How to select a name for a Georgia LLC? A great starting place for any business is deciding on the name. While you likely have some ideas, it’s essential to understand the legal requirements.
Find the basic guidelines in Georgia Code section 14-11-207. Each Georgia LLC name must include one of the following:
You can leave out the “limited” part of the name or the abbreviated version. And you must stick to less than 80 characters, including spaces and punctuation.
Georgia also places certain restrictions on what you can use in the name of your LLC. Terms related to insurance, banking, and education need specific approval.
Another critical element is for any new Georgia LLC name to be distinguishable. Use the Secretary of State’s Business Search function to discover what’s already used. Avoid names that would confuse people.
A common technique used by many entities is the use of a doing-business-as (DBA) name. These let you operate under a name that’s different from the LLC. For example, “Athens Event Rentals LLC” can use “Athens Party Supplies.”
Domain names (URLs) are also worth considering. Even if you don’t want to start a website immediately, securing the rights to matching domain names is a wise step.
What is a registered agent? All businesses must supply contact information as the central point of communication. The registered agent performs this role. Georgia law requires one under sections 14-11-209.
The main purpose of the registered agent is to receive service of process. This means that if your LLC gets sued, the legal paperwork goes to the registered agent. As you can imagine, this is a vital role to handle with care.
Georgia allows any resident or licensed company to serve as the registered agent. Business owners can appoint themselves. But seasoned leaders understand the value of using a registered agent service.
Choosing to use yourself as the registered agent comes with some advantages, such as:
But it’s not all fun and games. Electing yourself as the registered agent has the following disadvantages:
To avoid these problems, we generally recommend using a registered agent service.
Costing around $100-$150 per year, registered agent services sort through your mail. Hiring one also keeps your address confidential. Some attorneys provide the same service but may charge up to $500 per year.
If you choose to start your LLC by using a business formation company, they often include a registered agent service in their packages. Feel free to take a look at our registered agent recommendations article for more information.
What do you need to file the Articles of Organization for a Georgia LLC? Now is an excellent time to make sure you’re paying close attention. Filing the Articles of Organization transforms your business from an idea into a real legal entity.
Your LLC doesn’t exist until these are filed and processed.
Georgia’s filing requirements aren’t extensive. Some people assume that only attorneys can complete this step. But it’s likely much easier than you believe. To simplify the process, Georgia provides a fillable form you can use.
When filing the Articles, you’ll also need to include Form CD231. This has more information than the fillable Articles of Organization. Yet it still only needs basic information, including:
Be prepared to pay a filing fee of $100 to file online or $110 for paper filing. You should also expect 10 days of processing time for online filings or up to 15 days for paper filings.
If you need to form your Georgia LLC quickly, select one of the expedited processing services. The Georgia Secretary of State offers three expediting options:
To save time and avoid the hassle of LLC filings, all seasoned entrepreneurs use LLC formation services. For recommendations, check out our article on the best LLC services.
Do I need an Operating Agreement? Georgia law doesn’t require LLCs to have an operating agreement. But seasoned owners will draft and sign one anyway to protect their interests and business.
An operating agreement is a private contract between the LLC members. The best ones cover nearly any situation the LLC might find itself in. By creating this contract, you can tailor the manner your LLC operates. It also helps handle disputes between the members or managers of the LLC.
If you choose not to have an operating agreement, your LLC will fall back to state law. This might not align with your expectations or best interests. Not having one can cause uncertainty and downstream troubles.
Operating agreements usually include the roles of members and managers. They’ll also provide methods for adding or removing members.
You can customize the agreement according to your desires and expectations, including:
Georgia law allows you to include the operating agreement in the Articles of Organization. But you’d have to pay a $20 fee for any amendment, should you decide to change it at any point in the future.
Instead, we encourage LLC owners to draft a separate operating agreement. It is a private contract between the LLC members that you can change without paying a State fee.
Setting aside the time to draft a solid operating agreement can pay dividends. To make this step easy, the best LLC formation services include templates for as little as $50.
Does your Georgia LLC need an EIN? The IRS uses Employer Identification Numbers (EINs) to track tax information for businesses. These are like Social Security Numbers for commercial operations.
The IRS requires some businesses to get an EIN. If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you must get an EIN:
Even if your business doesn’t meet one of these requirements, it is a good idea to get one anyway. Not all businesses need them, but banks frequently require EINs to open business bank accounts. And some states need them to file state taxes.
The IRS makes the process quick and painless. You can apply for one online in just a few minutes. There is no reason to pay someone to do this unless it’s part of a wider LLC formation package.
A necessary component of starting a business is getting licenses and permits. These can come from the state, county, or city-level authorities. Starting up without the appropriate approval can lead to many problems.
Georgia does not have a general business license. Yet some operations need professional licenses. These include things like funeral services, healthcare occupations, and other highly-regulated industries.
