Tampa, FL

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How to start your LLC in Tampa, FL

STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE by Michael Bradley Updated: January 5, 2023
Name your LLC
Appoint a Registered Agent
1-7 days
File Articles of Organization
Draft an Operating Agreement
Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number)

Why form an LLC in Tampa, FL?

Whether you know it as Big Guava or Cigar City, Tampa’s robust economy has extensive roots. It was once dominated by cigar manufacturing. But the City now hosts technology, finance, and healthcare industries, with more companies arriving every day.

Are you ready to join this booming local economy? Then it’s time to turn your idea into reality by creating a legal entity. The process can be intimidating. But after reading this article, you’ll have everything you need to form an LLC in Tampa, Florida.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • The five easy steps to form a Tampa, Florida LLC
  • Licenses, permits, and local resources to help your new business
  • Things to do after forming your Tampa LLC

LLC Formation Process in a Nutshell

1. Name your LLC

How to pick a name for a Florida LLC? One of the first things to do is come up with a name for your new business. Not only is this decision full of marketing concerns, it also has legal requirements.

Consult Florida Statutes section 605.0112 for specific rules about LLC names. All Florida LLCs need to identify the type of company it is. For LLCs, this means including one of the following:

  • Limited Liability Company
  • L.L.C.
  • LLC

You don’t want your business confused with others. Use Florida’s Corporation Search to ensure the name is distinctive. Setting yourself apart from existing businesses is wise and required.

Florida LLC names must avoid using terms for government entities and illegal activities. Holding your business out as something it isn’t is a quick way to violate these regulations. Florida’s Division of Corporations website has a list of FAQs to guide you.

If you have trouble finding a name that works, you can operate under a doing-business-as (DBA) name. For example, “Tampa Food Services LLC” could operate under “Tampa Salads and Shakes.”

Another consideration for your LLC name is the available domain names (URLs). Even if you don’t plan to launch a website immediately, reserving a domain name is an excellent idea.


2. Appoint a Registered Agent

How do you appoint a registered agent? Florida law requires that all LLCs have a registered agent to serve as the main point of contact. This address receives mail and legal service of process.

If someone sues your business, the registered agent receives the legal notices. It’s also used for tax documents. As you can imagine, this is a vital role. Everyone must handle these documents with care.

Some business owners decide to appoint themselves as registered agents. But experienced owners know that a registered agent service is worth the investment.

Choosing to serve as your registered agent comes with the following advantages:

  • It’s cheap: You can reduce costs by doing it yourself.
  • It’s simple: The only address to update is your own.
  • It’s reliable: You receive all documents and important notices.

It also has many disadvantages, including:

  • No privacy: The registered agent’s address is public information. The Florida Division of Corporations posts it on its website.
  • Junk mail/spam: You have to sort the advertisements from the vital notices.
  • No breaks: Registered agents must be open during all business hours.
  • Business interruptions: Customers might see you served with a lawsuit. This embarrassing situation can tarnish your reputation.
  • It’s your fault if you miss something: If you make a mistake, forget to update the address, or fail to see a notice, it’s all on you.

We encourage business owners to use a registered agent service. They will keep your address confidential and sort through your mail. While attorneys can charge up to $500 annually, registered agent services cost around $100-$150 per year.

If you choose to start your LLC by using a business formation company, they often include a registered agent service in their packages. Feel free to take a look at our registered agent recommendations article for more information.

$0 - $100

3. File Articles of Organization

How do you file Articles of Organization for a Tampa, Florida LLC? Take a moment to compose yourself because this section is crucial. Filing your Articles of Organization with the Florida Division of Corporations creates your LLC.

This task can seem intimidating. But in reality, the Articles of Organization only requires basic information. You can even use a fillable form provided by the State.

There are two fees to pay when filing, totaling $125. They are a $100 fee for the Articles of Organization and a $25 fee to appoint a registered agent.

Once you file, the Division of Corporations has to process your application. This can have some delays, but Florida provides three different ways to send them in. The processing times are subject to change, but here is a rundown of the estimated timing:

  • By mail: 5-7 business days, plus mailing time
  • Online: 1-2 business days
  • Walk-in: Same day

To save time and avoid the hassle of LLC filings, all seasoned entrepreneurs use LLC formation services. For recommendations, check out our article on the best LLC services.

1-7 days

4. Draft an Operating Agreement

Do I need an operating agreement for my Tampa, Florida LLC? An operating agreement is a contract between LLC members. It sets out the rules under which the LLC operates. And it includes the rights and responsibilities of the members.

