Georgia business registration allows you to open and run an independently owned and operated small business in the state. A small business is one that has less than $30 million in gross receipts per year or fewer than 300 employees. Forming a corporation or limited liability company (LLC) simply requires you to file a few documents with the Georgia Secretary of State. Your new business entity is officially formed as soon as the state approves your documents. The process requires you to complete five steps.

Step 1: Write a Business Plan

One of the most overlooked parts of starting a business is the business plan, but it might be one of the most important. Because every business is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all template. There are, however, five sections you should always include:

  1. Executive Summary – Summarizes the entire plan.
  2. Business Overview – Describes what the business sells and why it will make money.
  3. Management and Employees – Lays out the daily operations, labor needs, and employment costs.
  4. Marketing – Describes how the business will attract customers.
  5. Financial Projections – Predicts how and when the business will start making a profit.

Step 2: Select a Business Entity

The business entity, or business structure, is how a company is legally organized to operate. Options include:

  • Sole proprietorship, which is a business with an individual entrepreneur as an owner. It's the simplest and least expensive of the entities to establish.
  • General partnerships, which involve two or more people operating a business together. Like a sole proprietorship, no formal filing is required.
  • A corporation is a business entity that is legally separate from the individual. While corporations are often complicated, they are designed to shield owners from liability.
  • A limited liability company combines the liability protection of a corporation with the simple operation of a sole proprietorship.

Step 3: Register a Business Name

At the time of filing, all corporations and LLCs must choose a unique name. You can find out if your desired name is available by visiting the Georgia Secretary of State website. To protect your business name, you might want to seek trademark law resources. You can also try to trademark logos, slogans, and other intellectual property associated with your brand through the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO).

Step 4: File for an EIN

Any company with employees must have a nine-digit tax identification number, known as the Employer Identification Number or EIN. You can acquire this number through the IRS, which will use it to identify your business when tracking returns or opening bank accounts. You can file for an EIN online in only a few minutes. You can also mail an SS-4 form directly to the IRS.

Step 5: Apply for Licenses and Permits

Depending on the business you're starting in Georgia, you might have to obtain certain permits or licenses. For example, if your business is going to sell tangible property, provide taxable services, or contract to provide services within state limits, you will need to get a Sales & Use Tax Certificate. This certificate is available online through the Georgia Department of Revenue. The state imposes a sales tax on physical goods and certain services, including:

  • Accommodations.
  • In-state transportation.
  • Games and amusement activities.
  • Sales of admissions.

Certain professionals are regulated by the state and required to register for professional and occupational licenses. These include:

  • Accountants.
  • Property inspectors.
  • Plumbers.
  • Landscapers.
  • Interior designers.
  • And more.

Day cares, salvage yards, food establishments, and many other companies also require licenses. You can find information about applications and fees from the Georgia Secretary of State.

In Georgia, most local municipalities require businesses, even home-based ones, to register for local business licenses. The requirements for registration will depend on the jurisdiction. There might also be special requirements for zoning, liquor licenses, signage, and other specific circumstances. If you're trying to find out where to get a business license in your community, check with city hall, the economic development office, or the local Chamber of Commerce.

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