Registering a Limited Liability Company (LLC) in Georgia can protect your personal assets, help you take advantage of tax savings, and start a business that creates financial independence.
“I’m an accountant, and when people first start a business, I tell them they should have an LLC,” says Spiceda Jackson, a Georgia-based CPA and business owner. “An LLC is the first level of protecting your personal assets. When you incorporate and become an LLC, you limit liability to your business. A sole proprietorship doesn’t offer that same protection.”
Forming a Georgia LLC doesn’t have to be complicated, and the paperwork can be filed online. Georgia calls itself a “pro-business environment,” is welcoming to new businesses, and has a low filing fee when compared to other states. If you’ve been thinking about making your Georgia-based business or side hustle official, you can register your limited liability company yourself, hire a CPA and/or lawyer, or use a guided tool like LegalZoom to help you get started quickly.
We asked Georgia LLC legal professionals and business owners what to keep in mind when registering for an LLC in the Peach State. Here’s their best advice, along with what you need to know to get your Georgia LLC started and running smoothly.
Step 1: Choose an LLC Name and Check if That Name Is Available
To form a Georgia LLC, you’ll have to register with the Secretary of State. You’ll need to file the required forms, pay fees, and meet all the LLC naming requirements. Georgia offers a guide on forming a business in the state.
Start the process by choosing a name for your business. You can check the availability of a potential name by searching the Georgia Secretary of State’s business name database.
Here’s what you should know when choosing an LLC name:
- A Georgia LLC name must contain the phrase “Limited Liability Company” or the abbreviations “LLC,” “LC,” “L.L.C.,” or “L.C.” You can abbreviate “limited” as “ltd.” and “company” as “co.”
- The LLC’s name must be distinguishable from other business names on file with the Georgia Secretary of State.
- The LLC name must follow Georgia’s naming rules.
- The LLC’s name cannot use any references to government agencies (e.g., State Department, Treasury, FBI, etc.).
- Certain restricted words—such as bank, lawyer, attorney, or credit union—may involve additional documentation or industry regulations.
You can reserve a business name for 30 days by filing a Name Reservation form with the Georgia Secretary of State. The reservation can be filed online or by mail, and there’s a $25 fee for a name reservation in Georgia.
You don’t have to use your LLC’s registered name when you do business. You can use an assumed name, also called a “Doing Business As” name (DBA) or trade name. You may register a Georgia DBA with the Clerk of the Superior Court in the county where your business is located.
You don’t have to use your LLC’s registered name when you do business. You can use an assumed name, called a DBA, but it must be registered with the state.
When choosing your LLC name, think about the availability of that name as a URL for a website. You can check if the name is available as a URL and use that information in your decision-making process. Think about the future goals of your side hustle or business, as you may wish to sell products or services online at some point.
Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent
LLCs in Georgia are required to have a registered agent for service of process and other official correspondence. Your Georgia registered agent can be an individual or business entity that receives and handles legal paperwork on the LLC’s behalf.
The requirements for a Georgia registered agent include:
- The registered agent must be 18 years old and a Georgia resident.
- Every registered agent must maintain a registered office in Georgia with a physical business address (no P.O. boxes allowed).
- The registered agent or agent service must keep regular business hours to accept mail.
- If you use a registered agent service, the service must be a business entity authorized to do business in Georgia.
- You may elect an individual within the LLC, including yourself, to be the registered agent.
In the state of Georgia, you can be your own registered agent, but it means your name will go on the public record. Registered agents for Georgia LLCs also have to keep regular business hours at your registered address, so keep that in mind.
Step 3: Prepare and File a Certificate of Organization
To start an LLC in Georgia, you’ll need to file Articles of Organization. The Articles of Organization contain basic contact information for your company and authorize your company to operate in the state.
To form your Georgia Limited Liability Company, you’ll need to complete and file Articles of Organization with the Georgia Corporations Division. The Articles of Organization may be filed online or by mail. The filing fee for a Georgia LLC is $100 for filing online or $110 for filing by mail.
Typical processing times online are seven business days. You can request processing in 2 business days for an additional $100 cost. Georgia offers same business day processing (if submitted before noon on a weekday) for an additional $250. Processing within one hour is also available, but it costs an additional $1,000.
