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How To File a DBA in Florida in 7 Steps

It's essential to understand the requirements in your state if you'd like to use a name other than your business's legal name. In Florida, any company that operates under a different name must complete the DBA registration process. The process isn't very complicated, but it could take some time. If you don't have much time to spare, you could hire a professional DBA service to complete the process.

Register your DBA with confidence through our trusted partner LegalZoom.

Step 1: Do You Need a Florida DBA Name?

Fictitious name registration could serve many purposes in your small business. 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 using the name you'd like to use to conduct business.

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.

You could face legal penalties if you're using a name other than your business's legal name and failing to register a different name. You could face a misdemeanor and fined up to $500.

Business Types

If you have a sole proprietorship, your business's legal name is yours. You might not want to conduct business under your first and last name. Using a business name rather than your name could appear more professional. You also should protect your privacy.

If you have an LLC (limited liability company) or corporation, the legal name for your business formed the business entity as. Owners of LLCs and corporations often choose to use an assumed name or trade name to launch a new line of products or services.

Consider, for example, the owner of a sandwich restaurant who wants to open a sushi restaurant. The owner might not want to use the same name for the new restaurant because they don't want to confuse customers. The owner also doesn't want to pay to run and organize a new business entity either. The owner can file a DBA and use a new name for the new venture without forming another entity.

Personal Asset Protection

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 give personal asset protection. You likely already have personal asset protection if you own an LLC or corporation. If someone sues the business over a debt or obligation, this protects your assets, such as houses and cars. But, if you're a sole proprietor, you risk losing your personal assets in a lawsuit or claim against your business.

Getting a DBA does not protect sole proprietors from liability. If you're a sole proprietor looking for personal asset protection, consider forming a business entity rather than getting a DBA.

Step 2: Conduct a Name Search

There's no limit to the number of DBAs that you can have. Although you can have many Florida fictitious names, ensuring you have a legitimate business reason for getting each one is a good idea. You'll have to be able to afford and manage each one.

You must conduct a name search before registering a trade name with the Florida Department of State. You want to ensure that another company doesn't already take the name under which you choose to do business. 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 must check the trademark database for federally trademarked names. Use TESS (Trademark Electronic Search System) to search the national trademark database. You should consider hiring a trademark attorney to do an extensive trademark search.

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 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.

Step 3: Publish Legal Notice in the Newspaper

In Florida, you must publish a legal notice of your intent to register a DBA before registering a trade name. You must publish the notice at least once. To meet this rule, contact the newspaper in the county where your principal business is. Be prepared to spend at least $30 to publish your notice.

If you're publishing in a county without a newspaper, refer to Florida statutes which state:

  • Publish your notice online on a public website or
  • Publish the notice in a nearby county's newspaper, physically post the notice in a courthouse, and physically post the notice in two other places in the county.

When the notice has run, you should be able to get a certification from the newspaper to show that you have met the publication rule. If you physically posted the notices, take photographs and execute a sworn and notarized statement detailing the date of these postings. While not required by law, it would help you prove if asked about it later by someone claiming rights to your DBA name.

Step 4: Own Your Florida Fictitious Name

Under the Fictitious Name Act, you don't gain exclusive rights to your fictitious name when registering it. DBA registration doesn't reserve your name, either. Someone else could use your name even after you've registered it. You should consider trademarking if you'd like more robust protection for your fictitious business name.

Step 5: Register a Florida Fictitious Name for Your Business

Once you've picked a name and run the notice, you can register your fictitious name with the Florida Department of State. You can mail trade name registration or submit it online.

To register online, use the Florida Fictitious Name Registration portal. You'll need to provide the following information:

  • Fictitious name
  • Owner's name
  • Mailing address for business
  • Location of principal place of business
  • Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)

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. Ensure you check the spelling of your fictitious name.

Step 6: Pay Fictitious Name Registration Fees

You'll also need to provide the appropriate payment for your DBA registration. The fee for Florida fictitious name registration is $50. You can request a certificate of status. A certificate of status shows that you registered your fictitious name and paid all 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 is $30.

You can pay Florida fictitious name registration fees by check, money order, or credit card. Note that if you plan to pay your fees by credit card, you must register online rather than by mail.

While you don't have to prove that you ran the notice of intent to register in the newspaper, you must certify that you ran the notice per Florida law. There's a penalty for giving false information in your certification.

Step 7: Manage Your Florida DBA

After you've completed the registration process, consider taking several actions on your DBA. An EIN is a number the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) assigns to a business entity. A DBA is not a legal entity. Since a DBA is a name only and not a legal entity, you don't need to get your DBA's EIN or Tax ID number.

Another critical step is separating your business and personal funds. Many business owners seek out a DBA name 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 done so by getting a business bank account and business credit card, you should do so.

You may decide to change your DBA registration. What happens if you don't want the DBA name at all?

Consider the following ways in which you can manage your fictitious name registration:

  • Renewal
  • Withdrawal
  • Change of name
  • Change of ownership

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.

You can renew 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 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. You cannot renew an expired fictitious name. If your fictitious name expires and you still want to use one, you must file a new DBA.

Withdrawal is an option if 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.

Interested in Filing a DBA in Florida?

When you've decided to pursue DBA registration, consider using a trusted, simple-to-use online DBA registration tool that will walk you through the process. 

If you still have questions about the process of DBA registration or want to speak with someone about your specific circumstances, speak with an attorney in your area.

Disclaimer: The information presented here does not constitute legal advice or representation. It is general and educational in nature, may not reflect all recent legal developments, and may not apply to your unique facts and circumstances. Consider consulting with a qualified business attorney if you have legal questions.

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