Start a Business in Georgia
The Federal state of Georgia, bordered by Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina is home to 17 and 26 Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies. The real gross domestic product (GDP) of the Peach State is more than $533.57 billion and this rapidly growing economy is attractive to entrepreneurs to start a business in Georgia. Some of the major contributors to the state GDP include industries like Agriculture, Energy, Automotive, and Tourism among others. The state is also considered one of the best when it comes to business climate and has been consistently ranked No. 1 for new businesses by the Site Selection magazine.
Entrepreneur’s guide to forming a business in Georgia
If you are a first time entrepreneur planning to start a business in Georgia then you will be able to leverage the top business environment the state offers. The state boasts of a highly competitive economy and offers a wide variety of business incentives for those planning to start a business in Georgia, expand their existing business in the state or move their business here. A Georgia registered agent like IncParadise can assist you with the entire process of establishing your startup in the state.
This guide has been specifically created for small business owners, entrepreneurs, or individuals planning to register a business in Georgia. The objective of the guide is to help you understand the state requirements to start a small business in Georgia and the various processes involved. This guide will also provide information on various aspects of a new business like preparing a business plan, choosing the right location for your company, obtaining EIN, applying for a business license, and even attending entrepreneurial training programs.
Why do companies prefer to register a business in Georgia?
Georgia is home to 1.1 million small businesses with almost 18 companies listed in the Fortune 500. Some of the top companies based in this state include Home Depot, United Parcel Service, AGCO, PulteGroup, Delta Air Lines, Asbury Automotive Group, The Coca-Cola Company, and Southern Company among others. As an entrepreneur, you can start a business in Georgia as the state offers several advantages. Some of the top advantages are:
- Pro-Business Environment – The greatest benefit to starting a small business in Georgia is that the state has a pro-business environment. The real gross domestic product (GDP) of Georgia has grown by 2.6% since the great recession of 2008. One of the salient highlights of the pro-business environment is that the state has the best workforce development program in the nation. This development program is one of the primary reasons entrepreneurs prefer to register a business in Georgia. The state has also been ranked at the top for its logistics infrastructure and is home to a robust tech startup ecosystem.
- Low Tax and Savings – One of the reasons to register a business in Georgia is low taxes. The state income tax can vary from as low as 1% to a maximum of 5.75%, as compared to Colorado with a flat tax rate of 4.55% and North Carolina at 5.25%, or the District of Columbia where the tax rate varies from 4% to 8.95%. The state also offers several tax credit programs that you can leverage after you register a business in Georgia online. Some of the top programs include PPE manufacturing tax credit, Georgia’s Job Tax Credit or Investment Tax Credit program, Port Tax Credit Bonus, and R&D Tax Credit among others.
As an entrepreneur, if you start a business in Georgia then there are several other advantages or benefits like access to grant programs and other funding programs including early stage innovation fund programs or small business loans by the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI).
Steps to start a business in Georgia
Georgia is considered one of the best places for startups and small business owners and the state has its own laws and requirements for business formation. If you have an idea then you need to register a business in Georgia so that your idea can transform into a working model. There are several aspects that you will need to focus on before and after you incorporate in Georgia as they will impact your business like choosing the right location. Let’s take a look at some of the key areas that will help your business to grow and be a success in the state.
1. Prepare Georgia Business Plan
If you are planning to start a business in Georgia then you need to be armed with a good business plan. More often than not, the importance of a business plan also known as a strategic plan is undermined as a result, not every business is able to achieve its long-term goals and objectives. You are probably wondering if you really need a business plan and the answer is a yes, because this is a strategic plan that takes into account different aspects of the business itself. It is like a road map that will prevent you from making mistakes and protect your business from financial loss or even competition.
A well planned and thought out business plan will provide you with marketing and financial projections at least 2-5 years ahead. It will also provide an outline of the path that your business will need to take in order to grow, expand, and generate revenue after you start a small business in Georgia. A detailed strategic plan can also help you to get funding from investors. Business plans can vary according to the type of business but all plans have common elements or components. A good business plan should include the following:
- Executive summary
- Company description
- Market analysis
- Competitive analysis
- Products and services
- Customer demographics and segmentation
- Branding and marketing
- Logistics and operations
- Cash flow projection
2. Attend Entrepreneurial Training or Development Programs in Georgia
One of the important resources that will help you to start a business in Georgia is entrepreneurial training or development programs for small businesses. The primary objective of these programs is to provide expertise and enhance the skill sets of first time entrepreneurs through training in a variety of business related areas. These training programs will not only prepare you to start a small business in Georgia but also help you make the business profitable and sustainable while focusing on possible customer revenue streams. The entrepreneurial training or development programs in Georgia focus on key areas like:
- Accounting and finance
- Planning a new business
- Determining appropriate funding requirements
- Debt restructuring analysis
- Marketing your business effectively
- Brand Positioning
- Procurement for business
- Managing a business
Once you register a business in Georgia online; you can also participate in various entrepreneurial events and webinars on various business areas including achieving entrepreneurial success.
