DBA in Florida
Businesses looking to grow their clientele need to work on their branding. Sadly, legal business names are stuck with what you registered them as. This can be especially unfortunate for sole proprietorships and general partnerships, which must use their owners’ legal names for the business.
Thankfully, establishing your brand in the Sunny State of Florida can be made easier with the help of DBAs. In this article, we’ll discuss what these are, what you can get from them, and how to use them for your business.
What Is a DBA?
DBA is an acronym that stands for “doing business as.” These are aliases created to be used as alternatives in case businesses do not want to use their legal names when they operate. They are usually meant to help businesses with their branding and promotions.
Florida refers to DBAs as “fictitious names.” They are not separate entities like LLCs and do not replace a business’ legally registered name with the state. For example, sole proprietor Peter Gonzalez has a taco business, so he files a DBA for it so that it will be called “Sunny Tacos.” However, the business’s registered legal name remains “Peter Gonzalez.”
What Are The Advantages Of A DBA In Florida?
Fictitious names give your business many advantages. Here’s a quick look at the benefits of using DBAs in Florida:
Helps in branding
DBAs are primarily used for branding purposes in the state. You can use them to create an excellent first impression on customers. Fictitious names help businesses like yours communicate what they offer before a potential customer enters the store. For example, Kelly Johnson has a seafood diner and wants to market her fresh catch of crabs every day. Johnson can file for a DBA name “The Sunny Crustacean” to emphasize that her Florida diner specializes in crabs and lobsters.
Helps add privacy
Florida DBAs help you hide behind a layer of privacy. Sole proprietors and partnerships, in particular, won’t have to put their names on the flyers, posters, newspaper ads, and social media posts if they use a DBA.
Big businesses will also benefit from this. Florida LLCs and corporations looking to start other ventures won’t have to put their main businesses’ names on promotional material. This makes such ventures look and feel like they’re not under bigger companies.
One such example in Florida is Gumdrop Books, a shop selling books and other learning materials from PreK to College level. Its name is but a DBA owned by Central Programs Inc. By using a fictitious name that appeals to students of all levels, the incorporated business is able to sell learning materials to the youth.
It helps businesses diversify their products and services
Fictitious names help businesses diversify their offerings. With them, companies will be able to give a name to every specific venture they have in mind.
Take Bradenton-based American retail giant Bealls Inc., for example. This family-owned company has over 650 stores, all operating under various names:
- Bealls (which now combines Bealls Outlet and Burkes Outlet) is a long-running dry goods retailer selling clothes, accessories, and more.
- Home Centric, which is a store for discounted home furnishing items and decor.
- Rugged Earth Outfitters (or REO) sells clothes designed for the outdoors, such as those worn when hunting and fishing.
It helps in banking
While Florida does not require all businesses to have DBAs, most banks do. This is so you can open bank accounts for your ventures, separate from your primary business and personal accounts. Having separate bank accounts for each DBA makes managing your finances easier compared to managing just one account for all ventures. It also helps minimize risks of mishandling funds that could result from combining all profits in one account.
What Are The Disadvantages Of A DBA In Florida?
While Florida DBAs have many benefits, they have their downsides too. And although these are not serious, they could be disadvantageous if you do not know how to deal with them. Here’s a quick look at the limitations of DBAs.
Does not protect personal assets
While DBAs add a layer of protection for you, they do not add any layer of legal protection for your personal assets in case your business faces lawsuits and losses. This significantly affects sole proprietors and owners of general partnerships. Getting insured is vital to protecting your personal property and belongings.
It has some naming restrictions
DBAs have to be creative, but you cannot just use any name you can think of as a fictitious name for your business. This is because of Florida’s naming restrictions when it comes to businesses. The state prohibits the use of the following for DBAs:
- Business entity suffixes (such as LLC, LLP, Inc., Corp.) and indicators (such as Corporation, Incorporated, Limited Liability Partnership, Professional Association). This will be allowed if one of the owners of the new DBA is an entity with that actual business structure and is registered in the state of Florida.
- Words used by financial institutions. These include “bank,” “banker,” “banc,” “savings bank,” “trust company,” “credit union,” and so on.
