How to Start an LLC in Georgia: Cost and Registration Steps

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Last updated November 24, 2022
Written by Dmytro Kondratiev
Editor, lawyer
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how to start an LLC in Georgia

The business environment in many US states doesn’t stay still and keeps transforming, thus, giving entrepreneurs to-be more and more opportunities for establishing their enterprises. The same is true for Georgia. The economy of this state has grown over the recent years, and it currently welcomes new businesses. Are you one of those aspiring beginner businessmen planning to launch a Georgia LLC to build your venture in this state? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Whatever questions you have in your mind about forming an LLC in Georgia, you’ll find an answer here. 

In our article, we’ve collected every bit of info you need to know about LLCs:

  • A comprehensive description of key formation steps and helpful tips that will let you complete those steps easily and successfully;
  • State laws and regulations you are to observe when setting up an LLC;
  • Quick maintenance guide to help you give your newly formed LLC the right legal start.

How to Get an LLC in Geogia: Step by Step

Step 1: Name your Georgia LLC

Similar to individuals, legal entities need to be named. Unlike with persons, though, naming a company is somewhat different. Though it’s still up to you what moniker you are going to choose, there are certain “dos” and “don’ts” you can’t neglect when naming a company. Otherwise, your LLC registration will be declined by the state. Naming rules are not numerous, yet each state has a few regulations in this area, and Georgia is not an exception. Here, the process is guided by Section 14-11-207 of the Georgia Code.

Words You Have to Use Starting an LLC in Georgia

When selecting a name for your Georgia LLC, you should take into account the following state requirements:

  • Normally, state rules call for a legal entity identifier to be a part of an LLC name. The same is true for Georgia. Full or abbreviated wording showing express reference to an LLC is a must. “Limited liability company”, “Ltd.”, “LLC’”, “limited company” or simply “LC” will be enough to make your company name compliant with the law;
  • Be original. A good company name is the one that readily stands out among the rivals and gets customers hooked once they hear or see it. To create a name that will pop up, catch eyes, and be memorable, you can use some fancy words, alliterations, acronyms, or foreign words, You can even combine word parts in cool concoctions that will be relevant to your business and still look meaningful. Yet, don’t overdo by using too tricky or complicated words;
  • Give reference to your business. A company name is a vital part of your whole business image. It’s a sort of facade or the top your customers will see before they get to know your enterprise better. So, make a company name your business card and let it give your clients a quick idea of what you are doing;

Examle:

The name “Georgia Pet Shop, LLC”  is not distinguishable from “Georgia Pet Shops, Inc.” To get it approved by the state, you’ll need to introduce some more words or change some of the words. For example, “Robert’s Pet Shop, LLC” will be acceptable.

Words You Can’t Use

While meeting the naming rules is important from the legal point of view, for you as a businessman, it’s essential to invent a moniker that will work for your company and be beneficial for your business. The state code also has rules about what shouldn't be in a company name:

  • Going wordy is not good. Shorter and simpler names are easy and quick to remember. A “compact” name has all chances to become a buzzword, so refrain from using too long phrases and complex words when mixing up your company moniker;
  • Section 14-11-207 set forth restrictions over an LLC name length. Thus, your company moniker can’t be longer than 80 characters, with spaces and punctuation marks included;
  • All states also have limitations on the use of certain words in LLC names. Georgia is more liberal in this concern and doesn’t set strict prohibitions in the use of some words. However, any words or phrases related to or associated with banking, insurance, or educational institutions are forbidden unless you have specific governmental permission for that. To find out more about these restrictions, you can take a look at the Secretary of State’s naming guidelines;
  • To avoid unfair competition and unwanted confusion, an LLC name in Georgia should be distinguishable, i.e. different from other company names already registered in the state. A rule to remember here is that articles, punctuations, suffixes, prefixes, plurals, abbreviations, or head letters won’t make the name distinguishable. To let it work out, you’d better think about synonyms and replacing keywords;
  • Steer away from using versions similar to popular company names. Though getting inspired by famous and well-known brands and top-of-the-line market players is normal, you’d better keep away from monikers that resemble leading trademarks and brand names too much. Not only will it cause confusion but also it might lead to unwanted lawsuits.