3. Choose Business Structure for Georgia Business
An extremely important aspect of any new business is its structure. There are different types of businesses although the structures you can form will vary from one state to another. You have to identify the structure in order to register a business in Georgia as some structures like a sole proprietorship don’t require registration with the Georgia Secretary of State.
When choosing a structure, you need to focus on key areas like the advantages of the chosen structure over other forms of business. If you are looking for a form of business that offers tax benefits then choosing an LLC or an S Corporation is better. You can choose to form incorporated or unincorporated business entities in Georgia like:
- Limited Liability Company
- Secretary of State Corporations
- Professional Corporations
- Limited Liability Partnership
- Sole Proprietorship
- Limited Partnership
- S Corporation
- Professional Associations
A top Georgia registered agent like IncParadise can help you to form a new business in the state depending on the structure chosen by you.
4. Naming Your Georgia Business
A business is known by its name and some of the greatest brands in the world are proof of that. The name of a company is often known as the brand and it can be driven by the business idea or concept, a product, and services. If you are planning to register a business in Georgia then you will need to identify a name for your new company. The naming process can be quite challenging depending on the state laws and requirements. The naming guidelines and process according to the Georgia Secretary of State are as follows:
- The name of a new business will vary according to the business structure chosen by you, for example if you were to incorporate in Georgia then the name will be governed by GA Code § 14-2-401 (2020). Similarly, if you were to register a business in Georgia as an LLC then the naming requirements would be governed by GA Code § 14-11-207 (2020).
- The business laws of the state of Georgia also govern the uniqueness of the business name. If you form a corporation then the name should contain words like the word “corporation” or “incorporated” and abbreviation of any of these words like “Inc.” or “Corp.”. Similarly, if you were to form a limited liability company then the name should contain words like “Limited Liability Company” or “limited company” or even abbreviations like “L.L.C.”, “LLC”, or “L.C.”.
- A business name will help you start a business in Georgia and ensure it stands apart from other similar businesses. Hence, it should be distinguishable from any other name existing in the database of the department of state, and division of corporations.
- You have to ensure the business name does not exceed 80 characters including spaces or punctuation.
- If you are planning to start a small business in Georgia then the business name should be distinguishable from any other name existing in the database of the Georgia Secretary of State. If you have chosen a name following state guidelines then you will need to conduct a name availability search. This process will not only ensure your name is different from any other name in the database but also if the specific name is available for name reservation.
- In most states, the state laws allow you to reserve a business name for a specific period. If you are planning to start a business in Georgia then you can reserve your chosen name for 30 days by submitting the Name Reservation Request form.
5. Choose Your Location for Georgia Business
One of the key elements that contribute to the success or failure of a new business is its location. You can choose your location depending on the type of business you want. For example, an IT company can be started in a busy business district of Atlanta while a motel can be located at a tourist destination like the Chattahoochee National Forest. There are several top destinations based on the revenue generated per business each year and these include:
- City of Alpharetta
- Doraville in DeKalb County
- Vinings in Cobb County
- Garden City in Chatham County
- Downtown Dalton
- Cumming in Forsyth County
- City of Norcross
- City of Waycross
There are several factors that play an important role in identifying the right location to start a small business in Georgia. Some of the important factors to consider are:
- Transportation and Logistics – One of the important factors to consider when choosing a location to register a business in Georgia is the access to transportation infrastructure. If your business revolves around retail, wholesale, and manufacturing then the transportation and logistics infrastructure will be crucial for business success.
- Business Climate – Although Georgia is a business friendly state, different cities and counties will have different degrees of a business environment. If you are an entrepreneur and want to register a business in Georgia online then you will need to look at a destination that is entrepreneur friendly like Wayne County.
- Talent Pool – Whether you are looking for tech talent or a head chef; location can be quite important. It will be easier to find skilled professionals in Atlanta as compared to Blairsville in Union County.
- Zoning ordinances – Often the highly undermined aspect, considering zoning ordinances in different cities is fundamental especially if you plan to start a business in Georgia. These ordinances are there to lay down specific rules and requirements like a home-based business can operate in specific residential areas and will not be able to use signage or are prohibited from nuisances like smoke emission, fumes, or noise.
6. Register Your Georgia Business
If you want to start a business in Georgia and this is your first time then the entire process of new business formation can be overwhelming. You will require documentation based on the type of company you want to form. The governing laws, requirements, process, forms, and fees will vary according to the company type and has to be filed with the Georgia Secretary of State. Let’s look at an example to understand this.
