How to Get a Fictitious Name in Florida
Any Florida business that uses a name other than its legal business name is using a DBA, also called a fictitious name. Florida sole proprietors, general partnerships, LLCs, and corporations can use a DBA for almost all business-related activities—from creating social media accounts and advertising online and in print to accepting payments from customers, paying vendors, and even opening a business bank account. Getting a DBA in Florida requires you to submit a fictitious name application to the Secretary of State’s office. You’ll also need to publish notice of your DBA in a local paper where your business is located. Let’s get started.
Your Florida DBA Guide:
What is a Florida DBA?
A Florida DBA (fictitious name) is another name that your business can use instead of its legal business name. For example, if your business has a long name like Oak Street Music and Spirits, LLC, you can get a DBA and shorten the name to Oak Street Bar (if no one else is already using that name). Whether you’re a sole proprietor working out of a home office, a growing LLC, or a massive corporation, any business can get a DBA. There is also no limit in Florida to the number of DBAs a business can register.
DBAs can be used in much the same way a legal business name can be used. You’ll be able to build a social media presence with your DBA, open a business bank account, write checks to vendors, take payments from customers, and even advertise with a DBA. It is important to remember that a DBA is just a name for your business and not a business itself. You’ll still file taxes under your legal business name and existing EIN.
Why Register a DBA in Florida?
Under Florida law (FL Stat § 865.09 (9)), if a business uses a DBA but fails to register it with the state, the business will be unable to file a lawsuit against anyone until the registration has been filed and approved. While uncommon, Florida can levy civil penalties and criminal charges against businesses and owners who knowingly do business under an unregistered name. Beyond abiding by the law, there are some other reasons to register a DBA in Florida:
You want a different name for your business
In the eyes of the law, both sole proprietors (one owner), and general partnerships (two or more owners) are their businesses. This means that the name of the business for sole proprietors must include their full name (example: Gina Rodriguez). The legal business name of a general partnership needs to include the last names of the business partners (example: Rodriguez and Jackson). If you want to give your business a name that doesn’t include the name(s) of the owner(s), you need to register a DBA.
You’re looking to expand your brand
DBAs give businesses the opportunity to add new brands, products, or services, all without having to start an entirely new business. Imagine you own an auto repair shop, “Bob’s Auto Repair, LLC,” but you see an opportunity to also sell cars on the side. You could choose to register a DBA, “Bob’s Auto Sales,” and now you’ll be able to market to a wider audience, while your auto sales business enjoys liability protection under the original LLC. Essentially a DBA is an affordable way for business owners to add new services, expand their product lines, or even take the business in a new direction.
You use your domain name as your business name
If your legal business name is “Joe’s Hot Dogs, LLC,” but your domain name, “redhotsbyjoe.com,” is the name you use as your forward-facing business name on business cards, advertisements, etc., you’ll need to register a DBA.
Tip: Registering a Florida trade name doesn’t guarantee that another business won’t use it. For stronger legal rights to your name, you can apply to trademark your DBA name at the federal level. Here’s how to apply for a trademark.
How to Register a Florida Fictitious Name
Registering a fictitious name in Florida isn’t as simple as just filing an application. Florida requires business owners to publish notice in a local paper (or online) of their intent to use a fictitious name before filing the Application for Registration of Fictitious Name. We’ll break down the process.
Before publishing your intent to use your fictitious name, make sure your name is available and complies with Florida’s DBA rules.
Your fictitious name must:
- Not use identifiers like “LLC” or “Inc.” unless your business is that entity type.
- Not use words like “bank,” “banker,” or “trust company,” unless your business is a financial institution.
- Be unique among registered fictitious names in Florida.
To find out if your name is available, search the Florida Fictitious Name Database. Your fictitious name must be unique among already existing businesses. In order to make a name unique, you can’t just add suffixes, articles, or change punctuation or capital letters for a name that’s already taken. For example, if “Mom’s Spaghetti” is already taken, changing your name to “Moms spaghetti” isn’t unique enough. Fictitious names that are too similar to existing business names will be rejected.
Before filing the application for your DBA, you’ll be required to publish a legal notice of intent to register a fictitious name a newspaper that publishes in the county where your business is located. Publishing costs vary, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $25 to $150. to publish notice of your fictitious name. For example, The Apoka Chief charges $25 for a one-time fictitious name publication while The Boca Raton Tribune charges $150. Your notice of intent should state:
• Your fictitious name
• Your company’s legal name and address
• Your intention to register with the Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations and the county
To meet Florida’s publication requirements, the press you publish with must:
• Be at least 25% in English.
• Be published at least once a week.
• Be available as a periodical in the county where it’s published.
• Have been in existence for at least a year.
If your county doesn’t have a publication that meets Florida’s requirements, you may publish with an online press, as long as there is a search function on the site. Alternately, you may post three physical copies in three different places around the county (one must be the front door of the courthouse). You may also publish in the nearest county with a newspaper.
This is the step that officially registers your DBA in Florida. You’ll need to complete the Application for Registration of Fictitious Name ($50) after publishing your legal notice of intent. You’ll need to include the following information:
• Fictitious name
• Business mailing address
• County where business is located
• Names and addresses of owner(s) of fictitious name
• Florida Document Number received when the business was registered with the state (if applicable)
• Federal Employer Identification (FEI) number (if applicable)
• Email address
• Phone number
You can file your Application for Registration of Fictitious Name online or by mail. No matter what way you file, the processing fee is $50.