Research the LLC Name You Want

No matter how hard you try to invent an LLC name that will speak for itself, it’s the Secretary of State that has a final word over it. To put it differently, even a catchy, memorable, and really cool name version could be rejected for being non-unique. It will mean the name you’ve chosen for your company looks or sounds similar to one of the business names already registered in the state. This fact is a lawful reason to decline your LLC formation application. More than that, you’ll hardly want to be confused with any of your competitors. 

To avoid such situations, we suggest that you check the name availability in the state of Georgia first. This way, you’ll make sure you get a one-of-the-kind moniker for your newly formed LLC. Besides, checking a business name is quite easy in Georgia. The state has created an extensive and comprehensive company database, which is constantly updated with newcomers. And to search through that base will cost you nothing. Meanwhile, the search will reveal the similarities between your prospected name version and those already existent company names in mere minutes. 

To ensure your name version will be accepted, we recommend that you check not only a full name but also the keywords that will let you detect all possible variations.

Should you need to register a license or obtain any permissive documents to conduct your business, do a thorough name search and make sure your company name is fully compliant with all corresponding state regulations.

Georgia DBA: Using a Fictitious Business Name

Today, the state laws create the most favorable conditions for business development and give newly formed enterprises all chances to flourish. While a limited liability company is one of the easiest business forms to set up and maintain, you can also use different names for it if necessary. Thus, a registered name under which your company is legalized should remain unchanged. On the other hand, when it comes to marketing and promotion, you’ll get much more freedom. Similar to other states, in Georgia, you can use a fictitious, assumed, trade, or DBA (doing business as) to introduce your business to the market. 

To use a fictitious name, you’ll have to register it with the state. Otherwise, it won’t be eligible. Meanwhile, DBA registration is a pretty straightforward standard procedure. Regulated by Section 10-1-490 of the Georgia Code, DBA filing is to be approved by the superior court of the county you are going to operate in, i.e. locally. You are to submit a generic statement form containing basic LLC info and publish a notice of your DBA registration in a local newspaper for two weeks in a row.

Filing a DBA in Georgia is not free of charge. You’ll have to pay a fixed rate of $15. We must admit, though, that this fee is rather symbolic

Once registered, a DBA name will be assigned to your company until any changes occur in your LLC membership structure. Should you expel existing members or accept some new ones, get ready to renew your DBA registration.

On the other hand, the benefits your business gets with DBA are hard to underestimate. You can extend your activity to other states without the need to form a new LLC each time or launch different product lines and host several brands under the roof of a single LLC. You can grow your business and level it up without making your legal structure too complex. Since you are entitled to register as many fictitious names for an LLC as you need, your opportunities are almost endless. Just hire a separate accountant for each business area to keep an eye on cash flows and hold everything under the control of one LLC.

Step 2: Appoint a Registered Agent to Create an LLC in Georgia

When a company name is picked and checked, a registered agent appointment is a next step you should take on the way to your Georgia LLC. It’s a law requirement, so take it seriously. Under sections 14-11-209 and 14-11-1108 of the Georgia Code, a registered agent is the one to handle your legal mail and the only one to receive and process lawsuit papers. In other words, should your company become a part of the suit, the claimant is to hand in all related documents to the registered agent. If you fail to assign one for your Georgia LLC, chances are great you’ll lose the lawsuit since the papers won’t be delivered.

Apart from services of process, a registered agent will receive and process the rest of your official mail to get an LLC in Georgia including but not limited to government notifications, filing forms, legal requests, tax reminders, etc. Not only will a registered agent receive all mail on time but also he or she will timely inform you of its receipt so that you don’t miss anything important. In brief, a registered agent is an official LLC representative and a contact point between your company and state authorities. Given its functions, this role is a part and parcel of your business state compliance. Taking care of your crucial business correspondence, it will help you catch up with essential deadlines and regulatory requirements, thus, being in good standing with the state. 