Example: If you were to incorporate in Georgia (C Corporation) then you will be required to file Articles of Incorporation pursuant to GA Code § 14-2-202 (2020). The Articles should include all information as described in O.C.G.A. § 14-2-202 for a profit corporation. The articles have to be filed with the office of the Secretary of State, Corporations Division along with a filing fee of $100. Similarly, if you were to register a business in Georgia as an LLC then you will be required to file Articles of Organization pursuant to GA Code § 14-11-204 (2020) with the office of the Georgia Secretary of State. The filing fee for the LLC remains the same as a corporation.
The most important part of the filing process is the preparation of the Articles of Organization or Incorporation, which may seem quite a complex process. This is where a reputable Georgia registered agent service like IncParadise can assist you. Whether you want to form an LLC or a corporation, we can help you to register your startup with the state.
Do you want to start a new business in Georgia?
7. Get Your EIN
Once you register a business in Georgia, there are several Federal and state requirements that the business or the owners will be required to fulfill. One such requirement is that of business taxes and in order to file a tax return, you will need to obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN). It is important to note that all forms of businesses don’t require this unique number issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). AN EIN is also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number (FEIN) and is required especially if a business has employees or operates as a partnership or a corporation.
8. Open a Business Bank Account for Georgia Business
Whether you are promoting a specific service or selling niche products, once you register a business in Georgia, you will need to apply for a business bank account. A business bank account is considered an essential tool for managing operating profits or cash flow. Depending on your specific requirements, there are different types of accounts that you can choose from when you start a small business in Georgia. They are:
- Business savings account
- Business checking account
- Merchant account
- Business money market account
- Business certificate of deposit (CD) account
The biggest advantage of maintaining a business checking account is that it will help in keeping your business expenses and gains separate from your personal expenses or earnings. Even the IRS recommends that small business owners should maintain separate bank accounts for tax simplification. When you have a business bank account, it also increases your company’s professionalism and credibility.
9. Obtain License and Permits for Georgia Business
Once you register a business in Georgia there are several business related requirements that you will need to fulfill. One of the foremost requirements is making your company operational and that is possible by obtaining the right Georgia business licenses or permits. The licensing requirements and laws are different for different states and a new company or startup may require more than one license to operate. If you incorporate in Georgia then licenses and permits applicable in this state can be categorized as under:
- Business Tax Certificates – If you start a business in Georgia then there is a high probability that you may require this license. A business tax certificate is a type of business license that can be considered as a local business license. The issuing authority for this license would be the county or city where your business is based. The local licensing authority will vary from one county or city to another. Let’s look at an example to understand this.
Example: If you start a small business in Georgia with the physical address in the city of Augusta then the License and Inspection Department of the city will be responsible for the issuance of the business tax certificate. To apply for this certificate, you will need to file the applicable occupation tax along with a regulatory fee.
- Regulated Occupation and Industry – There are certain segments of the industry or specific profession in Georgia, that fall under the regulated occupation and industry category and hence their licensing regulations and requirements are different from that of a business tax certificate. If you start a small business in Georgia in such an industry then you will need to obtain a business license from the governing board.
Example: If you start a small business in Georgia in the Transportation & Security industry and offer private detectives and security services then you will have to apply with the Georgia State Board of Private Detectives and Security Agencies. Since it is a security agency, you will also have to apply for an Online Weapon Permit.
It is important to note that business licenses are not issued by the state of Georgia but have to be obtained at the county or city level. The different regulations and requirements pertaining to Georgia business licensing can be quite complex and this is where IncParadise can help you. We offer a “Business License Research Report” service, which is a detailed report containing a list of filing instructions, supporting document requirements, and fees for all business licenses and permits in this state.
10. Register for Taxes
Once you register a business in Georgia, as an owner you may have to file certain forms of business taxes. The type of taxes that your company may have to file will vary according to the legal structure like taxes of an LLC will be different from that of a corporation or a sole proprietorship. In order to file taxes, you will need to obtain an EIN and also know your NAICS code. The NAICS is the North American Industry Classification System based on the economic activity of a company like the NAICS code for legal services is 5411.
If you incorporate in Georgia or are planning to conduct your business within the state of Georgia then you will be required to register for different tax specific identification numbers, licenses, and permits. You can register online via the Georgia Tax Center (GTC). You will receive your tax account number through email within the same day or 15 minutes of submission.
11. Annual and Ongoing Requirements
Once you register a business in Georgia, you will be required to fulfill state annual requirements to ensure your business enjoys active status. Apart from the renewal of business licenses and filing of tax returns, you will need to file an annual report. This is a special report that is normally filed with the Georgia Secretary of State. The information required in the annual report, the due date, and the filing fee can vary from one state to another.
