Competing in today’s global market can present challenges, and choosing a suitable name for your business can make or break it. That is why Florida has created a business-friendly environment to enable companies and young entrepreneurs to grow quickly.

Florida understands what it takes to grow a business and the state creates an enabling environment for businesses with a good number of talented workforce, top-ranked infrastructure, global connectivity, and quality of life. You can have peace of mind when you locate your business in Florida.

The state’s favorable business tax structure, government policies, and competitive costs make planning for future growth easy. Florida steadily ranks among the best states for business, thanks to its pro-business state tax policies, competitive cost of doing business, and streamlined regulatory environment.

One of the first things to factor in when you start a new business is what to name it. It is common for businesses to advertise and operate under a different name from its legal one. However, Florida law mandates you to register any alternate names so that the public is aware of who is actually operating the business.

An experienced business attorney can help you with starting your new business; including helping you comply with the rules for properly registering your business’s DBA in Florida.

DBA stands for “doing business as.” In Florida, a DBA is also known as a fictitious name. A DBA lets you to operate your business under a different name than your own name (in the case of a sole proprietorship) or the registered name of your business.

The Fictitious Name Act (s.865.09, F.S.) requires any person (which, by definition, includes an individual, as well as a business entity) to register their “fictitious name” or “DBA” name with the Florida Department of State prior to conducting business in Florida.

Note that you can apply for a DBA when you first register your new business, or you can apply for a DBA later on if you decide to make changes to your business. Have it in mind that a business can use a DBA to advertise, transact business, and open bank accounts. If you plan to run your Florida business under any name other than your own name or the registered name of your business, you are expected to file a fictitious name registration.

Also, since a company’s official legal name must include a business type designation—like LLC, Inc., or Co.—businesses that do not want to use that designation in marketing must register a DBA.

The State of Florida also requires DBA registration to protect the public from business owners who might want to hide their identity behind an alias. Registration of a DBA makes it easy for consumers to search public records and determine which individual or business is behind a fictitious name.

If you fail to file a DBA in Florida, you can be charged with second-degree misdemeanor. This could carry penalties of up to 60 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, or both.

When choosing a fictitious name, it is ideal to pick one that is not already being used. You can search Florida business records to determine whether your DBA is being used by another business.

Florida DBAs aren’t permitted to include business entity designations such as “LLC,” “corp.,” “incorporated,” etc. In addition, registering your DBA doesn’t protect your business name against other people using it. So if you want to have exclusive use of your business name, you need to register it as a trademark.

Detailed Step to File a DBA in Florida

In Florida, a business operating under a fictitious name will need to register a DBA. The cost to register a DBA in Florida is $50 and the registration is valid for five years but can be renewed. Filing a Florida DBA involves several steps and they include;

  1. Legal Notice Advertisement

A legal notice is required to be published in a newspaper with circulation in the county where the business is located before filing the registration form. Have it in mind that this notice publication only has to be run one time. You have to contact the newspaper of your choice.

Prices tend to vary by paper but expect to spend between $30 and $100 for this notice.  Once the notice runs, the newspaper will send an affidavit stating the notice ran. Howbeit, there is no requirement to submit this notice, but before submitting the name registration form, you need to certify that the ad has been published.

  1. Fill Out The Form

Once you are done with running the legal notice, the Fictitious Name registration can be filled out and either submitted online or by mailing the form. The form has questions regarding:

  • Proposed name to be registered
  • Mailing address of the business
  • County of the principal office of the business
  • FEI number (same as the EIN issued by the IRS) – Not all businesses need to register for an EIN. If that is the case, leave it blank
  • Registrant contact information
  • Florida Document Number – this is only for business entities registered with the state, such as corporations or Limited Liability Companies.
  1. Submit the Form

Filing time is more or less 2-3 business days when filing online or 3-5 business days when submitting by mail. If submitting the paper form, mail it to:

Fictitious Name Registration

PO Box 6327

Tallahassee, FL 32314

  1. Update your Registration

DBA registration is good for five years. When it is time to renew your registration, the Florida Division of Corporation will send you a notification in the mail. However, the business is responsible for applying for the renewal if they want to keep operating under the fictitious name.

Conclusion

A DBA is required by many businesses in order for them to legally operate. In addition to the legal requirement, a DBA offers other benefits such as proving the existence of a business, opening a bank account under a business name, registering a merchant account to accept credit cards, and others.

Registering a DBA is just one small aspect of the business formation process. Forming your business, developing it, and protecting it against legal risks is an ongoing process that involves lots of time and attention.

Ajaero Tony Martins