Licensing Guide

LICENSING GUIDE

What legal structure is best for you?


Register and License Your Business

Whatever business you develop you’ll need to decide on the legal structure. If you decide to incorporate, you will need to register with the State, and obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) if you are incorporated.  Your local municipality may require you to register your business as well and obtain a business tax receipt or an occupational license in order to operate.

Legal Structure

You always want to make sure your business is operating legally! The first step is to decide what kind of business entity (legal structure) is best for you. There are several legal structures to consider. (Click here to learn more.)  As you consider this important decision, we recommend that you consult with an Attorney and Accountant to ensure you fully understand the liability and tax implications of any structure you choose.


Employee Identification Number (EIN or FEIN)

Employers with employees, business partnerships, and corporations must obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Even if you are a sole proprietor and don’t have employees, it is still good practice to obtain an EIN. An EIN may be needed for government forms, opening a business checking account at the bank, or applying for a business loan. One of the benefits of obtaining your EIN is it often times can be used in place of your personal Social Security Number to help protect against identity theft.

Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) online


The General Process of Getting Started

Step 1: Create a business plan

For any business, the first step is to turn your basic idea into a written, viable plan of action. A well thought out business plan is necessary for obtaining loans and is truly your road map to success.



Step 2: Decide on your business structure and register your business name.

Careful consideration must be given to the management, structural and tax implications of your decision. Equally important is to ensure the name you select is not already in use or trademarked by another entity.  You can do a quick name or trademark search within State of Florida by visiting www. Sunbiz.org.

While not a replacement for legal or tax advice, www.sunbiz.org can provide helpful information for selecting a business name, and establishing a corporation.

  • To register a business name for a sole proprietorship or general partnership: Contact your local county recorder where you intend to do business.
  • To establish and file a Corporation, LLC, LLP, or Limited Partnership, in the State of Florida, you can visit the Division of Corporations.

Step 3: Get properly licensed

Ensuring your business is properly licensed from the beginning will save you time and money in the long run.  Depending on the type of business you are starting will determine the type of License/Permits you may need to operate.  Another very important aspect is to make sure your business location is properly zoned for operating your type of business. This is critical in obtaining your business tax receipt. (i.e. local business license or occupational license) There may be several licenses you might need to obtain to operate your particular business and those requirements vary based on your location. The information below will help you connect with those entities that might require licensing in your area.

State of Florida – The type of business you decide to start will determine what the requirements are for registering with the State. The State may require additional licenses or additional documentation depending on your industry.

Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation – Some services/businesses are regulated by the State of Florida and have special licensing requirements.  You can check if the services you plan to offer are regulated by clicking here.

Local County – Most counties require you to obtain what is called a “Business Tax Receipt” which is essentially your license to operate locally within the county.  They call it a business tax receipt because it is a tax you will pay annually to keep your license to operate a business active.

Local City – The City in which your business resides may also require a “Business Tax Receipt.”  In some cities, you will be required to have both a city and a county business tax receipt (BTR).  If you are unsure what your city requires, please contact your local permitting department to get clarification and guidance.

Operating an unlicensed business can result in multiple fines so please check with your local and state resources to insure you are operating properly!

Proper Zoning:

When choosing a location for your business you want to be sure it is properly zoned for the type of business you wish to locate there. You should check the zoning restrictions by contacting the permitting office of your city and/or county where the property is located.  Please note that most cities/counties will require you to obtain a Business Tax Receipt to operate

One common misconception of home-based or mobile businesses is that they do not require licenses.  That is false!  If you operate a business in the State of Florida it is highly likely that you need to acquire a business tax receipt (BTR) from your local government.  There are exceptions, but the best advice is to always check by reaching out to your local government agencies directly.


Step 4: Obtain the necessary tax information

Taxation for small businesses can be very confusing depending on the size and scale of the business. The tax liability for each business will be different based on the type of business and the corporate structure. You should consult with an accountant and a tax attorney for professional advice.



Here are some sites that might help for Steps 3 and 4:

State of Florida (Incorporation, regulation, fictitious name registration, annual report filing etc.)

FL Dept. of Business and Professional Regulation (regulated services and professional licensing)

 

All businesses operating in the municipalities below must obtain a Local Business Tax Receipt prior to obtaining an County Business Tax Receipt. Some additional municipalities may also require a Business Tax Receipt / Certification. Double check with your town or city if it is not listed below.

ORANGE COUNTY:

Orange County Tax Collector – (Business Tax Receipt/License, Zoning, Permits etc.)

Orange County Government – (Economic Development / Business Resources)

BREVARD COUNTY:

Brevard County Tax Collector – (Business Tax Receipts/License)

Brevard County – (Zoning, Business Resources)

LAKE COUNTY:

Lake County Government – (Zoning/Permitting Services)

Lake County Business – (Resources for growth)

OSCEOLA COUNTY:

Osceola County Tax Collector – (Business Tax Receipts/License)

Osceola County – (Small Business Resources)

SEMINOLE COUNTY:

Seminole County Tax Collector – (Business Tax Receipts/License)

Seminole County – (Business Services, zoning, building services, economic development)

VOLUSIA COUNTY:

Volusia County Tax Collector – (Business Tax Receipts/Licenses)



Step 5Identify sources of financing

Use the BizLink Orange Resource Navigator to search for local organizations that provide assistance and connections for financing a business. You can also refer to the Central Florida Business Funding Guide of this website for more information on how to finance your business.


Step 6: Learn about employer reporting requirements and responsibilities

As an employer, you may be responsible for withholding money for unemployment insurance and worker’s compensation insurance. Additionally, any state sales taxes collected need to be sent to the state monthly. For further information on these topics, contact the offices below directly.

  • For Federal Identification Numbers (EINs) contact the Internal Revenue Service or call (800) 829-4933.
  • For State Sales Tax and State Withholding Tax contact the State Department of Revenue.