You have inspiration to spare when you're starting a new business, but even the most incredible idea can't become reality without the right foundation. Fortunately, we've done the research to answer all your questions about creating your own company in Georgia. In this guide, you'll learn about everything from paying business taxes to accepting customer payments online.
Like any big endeavor, starting a business becomes easier when you break it into smaller chunks. If you're feeling overwhelmed about opening a new company in Georgia, this 6-step process may help take the stress out of entrepreneurship.
6 Steps to Start a Business in Georgia
Follow these 6 steps to start your Georgia business. Along the way, you can access forms and other resources from the Georgia Department of Revenue. Additional help is available from the Secretary of State's First Stop Business Information Center.
As a small business owner, you qualify for counseling and other forms of technical assistance from the Small Business Development Center at the University of Georgia.
1. Complete Federal and State Tax Enrollment
You can obtain a state tax ID number through the Georgia Tax Center when you register your new business. You'll need to provide:
- The legal name of your business
- The mailing address and physical location of your business
- The type of business entity
- The names, Social Security numbers and addresses of all officers, partners or owners
- The appropriate NAICS code for your industry, which you can look up through the North American Industry Classification System website
- An email address where the GTC can reach you
To start the process, visit the GTC's website and select Register as a New Georgia Business.
If you're starting a business on your own in Georgia, you'll need to provide your Social Security number, the NAICS code for your industry, the types of tax accounts you need and your most recent amount of federally adjusted gross income. Select "sole proprietor" as the business type when you navigate the form.
Your company may be responsible for one or more of these common Georgia state business taxes:
- Sales and use tax: This tax is charged on any goods or services sold in the state even if your business is online-only.
- Withholding tax: If your company has employees, you'll report their wages and pay unemployment and disability insurance taxes to the Department of Labor.
- International Fuel Tax (IFT): This tax applies to companies that use motor vehicles to transport people or cargo on the interstate.
In addition, you'll need to enroll as an employer with the State Board of Worker's Compensation if your business has created Georgia jobs.
For federal taxes, you can sign up with the IRS for a free Employer Identification Number (EIN) to pay taxes for your business. You can also use your Social Security number to pay business taxes, depending on the type of legal entity. For example, sole proprietorships, partnerships and LLCs have "pass-through" taxation, which means you report business income and expenses on your individual income tax return each year.
As you handle your tax responsibilities, you may want to open a bank account for your business if you haven't already. Completely separating your personal and company finances makes it easier to file your annual returns and help protect your assets from business obligations.
2. Name Your Georgia Business
While you prepare to register your business entity, you can reserve your selected business name for 30 days with the Secretary of State. Online reservation costs $25 and an in-person reservation carries a $35 filing fee. You'll find out if you've successfully reserved the name within five to seven days.
If you need to submit a different name for any reason, you have 30 days to do so for free. For example, the state will reject your business name reservation if it's too close to the name of another Georgia business. You're also restricted from using certain words in the business name, such as bank and insurance, without special approval. Special naming requirements apply to corporations, LLCs and LLLPs.
To avoid delays, you can search the name database on the Secretary of State website. If you plan to expand your business beyond Georgia, you might want to check your intended name against the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database as well. Finally, make sure you can get the domain name you want for your company before you finalize the name.
If you plan to work as a sole proprietor, you can skip step three since you don't need to register your business with the state. However, if you'll use a name for your company other than your legal name, Georgia requires you to register a fictitious business name (also called a "doing business as" name). You can get the necessary paperwork from the county clerk.
3. Register Your Georgia Business
You can form these legal business entities with the Corporations Division of the Georgia Secretary of State:
- Corporation, owned by shareholders who have limited personal liability
- Limited liability company (LLC), which limits your personal liability for business debts and may provide tax advantages over a corporate structure
- Limited partnership (LP), or limited liability limited partnership (LLLP), which offer flexibility while providing a level of liability protection
You can speed up the registration process by preparing these required details in advance:
- Your name, personal mailing address and valid email address
- Name reservation number or intended business name
- Business address
- Name and address of each organizer, partner, member, director or shareholder depending on the business structure
- Number of authorized shares you'll issue (corporations only)
You'll also need to name a registered agent with a street address in Georgia as part of your business application. This person or company agrees to accept legal documents, service of process and all other official messages on behalf of your business. You can't serve as your own registered agent, and it can't be a post office or mail drop.
Finally, you can pay the filing fee by credit card, money order, check or cashier's check. The Secretary of State charges $100 for an online registration and $110 for a paper form. Once you complete the application, you'll usually receive a response within 7 to 10 business days.
4. Get Necessary Licenses and Insurance Policies
In addition to state registration, you'll need a city or county business license in Georgia. The process for this permit varies by location, so check with your municipal office for more information. You can also find out more from the Superior Court in your county.
Certain types of business require industry-specific permits. Georgia has dozens of state licensing boards, including agencies for libraries, used car dealers, athletic trainers, opticians and many other industries. The Georgia Secretary of State provides details about the state agencies where you can get these permits if you need them.
Insurance requirements also depend on the type of business you have. Most companies should purchase a general business liability policy, which can cover the cost of a lawsuit against your company, a natural disaster that damages your property and other unexpected events.
5. Prepare to Accept Online Payments
If you've completed steps 1 through 4, you're almost ready to get your business off the ground, but you need a way to accept payments for customer transactions.
Although the payment processing landscape seems complicated, you can streamline your ecommerce setup by working with Pay.com. You'll benefit from a comprehensive Pay Dashboard where you can take credit cards, debit cards, and other payment methods for your products and services.
Even if you don't have a live business website yet, you can send your customers secure Pay Links that go straight to a checkout page when they're ready to pay. You can also add Pay.com to your existing website without IT knowledge or the need to code anything behind the scenes.
We have the security you need to build trust among your client base along with an affordable flat-fee structure that protects your business from billing surprises.
6. Find the Right Location
Unless you're opening a home-based Georgia business, you'll need to find the right spot for your operations. Criteria for choosing commercial real estate varies depending on your needs. In general, however, consider the following factors when looking at a potential property:
- Can customers, suppliers and workers easily access the building?
- Does your business align with the property's zoning?
- Can you afford rent, utilities and upkeep expenses?
If you do plan to operate from your Georgia home, you should still check the zoning laws to avoid costly citations. You might also want to review your homeowner's association bylaws if applicable.
Many Georgia cities mandate final approval of your business location before you sign a lease on the dotted line. For example, Savannah requires new businesses to successfully submit the Business Location Approvals Application before they set up shop. You can avoid inconvenient and costly surprises by researching the requirements in the city where you plan to locate your Georgia company.
The Bottom Line: Starting a Business in Georgia
You're just 6 short steps away from owning a Georgia business of your very own. While it can be tempting to jump right in with a new idea, following this framework prevents you from missing any important to-dos on your road to entrepreneurship.
To expedite your ability to generate revenue, partner with Pay.com to make your first transaction almost as soon as you sign up with our service. Your customers will appreciate the seamless experience, which in turn helps build their trust in your brand. Click here to get started now!