Here’s an overview of the key steps you’ll need to take to start your own business in Georgia.
The most common legal structures for a small business are:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.