Registered agent companies come in numbers today. Some of them are good while others might leave something to be desired. In our Best Registered Agents review, you’ll find services that hit the top lines in popular ratings and have a lot to offer to their clients. Most of them won’t cost you more than $100 a year to hire.

The state of Georgia doesn’t impose any strict limitations on registered agents. Any adult resident of the state or a legal entity registered and operating in the state can perform this function for your LLC. Many startuppers often choose to serve their own registered agents. They seek to save on paying for this work to somebody else and consider it a more reliable option since no one will have access to your confidential business mail.

More experienced entrepreneurs and bigger companies, on the other hand, rather delegate this role to third parties. Most often than not, they hire specialized Georgia registered agent services to handle all the mailing hassle. 

Which is a better option? Well, we are inclined to think that a hired registered agent is a more efficient alternative. And there are several reasons that sound quite convincing:

  • A Better Organized Process: Dedicated exclusively to providing registered agent services, third-party companies will ensure a professional approach and due diligence. In practice, it means all mail will be timely processed and redirected. There will be no missed or lost letters. All urgent or emergency notifications will be reviewed and informed to you; 
  • Junk Mail Sorted Out: Businesses are normally exposed to tons of spam letters that usually pile somewhere in the corner or are immediately disposed of. However, there is a risk to lose some vital mail there as well. With a registered agent, you can rest assured your business mail will be diligently separated; 
  • More Protection for Sensitive Mail and Your Privacy: Serving as your own registered agent, most likely, you’ll make your principal office your registered address. With that, you’ll have to receive all letters including services of process and lawsuits in front of your colleagues or workers. A registered agent will keep your sensitive mail confidential. The same is true for your personal data that won’t become a part of public records; 
  • More Freedom for Private Life: The strictest requirement to a registered agent is that this representative should be consistently accessible during business hours on workdays, with no breaks, holidays, or vacations. When somebody performs this function for you, you won’t be bound by this obligation and will be free to plan your business and private time as you deem necessary;
  • Doing Business in Multiple States Is Easier: Most registered agent service companies operate nationwide. If you decide to extend your business to several other states and file foreign LLC there, you won’t have a problem finding registered agents there. Your service provider will take care of this; 
  • Overall Peace of Mind: As your business grows, the mail flow will grow accordingly, and so will many of your other duties and responsibilities. Hence, at some point, mail processing might become a real burden. With a hired registered agent on your side, you’ll know that your official mail is under control and treated professionally while you can focus on your day-to-day business tasks.

Step 3: File Your Georgia LLC Articles of Organization

Actually, this is the very step that “gives birth” to your Georgia LLC as a legal entity. The Articles of Organization are a sort of your business passport identifying your company as an eligible legal structure registered and existing in compliance with the relevant state laws.

The Georgia statute won’t throw at you a whole list of requirements to match when registering the Articles of Organization to form your LLC. In fact, the whole procedure is fairly simple. You just need to submit the document to the Secretary of State and get it approved. At the same time, it’s not worth underestimating the importance of this doc. Without the Georgia Articles of Organization registered by the state and made a part of public records, your LLC has no legal power. Simply put, it doesn’t exist. So, make sure you do everything right and file a duly executed document.

You can either file an LLC on your own or entrust this task to one of the LLC services, thus avoiding the hassle and paperwork of DIY filing. Modern LLC companies allow you to place an order online from anywhere. In the meantime, they offer turnkey services and open an LLC in a set-and-forget manner. If this option is of interest to you, in our Best LLC Services article, you’ll find detailed reviews of the top LLC companies to choose the one that will best suit your needs.

What to include in my Georgia Articles of Organization?

If you choose a DIY formation route, you wonder what the Articles of Organization should include. This issue is regulated by Section 14-11-204 of the Georgia Code. To be fair, Georgia is one of the states that are not demanding about LLC formation docs. By nature, this document is quite generic and contains basic company info such as:

  • LLC name and address;
  • Name and signature of the LLC organizer (not necessarily an LLC member);
  • Names and addresses of LLC members;
  • Registered agent adat;
  • Your LLC purpose (a few common phrases stating what your company will be doing and specifying that these activities won’t breach the law);
  • A statement that your LLC is a member-managed or manager-managed structure. 

