10 Essential Steps When Hiring New Employees in Florida

Barbara C. Neff

Whether it’s your first or your 100th, hiring a new employee can be an exciting time for a business owner. But it also comes with a lot of obligations under both federal and state law. Here’s what Florida employers need to know to make sure they cross their t’s and dot their i’s when it comes to the applicable legal and tax requirements.

1. Register as an employer

If you haven’t already done so, you need to register as an employer with the IRS and the state of Florida.

The first step is to obtain a federal employer identification number. You can apply for that using IRS Form SS-4, “Application for Employer Identification Number.”

Once you have your federal employer identification number, you can register with the Florida Department of Revenue. You must do that by the end of the month following the calendar quarter in which you become an employer.

You can register with the Florida Department of Revenue online or on paper, with Form DR-1 “Florida Business Tax Application.” When you register, you’ll receive both a business tax account and a Reemployment Tax Number (see below).

2. Verify employee eligibility

New employees must complete the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration ServicesForm I-9, “Employment Eligibility Verification.” The employee is required to fill out Section 1 of the form by their first day of employment. You must complete Section 2 by the end of the third business day after the employee begins work. Keep it on file for three years after the date of hire or one year after the employment ends, whichever is later.

As of July 1, 2023, Florida requires private employers with 25 or more employees to use E-Verify for new employees—and you may want to use it even if not required. E-Verify electronically compares information employers enter from I-9 forms to records available to the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This verification confirms an employee’s eligibility to work in the United States.

3. Collect withholding information

You should collect IRS Form W-4, “Employee’s Withholding Certificate,” from each new hire on or before the day they start work. The W-4 form is used to determine how much of their pay should be withheld for federal income taxes. Make sure your employees complete it properly.

You aren’t required to submit Form W-4 to the IRS, but you must keep a copy on file for at least four years. The form verifies that you’re withholding federal income tax according to the employee’s instructions. It must be available for inspection if the IRS ever requests it. 

4. Submit a new hire report

Under the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PWORA), all employers must report certain information on their newly hired employees to a designated state agency. In Florida, that agency is the Florida Department of Revenue. The information is used to help state governments track down parents who don’t satisfy their child support obligations.

The information must be reported within 20 days of an employee’s hire (or rehire) date. To submit the report, you’ll need the employee’s name, address, Social Security number, date of birth, and date of hire. You must also report your federal employer identification number, Florida unemployment compensation number (see below), name, address, contact phone number, and whether you will make medical insurance available to the employee.

You can submit Form CS-EF315, “Florida New Hire Reporting Form,” to the Department of Revenue online or by mail to:

Florida New Hire Reporting Center
P.O. Box 6500
Tallahassee, FL 32314-6500

Note: Florida employers must also report this information for independent contractors who are paid more than $600 in a calendar year.

5. Prepare for your payroll tax obligations

As noted in step 3 above, employers generally must withhold federal income tax from their employees’ pay. You also must withhold their share of Social Security and Medicare taxes under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA).

FICA is a federal tax that both employers and employees pay. It includes two taxes: Medicare tax and Social Security tax. The 2023 tax rates for both employees and employers are 6.2 percent of the first $160,200 of an employee’s earnings for Social Security and 1.45 percent of all wages for Medicare.

You must deposit federal income tax withheld and both the employer and employee Social Security and Medicare taxes. The IRS deposit schedules are either monthly or weekly. You determine which schedule you’re required to use before the beginning of each calendar year.

In addition, you must pay federal unemployment taxes (FUTA) if you:

  • Paid wages of $1,500 or more to employees in any calendar quarter during the current or previous tax year, or
  • Had one or more employees for at least some part of a day in any 20 or more different weeks in the previous year or 20 or more different weeks in the current tax year, counting all full-time, part-time, and temporary employees.

The amount due for FUTA is six percent of the first $7,000 of an employee’s wages during the year.

6. Assess your liability for the Florida Reemployment Tax

The reemployment tax—Florida’s version of state unemployment tax—is paid by employers and deposited into the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund to pay reemployment assistance benefits to eligible claimants. Employers with stable employment records receive reduced tax rates after a qualifying period. The Florida Department of Revenue runs the program.

