Are you looking to form a limited liability company (LLC) in the state of Florida, but you’re not sure how the formation process works? There are several important steps when it comes to creating a Florida LLC that is compliant and able to do business in the state.
What is a Florida LLC?
The Florida LLC is one of the most popular business structures in state. It's a more casual and flexible type of business than a corporation, but includes the same personal asset protection you get with a corporation. That means you aren't personally liable for debts or lawsuits against your business. This is a critical protection that is lacking from sole proprietorships and general partnerships.
LLCs in Florida have simple formation and maintenance requirements, several options for how they can be taxed, and flexible management. From one-person businesses to multi-member LLCs with several owners, the LLC is a popular choice for a reason.
Forming an LLC in Florida (in 6 Steps)
Step One) Choose an LLC Name
Your LLC’s name is often the first impression you get to make on potential customers, and therefore it goes without saying that this is an important step. There are a few different aspects to take into consideration when selecting a name for your business:
Legalities: In the state of Florida, every limited liability company is required to have either the initials “LLC” or the phrase “limited liability company” in the name. In addition, you cannot include any words that refer to other business types (like “corporation” or “incorporated”), and you also can’t use words that are typically used to refer to specific kinds of businesses (like “bank” or “law office”).
Explanatory Naming: Another aspect to consider is including language that explains what your business does ― for example, if you’re a plumber, put the word “plumber” or “plumbing” in your LLC name. Additionally, if your business has strong values like being environmentally friendly, you can indicate that by including the word “green.”
Do You Like It?: At the end of the day, this is your business, and you should choose a name that makes you proud. You should also make sure your LLC name both sounds good when spoken out loud, and looks good when written down.
The most important consideration for naming an LLC is to not get too attached to any one business name until you have either reserved the name with the state of Florida, or you’ve officially formed your business. Florida makes it simple to determine whether or not you can use a name: simply search at this link to see if your name is still available. While in other states, you can temporarily reserve a business name, that is not possible in the state of Florida. So if you find a business name you love, you’ll want to act quickly! You can read more about business names in Florida here.
Step Two) Designate a Registered Agent
Every LLC in Florida is required to designate a registered agent, which is the individual or registered agent service that receives government correspondence on behalf of your business, then forwards those documents to you.
According to the Florida Statutes,
Every Florida corporation and every foreign corporation now qualified or hereafter qualifying to transact business in this state shall designate a registered agent and registered office in accordance with part I of chapter 607. . . Every corporation shall keep the registered office open from 10 a.m. to 12 noon each day except Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays, and shall keep one or more registered agents on whom process may be served at the office during these hours. The corporation shall keep a sign posted in the office in some conspicuous place designating the name of the corporation and the name of its registered agent on whom process may be served.”
Without a registered agent, you could lose your good standing with the state of Florida, and the state also has the right to dissolve your LLC if they decide to. In a worst-case scenario, the state could fail to alert you regarding a lawsuit against your company, which could even lead to a judgment against your business because you didn’t defend yourself.
Our Recommendation: At the end of the day, we recommend designating a Registered Agent service to handle these requirements. Doing so will help eliminate junk mail and more importantly, keep your personal and/or business address off public record. Incfile and Northwest Registered Agent both offer a free Registered Agent service when you utilize their services to form an LLC. Both are fast and affordable. In fact, they’re the best available.
Step Three) File Formation Documents with State
Once you are ready to form your Florida limited liability company, you will fill out the articles of organization.
This is THE document that will register your LLC with the state. You’ll want to ensure all of the following information is correct on the form:
- Your chosen business name
- Name and address of your registered agent
- Management style (member-managed or manager-managed)
- Name(s) and address(es) of the LLC’s manager
- Name and address of the LLC’s organizer
- Signature of organizer and registered agent
- Effective date
Cost to Form an LLC: The state of Florida charges a $100 fee to form an LLC.
Processing Time: How long it takes for your paperwork to process depends on how you file. Mailed LLC formation documents usually take 3-5 business days for the state to process and get your finalized documents in the mail to you. Electronic filings usually process in 2-3 business days. There is also a $25 fee for designating your registered agent, making the minimum start-up cost $125. If you desire a certified copy for your records, you’ll need to pay an additional $30. Please note that the estimate of business days begins once ALL required paperwork is in order and filed correctly.
Step Four) Create an Operating Agreement
After you register an LLC in Florida, create a detailed outline that explains how you will run and manage your new business. Even though it doesn’t need to be filed with the state, put one together and keep it for your records.
