Florida Licensing and Permitting

How to Apply for Business Licenses and Permits in Florida

Our business license report can help you determine what licenses and permits you need to start a business in Florida.

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Starting your own business requires dedication, hard work, and a solid vision of what you want that business to become. And when you start a new business, it’s important to understand if you’ll need any licenses or permits you’ll need on the federal, state, and local levels. Paying attention to the licenses and permits that you’ll need to start your business is one of the most important steps to staying state compliant.

Unfortunately, there’s no one place in Florida where you can go to find information on all the licenses and permits that you might need from each level of government. Fortunately, we are here to help. Let’s take a closer look at what kinds of licenses and permits you might need for your Florida business and how our Business License Report service can help you get it done easily.

What is a business license?

A business license grants permission from a government entity to run a business. Your business might require licensing from the local, state, and/or federal government before you can open your doors. Your need for business licenses depends on the industry you’re in, your business activities, and your location. Some states also require a general business license to do any kind of business within their jurisdiction. 

Step 1: Search for any necessary Florida general business licenses

A general business license permits you to conduct your business activities within a certain defined geographical area. Florida doesn’t require businesses to obtain a general business license.

However, most cities, towns, or counties in the state do require you to get a business license. That license is often determined by the industry in which you work and the place in which your business is located.

It’s important to note that registering your business with the state is not the same as applying for licenses. Registering your company involves submitting your Articles of Incorporation or Articles of Organization with the Florida Division of Corporations. Registering your business is the first step you take in forming your business — before you apply for any licenses or permits in your city, town, or county.

Step 2: Obtain applicable federal licenses for your Florida business

Some new businesses in Florida will require a license from a federal agency before they can conduct operations. The following is a list of industries and the federal agency to which they need to apply (you can find more information on these required licenses/permits by visiting the Small Business Administration’s website):

  • If you drill for natural gas or mine minerals on federal land, you’ll need a license/permit from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
  • Producing or disposing of commercial nuclear energy requires a permit/license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
  • If you operate a radio or television station or an information outlet on wire, satellite, or cable you’ll need a license from the Federal Communications Commission.
  • Operating an oversized or overweight vehicle requires a permit. These permits are not issued by the federal government, but the US Department of Transportation can direct you to the correct state office.
  • Importing or transporting animals, animal products, or plants across state lines requires a permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • If you make, sell, or transport alcohol or tobacco products, you’ll need a license from the Alcohol, Tobacco Tax, and Trade Bureau. (You’ll also need to get licenses from the state of Florida and from the city, town, and/or county in which your business is located.)
  • Operating or maintaining aircraft, or transporting goods or people via air, requires a license from the Federal Aviation Administration.
  • Manufacturing, importing, or selling firearms, ammunition, and explosives fall under the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
  • Operating any form of commercial fishery, a frequent occupation in Florida, needs to deal with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service.
  • If you engage in any wildlife-related activity, such as importing or exporting wildlife, you need to get a license/permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • If your business provides ocean transportation or the shipment of cargo by water, it’s regulated by the Federal Maritime Commission.

Step 3: Check for Florida permits and licenses

Although Florida doesn’t require a general business license at the state level, there are still permits and licenses required to operate a business within its boundaries.

Almost all businesses in Florida are required to obtain a business tax receipt (which some people refer to as a general business license). This applies to anyone who provides goods or services, whether you operate a home-based business or a commercial location. These receipts are obtained when you register with the tax office in your city, town, and/or county. More information on business tax receipts is available on the website of the Florida Department of Revenue. It provides information on how you can contact the office of your local tax collector.

The type of business you operate in Florida also affects license requirements. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services issues many of the appropriate business licenses for the state. A few of the businesses in Florida that require a state license include:

  • Businesses involved in aquaculture
  • Dance and health studios
  • Household moving businesses
  • Mechanics
  • Pawnbrokers
  • Travel agencies

You’ll find a complete listing of the various business licenses and fees on the department’s website.

Running a restaurant, a hot dog cart, or a bed-and-breakfast, or renting your apartment for lodging, requires a license obtained from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (more commonly known by its abbreviation, DBPR).

Step 4: Check with the city or county for local licensing in Florida

Along with the licenses or permits that you may need at the federal or state level, many cities, towns, and counties in Florida also require business licenses or permits. Below are a few examples:

  • Miami Beach requires all businesses to obtain both a Certificate of Use and an occupational license.
  • Gainesville has a Zoning Verification Form that helps you discover zones where you can operate your business, and what licenses and permits you’ll need to do so.
  • Orange County, which covers the Orlando area, requires businesses within its jurisdiction to obtain a business tax receipt. (You may also need to obtain a business tax receipt from the city of Orlando before you open your business there.)

