Georgia is a diverse state that’s not only one of the main population centers of the southern United States but also home to a vibrant TV and movie industry. This variety presents the opportunity for any number of new businesses.
If you are lucky enough to live in Georgia, you likely know all this. (That's why you want to open your own company here, after all!) Getting started, though, takes money. We’re here to help you figure out what you need to spend, as well as the optional purchases that can make running your company as simple as possible.
This article will help you make a budget for starting an LLC in Georgia.
- The required costs for every LLC
- Extra costs we recommend you incur
- The different ways you can form your LLC, as well as the pros and cons of each
Total Georgia LLC Cost – $150 (online) or $170 (hard copies)
Georgia’s LLC formation laws are fairly simple. The total required costs will be between $150 and $170. All you must pay to get started is to file the following:
- Your LLC’s articles or organization: $100 ($110 if not filed online)
- Your LLC’s first annual registration: $50 ($60 if not filed online)
See the Georgia Secretary of State’s fee schedule for more information.
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How Much It Costs to Start a Georgia LLC – The Details
The numbers above tell you the very least you need to get started, but there is a lot more you need to know. Further, it often makes sense to pay a little more for some extra services to make starting your company a little easier.
Articles of Organization Filing Fee – $100 or $110
The articles of organization are the document that creates your LLC. Without them, you don’t have a company. After they’re filed, your LLC can buy, sell, borrow money, and conduct other lawful business. Thus, making sure that you have the document correctly drafted and filed is your first major step.
Georgia’s required articles are simple. Though you can put in a lot of legal terms if you want, you only need to include the name of the company, your name, and a couple of other small pieces of information. The Secretary of State offers a basic form you can use to make sure it is done right.
The filing fee for your articles, if they are filed online, is $100. You can also file them in person or through the mail, though you will pay an extra $10 if you do it that way, and it will likely be slower than using the Internet.
Your LLC’s First Annual Registration – $50 or $60
Georgia law requires your LLC to file an annual registration with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. This paper is important, first and foremost, because it names your registered agent, which is how the state and others will contact your company for official business. (We discuss registered agents in more detail below.)
There is a $50 filing fee for this document, provided you file it online. A paper filing costs $60. Both the online filing and a printable document are available on the Secretary of State’s annual registration website.
Georgia LLCs – Optional Costs to Consider
Beyond the bare minimum, you need to think about paying a bit more for things that will make your life easier.
Expedited Filing Service – $100 to $1000
The time it takes the state to process any document you file depends on how you do it. If you file your articles by mail, the normal processing time is 15 business days. If you file online (which is the less pricey option anyway), you can cut that time down to 7 business days.
If you need a response faster, the Secretary of State offers three tiers of expedited service:
- Two business days: $100
- Same day: $250
- One hour: $1000
For same-day service, your filing must be received on business days by noon. Otherwise, the response will be on the next business day.
For one-hour service, requests must be received on business days between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Requests outside of that window will be handled starting at 9:00 a.m. the next business day.
Registered Agent Fee – $100/year for a registered agent service
The next “optional” cost you’ll want to consider is a fee for a registered agent. Though the agent itself is required by Georgia law, you get to decide if you will do it or hire someone else.
A registered agent is a person or company you name that makes their address publicly available. You need to have an agent so that, if the state or someone else needs to contact your company, there is one place they can always go. Though it’s not fun to think about being sued, if that happens, your agent is the one that gets the legal papers.
Many owners are tempted to serve as their LLCs’ agents to save a bit of money. This is not a good idea. It involves making your address public and being constantly available just in case someone wants to sue your LLC.
It’s an easier and more cost-efficient plan to hire a Georgia registered agent service. These agents usually charge $100 per year and take care of all your registered agent needs. It’s money well spent.
For some of our recommendations, check out our Best Registered Agent Services article.
Operating Agreement — Variable
An operating agreement is a contract that sets down the rules of your LLC. It says how the people in charge should do their jobs, when meetings must be held, how members can enter and exit the LLC, and almost any other thing you can think of.
Unlike some other states, Georgia won’t force you to have one if you don’t want it. But we strongly urge you to think about it. Without one, you have much less control over what happens to your company when something unexpected happens.
One interesting feature of Georgia law is that you can use your articles of organization for the same purposes as an operating agreement. Because your articles are filed with the state, though, any changes to them will require an amendment and a $20 fee ($30 if you file a hard copy by mail or in person).
If you choose to have a separate LLC operating agreement, though, you don’t have to file it with the state. You can write it yourself, but unless you are a lawyer or know for sure what it’s supposed to look like, we don’t recommend that option.