If you don’t have an operating agreement, any Tampa LLC falls back to Florida laws. Those default laws might not serve your best interests. Taking the time to create an operating agreement protects you and your business.

Florida does not require LLCs to have an operating agreement. But we encourage business owners to create one so that you can tailor the rules to fit your needs, including:

  • They determine the rights and duties of LLC members. If one LLC member is responsible for running the business or managing the books, the operating agreement should say so.
  • They say whether the LLC has a member or non-member manager and what the manager has the right to do. Managers also have special duties to the company and the members. The operating agreement should state these.
  • They outline what the LLC is legally able to do. The operating agreement should also set down how the company is allowed to conduct its business from day to day.
  • They say how new members can join the company. They also have rules about how exiting members can leave.
  • They set down how and when profits are paid to members. They can also create different types of membership and payment schemes.
  • They say whether members or managers are in charge. They also say how to hire and fire managers.
  • They say how and under what circumstances the LLC should end. You might not want to dissolve your business now, but you might in the future. It’s best to think about it and plan before it becomes an issue.
  • They say how to change the rules. You may need to amend your operating agreement in the future. The operating agreement should set down the rules for making changes.

You do not need to file an operating agreement with the state of Florida. They are private contracts between LLC members.

Experienced business owners complete this step to protect their business and interest. LLC formation services provide operating agreement templates for as little as $50. It is easier than ever to ensure your LLC operates as you intend.


5. Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number)

Do I need an EIN for my Florida LLC? The IRS uses Employer Identification Numbers (EINs) to track tax information. They work like Social Security Numbers, with one EIN for each business entity.

Not all businesses need to get an EIN, but many do. The IRS requires LLCs to get an EIN if any of the following apply:

  • the LLC has more than one member,
  • it hires any employees,
  • or it follows C-corporation or S-corporation taxation.

EINs are often required for other purposes. These include filing state taxes and opening bank accounts. We recommend every LLC obtains an EIN, even if the IRS doesn’t need it.

You can apply for an EIN online and complete the process in minutes. Unless it’s part of a wider business formation package, it’s not worth paying someone to get an EIN on your behalf.

Read More: How to get an Employer Identification Number in Florida


Cheapest way to start your LLC

Do it Yourself
Gain personal knowledge
Lower upfront cost
You're losing money when you consider how much time it takes
There's the risk of making a mistake
It's a headache
Potential price
Potential time
5+ days
Formation Service
Very easy to use
Affordable ($39 for an LLC)
Same-day filing
Highly reliable
Not ideal for complex LLCs
Potential price
Potential time
30 min
A lawyer can help you manage risk
Offers more customization when you need it
Costs more than any other method
Finding one takes time
Slower compared to formation services
Potential price
> $400
Potential time
5+ days

Licenses and Permits in Tampa, FL

An essential part of launching any business is getting the necessary approval. Review the state, county, and city-level license and permit requirements. Failing to get what your business needs can result in grave consequences.


Most businesses don’t need a general business permit from the state of Florida. But many industries need to get licenses and permits before conducting operations. These include everything from architects to private investigators.

Review the Florida state requirements before opening your doors to customers.


Local authorities also offer business licenses and permits. To start up, you’ll need to follow the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County regulations. Most entities will need some type of approval.

Some business activities need specific licenses and permits, including:

  • construction contractors,
  • child care services,
  • and towing companies.

Familiarize yourself with the City of Tampa business licenses and permits. Every business must get a Business Tax Receipt. Formerly known as an Occupational License, this applies to anyone operating a commercial entity.

Once you have met the City’s needs, turn to the Hillsborough County requirements. The County also provides a variety of licenses and permits. These depend on the activity involved.

Like the Tampa requirements, every business must register for a county-level Local Business Tax.

Carefully review the City and County needs before starting operations. Reach out to the local authorities to ensure you cover all your bases.

Support for Small Businesses in Tampa, FL

Trying to do everything on your own is a recipe for disaster. Instead, learn from the experience of others by connecting with your local business community. Seasoned leaders can help you overcome challenges and discover a road to success.

Here is a list of local organizations dedicated to helping businesses thrive:

Next Steps After you Register your LLC

Once you’ve reached this far, pat yourself on the back. Forming a Tampa, Florida LLC is a giant step forward. But don’t let the momentum fade. Push forward by completing these essential tasks right away.