How To Get A DBA In Florida
Finally, let’s discuss how you can apply for a fictitious name for your business in Florida. Here’s what you need to do:
Search for your trade name’s availability
First, come up with your preferred fictitious name and visit the Florida Secretary of State’s website to check for its availability. Make sure to prepare a few names in case your selected name is unavailable. If it is, proceed with the next step.
Advertise your preferred DBA in a local newspaper
Florida requires business owners looking to get a DBA to advertise the fictitious name in a local newspaper before registering it with the state. You only have to do this once, unlike the time when you formed your business. After this, you can proceed to formally file it with the Secretary of State.
File with the Florida Secretary of State
After doing the above steps, you can file your new DBA with the Florida Secretary of State in two ways: by mail or online.
- If registering by mail, you need to fill out the Application for Registration of Fictitious Name, then mail it to the Secretary of State’s office, along with a check or money order for the filing fee.
- If registering online, visit the Secretary of State’s website, specifically the Florida Fictitious Name Registration page, enter the required details, submit the form, and pay the filing fee. You can pay this using your credit card.
When registering your Doing Business As, you will be asked to provide the following information:
- The exact name you want as your fictitious name
- The business’s name and address.
- The new DBA’s owners’ names. DBAs can have up to five owners, but those who want their DBAs to have more than five owners should ask the Secretary of State for instructions.
If you file online, you will receive a confirmation to your registered email within 24 hours. If you file by mail, confirmation will be sent to your provided mailing address.
Remember to get some certified copies of your fictitious name registration once your new DBA is registered. You will need these as proof of your business name and to open bank accounts for your business.
A DBA in Florida lasts for five years—up to Dec. 31 of the fifth year. DBAs have to be renewed before they expire. Otherwise, records about them will be removed from the Florida Secretary of State’s office. Renewals can be done by mail or online.
How Much Is A DBA In Florida?
Florida charges businesses $50 to register new fictitious names. Businesses that ask for certified copies of their DBA registration are charged $30 for each copy and are charged $10 for every certificate of status for fictitious name registration. Renewals cost $50 for each DBA.
Payments for these are made via check or money order (for mail-in registrations) and credit card. Cards accepted include American Express, Discover, Mastercard, and Visa.
DBAs or fictitious names allow Florida-based entrepreneurs like you to use any name you want for their business, as long as it meets the state’s naming standards. They help you establish your chosen branding and make good first impressions with potential customers—even if they haven’t tried availing of the business’s products and services yet. DBAs also add a layer of privacy for you to hide behind, so your personal information won’t have to be made public for all the world to see.
The best thing about Florida’s DBAs is that they are easy to get, are considerably affordable, and their benefits are worth the money spent to get them. The state doesn’t require all businesses to have DBAs, but getting DBAs rewards businesses with perks, including opening separate bank accounts. If you’re an entrepreneur seeking to grow your business in Florida, consider getting a DBA today.
Frequently Asked Questions About A DBA
Here are the most commonly asked questions about forming a DBA:
Yes. You can have as many fictitious names in Florida as long as each DBA meets the state’s naming standards. You must complete the registration process for each of them and pay the necessary registration and eventual registration fees.
Yes. Florida allows several different businesses to use similar fictitious names, but similar names can be detrimental to your business. Think about it this way: the more entities use the same name, the less unique it becomes. It is less effective at establishing your brand compared to names that are unique to you.
No. DBAs do not provide any personal asset protection from lawsuits, like how LLCs and corporations do. It only provides business owners with an additional layer of privacy. Sole proprietors and general partnerships should get insured to protect personal assets.
No. DBAs are not separate entities and are non-taxable. Business owners applying for them will only have to pay for registration and renewal.
Yes. Fictitious names can be canceled if the DBA owner stops doing business. You can cancel your fictitious name within 30 days of ceasing your business online via the Florida Secretary of State’s website. Canceling your DBA costs $50.
No. DBAs are fictitious names used in place of a business’s legal name. Trademarks, on the other hand, are intellectual property registrations. DBAs do not provide any form of protection for the business they are used for. Trademarks, on the other hand, provide legal protection for the brands or intellectual properties they were registered for at the local and national levels.