Fictitious Name Registration
PO Box 6327
Tallahassee, FL 32314-1300
Filing a DBA vs. Starting a Business
Registering a DBA should not be confused with starting a business in Florida. A DBA is a tool businesses can use to market themselves under a different name. Starting a business may involve getting a DBA, but it isn’t required. You’ll need a business before you can get a DBA.
There are two ways to start a business in Florida:
1. Sell a product or service: Being in business is as easy as getting paid to provide a service or sell a product. Did your neighbor just pay you $25 to mow their lawn? You’re a sole proprietor. Sole proprietors (one owner) and general partnerships (two or more owners) are two of the most popular business types because they are easy to start and require no formation paperwork or filing fees.
2. Register your business with the state: If you want to create a formal business entity like an LLC or corporation, you’ll need to file formation documents with the state and pay a filing fee. You’ll also need to be aware of Florida’s annual report filings.
DBA vs. LLC in Florida
Both LLCs and DBAs are registered with the state, but only one gives business owners asset protection in the event of a lawsuit or bankruptcy. A DBA is just a name, and not a separate business entity. A Florida LLC is an actual legal business entity, and registering one creates legal separation between the business and the owners of the business. This legal separation is what protects the assets—401k, car, house, savings—of the LLC owners.
It all comes down to what you’re looking for as a business owner. If you’re a sole proprietor and you only want a different name for your business, a DBA is what you need. But if you want asset protection and a business name, an LLC is the perfect fit. Northwest can help you get one.
Will a DBA keep my personal information off the public record?
No. Florida’s DBA application requires you to list the name and address of the person or business entity applying. All of that information will go on Florida’s public record, easily searched by anyone who’s looking for it. In order to live privately as a business owner, your best option is to hire a Florida registered agent and to form a Florida LLC. When you hire Northwest, we can list our name and address on the public record instead of yours wherever the state allows. We do this to keep your private information out of the public eye.
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Florida DBA FAQs
Is registering a DBA required in Florida?
Yes. Florida law states that if a business is going to use a fictitious business name in place of their legal business name, they need to register it with the state.
How do I register a DBA in Florida?
Your first step is to perform a name search to make sure no other business is using your preferred DBA name. The next step is to publish notice of intent to use a DBA in a newspaper in the county where your business office is located. From there you’ll complete and submit an application to the Secretary of State’s office and pay the filing fee.
Is there a publishing requirement to get a Florida DBA?
Yes. Florida requires that you publish a notice of intent to use a fictitious name in the county where your business is located. You’ll need to to run the notice in a local newspaper before you can register your DBA.
How much does it cost to get a DBA in Florida?
$50, plus the cost of publication, which can cost anywhere from $25 to $150.
How long does it take to get a Florida DBA?
If you file your Florida fictitious name application online, you’ll get your DBA as soon as the form is received by the state. Filing by mail takes longer. But don’t forget that you’ll need to publish a notice of intent to use in a county newspaper before registering your fictitious name, which can take 3-4 weeks, depending on the publication.
How long does fictitious name registration last in Florida?
Your Florida fictitious name will last for five years.
Can I renew a Florida DBA?
Yes. DBAs last 5 years, at which time they’ll need to be renewed. In order to do this you’ll need to submit an Application for Renewal of Fictitious Name and pay $50.
Can I update my fictitious name in Florida?
Yes. You can update your Florida fictitious name by submitting the Application for Registration of Fictitious Name and filling out section four. You use the same form to cancel your fictitious name. To update or cancel your DBA in Florida costs $50.
Do I need a separate bank account for my DBA?
No. Getting a DBA doesn’t create a new business, so you’re not required to get a new bank account. However, there are some reasons why you might prefer to open a new bank account for a DBA. You may want to keep your brand names financially separate from each other. In that case, it might be simpler to have two business bank accounts.
Do I need a separate EIN for my DBA?
No. A DBA is just a name for doing business, not a new entity. But if you have a multi-member LLC, corporation, or any other business with employees, you will need to get an EIN from the IRS.
How many DBAs can I have in Florida?
Florida allows businesses to have as many DBAs they want. Each DBA will need to go through the same registration process.
Can I sign a business contract with my DBA?
Since a DBA is just a name and not a legal entity, you’ll need to use the legal name of your business in order to enter into any contract. You’ll also want to be transparent that your business uses a DBA.For example, a sole proprietor using a DBA would sign a contract “Charles Smith, DBA Tough Guy Gutters.”
Can I buy a domain name under my DBA?
That depends. While some domain registrars allow businesses to buy domain names under a DBA, others don’t. So, if you’re concerned about buying a certain domain name using your legal business name, find a registrar that will allow you to make the purchase under your DBA.
What is my legal business name?
Your legal business name is the name that appears on your business’s government documents (state filings, tax filings, etc.).
- For formal business entities like LLCs, corporations, and nonprofits, a business’s legal name is the name listed on its formation documents, including the company’s corporate identifier (“Company Name, LLC,” “Company Name, Inc.,” etc.).
- For sole proprietors, a business’s legal name is the owner’s legal name.
- For general partnerships, a business’s legal name is either the partners’ last names or a name the partnership gave itself in a written partnership agreement.