Start Your Own Business in Georgia: Seven Steps You Need to Take

From licenses and permits to taxes and insurance, learn what you need to do to start a business in Georgia.



Here’s an overview of the key steps you’ll need to take to start your own business in Georgia.

Step 1. Decide on a Legal Structure

The most common legal structures for a small business are:

  • sole proprietorship
  • partnership
  • limited liability company (LLC), and
  • corporation.

There also are special versions of some of these structures, such as limited partnerships and S corporations. You’ll want to consider which business entity structure offers the type of liability protection you want and the best tax, financing, and financial benefits for you and your business. Check  Choose Your Business Structure  on Nolo’s website for more information on how to choose the best ownership structure for your business.

Step 2. Choose a Name

For LLCs and corporations, you will need to check that your name is distinguishable from the names of other business entities already on file with the Georgia Secretary of State (SOS). You can check for available names by doing a  business search  on the SOS website. You can reserve an available name for 30 days by filing a name reservation request with the SOS either online through the  ecorp website  or on paper with a  Name Reservation Request  form. There are certain name requirements for LLCs and corporations (like including a word such as “LLC” for LLCs or “Company” for corporations). See  How to Form an LLC in Georgia  and  How to Form a Corporation in Georgia  for more information.

Is your business a sole proprietorship or partnership that uses a business name that is different from the legal name of the business owner (for a sole proprietorship) or surnames of the individual partners (for a partnership)? If so, you must register a trade name with the superior court in the county where your business is located. Check your local  superior court website  for more information.

If you plan on doing business online, you may want to register your business name as a domain name. See  Choose and Register a Domain Name  for more information. In addition, to avoid trademark infringement issues, you should do a federal and state trademark check to make sure the name you want to use is not the same as or too similar to a name already in use. See  How to Do a Trademark Search  for more information.

Step 3. Create Your Business Entity

  • Sole proprietorship:  To establish a sole proprietorship in Georgia, you don’t need to file any organizational documents with the state. For more information, see  How to Establish a Sole Proprietorship in Georgia.
  • Partnership:  To create a general partnership in Georgia, you don’t need to file any organizational documents with the state. Although not legally required, all partnerships should have a written partnership agreement. The partnership agreement can be very helpful if there is ever a dispute among the partners. For more information, see  How to Form a Partnership in Georgia.  To form a  limited liability partnership(often used by professionals), you must file a Limited Liability Partnership Election with the office of the clerk of the superior court of any county in which the partnership has an office. For more information, see  How to Form a Limited Liability Partnership in Georgia.
  • LLCs:  To create an LLC in Georgia, you must file  Articles of Organization  with the Georgia SOS. You will also need to appoint a  registered agent  in Georgia for service of process. In addition, while not required by law, you also should prepare an  operating agreement  to establish the basic rules about how your LLC will operate. The operating agreement is not filed with the state. For more information, see  How to Form an LLC in Georgia  and  How to Form a Professional LLC in Georgia  (for professionals).
  • Corporations:  To create a corporation in Georgia, you must file  Articles of Incorporation  with the Georgia SOS. Check the Filing Procedure link on the  Forms webpage  of the SOS’s Division of Corporations website for more details on the articles. You will also need to appoint a  registered agent  in Georgia for service of process. Although not legally required, you also should prepare  bylaws  to establish your corporation’s internal operating rules. Bylaws are not filed with the state.  S Corporations  must also file IRS Form 2553,Election by a Small Business Corporation,  with the IRS. For more information, see  How to Form a Corporation in Georgia.

Step 4. Licenses and Permits

Tax Registration.  If you will be selling goods in Georgia, you must register with the Department of Revenue (DOR) to collect sales tax. If your businesses will have employees, you must register with the DOR for employer withholding taxes. You can register online for both types of tax, as well as other business taxes, by going to theGeorgia Tax Center  (GTC).

EIN.  If your business has employees or is taxed separately from you, you must obtain a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. Even if you are not required to obtain an EIN, there are often business reasons for doing so. Banks often require an EIN to open an account in the business’s name and other companies you do business with may require an EIN to process payments. You can get an EIN by completing an online application on the IRS website. There is no filing fee.

Regulatory licenses and permits.  These cover areas such as:

  • health and safety
  • the environment
  • building and construction; and
  • specific industries or services.

Check the SOS’s  First Stop Business Guide  and Nolo.com’s  How to Get a Small Business License in Georgia  for general guidance on state-issued regulatory licenses. For information about local licenses and permits, such as business tax certificates, check the websites for any cities or counties where you will do business

Professional and occupational licenses.  These cover people who work in various fields. The  Professional Licensing Boards Division  of the SOS has links to information about most state-licensed occupations and professions.

Step 5. Business Location and Zoning

You’ll need to pick a location for your business and check local zoning regulations. That includes if you work from home. You may be able to find zoning regulations for your town or city by checking  municode.com.

Step 6. Taxes and Reporting

Georgia taxes every kind of business. See  Georgia State Business Income Tax  for more information on state business taxes in Georgia.

Sole proprietorships.  Pay state taxes on business income as part of their personal state income tax returns (Form 500).

Partnerships.  Partners pay state taxes on partnership income on personal tax returns. In addition, Georgia partnerships also must file  Form 700,  Partnership Tax Return.

LLCs.  Members pay state taxes on their share of LLC income on personal tax returns. In addition, LLCs themselves have to file an additional state tax form — either a partnership return or a corporation return. The specific form used will depend on how the LLC is classified for federal tax purposes. Georgia LLCs also are required to file anannual registration and fee  with the Georgia SOS. See  Georgia LLC Annual Filing Requirements  for more information.

Corporations.  Shareholders must pay states taxes on their dividends from the corporation. A shareholder-employee with a salary also must pay state income tax on his or her personal state tax return. Moreover, the corporation itself is subject to Georgia  corporation taxes. And, finally, corporations must file an  annual registration and fee  with the Georgia SOS.

If you have employees, you must also deal with state  employer taxes.

And, apart from Georgia taxes, there are always federal income and employer taxes. Check IRS Publications 334,Tax Guide for Small Business, and 583,  Taxpayers Starting a Business, available at irs.gov.

Step 7. Insurance

Insurance is a good idea for most kinds of business. While insurance often is regulated at the state level, the types of business insurance available are usually similar across the fifty states. Check  Obtaining Business Insurance  for more information.

Talk to a Lawyer

Need help? Start here.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you
FEATURED LISTINGS FROM NOLO
Swipe to view more
NEED PROFESSIONAL HELP ?

Talk to a Business Law attorney.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you