How to Incorporate a Business in Florida

by Fraser Sherman; Updated September 26, 2017
Downtown Miami

Once you have your paperwork ready to go, incorporating in Florida takes one to three days and $70, at time of writing. That's if you use the Florida Division of Corporations' website. Hand-delivered paperwork takes one to two days to process, while using the mail can take as long as a week.

Claiming a Name

You must choose a name for your business before you incorporate. Florida law requires that the name include a word such as "corporation," "company," "incorporated" or "Inc.," the Digital Media Law Project says. It must also be distinctive from all the other corporate names already established in Florida; once you choose a name, you can search the division's database to see if it's already taken. Include the corporate name you've chosen in the articles of incorporation you file with the state.

Choose Your People

Your Florida corporation must have at least one director. Directors have to be at least 18, but they don't have to be Florida residents or corporate shareholders. You also need a registered agent who will receive mail and legal documents for you. The agent can be a business, such as a Florida law firm, or an individual. An individual agent must be a Florida resident who's accessible at a street address. In Florida, individual agents can't be otherwise affiliated with your corporation, the Harbor Compliance Company says.

Articles of Incorporation

Once you have an agent and a name, you can file your articles of incorporation. The articles include the corporate name, your company's street and mailing address, the purpose of the corporation and the number of initial shares authorized. You don't have to give the names of the initial directors, but you do have to identify yourself as the incorporator -- the person drafting and submitting the articles. Your role as incorporator ends as soon as you've filed the paperwork, even if you're also active in the company as an owner or director.

S or C Corporation

Florida will allow you to form an S corporation, called a "sub S" corporation on the Division of Corporations' website. An S corporation passes income directly to the shareholders rather than paying corporate taxes. It can't have more than 100 shareholders and has to conform to most state corporate requirements. The Division of Corporations says if you want to become an S corporation, apply to the Internal Revenue Service for the privilege; the state itself doesn't care.

About the Author

A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.

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