To set up a company in Florida, be prepared to list a registered agent for the company. A registered agent, who serves as a point of contact for your company, is required by the state.
For entrepreneurs eager to set up a business in The Sunshine State, this guide will explain how to set up an LLC, and explore the role of the registered agent.
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How is an LLC formed in Florida?
Selecting a registered agent is a step in the process of establishing an LLC or corporation in Florida. To better understand how a registered agent fits in the process, here’s a look at how an LLC is formed in Florida.
In many states, setting up an LLC is done through the Secretary of State’s website, but in Florida, it’s through the state’s SunBiz website by following these steps:
1. Select a company name
To start, your company needs a name. As in most states, Florida business names must be unique. In other words, two businesses can’t have the same name. Before forming an LLC, you can check the availability of a name on the state’s SunBiz website.
There are certain rules to follow when selecting a name. Besides being available, an LLC company must follow these rules:
- The name must include “Limited Liability Company” or LLC in it
- The name can’t include any government agencies that could confuse consumers, FBI or EPA
- Any words related to education or banking may require additional approval
While creating a company name, consider checking for a matching domain name for a company website. If you’re planning to create a website for your company and can’t get the domain name, it may alter the name of your Florida LLC.
2. Select a registered agent
Once a company name is selected, the business owner must also select a registered agent. A registered agent is the point of contact between the company and the state. Any official documentation like tax forms or legal documents is sent to this person.
The registered agent’s name or company name is required when filing the Articles of Organization, which are the official LLC formation papers for the state of Florida.
3. File the paperwork
Through the SunBiz website, a business owner or entrepreneur can file the Articles of Organization to form a business. These forms ask for basic information, like the company name and registered agent, and only take a few minutes to fill out. The paperwork is submitted to the state for approval. Paperwork can also be submitted by mail or in person.
Expect to pay a $125 filing fee when submitting the paperwork.
Once submitted and approved, all of the information becomes public record.
4. Create an operating agreement
Having an operating agreement isn’t required in Florida, but it’s a good idea to have. The operating agreement explains how the business is structured, who the members and investors are, what their contributions or investments are, how profits are divided, and should offer a plan if the business doesn’t survive.
This is an optional step, but many business owners create the operating agreement after forming the LLC so a plan is in place moving forward.
5. Obtain an EIN
To do business in Florida, a business needs an EIN, or an employer identification number. This number is unique to your business and is issued by the IRS. To get one, a company answers a few questions via the IRS website and is given a number immediately. An EIN is required to take the next steps as a business, including:
- Opening a business bank account
- Hiring employees
- Filing taxes
What is a Florida registered agent?
A registered agent is a person or business entity that’s responsible for receiving important paperwork like legal documents, tax forms, annual reports, or a notice of a lawsuit.
During the process of setting up an LLC in Florida, a company must list a registered agent on the Articles of Organization.
Do I really need a registered agent in Florida?
Yes. To be in good standing with the state of Florida, all LLCs must elect a registered agent for their company. Failure to do so can result in state fees or fines.
Can I be my own registered agent in Florida?
The state of Florida does allow a business owner to be his or her own registered agent. The owner must be 18 years old, have a physical address in Florida, and be available during regular business hours to receive important documents.
Who can be a registered agent in Florida?
In Florida, a registered agent can be the owner or any full-time resident of the state like a friend or coworker. A registered agent can also be a company doing business in the state, so long as the company has a registered office. A company can also work with a registered agent service.
A registered agent must be:
- An adult
- Have a street address in the state, not a P.O. box
- Be at their residence or company during normal business hours
Why would a company choose to work with a registered agent service?
There are companies that serve as registered agents. If an owner doesn’t want to be the company’s registered agent, and he or she would rather not elect a friend or a coworker, a registered agent service is an option.
For a fee, a registered agent company will accept official documentation on your company’s behalf. Here’s why some companies opt for a service:
- Convenience. Some business owners want to focus their attention on day-to-day operations and don’t want an additional chore on their plate. Electing a registered agent service is ideal for busy entrepreneurs looking to maximize their time.
- Multi-state company. For entrepreneurs with more than one location, it’s easier to appoint a service as the company’s registered agent to make sure all documents are collected and forwarded.
- Privacy. If your company is sued, the registered agent will be served the paperwork, as opposed to an owner being served in front of employees or customers. For some, it creates a layer of privacy that’s worth the annual fee for the service.
List of Florida registered agents
For entrepreneurs looking to work with one of the best registered agent services in Florida, here’s a list of choices:
- Incfile.com: Incfile.com can help entrepreneurs file their LLC formation paperwork and serve as the company’s registered agent. The online company offers a host of beneficial business services that includes filing reports and other necessary documents with the state. The first year is free. After that, it’s $119 a year.
- Northwest Registered Agent: For $125 a year, Northwest Registered Agent offers an online portal, real-time updates when mail is received, and pricing that remains the same each year. The company offers its services in several states and has years of experience in the field. Additional business services are also offered.
- Swyft Filings: Swyft Filings offers registered agent services that start at $149 a year. Users get an online dashboard, report and filing reminders, and secure document storage for this fee. In addition, the company has a buffet of other business services available when you have a need.
How much does a registered agent service cost in Florida?
If you’re interested in using a registered agent service, expect to pay somewhere between $35-$300 a year. When selecting a service, explore their add-on services. You might be able to access LLC formation services or legal expertise, for example, that could also be helpful to your business.
How does an owner select a registered agent in Florida?
A registered agent is listed on the official forms that are required to set up a business in Florida, known as the Articles of Organization. In other states, the forms are called Articles of Incorporation or Articles of Formation.
The registered agent will need to sign and submit a form to the state. Be prepared to get a signature for this form before sending it in.
Can a company change its registered agent?
Yes. In Florida, a company can change its registered agent at any time. To do so, the company owner can go to the Florida Department of State’s SunBiz website to get the form, make the changes, and mail it in or deliver it in person.
The signature of the new registered agent is required on the form. Make sure the signature is added. Without it, the form will be returned.
Unlike other states, the state of Florida does not charge a fee to change the registered agent. (Many other states charge a $50 change fee).
What’s a statutory agent?
A statutory agent is the same as a registered agent. During your research, you might find different terms for a registered agent since different states use different titles. In addition to the statutory agent, you might also hear a registered agent referred to as a service of process agent or a resident agent. Again, the terms change based on the state where a company is being formed.
What’s a commercial registered agent?
While filing paperwork to form a business in Florida, you might be asked whether your registered agent is commercial or non-commercial. Don’t be tripped up by this wording. If your company opts to work with a registered agent service, you’re working with a commercial agent. If your company has listed a person as a registered agent, like the owner or a friend, you’re working with a non-commercial agent.