Starting a business in Georgia can be an exciting time. Before selling your product or service though, the nuts and bolts of licenses, registrations, and taxes must be completed.
The guide below will show you the DIY process of forming an LLC in Georgia. However, you can also use an online LLC service handle the paperwork for you. We reviewed and ranked the 7 best available.
The Top 2 Worth Considering
- Northwest Registered Agent is a great option if you are looking for premium customer support.
- IncFile is ideal if you are looking for the best pricing with excellent features.
Step 1: Name Your LLC
Selecting a name for your Georgia LLC is a first step, yet a very important one. A name that is unique and easy to remember is helpful in finding potential clients or retaining customers.
The name should indicate the product or service. It should also follow guidelines set forth by the state of Georgia.
The name of an LLC will likely appear on business cards and stationary, marketing materials, a website, legal contracts, business bank accounts, invoices and/or a building directory.
Georgia law requires that the business name includes the words “Limited Liability Company” or an associated abbreviation. It is restricted to a maximum of 80 characters including spaces and punctuation. Also, it must be different than other names already registered. The following are not considered distinguishing features:
- The addition or deletion of an article
- A different entity type (LLC rather than Inc.)
- The use of “and” rather than &
- The addition or deletion of punctuation, plurals or suffixes
- The substitution of abbreviations
- The substitution of phonetic spelling
The following terms may only be used with prior written consent:
- Insurance or reinsurance
- Assurance or reassurance
- College or university
- Bank, banc, or banque
- Banker, banking house, or banking company
- Credit union
- Savings & loan
- Trust or trust company
Let’s imagine that someone is considering opening a flower shop in Atlanta, Georgia. The name she is considering, Flowers by Fanny, is already in use. Instead, she decides to legally name her business Fanny’s Florals and Design, LLC.
Determine the Name is Available
Following the selection of a name but before filing the Articles of Organization, check to ensure that your name is unique on the Georgia Corporations Division website. Searching in other places, such as online, is also a good idea.
After you have determined that your chosen name is “distinguishable,” the name can be registered in order that you have exclusive rights for 30 days.
Optional: Name Reservation
Sometimes a situation may arise where an individual wants a particular name but needs time to organize his/her company before filing paperwork to create an LLC. In this case, a name can be reserved for 30 days in the state of Georgia.
The downside is that it does cost $25 for the reservation and is nonrefundable. The Business Name Reservation Request can be paid by check, cashier’s check, or money order if filing a hard copy or through credit card if filing online.
If mailing or delivering in person, use the following address:
Office of Secretary of State
Corporations Division, Name Reservation Request
2 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. SE, Suite 313 West Tower
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Processing time for a name reservation is between three and five business days if filed online or between five and seven business days if a hard copy is filed. Expedited filing is available. If reservation request is submitted by noon, same-day processing is offered for $250. Two-day processing is offered for $100.
If the requested name is not available, a rejection notice will be sent by phone, email or mail. You are then allowed to submit another request within 10 days of the notice without charge.
Upon successfully reserving a name, you will be provided with a reservation number which can then be redeemed on the Articles of Organization application.
Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent
Every LLC in Georgia is required to have a registered agent. This agent can be an individual or a company.
The role of the registered agent is that of a contact person between the LLC and the state. As stated on the website for the Georgia Secretary of State, “the registered agent is the ‘mailbox’ for the corporation. The registered agent is the person or entity… designated by the entity to receive any service of process, documents, or other official communication on its behalf.”
Simply put, the process agent receives communications or documents from the state involving such things as taxes or lawsuits and communicates them to the LLC.
Some may wonder why a Georgia registered agent is necessary. The importance of the agent is to ensure that someone is always available to receive important documents even if the business owner leaves the office, goes on vacation, or is otherwise away. Also, having a registered agent is especially important if a physical office does not exist in Georgia.
The owner of the LLC can designate a registered agent on the Articles of Organization application.
Individual as Registered Agent
Most importantly, the individual must be a resident of the state of Georgia. An LLC cannot act as its own registered agent. However, a manager or member of the LLC can act as registered agent. Still, using a third party ensures that nothing falls through the cracks. The third party can be an accountant, an attorney, or even a friend. The agent must have a physical and mailing address in Georgia.
Registered Agent Service
If using a service, the registered agent must be a business or professional. We recommend either using an LLC formation service (like Incfile or Northwest Registered Agent) which gives you a free registered agent or ordering a registered agent service by yourself if you choose to DIY your Alaska LLC formation.
Step 3: File the Formation Documents with State
Let’s assume that fictional Fanny has selected both the name for her LLC and the registered agent. She is ready to complete the paperwork (called the Articles of Organization) that actually creates Fanny’s Florals and Designs, LLC in Georgia.
This step can be completed either online or by mailing a hard copy through USPS. The filing cost is $100 and is nonrefundable. Expedited processing is available for same-day processing ($250) or two-day processing ($100).