A lawyer would likely charge you by the hour for drafting an operating agreement. While a contract drafted by a lawyer would likely be a good one, that could also run you at least a few hundred dollars. You can have a good agreement drafted, though, for as little as $39.
DBA fee – varies (plus publication costs)
Sometimes, your LLC’s legal name is not the name you want to have on the sign outside your office. Maybe it's too hard to remember or it sounds too much like the name of another business. In that case, you need a fictitious business name, also known as a trade name or a “doing business as” name (DBA).
Georgia Code section 10-1-490 governs the use of DBAs in Georgia. Before you start using your DBA, you will need to visit the clerk of your county’s superior court. (For example, in Atlanta, you might need to visit the superior courts of Fulton or DeKalb Counties, depending on where your LLC does business.)
The cost of a DBA may vary a bit depending on where your LLC is located. In Fulton County, for example, the clerk charges $171.00, and you will also have to pay publication fees, as discussed below. Dekalb County charges $210.00, but included in that amount is a publication fee.
Publication is a simple matter. You’ll need to publish a notice of the DBA in a local newspaper once a week for two weeks. For information on which paper to use, you will need to consult the local sheriff’s office.
Name Reservation Fee – $25 or $35
Maybe you have a great plan and the perfect name for your LLC, but you’re not quite ready to start the business. If you want to make sure that a certain business name is still available, you can file a Name Reservation Request with the Secretary of State.
After you’ve filed the request, you must file your Georgia articles of organization and annual registration within 30 days, at which point your reservation will expire. If you still need some more time, you can file another request (and pay another fee) to reserve the LLC name again.
Domain Name — about $20 per year
In this day and age, you need a presence on the Internet. The first step in creating a good website is to get your own domain name. While this might have been pricey in the past, it is now quite affordable.
You should secure your domain name as soon as you can, even if you don’t have plans for a website right now. If you don’t, a competitor could buy your ideal domain and its variations to block you from using them. Domain squatters also sift through newly registered LLC names and will buy their domains only to relist them with huge markups.
In general, a domain ending in .com will be more expensive than a .net or .info domain, and some names will likely be taken, meaning you will have to do some searching (and perhaps some compromising).
A domain name from GoDaddy.com or a similar registrar may cost you between $20 and $50 per year, with regular specials and sales where you can get big discounts.
Registering with the State Tax Office — Free
Though LLCs in Georgia typically don’t pay income tax, there are a lot of taxes you may still have to pay the state — over 20 of them, in fact. These range from the common, like the sales and use tax, to the more exotic, like the State Hotel-Motel Fee and the Adult Entertainment Tax.
You can get information about all of these, and sign up to pay them, with the Georgia Department of Revenue. Note that, to register, you will have to obtain a federal Employer Identification number, which we will discuss next.
Getting an Employer Identification Number (“EIN”) — Free
An EIN is a number created and assigned by the Internal Revenue Service to a business for paying taxes. (Think of an EIN as a social security number for a business.)
Regardless of whether the IRS says you need one, we recommend that you get an EIN. In Georgia, your LLC will have to have one to set up an account at the Department of Revenue. Also, many banks won’t allow your company to have its own business bank account without one. Having an EIN can also be important when your business is trying to get credit.
You can apply online and get an EIN for free in minutes, or you can apply for one through the mail or fax. Whatever you do, don’t pay someone else to get an EIN for you. It’s too easy to pay someone else to do it unless it is part of a broader service package.
Foreign LLC Qualification Fees — about $100 per extra state
If your business starts doing well, you may want to expand. If one of the places to which you expand is in another state, you’ll have to pay to do business there. You won’t have to form your LLC again, but you will have to register with the Secretary of State there as a foreign limited liability company and pay some extra fees.
The exact fees will depend on the state in which you are registering. As a rule of thumb, expect to pay about $100 in filing fees to register your limited liability company as a foreign LLC in another state.
Writing Formation Costs Off
The costs we’ve discussed so far are vital to forming and running your Georgia LLC. For that reason, they can be deducted from your taxes as business startup costs. The IRS has a lot of guidance on this matter, and you should compare your specific costs to the materials on the IRS website.
In most cases, an LLC is taxed as a pass-through entity. In other words, your income and deductions will go on your personal taxes, rather than a separate income tax return for the LLC. The IRS allows LLC owners to deduct $5,000 of their business startup expenses in the first year.
Georgia adopts the federal deduction scheme. Their current income tax forms and instructions require you to submit the itemized deductions that you claimed on your federal taxes for that year.
