Savannah, GA

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How to start your LLC in Savannah, GA

STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE by Michael Bradley Updated: November 13, 2022
STEP 1
Instant
Name your LLC
STEP 2
Instant
Appoint a Registered Agent
STEP 3
7 - 10 days
File Articles of Organization
STEP 4
Varies
Draft an Operating Agreement
STEP 5
Instant
Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number)

Why form an LLC in Savannah, GA?

Southern charm and big business collide in the wonderful city of Savannah. A world of chic art, trendy boutiques, and delectable cuisine delights many. The skilled talent combines with the fastest-growing port in the nation to create vast business success.

Deciding to open a business in Savannah might be an obvious choice. To transform your idea into a functioning enterprise, you need to create a legal entity. The process can be intimidating. But after reading this, you’ll have everything you need to form an LLC in Savannah, Georgia.

We’ll cover:

  • Five easy-to-follow steps to form a Savannah LLC
  • The licenses, permits, and additional resources you need to get started
  • Extra concerns to address after forming your Savannah, Georgia LLC

LLC Formation Process in a Nutshell

1. Name your LLC

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:

  • Limited Liability Company
  • LLC
  • L.L.C.

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, “Savannah Textiles LLC” can use “Fab Formalwear of Savannah.”

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.

Instant
Free

2. Appoint a Registered Agent

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:

  • It’s cheap: You don’t have to pay someone for what you can do.
  • It’s simple: You only need to update one address.
  • It’s reliable: All documents come to you.

But it’s not all fun and games. Electing yourself as the registered agent has the following disadvantages:

  • No privacy: The Secretary of State makes the contact information of your registered agent public. The authority lists it on its website.
  • Junk mail/spam: Since anyone can see the registered agent’s address, it will receive junk mail. You’ll have to sort through this to ensure you don’t miss vital documents.
  • No breaks: Registered agents don’t get time off. They must be available to receive service of process during all business hours.
  • Business interruptions: If you operate at the same address, customers may see you served with legal notices. This can be damaging to your reputation.
  • It’s your fault if you miss something: There’s no one else to help sort the mail to verify you don’t miss anything. It all falls on your shoulders.

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.

Instant
$0 - $100

3. File Articles of Organization

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:

  • The LLC name and address;
  • Contact information for the person filing and the organizers; and
  • The registered agent information.

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:

  • Two business days: $100
  • Same-day service: $250
  • One-hour processing: $1000

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.

7 - 10 days
$100

4. Draft an Operating Agreement

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:

  • They determine the rights and duties of LLC members. If one LLC member is responsible for running the business or managing the books, the operating agreement should say so.
  • They say whether the LLC has a member or non-member manager and what the manager has the right to do. Managers also have special duties to the company and its members. The operating agreement should state these.
  • They outline what the LLC is legally able to do. The operating agreement should also set down how the company is allowed to conduct its business from day to day.
  • They say how new members can join the company. They also have rules about how exiting members can leave.
  • They set down how and when profits are paid to members. They can also create different types of membership and payment schemes.
  • They say whether members or managers are in charge. They also say how to hire and fire managers.
  • They say how and under what circumstances the LLC should end. You might not want to dissolve your business now, but you might in the future. It’s best to think about it and plan before it becomes an issue.
  • They say how to change the rules. You may need to amend your operating agreement in the future. The operating agreement should set down the rules for making changes.

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.

Varies
Varies

5. Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number)

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:

  • Will your LLC have more than one member?
  • Are you going to hire any employees?
  • Is your LLC taxed as a C corporation or an S corporation?

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.

Instant
Free

Cheapest way to start your LLC

Do it Yourself
Gain personal knowledge
Lower upfront cost
You're losing money when you consider how much time it takes
There's the risk of making a mistake
It's a headache
Potential price
$0
Potential time
5+ days
Formation Service
Very easy to use
Affordable ($39 for an LLC)
Same-day filing
Highly reliable
Not ideal for complex LLCs
Potential price
$39
Potential time
30 min
Attorney
A lawyer can help you manage risk
Offers more customization when you need it
Costs more than any other method
Finding one takes time
Slower compared to formation services
Potential price
> $400
Potential time
5+ days

Licenses and Permits in Savannah, GA

To launch a business, it’s crucial to get the necessary license and permits. The state, county, and city-level authorities all need to be considered. Failing to get what your business needs can cause many setbacks.

State

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.

Local

You’ll also need to follow local regulations. For Savannah LLCs, these include the City of Savannah and Chatham County’s needs. Both offer a variety of business licenses and permits.

A good starting point is getting zoning approval from the City of Savannah. This ensures your desired location is suitable for your operation.

Once you have that, you’ll need to apply for a general business license. The City calls this a Business Tax Certificate. And it’s required to conduct business in the area. Chatham County also has a Business Tax registration process.

Some businesses need to get extra approval from the City of Savannah or Chatham County. These apply to specific commercial activities, such as:

  • food or alcohol sales,
  • special events, and
  • building construction.

Before launching, reach out to the City and County officials. They can help answer more questions and get you on the right path.

Support for Small Businesses in Savannah, GA

Seasoned business leaders understand the value of connecting with others. Experienced entrepreneurs can help you discover the path to sustainable success. They can also share valuable insights.

Here is a list of local organizations committed to helping businesses:

Next Steps After you Register your LLC

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.

  • Register a Matching Domain

    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.

  • File for a DBA (Doing Business As)

    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 “Savannah Landscaping LLC” can use the DBS name “Savannah Admirable Arborists.”

    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 Savannah LLCs, Chatham County provides a simple form to register a trade name. You’ll also need to pay a $171 fee.

  • Stay Compliant

    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.

LLC Formation FAQs

What are the benefits of an LLC?

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.

Do I have to form an LLC to start a business?

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.

How much does it generally cost to form an LLC?

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.

How long does it take to form an LLC?

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.

How will my LLC be taxed?

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.

In what state should I form my LLC?

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.

Do I need to file for a DBA?

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.

Can I form an LLC if I am not a US citizen or US resident?

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.

Do I need to hire an attorney to form an LLC for my business?

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.