Typical processing times by mail are 15 business days. If you’re using a third-party service like LegalZoom, there will be an additional cost.
Your Articles of Organization must include:
- The LLC’s name or a valid name reservation number.
- The name and address of the person filing for the LLC.
- A valid email address.
- The mailing address of the principal office.
- The name and address of the registered agent.
- The name and address of each organizer.
- Any optional provisions you need to add to your articles of organization.
- A form of payment. Depending on how you apply, your form of payment will be one of the following: credit card, check, cashier’s check, or money order.
If you’re filing by mail or in person, either draft your own Articles of Organization, or download and fill out the Articles of Organization for LLC (CD 030) form from the Georgia Secretary of State website. You must also download and fill out the Transmittal Form — Limited Liability Companies (231) from the Georgia Secretary of State website.
Mail or deliver the completed Articles of Organization, transmittal form, and $110 filing fee by check or money order to:
Office of Secretary of State
2 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. SE
Suite 313 West Tower
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Your business officially starts on the day that the Secretary of State receives your Articles of Organization. The Secretary of State will process your filing and mail a Certificate of Organization to your business’s registered address.
If you formed an LLC in a different state and want to operate in Georgia, most of the same rules apply, but you’re considered a foreign LLC. You’ll need to complete Form 241-Application for Certificate of Authority for Foreign Limited Liability Company. The filing fee for foreign LLCs wanting to do business in Georgia is $225.
“The only difficult part of registering an LLC in Georgia was finding the information in a streamlined way,” says Dave Wright, a Georgia-based entrepreneur who owns a freelance video production company. “The filing part was fairly straightforward once I started, and it processed seamlessly. I registered my business in 2017, and the website has improved since then.”
Step 4: Obtain a Georgia Business Permit
To start an LLC in Georgia, you’ll need to obtain a general business license from the city or county. Certain professional industries require special licensing. LLCs with employees must also apply for a Georgia state taxpayer identification number and workers’ compensation insurance.
Step 5: Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
Once your Georgia LLC has been processed, you can register for a nine-digit federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the internal revenue service (IRS). An EIN is like a social security number for your business. You can use this number to file taxes, open a business bank account, apply for a business credit card, manage payroll, and file federal taxes.
The Georgia-based business owners we interviewed recommend you keep personal and business expenses separate to ensure personal asset protection and clear separation in the eyes of the IRS and state taxing authorities.
Step 6: Register with the Georgia Department of Revenue
With an EIN, you can register your business with the Georgia Department of Revenue. Taxes for Georgia LLCs depend on how the members choose to be taxed. By default, LLCs are taxed as sole proprietorships (if single-member) or partnerships (if multi-member), in which case business income and losses are reported on each business owner’s personal tax return. Each business owner pays Georgia income taxes on its share of the business profits.
Georgia businesses with employees also have to pay payroll taxes. The Georgia payroll tax rate currently ranges from 0.04% to 8.1% on the first $9,500 of wages.
If you follow the above steps, your Georgia LLC will be approved and active. Here are some additional steps on how to start an LLC in Georgia you should know about.
Create an Operating Agreement
The state of Georgia does not require LLCs to have an operating agreement. However, an LLC operating agreement ensures all members understand their roles and responsibilities. An operating agreement can also be used in court if legal disputes arise among LLC members. Your operating agreement clarifies which members (owners) and managers will do what to ensure the business runs properly; having this information in writing is a good safeguard.
File an Annual Registration
Every Georgia LLC must file an Annual Registration with the Secretary of State. The purpose is to keep your LLC information up-to-date with the state.
The Annual Registration is due between January 1 and April 1 of each year (the first statement is due the calendar year following your year of formation). You must either file your registration online or print a form from the website to mail in. The filing fee for annual registration is $50.
Once you submit your Annual Registration, if any relevant business information changes (e.g., such as your registered agent), you must submit an amended annual registration statement with a $20 fee.
FAQs about Starting an LLC in Georgia
How Much Does It Cost to Start a Georgia LLC?