To further facilitate this task, you can use one of the ready-made templates downloadable under Form CD030 and Form CD 231 on the state department’s official website.

Filing Fee: How Much Does an LLC Cost in Georgia

Each US state has a fixed fee for LLC registration. You’ll pay for the Secretary of State to review and approve your formation documents. Notably, those fees greatly vary by state and might fall anywhere between $40 and $500.

Georgia hits the midground in this concern. The filing fee in this state is $100 for online submissions and $110 for applications sent in paper form.

In Georgia, all paper applications to the Secretary of State, be it free or payable filing, will charge an extra $10 for processing.

Georgia LLC Processing Time

How fast the state will consider your formations documents and approve your Georgia LLC establishment directly depends on how you file the Articles of Organization. Thus, online filings will be processed within 7 workdays while mailed applications will take more time and will be reviewed within 15 workdays.

Many states provide expedited filings and Georgia is one of them. If you seek to speed the whole process up, there are three options to match different needs:

  • At $100, your docs will be processed within 2 business days; 
  • At $250, you can count on same-day processing subject to your documents being received by the Secretary of State’s office on business days before noon. All applications obtained after midday are considered on the next business day; 
  • At $1000, the state offers a one-hour service for the submissions filed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on business days. All requests received after 4 p.m. will be processed at 9 a.m. on the next day. 

Though expedited filing prices are not the most affordable out there, the options you’ll get provide good flexibility and will let you set up an LLC nearly in a blink of an eye, which might be a real saver for certain business situations.

Step 4: Draft your Georgia LLC Operating Agreement

While the Articles of Organization is rather a standardized document proving your LLC formation, you might wonder how your LLC will be governed and regulated further on. Normally, it’s the state code that sets forth common rules for LLC operation. And we must admit that the Georgia Code is quite exacting in this concern. In Chapter 13 of Article 3, you’ll find:

  • Obligations and authorities of LLC owners;
  • The procedure of accepting new members to LLC;
  • How to organize and bold compulsory LLC meetings;
  • Management instructions for LLC members.

However, all those rules are pretty common and are made to be applicable to any LLC, without taking into account any peculiarities of your individual business situation. These are so-called default laws created to support an LLC structure after formation. 

The Georgia Code allows the Articles of Organization to function in the same way as an Operating Agreement. The trick here, though, is that any changes to formation documents require state registration. Not only is it payable but also it will take time and effort. Besides, should there be any conflict between the rules stipulated in the Articles of Organization and those set forth in an Operating Agreement, the Georgia law will give preference to your formation doc. Hence, we recommend that you don’t include any operating rules in the Articles of Organization and use only an Operating Agreement to avoid the legal hassle.

Meanwhile, most likely than not, you’ll want to manage and run your business your way. And this is where an Operating Agreement will come into play. This document is a company bylaw and is not a legal requirement in most US states including Georgia. Yet, it has a priority over default state laws and serves as the perfect business management and operation tool tailored to your needs.

LLC members agree on how they will operate their entity and an Agreement reflects their covenants in detail. The points covered  by the documents are usually as follows:

  • LLC member powers, duties, and responsibilities;
  • LLC manager authorities and rights along with their obligations to the company and its members;
  • Profit distributions and allocations;
  • LLC ownership structure;
  • Making changes to LLC membership structure, i.e. accepting and expelling members;
  • Hiring and firing LLC managers;
  • LLC dissolution procedure;
  • Rules for amending an Operating Agreement. 

All in all, an Operating Agreement is a code of conduct for daily LLC operations that will help run business in the most efficient manner while avoiding conflicts and disagreements between its co-owners. Besides, this document needs no state registration, so amending it is simple and is just subject to members' consent.

