How to Get a Small Business License in Florida

Take a look at which licenses, permits, and registrations your small business might need in Florida.

By , J.D., New York University School of Law
Updated by Amanda Hayes, Attorney (University of North Carolina School of Law)

Many household names operate out of the Sunshine State. Orlando is home to Disney World, and Publix supermarket was founded in Winter Haven. Apart from the big names, many small business owners start and run their companies in Florida.

When launching a new business in Florida, you'll need to be aware of the state, county, and city laws that apply to your business. Before opening your doors, you must make sure that you apply for and obtain the required licenses and permits.

Below are some specific licensing issues for you to consider as you start your new business.

Which Business Licenses Do You Need for Your Small Business?

When starting a business in Florida, you must:

Your business structure, industry, and location will determine which licenses and permits you might need. The main types of business licenses, permits, and registrations are:

(For more general guidance, see our article on the legal requirements for starting a small business.)

General Business License in Florida

Florida doesn't require a statewide business license. However, many cities and counties require businesses to have a general license (typically called a "business tax receipt").

You can apply for a business tax receipt by registering with the relevant tax collector's office. Typically, county tax collectors provide business tax receipts. But if your business is situated within a municipality, you could also need a city business tax receipt. For example, Miami-Dade County and the City of Orlando require businesses to obtain both city and county tax receipts. If a business tax receipt is required, you'll need to pay for your tax receipt each year by September 30. (Fla. Stat. § 205.053 (2023).)

Many counties and cities allow you to apply for your business tax receipt online. But others could require you to mail in or hand deliver your application. Costs of a business tax receipt will vary depending upon the county, the type of business involved, and its environmental, zoning, and regulatory impact on the county.

Although the required information differs among cities and counties, in general, you must provide the following information:

  • your business name
  • the fictitious name of your business (also called a "DBA"), if applicable
  • any corporate documents (such as your articles of incorporation or articles of organization)
  • your business's federal tax ID number (usually an EIN),
  • your industry code under the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS), and
  • evidence of any professional or commercial certifications or licenses required in your field.

You can contact your county tax collector for further information by clicking on the appropriate county on the DOR website.

Professional and Occupational Licenses for Businesses and Individuals in Florida

Your profession or occupation might require you to obtain a license to practice in your industry. You could need to obtain two licenses: one for you as an individual and one for your business.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) is in charge of issuing professional licenses and regulating the respective fields. The DBPR website has a list of regulated professions that you can click on to learn more about. In general, through the DBPR website, you can:

  • apply for and renew your license
  • search for continuing education courses
  • view your application's status, and
  • find exam information.

The DOS also has a professional licensing webpage with a list of professions and occupations that you can click through. The links direct you toward the appropriate resource. For example, when you click on "teachers," you'll be directed to the Florida Department of Education website where you can find information on how to apply for and maintain your educator certification.

You should also look at the website for the department, agency, or board that oversees your profession or occupation.

Florida Sales and Use Tax Registration

If the products you sell or lease or the services you provide are subject to sales and use tax, then you'll need to register to collect and pay sales tax. The DOR's Florida sales and use tax webpage provides details on which goods and services are taxable.

While Florida doesn't provide a seller's permit, you must register your business with the DOR. You can apply online or mail in a completed Florida Business Tax Application (Form DR-1) to create your business tax account. You can use the application to register for other taxes.

Local Zoning and Building Permits

In some instances—for example, if you'll be constructing or renovating a space—you'll need to get special zoning and building permits. For example, Miami-Dade County requires businesses to obtain a certificate of use when an industrial or commercial building is constructed or altered. A certificate of use shows that the business is in compliance with the local zoning laws.

Oftentimes, cities will require you to get a certificate of use or zoning clearance before you apply for your business tax receipt. Zoning clearance simply means that your proposed business activities and use of the space comply with current city codes and ordinances.

Zoning laws. If your type of business isn't in line with the zoning code, you can find another space or potentially apply for a special use permit. A special permit can provide your business with an exception to the current use laws.

Building code. You can work with local departments and agencies to apply for building and construction permits. You'll likely need to have inspections related to your space's structural, electrical, mechanical, and plumbing features.

If you'll be leasing a commercial space, make sure you have a clause or paragraph in the commercial lease that ensures the building and your use of the space are in line with the zoning laws.

Registering Your Fictitious Name for Florida Businesses

Florida requires you to register your fictitious name before you start doing business if:

  • you're using a business name that's different from your business's legal name on file with the DOS, or
  • you're using a name that's different from your personal name, if you're a sole proprietor.

(Fla. Stat. § 865.09 (2023).)

For example, suppose Ruby Baptiste runs a clothing store as a sole proprietor under the name "Metamorphosis Clothing." Because her business name is different from her personal name, Ruby would need to register her fictitious business name.

You can register your fictitious name online or mail in a completed application for registration of fictitious name.

You must advertise your fictitious name at least once in a local newspaper. But you don't need to send proof of the advertisement to the DOS. As of 2023, the filing fee is $50. (Fla. Stat. § 865.09 (2023).)

You can find more information about registering your fictitious name on the DOS's Florida fictitious name registration webpage.

Other Licenses and Permits Your Business Might Need

In addition to the licenses and permits discussed above, you could be required to comply with other laws and regulations. For example, your business might need to obtain special licensing or follow special rules related to safety, health, and the environment.

Sometimes these areas are encompassed within other licenses, permits, and registrations. Other times, these licenses and permits will require a separate process. You should check with your federal, state, and local governments for more information.

Speaking With a Florida Business Attorney

You can likely navigate some of the license and permit application processes on your own. For example, you can probably obtain a professional license or register your fictitious business name by yourself. However, you might need legal assistance when applying for zoning permits or registering for various taxes.

If you need extra help, consider reaching out to a Florida business lawyer. Look for local attorneys who have experience with the type of license or permit you need.

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