Are you looking to run a business with one or more partners in the state of Florida?
The simplest way to do this is to form a Florida general partnership, which at its core is essentially just a handshake agreement between two (or more) people to operate a business together.
General partnerships are just one of several ways for multiple people to co-own a business, so in this guide we’ll describe how the general partnership compares to some other more formal business structures in Florida.
What Is a General Partnership?
At its core, the general partnership bears the most similarities with the sole proprietorship. Both are unincorporated business entities that are viewed as extensions of their owners as people, rather than as separate legal entities. General partnerships often don’t even have business names, as they can be operated using the owners’ personal names.
Let’s take a look at two of the most important differences between general partnerships and formal business entities:
1) Taxation and Signature Requirements
Due to the lack of legal distinction between the general partnership and its owners, the “pass-through” model of taxation applies to this type of company. This means that the profits and losses of a partnership are claimed on the owners’ personal tax returns. Along those same lines, general partnership owners can sign business contracts using their own names instead of signing on behalf of the company, and customers are also welcome to write checks to the owners personally.
2) No Asset Protection
The most important distinction between general partnerships and formal business structures like corporations or limited liability companies (LLCs) is the issue of personal asset protection. In a general partnership, if your business is sued, your creditors are free to pursue your personal assets, including but not limited to your house, car, and even the contents of your personal checking account.
On the other end of the spectrum, owners of LLCs and corporations enjoy limited liability protection, which means that for the most part, creditors can only go after business assets, and the personal assets of the ownership group are left intact.
How to Become a Florida General Partnership
If you want to start a general partnership in the state of Florida, there is no formal business registration process to complete.
To form a Florida general partnership, you simply need to start working with your partner or partners. In addition, unlike corporations or LLCs, there aren’t any formation fees or ongoing maintenance fees associated with filings like annual reports.
Although you are not legally required to register your partnership with the State of Florida, you have the option to file a General Partnership Registration Statement with the Florida Division of Corporations. You may form your general partnership without filing any official documents, but doing so allows you to create an official record of your GP and may aid in certain legal processes.
While the actual legal requirements are incredibly simple, there are still some other steps that you might want to take, depending on your preferences and your goals for the company. Let’s discuss the additional steps that may or may not suit your business needs.
If you don’t want to use your personal name as your official business name, you can acquire a doing business as (DBA) name from the state of Florida. With a DBA, you can use an assumed name in an official capacity, which is a great way to attract customers, as most people find that a business name adds legitimacy and professionalism to a business, as opposed to simply using the owners’ own names.
With a DBA, your general partnership can also open business bank accounts using the assumed name, which is another way to increase the professional aspect of your company. After all, it looks much better to have your company name on your checks, rather than just writing checks from your personal accounts.
To begin the process of obtaining a DBA for your general partnership, you should conduct a fictitious name search to determine whether your DBA is available. If your DBA isn’t already in use, then you can claim it by filing a Fictitious Name Registration either online or by mail.
Do you want more information on DBA registration in Florida? Take a look at our full article on the subject.
Register for Taxes
Other than the fact that general partnerships have more than one owner, the other major difference between a sole proprietorship and a partnership is the fact that a general partnership needs to acquire a federal tax ID number, otherwise known as an EIN.
While sole proprietors can get away with just using their personal social security number, the partnership needs an EIN because ― even though partnerships do not file business tax returns ― it needs to file an annual information return with the IRS.
In addition to the EIN, your business may need to register for state or local taxes.
Although Florida does not subject general partnerships to corporate income tax, you may need to pay certain state-level taxes depending on your business activities. If your GP hires employees, for example, then you will need to pay employer withholding tax, or if it sells goods or products, then you will likely need to register for sales and use tax.
In order to determine your tax obligation in the State of Florida, you should register your GP with the Florida Department of Revenue by submitting a Florida Business Tax Application. By filing this form by mail or online, you will automatically register to pay any state-level taxes that may apply to your business.
Determine License and Permit Requirements
The state of Florida does not have a general business license that all general partnerships are required to obtain. However, depending on what industry you operate in, your business may need licenses or permits to enable you to run your company in a compliant fashion.
To determine whether your GP will need any of these industry-specific licenses or permits, you should consult the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s website, where you can search for your area of business to see what you may need to operate compliantly in Florida.
Additionally, you may also need local licenses or permits to operate in your city or county. All of the largest cities in Florida – namely Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa, Orlando, and St. Petersburg – have their own requirements, so you should check with your local government to ensure that you understand all relevant local regulations
The general partnership is a much simpler business for multiple owners than a corporation or a limited liability company.
The state of Florida doesn’t require any official formation for general partnerships, and they’re also not required to pay any formation fees or participate in ongoing maintenance filings like annual reports. However, the general partnership as a business structure has some serious weaknesses as well, like the lack of personal asset protection that leaves owners’ assets exposed to potential lawsuits.
We hope this article helped you determine whether you’d like to form a Florida general partnership, or if there’s another business type that would better suit your needs. As always, we wish you a successful business future!