Your best bet is to check the website of the city, town, or county in which you plan to operate your business. Many of these websites have information on what licenses and permits you’ll need to operate within their jurisdictions. Remember to check to see if you’ll need licenses for your business from both city/town and county administrations.

If you can’t find the proper information on these local websites, you’ll need to contact your local government offices to determine what licenses you’ll need.

Step 5: Search for applicable Florida professional licenses

Some professions require an additional license before you can operate a business in Florida. While attorneys and doctors have their own separate licensing boards, the DBPR is responsible for licensing many other professions.

These include barbers, body piercing artists, engineers, automobile dealers, electrical contractors, harbor pilots, surveyors, and sports agents. You can find a complete list of professions that need to be licensed and how to apply at the DBPR website.

Step 6: Obtain any other necessary Florida business licenses and permits 

Along with general business licenses/business tax receipts needed to operate a business in Florida, there are also several other licenses and permits that you may need to obtain. These include:

  • Health and safety permits. Most businesses in Florida with a commercial location cannot start until after they have obtained this permit.
  • Signage permits. Many cities, towns, or counties have strict limits on how big a sign can be that advertises a business.
  • Alarm Permits. If your business has an alarm system, you may need an alarm permit.
  • Alcohol and tobacco permits/licenses. These are needed whether you sell alcohol/tobacco in your restaurant, a small grocery store, or a larger shopping center.
  • Occupational permits. Along with larger entertainment venues, these are often needed for home-based businesses such as child care and place restrictions on the number of children that can be cared for at your home.
  • Zoning permits. As we saw with Gainesville above, many cities, towns, and counties place restrictions on the areas where a business can operate in their jurisdictions.

Step 7: Apply for Florida home-based business licenses

A home-based business in Florida requires many of the same permits and licenses needed for a brick-and-mortar business.

  • If you plan to sell services or products from a home-based business, you’ll need a Business Tax Receipt issued by your local jurisdiction.
  • If you want to use signage to alert people to your home-based business, you may need a license to do so. Check with your local government office.
  • Health and safety permits may be required for businesses like child care or animal care locations.
  • Some cities, towns, or counties won’t allow you to operate certain businesses from your home. For instance, Orlando prohibits the use of a home to operate a fortune-teller parlor, a barbershop, a dog kennel, an adult entertainment facility, a private club, or a child care center.

It’s extremely important that before you establish a home-based business you check with your local city, town, or county authority to determine if your location is properly zoned and if you can legally run your business from your home.

Step 8: Maintain your Florida licensing

While some licenses and permits only need to be acquired once, many of them need to be renewed annually or biannually.

Take barbershops. If you operate a barbershop, you must renew your state license every two years. As of this writing, the fee is $110. The deadline is July 31 of every even-numbered year (2022, 2024, 2026, etc.)

Depending on the size of your business and the industry you work in, make sure someone in your operation maintains a record of all needed license/permit renewals. Missing a license or permit renewal can result in significant penalties or fines and temporary or permanent closure of your business.

We’re here to help you fulfill your Florida business’s licensing obligations

By now you probably realize how frustrating, confusing, and time-consuming it can be to determine which licenses and permits you’ll need to operate your business in Florida. we are here to help. Our Business License Report can help you determine the licenses and permits needed to operate your business. Using your location, your industry, and your activities, our partners will identify what you need on the federal, state, and local levels.

We can also help you keep up with Florida requirements through our Worry-Free Compliance service. This service helps you stay up to date by tracking your compliance needs and handling two business amendments for you per year if needed.

FAQs

  • Do all Florida businesses need a license?

    There is no general business license required by Florida. Most businesses in Florida, however, are required to apply for a business tax receipt. This is done locally.

  • Can you sell things without a license in Florida?

    No. If you sell any tangible product or service, you need a business tax receipt.

  • Is it legal to run a business from home in Florida?

    Many businesses can be run from your home in Florida. Zoning laws may prohibit you from operating them in certain parts of your city, town, or county, and some locations in Florida prohibit the operation of certain businesses from home. Check with local authorities.

  • What kind of license do I need for an online business in Florida?

    There is no specific license needed to operate an online business in Florida. Online businesses require the same licenses and permits as brick-and-mortar businesses.

  • Do I need a license to collect sales tax in Florida?

    Yes, you’ll need a Florida Department of Revenue Sales Tax license.