  • Register a Matching Domain

    The internet has transformed the world and how we do business. Even if you don’t want to launch a website right away, registering a matching domain (URL) should be a priority. Many business owners also get the rights to related domain names.

    If you don’t get the domain name, domain squatters could beat you to the punch. They buy the domain names with the intent to resell them at higher prices or stifle competition. This could add significant hurdles to launching a website.

    Registering domain names is affordable, usually costing $20-$50 per year. The process is not complicated. Get the rights to your domain name before someone else does.

  • File for a DBA (Doing Business As)

    Sometimes businesses operate under a name that is different from the LLC name. Known as doing-business-as (DBA) names, these can be useful in many ways. One is to operate multiple businesses.

    If you decide you’d like to operate under a name different from the LLC, file for a doing-business-as name. For example, “Tampa Sun Protection LLC” could operate under “Tampa Bay Hats and Shades.”

    Florida calls this using a fictitious name. Consult Florida Statutes section 865.09 to find a fictitious name that works for your needs.

    It is easy to apply for a fictitious name in Florida. Use the online Sunbiz portal for the quickest turnaround time. The fictitious name registration is valid for five years and costs $50.

    If you use a fictitious name, you’ll also need to provide proof of state registration to Hillsborough County.

  • Stay Compliant

    Establishing your business entity gets the ball rolling. But like many things in life, there are ongoing requirements that you’ll need to deal with. In Florida, LLCs need to file annual reports.

    State and local tax liabilities are another ongoing compliance concern. Many people know Florida doesn’t levy personal income taxes. But there are other tax concerns to handle.

    For corporations, Florida imposes a franchise tax. These do not apply to Florida LLCs.

    But if your LLC has employees, you will have to pay employment taxes. And if it sells goods and services, collecting sales and use tax will need to be part of your business.

    The City of Tampa and Hillsborough County need all businesses to register for Business Tax Receipts. Don’t forget to take care of this critical step before conducting operations in the area.

LLC Formation FAQs

What are the benefits of an LLC?

Most importantly, having an LLC will ensure your personal assets are protected if your business cannot pay its debts. Running your business through an LLC can also provide you with better tax treatment. In addition, LLCs have fewer and less complicated reporting requirements compared to other types of businesses, making them particularly suitable for smaller businesses.

Do I have to form an LLC to start a business?

It is not strictly necessary to form an LLC in order to start a business. You can engage in business as a sole proprietorship instead. However, in that case, your personal assets may be at risk if your business takes on too much debt or loses a lawsuit in court.

How much does it generally cost to form an LLC?

It doesn’t cost much to set up an LLC for your business. In most states, you will need to pay less than $150 to register your new LLC with the local state authorities. In some states, you may need to pay some additional costs later on, for example, when filing an annual report or filing for a DBA.

How long does it take to form an LLC?

The time it takes to have your LLC approved can vary wildly depending on the state, the filing method you used and if you opted for expedited filing. In some states, you can have your LLC approved in as little as one day, while in others, it may take weeks or even months.

If you want the fastest possible turnaround time, you should consider using online filing and pay for expedited service, if available.

How will my LLC be taxed?

The IRS and most state tax authorities treat LLCs as “pass-through” entities. This means that your LLC does not pay taxes directly (as corporations do). Instead, the tax burden is passed through to the members of your LLC. The members will then include profits and losses from the LLC’s business on their personal income tax returns.

In what state should I form my LLC?

It is generally best to form your LLC in your home state, where you will actually carry out your business. Some people believe that it is advantageous to form your LLC in Delaware or Nevada. In reality, you would then have to register with the authorities in your home state as a foreign LLC and pay additional fees – without much benefit in return.

Do I need to file for a DBA?

You are not generally required to file for a DBA (“Doing-Business-As”). However, most business owners choose to do so anyway. Getting a DBA will allow you to omit the letters LLC from your customer-facing business name. You can also have multiple names for your LLC if you want to run more than one business through your LLC.

Can I form an LLC if I am not a US citizen or US resident?

Yes, you can form an LLC for your business in any US state. There is no requirement for you to be a US citizen in order to form an LLC, nor do you need the right to reside in the US. If your business is going to own physical property in a given state, you may want to form your LLC in that state.

Do I need to hire an attorney to form an LLC for my business?

No, you don’t need to hire an attorney to form an LLC for you. It is generally much cheaper and straightforward to file the necessary paperwork yourself or to hire an affordable LLC formation service to handle the work on your behalf. However, you may want to consider hiring an attorney if your business is very complex.