Check with the State to see if your business needs approval before launching.
After handling the State’s needs, it’s time to tackle the local regulations. For Athens LLCs, this means turning to the Athens–Clarke County unified government. Thanks to this unique structure, one agency handles everything.
Every business operating in Athens needs to get a Business Occupation Tax Certificate. This is like a general business license and applies to every entity. Zoning concerns are part of this process.
Depending on the activities you’re engaged in, you might have to get extra approval. The Athens–Clarke County officials offer special licenses and permits to certain businesses. These include things like:
To verify you get what your business needs, reach out to the local authority for help. They can help you navigate the red tape so you can get started in no time. Don’t overlook this critical step.
Knowing when to reach out for help can achieve rapid success. By learning from seasoned business leaders, you can overcome unforeseen challenges. Do yourself a favor and become an integral part of the local community.
Here is a list of organizations committed to helping businesses:
Once you get to this point, you have made significant progress. You have formed your Georgia LLC and are almost ready to start conducting business. There are a few more items that deserve immediate attention.
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of an online presence in today’s world. Even if you don’t want to launch a website immediately, it’s worth registering a matching domain name (URL) for your business.
If you don’t, domain squatters can beat you to it. They buy domain names of newly registered businesses only to resell them at a steep markup later on. Competitors can also buy domain names to stifle competition.
Getting the rights to domain names is a quick and affordable process. They usually cost about $20-$50 per year and are easy to buy online. Completing this process right away can help you avoid future problems.
Many companies operate under a name that doesn’t match the LLC’s name. This common practice helps open an entire world of possibilities.
For example, a business named “Athens Mechanics LLC” can use the DBS name “Athens Engine Repair.”
Georgia LLCs must follow section 10-1-490 to use a DBA name, also known as a trade name.
Each county also offers more specific rules. It’s important to check with the applicable county to ensure you do what is necessary to use a DBA name.
For Athens LLCs, Athens–Clarke County provides a simple form to register a trade name. You’ll also need to pay a $171 fee.
Running a business is full of ongoing considerations. Part of those include things you must do to stay in compliance with rules and regulations.
Georgia LLCs must register with the Georgia Department of Revenue. And if you hire any employees, you’ll need to follow withholding guidelines. Any business that sells goods or services must also pay sales and use tax.
The Georgia Tax Center website is an excellent resource for these necessary tasks.
You’ll also need to complete an annual registration with the Secretary of State. This updates the contact information and other essential elements for your Georgia LLC. A $50 fee applies for online filing or $60 for paper.
Now is an excellent time to wrap up other essential business needs.
Consider opening a business bank account to keep finances separate. You can also get insurance policies such as general liability or workers’ compensation.
Most importantly, having an LLC will ensure your personal assets are protected if your business cannot pay its debts. Running your business through an LLC can also provide you with better tax treatment. In addition, LLCs have fewer and less complicated reporting requirements compared to other types of businesses, making them particularly suitable for smaller businesses.
It is not strictly necessary to form an LLC in order to start a business. You can engage in business as a sole proprietorship instead. However, in that case, your personal assets may be at risk if your business takes on too much debt or loses a lawsuit in court.
It doesn’t cost much to set up an LLC for your business. In most states, you will need to pay less than $150 to register your new LLC with the local state authorities. In some states, you may need to pay some additional costs later on, for example, when filing an annual report or filing for a DBA.
The time it takes to have your LLC approved can vary wildly depending on the state, the filing method you used and if you opted for expedited filing. In some states, you can have your LLC approved in as little as one day, while in others, it may take weeks or even months.
If you want the fastest possible turnaround time, you should consider using online filing and pay for expedited service, if available.
The IRS and most state tax authorities treat LLCs as “pass-through” entities. This means that your LLC does not pay taxes directly (as corporations do). Instead, the tax burden is passed through to the members of your LLC. The members will then include profits and losses from the LLC’s business on their personal income tax returns.
It is generally best to form your LLC in your home state, where you will actually carry out your business. Some people believe that it is advantageous to form your LLC in Delaware or Nevada. In reality, you would then have to register with the authorities in your home state as a foreign LLC and pay additional fees – without much benefit in return.
You are not generally required to file for a DBA (“Doing-Business-As”). However, most business owners choose to do so anyway. Getting a DBA will allow you to omit the letters LLC from your customer-facing business name. You can also have multiple names for your LLC if you want to run more than one business through your LLC.
Yes, you can form an LLC for your business in any US state. There is no requirement for you to be a US citizen in order to form an LLC, nor do you need the right to reside in the US. If your business is going to own physical property in a given state, you may want to form your LLC in that state.
No, you don’t need to hire an attorney to form an LLC for you. It is generally much cheaper and straightforward to file the necessary paperwork yourself or to hire an affordable LLC formation service to handle the work on your behalf. However, you may want to consider hiring an attorney if your business is very complex.