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By Acacia Wilson, Esq. | Legally reviewed by Tim Kelly, J.D. | Last reviewed November 06, 2021
This article has been written and reviewed for legal accuracy, clarity, and style by FindLaw’s team of legal writers and attorneys and in accordance with our editorial standards.
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Fictitious name registration could serve many purposes in your business or organization. Registering a fictitious business name or DBA ("doing business as") can open up branding and marketing opportunities. You might also need to register a trade name to get a business bank account or credit card in the name you'd like to use for conducting business.
It's essential to understand the requirements in your state if you'd like to use a name other than the legal name for your business. In Florida, any company that operates under a different name must complete the DBA registration process. The process of DBA registration isn't very complicated, but it could take a bit of your time to complete the four steps. If you don't have much time on your hands, you could hire a professional DBA service to take down your information and complete the process for you.
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Suppose you plan to use a fictitious name for your business activities in Florida. In that case, you must register the fictitious name with the Division of Corporations of the Florida Department of State.
A fictitious business name is any name other than the legal name for your business that you use to conduct business activities. There are a variety of reasons to use a name other than the legal name for your business. To understand these reasons, consider the type of business that you have.
If you have a sole proprietorship, the legal name for your business is your own personal name. You might not want to conduct business under your own first and last name for many reasons. It could appear more professional to use a business name rather than your personal name, and you might want to protect your privacy.
If you have an LLC (limited liability company) or corporation, the legal name for your business is the name that you filed with the appropriate agency when you formed the business entity. Owners of LLCs and corporations often choose to use an assumed name or trade name because they'd like to launch a new line of products or services under a new name.
Consider, for example, the owner of an Italian restaurant who wants to try owning a fast food joint. She might not want to use the same name for the new restaurant because she doesn't want customers to be confused, and she doesn't want to go to the trouble and expense of forming a new business entity either. She can file a DBA and use a new name for her new venture without forming another entity.
Business owners who operate sole proprietorships or partnerships benefit from using a name other than their personal name for their business when they get a DBA. Still, a DBA can't provide personal asset protection. If you're the owner of an LLC or corporation, you likely already have personal asset protection. This means that your assets, such as houses and cars, are protected if someone sues the business over a debt or obligation. However, if you're a sole proprietor, you run the risk of losing your personal assets in a lawsuit or claim against your business.
Getting a DBA won't give a sole proprietor liability protection. If you're a sole proprietor looking for personal asset protection, you should look into forming a business entity rather than getting a DBA.
There are four steps that you can take to complete the process of getting a fictitious name in Florida. Although some states don't allow business owners to register a trade name online, online registration is an option in Florida. First, you'll need to check a couple of databases to ensure that the name you want to use for your business isn't already in use.
You must conduct a name search before you register a trade name with the Florida Department of State. You want to make sure that the name you choose to do business under isn't already taken by another company. To search state business records, use the Fictitious Name Search tool on the Sunbiz website. The tool allows you to search by owner name or fictitious name. If you have trouble using the tool, consult the guide for detailed instructions.
Next, you need to check the trademark database for names that have been trademarked. To conduct a search of the trademark database, use TESS (Trademark Electronic Search System).
Finally, consider the name restrictions for Florida DBA names. For example, you can't include a business entity designator, such as "LLC," "Inc.," or "Corp." in your DBA name unless you actually have that type of entity. Also, you can't use terms such as "bank," "banker," "credit union," "trust company," or "savings bank" unless you're operating a financial institution.
In Florida, you're required to publish a legal notice of your intent to register before you can register a trade name. The notice must be published at least once. To meet this requirement, contact the newspaper in the county in which your principal place of business is located. Be prepared to spend a minimum of $30 to publish your notice. When the notice has run, you should be able to get a certification from the newspaper to show that you have met the publication requirement.
If you're publishing in a county in which there's no newspaper, refer to Florida statutes. If you're publishing online, refer to Florida statutes.
Once you've picked a name and run the notice in the newspaper, you can register your fictitious name with the Florida Department of State. Trade name registration can be done online or by mail in Florida.
To register online, use the Florida Fictitious Name Registration portal. You'll need to provide the following information:
To register by mail, complete the Application for Registration of Fictitious Name form and mail it to: Fictitious Name Registration, PO Box 6327, Tallahassee, FL 32314-1300.