Note that two forms are required when filing: the transmittal information form and form CD030 / the Articles of Organization application. Articles of Organization can be filed online or by hard copy. If not filing online, follow the following instructions.
Hard Copy Filing
The original and a copy of both the Articles of Organization application and transmittal form must be submitted on white, letter-size paper. All forms and payment can be sent or delivered in person to the following address:
Office of Secretary of State
2 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. SE, Suite 313 West Tower
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
You can expect standard processing of between five and seven business days. Processing time may be longer during heavier filing periods.
Following the filing, a certificate of organization will be sent to you by mail.
Step 4: Create an Operating Agreement
An operating agreement in the state of Georgia is recommended though not required. The agreement is a contract that defines the operations of the LLC, includes terms and conditions, states the responsibilities of its members, and ensures legal protections of its members.
All owners of the LLC must be in agreement of the terms in the agreement and sign before a notary public.
The operating agreement is useful for both multi-member and single-owner LLCs. In both cases, the agreement provides protections.
For example, in the case of the multi-owner LLC, the terms can stipulate what should happen if a death or divorce occurs among one of its members. In the case of the single-owner LLC, the agreement could be used in court as evidence that the LLC is separate from the individual owner.
The operating agreement can be created in two ways. Some individuals may choose to write the agreement on their own, using an online template. In this case, forms are available that are specific to state. Be sure to use the correct multi-member or single-member form.
The alternative is hiring an attorney to create the document. The benefits of using an attorney are ensuring the document doesn’t exclude any important information, adheres to state law, and invalidates default provisions that may not be what you wish.
Step 5: Get an EIN
An EIN is an Employer Identification Number. Anyone who runs their business as a corporation or partnership must file for this 9-digit number in order to identify the tax accounts of a business. The number can be applied for in one of the following three ways:
Applying online is the quickest method. The process can be completed between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday. When the form is completed, the information will be immediately validated and a number issued while you are still online. In order to apply online, a valid individual taxpayer number, such as a Social Security number, is required.
Form SS-4 can be downloaded, completed and faxed to 855-641-6935, twenty-four hours, seven days per week. The EIN will be provided within four business days.
If either of the above methods are unavailable, Form SS-4 can be mailed, though processing will take approximately four weeks. The form can be mailed to the following address:
Internal Revenue Service Operation
Attn: EIN Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999
Think you’re ready to open up shop now? Guess again!
Step 6: Taxes, Licensing & Income Reporting
Businesses like Fanny’s Florals and Designs, LLC may be official after completing the above steps, but it is important not to overlook a few critical details.
On the federal level, most LLCs do not pay taxes directly to the government. Instead, they report income and losses on the owner’s personal 1040 tax returns. Schedule C is often used for reporting. Unless the LLC chooses to be taxed as a corporation, a single-member LLC is taxed as a Sole Proprietorship and a multi-member LLC is taxed as a Partnership.
Unless electing to be classified as a corporation, LLCs are treated as pass-through entities for state income tax purposes as well.
Georgia does not require LLCs to pay a franchise or privilege tax.
Your LLC may be required to pay a sales tax (if the business sells taxable merchandise) or a use tax (if the business purchases taxable merchandise from out-of-state retailers). For businesses with employees, withhholding and unemployment taxes may also be required.
For more information on state taxes in Georgia, visit the Georgia Department of Revenue website or call 877-423-6711.
In addition, LLCs may be responsible for local taxes to a city, municipality, or county.
Most licenses and permits are issued through cities and counties. In order to determine necessary licensure, contact the local chamber of commerce where your business will be located or the county government.
In some cases, a professional license will be needed before a business can begin operations.
Visit the licensing page on the Georgia Secretary of State website for more information. Requirements and fees vary according to the license.
After an LLC is formed, an initial registration must be filed with the Georgia Secretary of State between January 1 and April 1 of the year following the calendar year in which the LLC was formed. An annual registration with the Secretary of State must be filed between January 1 and April 1.
The registrations must be filed online and require a $50 filing fee.
If annual registrations are not filed, the LLC risks dissolution by the Secretary of State. Reinstating a dissolved LLC requires a $250 fee.
All fees are nonrefundable.
When all of the mechanics of setting up an LLC in Georgia have been completed, someone like Fanny can get down to the business of setting up a website, creating a logo…or purchasing flowers!
Need Help Creating Your LLC?
We recommend LLC formation services because it allows you to knock off an important thing off your checklist so you can focus all your energy on actually starting a business.
Can you do it yourself? Absolutely.
However, a service that forms an LLC for you will help with ongoing maintenance and keep you notified of any requirements you should adhere to.
As we mentioned earlier, IncFile and Northwest Registered Agent are the top LLC services available. If you’re not familiar with them, as a point-of-reference many of our readers like to compare them to the most well known LLC service, LegalZoom.