Wade forms an LLC in Atlanta to realize his lifelong dream of owning a bakery. He names his company Buckhead Patisserie LLC. Wade is single and runs the entire business by himself, with no other workers.
Shortly after filing his paperwork, Wade realized that he made a mistake naming his company and that he would prefer to call it The Buckhead Bakery, which he feels is easier for people to remember. He files a name reservation application as soon as he thinks of the name, and a week later, he applies for a DBA with the Fulton county court clerk.
After filing his DBA application, Wade talks to the Fulton County Sheriff’s office, and they direct him to the newspaper in which he will have to publish the notice of his DBA. The paper charges him $45 for the publication service.
Wade’s brother, a lawyer, tells him that he will need to have an LLC operating agreement and a Georgia registered agent to protect his business. He obtains the services of a formation company and a registered agent company, respectively.
Finally, as part of his big advertising push, Wade gets a domain name for his bakery, along with custom email addresses.
His formation costs are as follows:
- Georgia LLC Articles of Organization (filed online): $100
- First annual registration (filed online): $50
- Registered agent company fee (first year): $100
- DBA fee (Fulton County): $171
- Publication fee: $45
- Name Reservation Fee (filed online): $25
- Georgia LLC Operating agreement draft: $39
- Web domain costs (first year): $50
For income tax purposes, the IRS and the state will tax Wade directly. In other words, Wade will get paid by his LLC, and from that money, he will pay his personal federal and state income taxes. Thus, Wade will report both his income and deductions for the business on his tax returns, and he will submit the federal schedule with his deductions to the state as well.
The total amount of Wade’s deduction in this example is $580. Before the deduction, his total taxable income for the year was $30,000. After the write-offs, the taxable income went down to $29,420.
In Georgia, Wade would be in the 5.75% tax bracket, meaning that the $580 would save him $33.35 in his state taxes. On his federal taxes, where Wade is in the 14% tax bracket, he would save $69.60. Thus, his total tax savings from write-offs is $102.95.
Keep in mind that if Wade had spent more than $5,000, he would likely be able to write off all of that money, but not all in the first year. Instead, he would have to break out his deduction over multiple tax years.
Cheapest Way to Start an LLC in Georgia
Now that you know the costs, the question remains: what’s the cheapest way to go, while still making sure you aren’t cutting corners? Here are your options.
LLC Formation Service – $39 + state fees
A business formation service is a popular and inexpensive way for new LLC owners to get started.
These companies help entrepreneurs bring their visions to life. They have not only the knowledge of all the state laws you need to know, but also forms, documents, and procedures to make your life as easy as possible.
Formation services are a good way to handle formation needs for most LLCs.
- They’re easy. In most cases, a formation service will have helped hundreds of people through the exact process you are struggling with now. They have all the forms, information, and expertise you need right on hand.
- They don’t cost much. Because these services have such a large volume of business, they don’t have to charge their clients that much money.
- They’re reliable. All of the services’ products and procedures have been tested hundreds of times over in the real world. That fact should give you peace of mind and confidence going forward.
- They’re fast. Formation services have seen almost every business arrangement already. Chances are, they have many solutions for you that are ready right now before you even know you need them.
While formation services can be great for most people, they are not always the best choice. Some cons for these services are:
- They’re not the best solution for complex LLCs. If you are forming a complicated company or one in a heavily regulated industry, you will probably need more focused expertise in that area of business.
- Even if a formation service is a good fit, you can expect upselling. Formation services have to make money too, and some of them may pressure you to buy products you don’t need. Even when you are using the service, you need to be a smart and informed consumer.
Using a professional LLC formation service can be a great way to set up a business. Check out our Best LLC formation services article for some of our suggestions.
Attorneys are licensed, reliable, and powerful resources for business formation. They are also quite pricey. Atlanta, where Wade’s bakery is located, is one of the most expensive cities in the South. Wade could easily spend $700 per hour (or more) on a good lawyer. Given his limited income, that is not a good option for Wade.
A wealthy LLC owner, though, could benefit from having an attorney if their business was at all complicated. For that reason, a few choose this option.
Despite the expense, sometimes hiring a lawyer is the best choice.
- Lawyers help you manage risk. An LLC with complicated legal issues needs a lawyer. If Wade were trying to set up a financial services company instead of a bakery, the additional laws and regulations might require him to get a lawyer to make sure everything is okay.
- Lawyers offer more customization when you need it. Do you need specific things put in an operating agreement? Is your company going to have a unique ownership structure? You may need an attorney to make sure these issues are handled properly.
For most people, getting an attorney comes with considerable downsides that outweigh any benefits.