In the state of Georgia, the annual report is known as the Annual Registration Form (AR form) and has to be filed annually by April 1 of each year. You can also file it as early as January 1 of each year. The filing fee for the Annual Registration Form is $50 and it can be filed through mail or online.
Example: If you incorporate in Georgia on 04th May 2021 then the annual report for your business corporation will have to be filed between January 1 and April 1, 2022 pursuant to GA Code § 14-2-1622 (2020).
Some Important Quick Resources for Georgia Business
Once you have a business plan and idea in place, the next step is to register a business in Georgia. However, there are several aspects of a business that you will need to understand in order to register a business in Georgia online. Hence, you will need information from various government sources and agencies. We have compiled a list of agencies where you will be able to find the information needed.
Georgia Secretary of State
The office of the Georgia Secretary of State (SOS) is responsible for handling all types of new or existing business requirements through the Georgia Corporations Division. Whether you want to register a business in Georgia or require information on starting a new business in the state; the office of the Georgia SOS can assist you with the same. You can access a variety of business related information through their First Stop Business Information Center.
- Georgia Secretary of State
214 State Capitol
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Phone: 404- 656-2881
Website – https://ecorp.sos.ga.gov/
Georgia Department of Revenue
The Georgia Department of Revenue (GDOR) is the principal government agency when it comes to tax collection. The primary objective of the department is to administer tax laws and enforce various regulations concerning tobacco products and alcohol in the state. When you start a small business in Georgia, you will have to file taxes and this is the department that will initiate the filing process. You can find more information about various business taxes along with tax forms and due dates.
- Georgia Department of Revenue
1800 Century Blvd NE,
Atlanta, GA 30345
Website – https://dor.georgia.gov
Georgia Department of Labor
The Georgia Department of Labor (DOL) is an administrative agency that specializes in providing a variety of services to the existing and emerging workforce of the state. Once you register a business in Georgia online, you may need to keep employees and the department of labor can help you understand the labor laws in the state. The department website has a dedicated employer portal that offers Georgia Business Employability Skills Training (GeorgiaBEST) program, an annual tax and wage report, and recruitment related services among others.
- Georgia Department of Labor
1630 Phoenix Blvd #200,
Atlanta, GA 30349
Website – https://dol.georgia.gov/
Georgia State University Small Business Development Center
If you are planning to start a business in Georgia then there are plenty of important resources that can provide valuable information pertaining to your business and the Georgia State University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is one such avenue. They can provide entrepreneurs and business owners with the right training, tools, and resources so that they can succeed in their business ventures. This includes arranging capital for small businesses raised through loans and equity financing.
- Georgia State University Small Business Development Center
33 Gilmer Street SE
Atlanta, GA 30302
Website – https://sbdc.robinson.gsu.edu/
SBA Georgia District Office
The SBA Georgia district office provides several business related resources and information. Their resources constitute a detailed business guide that includes everything from writing business plans to paying taxes, getting business insurance, funding programs including investment capital, licenses, and permits after you start a small business in Georgia, online learning programs to empower small business owners, and ways to stay legally compliant.
- SBA Georgia District Office
233 Peachtree Street,
NE Suite 300
Atlanta, GA 30303
Website – https://www.sba.gov/offices/district/ga/atlanta
The Georgia Chamber also known as the Georgia Chamber of Commerce works closely with other local chambers in the state to resolve issues impacting the business community. If you incorporate in Georgia, you will find extremely valuable resources here including information pertaining to business development & networking like sponsorship opportunities and human resource services.
- Georgia Chamber
270 Peachtree St NW, Suite 2200
Atlanta, Georgia 30303
Website – https://www.gachamber.com/
SCORE Atlanta founded in 1964 has been responsible for educating more than 10 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners. You will find valuable resources and information here when you start a business in Georgia. They offer different types of learning programs and mentor programs including Startup Roadmap programs sponsored by FedEx, Small Business Emergency Preparation and Recovery Resources, Small Business Resilience Resource Library, Disaster Loan Assistance, Business Strategies, and online business programs provided through the SCORE Business Learning Center (SBLC).
- SCORE Atlanta
233 Peachtree St
NE Ste 300,
Atlanta, GA 30303
Website – https://atlanta.score.org/
Ready to start business in Georgia?
Georgia is a highly popular state and is favored by small business owners and entrepreneurs due to its pro-business environment. You can start a business in Georgia and achieve high growth but the registration process may be quite cumbersome. This is where a reputed Georgia registered agent like IncParadise can provide valuable assistance. We have the experience, expertise, and understanding of state laws, and can help you with the new business formation.
IncParadise has already helped thousands of businesses to form an LLC or a business corporation in the state. We also provide a wide variety of additional services like EIN assistance, and foreign qualification among others.