How to Get a Small Business License in Georgia

Find out what steps you need to take to obtain a business license in Georgia.

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Home of major corporations, such as Coca-Cola and The Home Depot, the Peach State welcomes start-up companies as well with information on how to get a small business license in Georgia. The Office of Secretary of State's Corporation Division operates Georgia's First Stop Business Information Center which seeks to minimize administrative obstacles and offers a central clearinghouse for licensing requirements and key contact links for local, state, and federal resources. This state office has also published a downloadable First Stop Business Guide to aid potential business owners exploring business, licensing, and regulatory responsibilities. Budding entrepreneurs and existing small businesses can seek assistance from the University of Georgia's Small Business Development Center which offers business education, consulting, and research along with an extensive list of links to government and private development programs. Furthermore, Georgia's Department of Community Affairs provides an Economic Development Financing Packet outlining federal, state, and local grants, loans, and tax incentives for new businesses. Below are some key tips on how to get a small business license in Georgia.

  • Business Tax Certificates. Business tax certificates, also referred to as business licenses, may be applied for on a county and/or city basis depending upon the primary location of the place of business. The state of Georgia does not require a general business license. Once you have obtained a valid business tax certificate, your business may legally operate throughout all of Georgia. The state's First Stop Business Guide suggests that new businesses reach out to their local chamber of commerce to learn more about the appropriate local licensing authority. Links to relevant state and county offices for further licensing information can be found on the Secretary of State Elections Division's website. In addition, specific kinds of business structures, including limited liability companies, partnerships, and corporations, must register with the Office of Secretary of State's Corporation Division, either online or by postal mail. Depending upon the nature of your commercial venture, you may also need to apply for a certificate of occupancy from the relevant county or city zoning department.
  • Specialized Licensing for Regulated Occupations and Industries. Certain categories of professions and industries are required to obtain specialized state licenses before beginning to do business. Some examples are barbers, dentists, accountants, and contractors. The Office of Secretary of State's Professional Licensing Boards Division offers a directory of links to licensed professions and regulatory boards to help you explore relevant licensing requirements. You can apply and renew your specialized license online or by postal mail. The public can also search a database to verify the licensing status of regulated professions and to file online complaints, if warranted.
  • Trade Name Registrations. If you decide to run a business using a fictitious name or “doing business as” designation, then you must apply for a Trade Name Registration. For example, if ABC Dental Associates, Inc. is doing business as Premier Dental Clinic then it is using a fictitious name rather than its legal business name in Georgia. In such instances, you must register your trade name with the Clerk of Superior Court in the county where your business is primarily located. As part of this process, your business must also publish its trade name in a local paper used normally for printed sheriff´s advertisements once a week for two weeks. Links to contact information for the applicable Clerk of Superior Court can be found on the website for the Georgia Superior Court Clerks' Cooperative Authority.

July 2013

Updated by: , J.D.

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