If you run a business under an assumed name in Florida, you may want to set up a DBA. Short for “Doing Business As,” a DBA serves as an alternate title for your business. Often, a DBA is the name customers will use to refer to your company. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about DBAs: who needs one, who doesn’t, and three easy steps to filing with the state.
In Florida, the DBA is actually called a “Fictitious Name.” Essentially, they’re the same concept. “Fictitious Name” is just the terminology used by the state. For consistency, we’ll call it a Fictitious Name throughout the rest of this guide.
NOTE: Keep in mind that filing a trade name will not give your business protection through the corporate veil like an LLC will. If this is something you want or need, don’t fret, there are many top rated LLC services that can help you take care of the paperwork.
Do You Need a Florida Fictitious Name?
Not all business entities in Florida need a Fictitious Name. Ordinarily, a business needs a Fictitious Name when the name of their business differs from the name registered with the state.
So let’s say that Lauren operates a sole proprietorship; her legal business formation documents list her full name as the legal owner of the business. But if she wants to run her shop under the name Sew Sweet Creations, she’d need to file a Fictitious Name in order to use that name. A Fictitious Name is also useful for corporations which want to establish additional businesses or locations with a name that’s different from the Corporation name.
Limited liability companies, nonprofit corporations, and corporations operating exclusively under the name on file with the state usually do not need a Fictitious Name. They may choose to use one if they want to establish a new product line or chain of businesses under their original parent company.
A Florida Fictitious Name does present a few advantages. While it doesn’t offer any specific legal protections or tax incentives, a Fictitious Name allows you to get a business bank account. You can also give your customers peace of mind—most people are more comfortable writing a check to a business than an individual.
Florida requires that all businesses using a Fictitious Name file that name with the state. However, registering a name with the state does not grant you exclusive rights to that name.
1) File Your Fictitious Name with the Florida Division of Corporations
Florida uses SunBiz to handle its online filings. In fact, you’ll likely use this online portal for most of your business needs. You’ll find it helpful to create and maintain an account. The Application for Registration of Fictitious Name can be found on Sunbiz, too. You’ll need to fill out this form to declare your fictitious name with the state.
However, before you do this, you’ll want to complete a Fictitious Name Search. You’ll simply need to type the name you want to use into the tool. It will pull up results which are the same as or contain keywords from your desired name. If any of the results are an exact match, you may want to change your name to create a distinct one; Florida does allow for duplicate fictitious names, but because you want your business to stand out with a name no one else has. But if the tool replies with “Records not found in that direction,” then no one has registered that name with the state. It’s free for you to use.
Once you’ve determined that your name is unique and available, you’ll need to fill out the Registration Application. You can file this form online or by mail (if mailing, you’ll use this PDF).
There is a $50 fee for this registration. You can pay by card, check, or money order.
2) Declare Your Florida Fictitious Name to the Public
As part of your Fictitious Name registration, you are required by law to advertise your name in a local newspaper at least once. You can choose to do so more than once or in multiple requirements, but by filing the name, you commit to advertising it. This paper advertisement allows the public to be fully aware who’s behind a business.
3) Maintaining your Florida Fictitious Name
Your initial registration gives you five years with your Fictitious Name. The registration expires on December 31 of the fifth year, regardless of when you first filed the form. If you want to continue using your name after that point, you’ll need to submit an Application for Renewal of Fictitious Name.
Like the initial registration, the fee for renewal is $50. The form is quite similar, too. You can file by mail using the PDF linked above or use SunBiz. You can also pay by card, check, or money order.
Need Help Filing your Fictitious Name?
If this process sounds like a hassle, you can get help with setting up your business’s name with a service like Legalzoom. They make the process simple: you simply provide them with the necessary information about your company, and they’ll fill out the paperwork so you don’t have to. The process is both easy and affordable, letting you focus on running your business.
Your name is an important part of your business, but keeping compliant with state requirements can be tricky! We hope this guide made it quick and easy to set up your Florida Fictitious Name.