- Lawyers cost more than any other option. The price tag alone should convince you that if you don’t need a lawyer, it’s not worth hiring one.
- Finding a lawyer takes a long time. Getting a lawyer who specializes in what you need, costs what you’re willing to pay, and can work with you well is a tall order.
- Lawyers also take longer to form a business than a formation service. Because lawyers are also very caring people, they will generally take much longer to form your company than non-lawyers would. Fortunately, most people don’t need a lawyer. In 90% of cases, a formation service will do just fine.
Do it Yourself
Many people, after searching the Internet for the information they need, decide to try forming their new LLCs themselves. This process can make you an expert, but remember that time is money. If you are spending hours on your business formation, that’s time you’re not spending on the substance of your business.
In most instances, then, it is more cost-effective to just pay an LLC formation service, with confidence that everything has been done correctly, rather than try to reinvent the wheel yourself.
- Personal knowledge. A DIY business owner will learn a lot about the process while forming their own business, and they probably will retain that knowledge for years to come.
- It costs less upfront. If you don’t figure out the value of your time, a DIY solution is the cheapest option.
- You’re losing money when you consider how much time it takes to DIY. If you figure out that your time is worth $30 per hour, and you take 20 hours to complete your business formation, you have essentially spent $600 on business formation.
- There’s the risk of making a mistake. DIY business owners can easily make a mistake with all the paperwork that then costs them more time and money.
- It’s a headache. State workers are very helpful, capable people. But they will also tell you that the laws and rules governing business formation are not easy, and they follow those rules for a living. It’s going to be even harder for you.
Annual Georgia LLC Fees: How Much Will it Cost to Maintain your LLC?
Once you’re off the ground, you will have to pay money every year to keep your company in good standing with the state. You’ll also have to pay money to make sure that your LLC gets the services it needs. The items you will need to pay for include:
- Annual Registration filing fee: $50 (online) or $60 (hard copy)
- Registered agent service fee: $100
- Domain name: $20
Make sure you file your LLC’s annual registration between January 1 and April 1 of each year. Otherwise, you will violate the law and may have to pay a penalty.
Also, keep in mind that any small business should have an accountant. Costs for accounts vary significantly, but you should spend an average of $2,000 to $3,000 per year on an accountant in most cases.
How Much are LLC Taxes in Georgia
Though Georgia doesn’t tax LLCs directly unless they elect different tax treatment, your personal pass-through income will be subject to Georgia’s income tax.
Depending on the nature of your business, you may have to pay several different taxes, including but not limited to:
- Adult Entertainment Tax
- Composite Tax
- Fiduciary Income Tax
- Fireworks Excise Tax
- International Fuel Tax
- Motor Fuel Distributor Tax
- Sales & Use Tax
- Transportation Services Tax
- Withholding Tax
To find out exactly what taxes your LLC will have to pay, you should contact the Georgia Department of Revenue.
Georgia LLC Formation Costs Quick Links
- DeKalb County — Trade Names (DBAs)
- Fulton County — Trade Names (DBAs)
- Georgia Code Section 10-1-490 — Rules for DBAs
- Georgia Code Title 14, Chapter 11 — Limited Liability Companies
- Georgia Secretary of State — Articles of Incorporation (Form CD 030)
- Georgia Secretary of State — Fee Schedule
- Georgia Secretary of State — Forms
- Georgia Secretary of State — LLC Annual Registration
- Georgia Secretary of State — Name Reservation Request
- Georgia Secretary of State — Transmittal Information Form, Limited Liability Company (Form CD 231)
- Georgia Secretary of State — Name Availability Standards
- Georgia Department of Revenue — Income Tax Forms and Instructions
- Georgia Department of Revenue — Tax Center
- IRS — apply for an EIN online
- IRS information regarding the federal tax treatment of LLCs
Georgia LLC Formation Costs FAQs
How much does it cost to start an LLC in Georgia?
The minimum cost is $150 (for filing online) or $160 (for filing hard copies). This includes the fees for both your articles of organization and your first annual registration.
What is the cheapest way to start an LLC in Georgia?
A do-it-yourself approach will have the lowest price tag, but it isn’t the cheapest in terms of your time. The best balance of price and time, for most people, is to use an LLC formation service.
Do I need to hire an attorney to form an LLC in Georgia?
No. Most people will not need to invest the considerable expense and time of hiring a lawyer. A formation service or a DIY approach will work for most business owners.
Can I pay to form an LLC more quickly in Georgia?
Yes. Formation services will generally complete formation tasks faster than business owners acting on their own. If you need the state to process your paperwork more quickly, you can also pay an extra state fee for expedited filing.