Step 5: Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number) for Your Georgia LLC

Tax requirements are quite clear and strict both for individuals and for businesses. To file your personal taxes and let the state authorities identify your tax returns, you need a social security number (SSN). Likewise, for LLCs to file taxes and become visible on the legal map, they need to get some sort of tax identifier, which is an Employer Identification Number (EIN) or a Federal Tax ID.

Though not all LLCs need an EIN straight away, getting one right after formation won’t go amiss. If your LLC has multiple members or you plan to hire employees, you already need an EIN. Besides, if you want to register for some types of taxes, get some sorts of licenses, or choose a corporate tax status, you’ll need an EIN too.

Anyway, obtaining this number is as easy as it might get. All you’ll have to do is to fill in an online application form on the IRS website and receive your number in a matter of minutes. That’s it.

First Tasks After Forming an LLC in Georgia

To properly maintain your Georgia LLC in the long run, there are a few more aspects you need to take care of when the formation process is over.

Open a Business Bank Account

Why do I need a business bank account while I can use my personal checking account for business transactions as well? That’s a question many beginner entrepreneurs ask themselves. And quite a few of them really choose to use their individual accounts for business. Well, it’s a huge mistake. Here is why. 

The biggest benefit of an LLC structure is limited liability protection that shields your personal assets against any business liabilities. However, this protection is subject to a clear line between your company’s funds and those of your own. Using the same bank account for all transactions, in the eyes of the law, you treat your business assets as your own and can be held liable for business obligations with your personal money.

By opening a dedicated checking account for business purposes only, you will further enhance your corporate veil and give your individual property yet another layer of legal protection. To add more, you’ll make accounting a lot easier since your personal and business incomes and expenses won’t be mingled. Finally, a separate business bank account gets more trust and loyalty from financial institutions that will be more eager to provide credits and loans if you need them.

Get Business Insurance For Your Georgia LLC

While an LLC provides legal protection to you, you also need to get some extra protection from your company. We are talking about business insurance to give your entity an added shield in certain situations that might occur in the course of activity.

There are different types of insurance provided for businesses that depend on the type of activity your run, the industry your LLC operates in, the assets you engage for business, and so on.

The most common insurance types that might be appropriate for an LLC include:

  • General liability insurance against property damages;
  • Workers compensation insurance, which is crucial for companies using the labor of hired employees;
  • Professional liability insurance for professional LLCs;
  • Commercial automobile insurance that functions similar to individual car insurance.

Keep in mind that LLC members are exposed to the workers compensation insurance too. In this concern, they are treated as company employees.

Keep Your Georgia Company Compliant

To keep your newly formed Georgia LLC in good standing with the state, you’ll have to observe several state requirements.

Georgia Business Permits and Licenses

The good news is that the state of Georgia doesn’t set forth business licensing requirements at a state level, i.e you don’t need to get a general business license for your LLC to operate in the state. However, municipal and county rules differ in this concern. So, it’s advisable that you thoroughly check with your local government what kinds of licenses and permits you need to avoid law problems. 

On top of that, there is a whole list of specific licenses your LLC might be exposed to. Hence, doing detailed close licensing research with your governing body is a must. Otherwise, you might face penalties and fines for running your business without a certain license.

Georgia Tax Requirements

By default, all LLCs are treated as pass-through entities when it comes to income taxes. It means company income taxes are charged and payable on personal tax returns of LLC members. 

However, your LLC will have to pay some other taxes as well such as sales tax, unemployment tax, excise tax, and others. To get a full list, you should register your LLC with the Georgia Department of Revenue and Georgia Tax Center.

Annual Report and Other Filing Requirements

Annual reports help state governments keep company data relevant and up-to-date. Georgia law calls LLCs to file annual reports within the period from January 1 to April 1. A report is to be submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office and should contain the following info:

  • LLC name;
  • LLC registered address and major place of business;
  • Registered agent data;
  • Any essential information that might be necessary to make your company profile complete. 

Annual report filing is a paid service. Online submission will cost you $50, and if you choose regular mail, the fee will be $60.

While forming your LLC in Georgia, you can refer to the following business links:

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FAQ About Georgia LLC Registration