The filing fee for a Georgia LLC is $100 for filing online or $110 for filing by mail. You can request expedited processing in 2 business days for an additional $100. Georgia offers same business day processing (if submitted before noon on a weekday) for an additional $250, and processing in one hour costs an additional $1,000.
What Are the Annual Fees for a Georgia LLC?
There is a $50 fee for the Annual Registration. If any business information changes (e.g., such as your registered agent) after you file the Annual Registration, you must submit an amended Annual Registration with a $20 fee.
How Long Does It Take to Set Up a Georgia LLC and Is It Easy?
The typical processing time to set up a Georgia LLC is seven business days. You can request expedited processing in 2 business days for an additional $100. Georgia offers same business day processing (if submitted before noon on a weekday) for an additional $250, and processing in one hour costs an additional $1,000.
Setting up a Georgia LLC is not complicated as the paperwork can be filed online, and the Georgia Secretary of State’s website is user-friendly.
“Starting an LLC in Georgia is a fairly easy process; you can do it all online and yourself,” says Nishisksi Chandler, a Georgia-based entrepreneur who registered three LLCs in the state. “You can register online within forty-five minutes, and once that’s complete, you get the confirmation email. I’ve gone through the process for three separate businesses over the last eight years and was able to do it myself.”
Do I Need a Lawyer?
You can use a lawyer to help you set up a Georgia LLC, but you do not need one, as the process is straightforward. Georgia provides a lot of information on its website.
What Is an LLC Formation Service, and Is It Worth It?
An LLC formation service is a professional organization or individual, such as a lawyer or accountant, offering assistance in setting up an LLC. If you don’t feel confident in filing the appropriate forms, you may look into hiring a formation service.
How Do I Name My Georgia LLC?
Picking an LLC name depends on the goals of your business. Consider what name represents your values and what you want customers to think about when they see your business name. Then be sure to make sure that name adheres to Georgia’s naming rules.
“I’ve registered three LLCs in Georgia and done most of them myself,” says Eshonda Blue, a Georgia-based business owner. “When I’m thinking about what to name the businesses, we brainstorm. We kick around a few names and narrow it down. Georgia is one of the best states to do business in because there aren’t many roadblocks like in some other states.”
What Is a DBA, and Do I Need One For My Georgia LLC?
You don’t have to use your LLC’s registered name when you do business. You can use an assumed name, also called a “Doing Business As” name (DBA) or trade name. You may register a Georgia DBA with the Clerk of the Superior Court in the county where your business is located. You do not need a DBA to operate a business in Georgia.
How Do I Check If My Business Name Is Available in Georgia?
You can check the availability of a potential name by searching the Georgia Secretary of State’s business name database.
How Do I Hire Employees in Georgia, and How Many Do I Need?
What Are Federal LLC Tax Requirements?
A Limited Liability Company is a business structure allowed by state statute. Each state may use different regulations.
The IRS treats one-member LLCs as sole proprietorships for tax purposes. This means that the LLC itself does not pay taxes and does not have to file a return with the IRS. As the sole owner of your LLC, you must report all profits (or losses) of the LLC on your 1040 tax return.
The IRS looks at co-owned LLCs as partnerships for tax purposes. Like single-member LLCs, co-owned LLCs do not pay taxes on business income; instead, the LLC owners each pay taxes on their share of the profits on their personal income tax returns.
Is It Worth Starting an LLC in Georgia State?
If you have a side hustle or business, you should consider registering an LLC in Georgia. The structure of an LLC can protect your personal assets, lower tax liability, and allow you to build a more credible business in the eyes of your future customers.
Do You Need an EIN to Start an LLC?
You don’t need a federal employer identification number to start an LLC in Georgia, but you’ll want to get one as soon as your LLC is approved. An EIN allows you to open a business bank account, obtain a business credit card, and register with the appropriate Georgia state licensing and taxing authorities. Registering an EIN with the IRS is free.
Starting an LLC in Georgia may feel intimidating initially, but doing so will make your side hustle or business official and more profitable. Take time to review this guide and get the official documentation you need to form an LLC so that you’re well-positioned to build a business that leads to financial independence.