Note that you can only register one fictitious name at a time. Make sure that you check the spelling of your fictitious name and enter it exactly as you want it to be registered.
You'll also need to provide the appropriate payment for your DBA registration. The fee for Florida fictitious name registration is $50. You have the option to request a certificate of status. A certificate of status shows that your fictitious name has been registered and that you have paid all of the fees due as of a specific date. The cost for a certificate of status is $10. You also have the option to request a certified copy of your registration document. The fee for a certified copy, which is filed stamped, is $30.
You can pay fees for Florida fictitious name registration by check, money order, or credit card. Note that if you're planning to pay your fees by credit card, you'll need to register online rather than by mail.
While you don't have to provide proof that you ran the notice of intent to register in the newspaper, you will need to certify that you ran the notice per Florida law. There's a penalty for providing false information in your certification.
You might want to take several actions regarding your DBA after you've completed the registration process. You might decide, for example, that you'd like to make a change to your DBA registration. What happens if you decide that you no longer want the DBA name at all?
Consider the following ways in which you can manage your fictitious name registration:
Florida fictitious names are good for five years. If you'd like to continue using your trade name, you'll need to renew it by December 31st of the fifth year after registration. To avoid losing your trade name, you'll need to renew it every five years after that. Renewal can be done by mail or online. If you decide to renew by mail, you can complete the Application for Renewal of Fictitious Name form and mail it to: Fictitious Name Renewal, PO Box 6327, Tallahassee, FL 32314.
If you decide to renew online, use the Sunbiz portal and have your Registration Number handy. It costs $50 to renew your Florida fictitious name. Note that your DBA name will expire if you don't renew it on time, and an expired fictitious name can no longer be renewed. If your fictitious name expires and you still want to use one, you'll have to file a new DBA.
Withdrawal is an option if you decide that you no longer wish to use your DBA. To cancel your DBA, use the Application for Registration of Fictitious Name form and complete Section 4 only. To change the name or ownership, use the Application for Registration of Fictitious Name form and complete Sections 1-4.
After you file a fictitious name in Florida, you'll likely need to get a logo, signage, brochures, business cards, and other promotional materials with your new name. Don't forget to set up a website, if you haven't already. If you're not comfortable with building your own website, you can hire help.
Another critical step is separating your business and personal funds. One of the reasons many business owners seek out a DBA name is to provide the paperwork they need to open a business bank account in a name other than their legal business name. If you haven't already separated your business and personal funds by getting a business bank account and business credit card, you should do so.
Business insurance is an excellent way to protect your business. Look into getting a general liability insurance policy if you haven't already. A good policy can kick in if someone suffers a loss or injury at your business.
There's no limit to the number of DBAs that you can have. Although you can have multiple Florida fictitious names, it's a good idea to make sure you have a legitimate business reason for acquiring each one. You'll have to be able to afford and manage each one.
An EIN is a number assigned to a business entity by the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). A DBA, however, is not a legal entity. Since a DBA is a name only and not a legal entity, you don't need to get an EIN or Tax ID number for your DBA.
Under the Fictitious Name Act, you don't gain exclusive rights to your fictitious name when you register it. DBA registration doesn't reserve your name either. Someone else could potentially use your name even after you've registered it. If you'd like more robust protection for your fictitious business name, then you should consider trademarking it.
If you're operating your LLC under its legal name only, then you don't need a DBA for your business. However, if you're using any name other than the legal business name for business activities, then you do need to register a Florida fictitious name.
Florida fictitious name registration costs $50. Don't forget to factor in the cost of publication, which is generally $30-$100. You might also want to get a certificate of status or certified copy along with your registration, which comes at an additional cost.
If you're using a name other than the legal name for your business and you fail to register the different name, you could face legal penalties. You could be charged with a misdemeanor and fined up to $500.
Yes, you can use the Sunbiz website to file a Florida trade name online. You also have the option of registering your trade name by mail.
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If you still have questions about the process of DBA registration or want to speak with someone about your specific circumstances, you could probably benefit from a consultation with an attorney. Speak with an attorney in your area today.
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