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For the majority of new businesses, an LLC is the best business structure to choose. An LLC (Limited Liability Company) offers the simplicity of a sole proprietorship or partnership but with the legal protections of a corporation. An LLC means that the owner’s assets cannot be accessed in the event the LLC is sued (and vice versa).
If you live in the Peach State or plan to do business there, you’ll need to form a Georgia LLC. While there are a lot of steps to complete, this guide has broken them down into their most basic elements so all you need to do is work your way through this guide. Let’s get started.
How to Start a Georgia LLC
Step 1: Choose a Name for Your LLC
This first step is one most new business owners have given the most thought to. You can choose almost any name you like, there are just a couple of rules you need to follow.
Your name must be “distinguishable upon the record,” which means it must be unique from other businesses registered in Georgia. For example, if you wanted to call your business “Peaches Please,” but there was already a registered business with that name, you couldn’t instead choose “Peach Please.”
Your name cannot include any abbreviations or terminology that may lead someone to believe that your business is something it’s not (such as “Inc”) or affiliated with the government (such as “state department”).
Note that Georgia also restricts the length of your name – it can’t be more than 80 characters long, including punctuation, spaces, and the designation (see below).
Your LLC’s name must include a designator that makes it clear your company is an LLC. You can choose from:
- LLC (most common)
- Ltd. Liability Co.
- Ltd. Liability Company
- Limited Liability Company
It’s also a good idea to check online and ensure there is an appropriate domain name (website address) available for your chosen LLC name since that’s an important aspect of your branding.
To search for available names, click here. You can apply for your top 3 choices so you’re less likely to need to reapply.
Remember that you can always use a DBA (“doing business as”) name if you want your customer-facing brand to have a different name down the line.
Optional: Reserve Your LLC’s Name
If you’re moving through the steps in this guide quickly, you don’t need this step. However, if you need to take more time and don’t want to use your LLC name, you should reserve it.
You can complete this step online here: Georgia Reserve Business Name.
Alternatively, you can file by mail here: Request By Mail.
Filing online costs $25 and you can pay by card. It takes 7 business days to confirm your reservation unless you’re willing to pay to expedite the process.
Filing by mail costs $35 and you can pay by check or money order. It takes 15 business days unless you pay to expedite the process.
Your name will be reserved for 30 days.
Step 2: Choose a Georgia Registered Agent
All Georgia LLCs need a registered agent in Georgia with a Georgia address. Your registered agent is the person (or entity) who receives legal mail on the behalf of your LLC. This legal mail is referred to as “service of process.” This mail will include government notices and tax information, but it can also include documentation if you’re involved in court proceedings.
You can be your own registered agent in Georgia, you can choose a friend or family member, or you can choose a commercial registered agent. Note that you cannot use a PO Box or other mailbox service.
A commercial registered agent is a popular choice because the registered agent’s address is made publicly available. Commercial registered agents are affordable (about $15 a month) and will forward your mail to you physically or electronically.
If you are unsure whether or not you should be your own registered agent, see our guide here. If you decide that a commercial registered agent is the best choice for you, we can be your Georgia registered agent. Simply reach out to us and we’ll give you all the information you need to move forward.
Step 3: File Your Articles of Organization
This is the most exciting yet daunting step, as it’s where your idea for your business becomes a real, legal entity. Filing your Articles of Organization (called a Certificate of Formation in some states) is generally straightforward, but it can be intimidating. The information you need to have ready includes:
- Your name, address, and phone number
- Your LLC’s name
- The name and contact details for your registered agent
- The LLC’s primary address
- Whether your LLC is member-managed or not (if you plan to own and run it, then it is)
- Your business’s purpose (a short statement describing what your business will do)
You can file online (which costs $100) or by mail (which costs $110). Online is faster, cheaper, and easier, so there’s little reason to file by mail.
That said, if you want to file by mail you must send 2 copies of your Articles of Organization. You can find this form here: Form CD030. You also need to send 1 copy of the Transmittal Form 231. Approval takes 12-15 business days.
To file online, click here: Georgia Articles of Organization. It takes around 7 business days for approval.
Once approved, you’ll receive an approved copy of your Articles of Organization along with a Certificate of Organization. If you file online these documents will be emailed to you, if you file by mail, they’ll be mailed to you. Regardless, make sure you keep them somewhere safe, ideally uploading them to the cloud.