You’re liable for the reemployment tax if you have:

  • At least one quarterly payroll totaling $1,500 or more (including wages for both full- and part-time employees) in a calendar year, or
  • One or more employees for a day (or portion of a day) during any 20 weeks in a calendar year.

When a new employer becomes liable for the reemployment tax, the initial rate is 2.7 percent of an employee’s first $7,000 in wages. The initial rate will apply until the employer has reported for ten quarters. The account is then “rated” by dividing the total benefits charged to the account by the taxable payroll reported for the first seven of the last nine quarters immediately preceding the quarter for which the rate is effective.

Form RT-1, Notice of Benefits Paid, listing the reemployment assistance benefits charged to your account is mailed approximately two weeks after the end of every quarter if your business incurred benefit charges.

Note: The reemployment tax is entirely the responsibility of the employer. You’re not permitted to make payroll deductions to cover the taxes.

7. Obtain workers’ compensation insurance

Most employers in Florida with four or more employees (including the owners) must have workers’ compensation insurance. (The employee threshold number varies for construction and agricultural employers.) The coverage is provided by private insurance carriers licensed by the Office of Insurance Regulation. The Coverage Assistance Program (CAP) can help you identify insurers with policies for specific class codes or job descriptions.

The cost of your workers’ compensation insurance is based on your estimated annual payroll at the beginning of the policy period, divided by 100, and multiplied by the rate for the type of work your business performs. The Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation applies an Experience Modification (x-mod) factor to make adjustments based on your history of managing your workers’ compensation claims. If you satisfy the criteria, Workplace Safety and Drug Free Workplace Guide discounts may apply to reduce your cost.

You can apply for an exemption for officers of a corporation or members of a limited liability company (LLC). If an exemption is granted, the officer or member isn’t considered an employee of the business and isn’t eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

8. Display legally required labor law posters

Employers must display a variety of federal and state employment law-related posters in a conspicuous location in the workplace. The posters generally inform employees of their rights and their employer’s responsibilities.

Federally mandated posters may include:

The U.S. Department of Labor has an online “poster advisor” to help employers determine which posters they need to display.

Florida employers must also display the following posters:

9. Keep up with your reporting

Employers have numerous ongoing reporting obligations. For example, you must file a Form RT-6, “Florida Employer’s Quarterly Report,” by the end of each month following the end of the quarter—even if you had no employees or wages to report for that quarter. The following deadlines apply:

QuarterDue by: 
1st (January – March) April 30
2nd (April – June) July 31
3rd (July – September) October 31
4th (October – December) January 31

If you have chosen to pay any of the first three quarters by installments, your final installment is due by the end of December.

You can sign up to receive an email every reporting period reminding you of the due date.

On the federal side, you’ll need to keep up with your IRS Form 941, “Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return,” and IRS Form 940, “Employer’s Annual Federal Unemployment Tax Return.

Deposits for the federal unemployment tax (Form 940) are required for the quarter within which the tax due exceeds $500. The tax must be deposited by the end of the month following the end of the quarter. Form 940 is due by January 31, but if you deposited all FUTA taxes when due, you have until February 10 to file.

File your initial Form 941 for the quarter in which you first paid wages that are subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes or subject to federal income tax withholding. After that, you must file for every quarter, regardless of whether you have any taxes to report — unless you’re a seasonal employer or are filing your final return.

QuarterDue by: 
1st (January – March) April 30
2nd (April – June) July 31
3rd (July – September) October 31
4th (October – December) January 31

You must also file IRS Form W-2, “Wage and Tax Statement,” to report each employee’s annual wages, deductions, and tax withholding to the IRS. You don’t have to provide a copy to the state, as Florida doesn’t impose individual income tax.

You may have additional reporting obligations based on your industry and other factors.

10. Follow the laws

Employers are subject to a wide range of federal and state employment-related laws, including the following:

Failure to comply with any of these laws can lead to costly fines, penalties, lawsuits, and reputational damage.

Barbara C. Neff has been writing about a variety of legal and other topics since 2001. She has a law degree and a master's degree in journalism.
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