How to Get a Small Business License in Georgia

Take a look at which licenses, permits, and registrations your small business might need in Georgia.

By , Attorney · University of North Carolina School of Law

Home to major corporations like Coca-Cola and The Home Depot, the Peach State is a popular place for businesses, large and small. Starting a business is an exciting pursuit, but you'll need to take the proper steps to legally open your business in Georgia. Apart from choosing a business name and registering your business, you'll need to make sure you have all the necessary licenses and permits to operate your business.

Let's take a look at which licenses, permits, and registrations your business needs to get started in Georgia.

Which Business Licenses Do You Need for Your Small Business?

When starting a business, you must:

Which licenses and permits you'll need to apply for depends on your business structure, industry, and location. The main types of business licenses, permits, and registrations are:

(For more general guidance, see our article on the legal requirements for starting a small business.)

General Business License in Georgia

Georgia doesn't issue or require a business license at the state level. You'll likely need to apply for a business license at the county or city level depending on your business's location. You should contact your local chamber of commerce to determine whether you're required to obtain a license and, if so, how to get one. You can't legally operate your business until you receive your local business license.

Cities and counties have different names for this general business license. For example, the City of Atlanta calls this license a "general business license" while Athens calls it an "occupancy tax certificate." The City of Augusta has multiple names for this license, including a "business license," "occupational tax certificate," and "business tax certificate."

Typically, you'll need to provide the licensing authority with information about the business, including:

  • the name and address of the business owners
  • the business name and address
  • additional contact information
  • the business's type and structure
  • the business's federal tax ID number (usually an EIN).
  • the number of employees.

Depending on your jurisdiction, you might be able to submit your registration application online, by mail, or in person. The city or county issuing the license will determine the license fee. The license costs could be a flat, annual fee or it could be a tax that's calculated based on your gross receipts, number of employees, or industry.

Professional and Occupational Licenses for Businesses and Individuals in Georgia

Certain categories of professions and industries are required to obtain specialized state licenses before beginning to do business. Some examples include barbers, dentists, accountants, and contractors. You could need to obtain two licenses: one for you as an individual and one for your business.

The SOS's Professional Licensing Boards Division is the central hub for more than 40 licensing boards. You can find a directory of links for the occupations and professions licensed and not licensed by the SOS on its Georgia licensing boards webpage. Licensees can use the Division website to:

  • apply for and renew their license
  • review continuing education information and programs
  • check licensing expiration and renewal dates
  • access licensing how-to guides, and
  • view licensing events, news, and announcements.

You should also check with the board, agency, or department in charge of your profession or occupation. They might have additional requirements or resources.

Georgia Sales and Use Tax Registration

If you provide taxable goods or services in Georgia, then you must register for a sales and use tax number with the DOR. Your sales and tax number will act as your license to collect and pay sales tax. You can register for your tax number online through the Georgia Tax Center.

You might also need to register for other taxes based on your business activities. For example, you could need to get a license, permit, or registration if you provide alcohol, tobacco, or motor fuel.

Local Zoning and Building Permits

In some cases—for example, if you'll be building or remodeling a space—you'll need to get special zoning and building permits. The Georgia Planning Act provides rules and guidance for local governments to help them plan and develop their communities. Review your city or town's code and ordinances to make sure your construction business activities are allowed in your proposed location.

Zoning laws. If your type of business isn't in line with the zoning code, you can find another space or potentially apply for a special use permit. A special permit can provide your business with an exception to the current use laws.

Building code. You can work with local departments and agencies to apply for building and construction permits. You'll likely need to have inspections related to your space's structural, electrical, mechanical, and plumbing features.

If you'll be leasing a commercial space, be sure to include a section in the commercial lease that ensures the building and your use of the space are in line with the zoning laws.

Registering Your DBA in Georgia

If you decide to run a business using a doing business as (DBA)—also known as a "trade name"then you must file a DBA with your county's Clerk of the Superior Court. The Superior Court Clerks of Georgia provides a superior court clerks directory that you can search to find your clerk.

Under Georgia law, you're considered to be using a DBA if you're a person, partnership, or firm that's using a business name that doesn't include the name(s) of the owner or owners. If you're a corporation using a name that's not your company's legal name filed with the SOS, then you're also considered to be using a DBA. (Ga. Code § 10-1-490 (2023).)

For example, if ABC Dental Associates, Inc. is doing business as "Premier Dental Clinic," then the corporation is using a DBA rather than its legal business name in Georgia. In such an instance, ABC Dental Associates, Inc. must register its DBA with the Clerk of Superior Court in the county where its business is located.

Your county will determine the procedure and required fee to file your DBA registration. However, in general, you'll need to fill out an application that provides the following information:

  • the DBA you wish to register
  • the nature of your business
  • the names and addresses of the business owners, and
  • the owners' notarized signatures.

You must publish a notice of your DBA filing in your local newspaper at least once a week for two consecutive weeks. Your notice must include the names and addresses of the people who'll do business under the trade name. It must be published in the newspaper the sheriff's office uses for legal advertisements. Keep a copy of the Publisher's Affidavit as proof your notice was published. (Ga. Code § 10-1-490 (2023).)

Find out more about DBA filings in Georgia by visiting Georgia's File for a DBA webpage.

Other Licenses and Permits Your Business Might Need

In addition to the licenses, permits, and registrations discussed above, your business might be required to comply with other laws and regulations. For example, you could need to obtain special licensing or follow special rules related to public safety, public health, and the environment.

Sometimes these areas are encompassed within other licenses, permits, and registrations. Other times, these licenses and permits will require a separate process. Check with your federal, state, and local governments for more information.

Resources for Small Businesses in Georgia

The State of Georgia provides many resources to help people start, grow, and develop their small businesses:

  • The SOS operates Georgia's First Stop Business Information Center, a resource that provides businesses with a central location for licenses and permits. Here, you can also find the First Stop Business Guide, which provides in-depth information and guidance for new business owners.
  • The University of Georgia's Small Business Development Center offers business education, consulting, and research, along with an extensive list of links to government and private development programs.

Though Georgia and other sources provide a wealth of helpful information and guidance, you could still have questions specific to your business venture. If you need legal assistance, talk to a Georgia business attorney. A lawyer can answer your individual questions or guide you through the licensing or permit process from start to finish.

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