You have the option to pay an additional fee to expedite the process. You can pay the following:
- Online: $100 for 2-day processing
- Online: $250 for same-day processing
- Mail: $100 for 2-day processing (just include the extra fee in your check)
Step 4: Create Your LLC’s Operating Agreement
While your Operating Agreement is an “internal document,” meaning you don’t need to show it to any government authority, it is a requirement. While it can seem a little extraneous if you’re the only member of your LLC, it is absolutely essential for multi-member LLCs, as it can prevent difficulty later. Your Operating Agreement should include:
- The LLC’s name and primary address
- Name and address of the registered agent
- The names and addresses of your members and their roles
- details about how much money each member of the LLC invested in the company
- how the ownership of the LLC is divided
- how taxes will be paid
- How profits and losses will be divided
- The purpose of the business
- Procedures for members joining or leaving the company
- Any meeting schedules and voting rights and procedures
- Anything else important
Step 5: Get Your LLC’s EIN
An EIN is a business federal tax identification number and your business needs one to function. It allows your LLC to hire employees, pay taxes, and get a business bank account. This step is free and usually quick to complete.
To apply for your EIN, click here.
When you complete the online form you’ll receive your EIN instantly.
If you cannot complete the online application for any reason, use Form SS-4, but note it can take 4 weeks for you to receive your EIN.
(Note: if you are applying from outside the US, enter “Foreign” on line 7b where it asks you for your SSN/ITIN/EIN.)
Step 6: Georgia Annual Report
You may not need to worry about this step much now, but it’s important to get these dates on your calendar now so you don’t need to panic to meet the deadline later. In Georgia, an Annual Report is due each year, regardless of how much revenue the business has produced. It simply confirms that your LLC’s information is current.
The Annual Report is due between January 1 and April 1 the year after your business’s formation. That means if you form your business in 2023, you won’t need to file your annual report until January 1 – April 1, 2024.
Filing your annual report costs $50, and you can file it online or by mail. You can file online here. If you fail to file by April 1, there is a $25 fine.
Make a note on your calendar now so you don’t forget to file and pay next year.
Step 7: Apply for Permits and Licenses
Georgia does not require a state-wide business license, but you may require a permit or license if you work in a hazardous or restricted industry or a specific area. The most common licenses and permits needed in Georgia are:
- Local business license – check your municipality’s website to find out if you need a license. You can find a list of areas here: Georgia Municipal Association.
- Tax registration – see Georgia Department of Revenue
- Professional license – see Georgia Secretary of State Professional Licensing
Step 8: Get a Business Bank Account
While you don’t legally need to have a business bank account, you shouldn’t move any further with your business until you’ve got one. It can be tempting to use your own bank account if you are the only member of your LLC, but this can lead to legal issues in the future. Remember the benefit of an LLC lies in its legal protection for your assets – if you mix your assets by using one bank account, you may find yourself having to argue in court (if you get into a legal dispute) about which assets are yours and which are the LLC’s.
To avoid any problems in the future, use your EIN now to create a business bank account so you can keep your finances separate from the very start.
Step 9: Keep Essential Documents On-Site
Your last step is to make sure you’ve got all your essential documents at the primary address of your LLC. If you’re a single-member LLC working from home, this won’t take much thought, but if you’re working away from home you need to make sure you keep the following documents at your business’s registered office:
- A current list of the LLC’s members, plus their contact information
- A copy of the Articles of Organization and any amendments and actions
- A current copy of your Operating Agreement
- Any recent financial statements
Congratulations! You’ve now completed all the steps and your business is ready to start serving customers.
Let Us Handle Your Company Formation
While we’ve made every effort to make these steps as easy to follow and complete as possible, we know that not everyone has the time or desire to spend hours working through these steps. There’s magic in the excitement of a new business and new business owners can be so much more productive when they’re able to stay in this mindset uninterrupted.
If you’d rather hand over the process to experts, we’re here to help. We form LLCs and Corporations all day every day and so we can complete the process for you quickly. All you need to do is fill in this short form and we’ll handle everything; including registering your LLC name, filing for your Certificate of Formation, and even acquiring your EIN for you.