When you open a bank account, you may be asked for this document in order to open an account. You’ll also want to keep in mind that any future business partners or managing members may also be interested in seeing your Operating Agreement before joining your company. After all, this document essentially serves as your overall plan for success.
An attorney can help you outline your Operating Agreement or create one from a free template online. You can read more about Operating Agreements here, but some of the basic information you’ll want to have includes:
- Individual members' ownership percentages
- Rights and responsibilities
- Voting powers and meeting guidelines
- Allocation of profits and losses
- Management rules for the LLC
- Provisions for buying a member owner out, or transferring their shares in the case of illness or death
Step Five) Handle Taxation Requirements
The vast majority of LLCs require a federal tax ID number, or EIN. An EIN is basically the business version of a social security number, and it’s used for a variety of important LLC functions.
For instance, you’ll need an EIN if you want to hire any employees, and many banks require them to open business bank accounts as well. You’ll also need one for tax purposes, hence the name federal tax ID number. Get an EIN for your LLC for free through the IRS.
When it comes to state-level LLC taxes, Florida levies these taxes based on the nature of your business. For income taxes, for example, most LLCs are in luck—Florida does not impose a state income tax on individuals. If your LLC is treated as a pass-through entity for tax purposes (a sole proprietorship or partnership), then you won’t pay any tax on your LLC’s income. LLCs taxed as corporations, however, must pay Florida’s corporate income tax. The tax rate is usually 5.5%.
Florida LLCs that sell goods are also subject to sales taxes. The general sales tax rate is 6%. Similarly, Florida requires a use tax for items in use in your business that you did not pay sales tax for. You can read more about sales and use taxes here.
If you plan on establishing a business presence in another state as well, such as regularly making deliveries out-of-state, you may need to register for taxes in those states, too. You can read more about Florida’s recommendations for out-of-state taxes here.
Depending on where in Florida your business is located, you could also need to pay some local taxes. For example, several cities in Florida charge surplus sales taxes or tourism taxes. You can read more about additional local taxes here. You can also use this link to lookup tax rates by address.
Step Six) Obtain Business Licenses and Permits
The state of Florida does not have a general business license that each LLC needs to acquire in order to do business.
However, Florida upholds the licensure required by the federal government for certain occupations, including agriculture, aviation, and more. Please consult the Small Business Association’s listings for federally-regulated industries requiring licensure.
To top it off, Florida also has licenses and permits that are required for businesses in certain industries. These occupations range from real estate to archeology to cosmetology. Florida has a wide variety of these licenses, so there’s a good chance you’ll need at least one. You can browse Florida’s licensed occupations to determine which apply to your LLC.
While there is no statewide business license, many counties and cities require that you register with the local government office and obtain a license with them. You can find your county officials here to get started.
Would you prefer to have a professional form your LLC?
If you would prefer to have a professional handle the paperwork for you, consider hiring an online incorporation service like LegalZoom and Incfile. To see which is the better option for you, check out our side by side comparison.
Next Steps: What to do After Creating a Florida LLC
Open a business bank account: We highly recommend that you establish a separate business banking account so that your business and personal finances are maintained completely separate. This is important because it helps protect your personal assets and also makes filing taxes much easier. Once you receive your EIN from the IRS, you’ll be able to use it to establish an account at the bank or credit union of your choice.
Get Business Insurance. Every Florida business with four or more employees is strictly required to acquire workers’ compensation insurance. (Construction LLCs must carry the insurance with just one employee). For more information on expectations for employers, check out the Division of Workers' Compensation. After you obtain these legally required policies, it’s probably also a good idea to pursue general liability insurance, as well as some industry-specific policies.
Understand income reporting. Income reporting is just what it sounds like – reporting the income you made from your business. It’s important to note that you must file this form whether you made or lost money over the course of the year. The state of Florida has an online account system where you can manage all your taxes and reports. Find it here.
Understand annual reporting. Florida requires that all LLCs file an annual report. You can file it online here. Your annual report will essentially serve to update the state on any pertinent information regarding your business that has changed over the course of the year. In Florida, you have from January 1 to May 1 to file the previous year’s report.
Find an accountant. We don’t recommend that you attempt to manage your business finances without the help of a professional. There is too much room for error, and a professional can ultimately save you time and money by guiding you on how best to manage your business finances. At a minimum, enlist professional help to set you up with software and the steps for keeping up with your finances on a regular basis. Then, consult back with your accountant at least a couple of times per year – and especially at tax time – to ensure you’re keeping track of everything correctly.