until December 31st, the fifth year from the filing date. The Florida Division of Corporation will remind you to renew your DBA registration.
- You also have the option to dissolve your Florida DBA by completing Section 4 of the Application for Registration of Fictitious Name form and paying a fee of $50.
- To modify your fictitious name registration, you must submit a cancellation/re-registration form with a fee of $50. This form can only be submitted via mail.
Obtain an EIN
The IRS issues an EIN (Employee Identification Number) for tax purposes.
It is important to remember that your DBA doesn’t establish a legal entity.
You do not need to apply for an EIN if you are a sole proprietor with no employees. You can use your Social Security Number as a tax ID.
If you intend to hire employees or open a business bank account using your new DBA name, you may need to file for a new EIN.
Obtaining an EIN can be done online or via mail application.
Open a business bank account
With your EIN, you can open a new business bank account using your new name.
Opening a business bank account makes accepting check and credit card payments far easier and helps segregate personal and business finances.
Advantages and disadvantages of a DBA
There are many advantages to registering a DBA:
- Enhanced flexibility: A DBA name can be altered or updated more quickly and efficiently than a legal business name, allowing business owners to adapt to product shifts.
- Segregation of personal assets and business finances: Registering for a DBA allows a business bank account to be opened, allowing for using the business name on financial transactions instead of the account holder’s name.
- Increased branding opportunities: A well-crafted name can be more descriptive and memorable than a legal name.
- Cost-effective solution: Compared to other business structures, such as Corporations or Limited Liability Companies (LLCs), registering for a DBA is generally less expensive and less complex, making it a cost-effective alternative for small businesses.
There are a few drawbacks to registering for a DBA, such as:
- Limited legal protection: Unlike other business structures like LLCs, DBAs do not offer personal liability or legal protection. This can mean that the business owner is personally responsible for all debts, obligations, and lawsuits related to the business.
Who needs a DBA?
- Sole proprietors: Business owners who operate without creating a separate legal entity. A DBA allows them to use a different name from their name.
- Partnerships: Joint ventures between two or more individuals who want to operate under a name other than their own name.
- Corporations: Companies that wish to use a name different from their legal name or diversify their business activities under multiple names. For example, suppose a corporation has a subsidiary that sells software named “Tech Solutions LLC” but also wants to sell hardware. In that case, it can file a DBA for “Tech Hardware” to differentiate between the two business activities.
Why or why wouldn’t you need a DBA?
You might need a DBA if:
- Operating under a different name: A DBA is necessary if you want to operate your business under a name that isn’t your legal or company name.
- Better marketing and branding: If you want to use a trading name that is more memorable or descriptive of your products or services, a DBA can help.
- Diversifying business activities: If you’re a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or LLC looking to conduct business under multiple names, a DBA is required.
- Testing new products or markets: A DBA can allow you to try new products or markets without changing your legal name.
When might you not need a DBA?
- Using legal name: A DBA is not needed if you’re operating your business under your personal or legal company name.
Is it required to publish my new name in the newspaper?
To register your DBA in Florida, it is necessary to advertise your fictitious name in the county where your business will operate. It is important to note that the advertisement must be run before any attempt to register the DBA, but it is only required to run the ad once.
How long does it take to process a DBA?
The registration process takes 2-3 business days if you file online.
If you mailed your forms, it will take 3-5 business days.
Can I register a DBA in Florida if I am not a US citizen?
Yes, non-U.S. citizens can register a DBA in Florida if they meet the same requirements as US citizens and have a valid form of identification.
Can I register a DBA for an online business in Florida?
Yes, you can register a DBA for an online business in Florida if you meet the same requirements as any other business in Florida.
What happens if I don’t register a DBA and operate under a different name?
If you don’t register a DBA in Florida and are found to be operating using a different name, you could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor. This carries penalties of up to 60 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, or potentially both.
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