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Georgia Business License Basics

Georgia Business License Basics

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Georgia Business License Basics

Starting a small business in Georgia often means registering with several federal, state, and local agencies. Let’s review common Georgia business license registrations so your business starts off right.

Related: Guide to starting a business in Georgia 

First Step – Set Up the Business

Sole proprietorship: In Georgia, a sole proprietorship is a business owned by one person. It is the simplest form of business structure, with no legal distinction between the owner and the business. The owner has complete control over the business but is also personally liable for all debts and obligations.

General partnership: A general partnership in Georgia is an agreement between two or more individuals to operate a business together. No formal setup is needed, but a partnership agreement is wise to outline operations and responsibilities.

Corporation: A Georgia corporation is a legal entity separate from its owners, known as shareholders. It offers limited liability protection, meaning shareholders are not generally personally responsible for the corporation’s debts and liabilities. The downside is that corporations are the most complex structure to start and operate. 

Limited Liability Company (LLC): A Georgia LLC combines aspects of a sole proprietorship or partnership and a corporation. It provides limited liability protection to its owners, called members, shielding their personal assets from the company’s debts and liabilities, in addition to a flexible management and tax structure.

Related: Comparison of Business Structures

What Licenses Do Georgia Businesses Need?

With the business structure out of the way, we can begin looking at the different types of registrations businesses in Georgia may need. There isn’t a standard business license, as requirements vary depending on where the business is located and its activities. Here is a general overview of the different registrations your business may need.

Business Licenses

There is no general state of Georgia business license, however, many cities require businesses to apply for an occupational tax certificate in order to operate. Rules for business registration vary depending on location and what the business does. The cost of an occupational tax certificate will depend too on the gross receipts of the business and the number of employees.

Below are a few cities that have licensing requirements.

  • Atlanta: Businesses operating within the City limits of Atlanta must get a business license from the City of Atlanta. In addition to the city business license, certain types of businesses have registration requirements, such as those that sell alcoholic beverages, bakeries, game rooms, health clubs, and more. Atlanta Regulatory Permits are available through the Department of Finance.
  • Columbus: The City of Columbus Finance Department requires all businesses operating within city limits to obtain a business license. Additionally, the Finance Department requires licenses for businesses selling alcoholic beverages, pawnbrokers, or precious metals dealers.
  • Macon: All businesses operating in Macon-Bibb County must apply for an Occupational Tax Certificate. There are additional business license applications for businesses such as those that sell alcohol, pool halls, fortune tellers, massage therapists, and more.
  • Savannah: All businesses operating in the City limits of Savannah must have a Business Tax Certificate, which is also known as a business license.
  • Sandy Springs: Each business operating in Sandy Springs must obtain an occupational tax certificate within 30 days of starting.
  • Rockdale County: Businesses operating in the commercial or industrial zones of unincorporated Rockdale County will need a commercial business license. Home-based businesses in the county will also need to obtain a home occupation license.
Take the guesswork out of figuring out what licenses and permits are required to start your business with license research packages from Bizee and LegalZoom.

For as little as $99, you can save a lot of time and know your business is in compliance with local, state, and federal requirements. 

Trade Name Registration

Sole proprietorships and partnerships in Georgia that want to operate under a business name other than the full name of the owner(s) will register for a Georgia Trade Name (also known as a Doing Business As or DBA) with the County Clerk’s Office in the county where the business is located.

Building & Zoning Permits

  • Zoning: In Georgia, zoning regulations are determined by local governments, such as cities and counties. Before starting a business, check with your local planning and zoning department to ensure compliance with zoning laws. Depending on the jurisdiction, some home-based businesses need a special use permit or a home occupation permit. In Atlanta, home-based businesses are allowed in residential zones, subject to specific requirements and restrictions.
  • Building Permit: If you plan to construct, alter, or repair a building for your business in Georgia, you’ll need a building permit from your local building department. Building permits ensure compliance with the Georgia State Minimum Standard Building Code. In most cities and counties, the local building department is responsible for issuing building permits. For example, in Fulton County, building permits are issued by the Department of Public Works.
  • Signage Permit: Before installing any business signage in Georgia, you must obtain a sign permit from your local government, and each city and county has its own signage requirements. In Atlanta, sign permits are issued by the Office of Buildings, while in Savannah, the Development Services Department handles sign permits. Check with your local government for specific signage requirements and permit application processes in your area.

Georgia Business Tax Number

Any business in Georgia selling tangible personal property, providing taxable services, or contracting to provide services in the State of Georgia will need to register for a Georgia Sales Tax Number from the Georgia Department of Revenue.

Sales Tax Certificate of Exemption

After obtaining the tax permit, most businesses will want to obtain a Georgia Sales Tax Certificate of Exemption. This allows them to not pay sales tax on their inventory purchases meant to be resold to customers.

Professional License

A variety of professionals in the state are regulated and need to register, such as interior designers, accountants, home inspectors, landscapers, plumbers, and many more. The Georgia Secretary of State provides additional information, fees, and licensing for regulated professions.

Alcohol License

An alcohol privilege license is required for any establishment selling or serving alcoholic beverages. Check with your city’s alcohol board for more information about applying for the license.

Employer Identification Number

The Georgia Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number, is a unique nine-digit number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to businesses operating in Georgia. It is used for tax filing and reporting purposes, similar to how an individual uses a Social Security number. Companies can apply for an EIN through the IRS website or by submitting a paper form.

Next Steps

While it’s a good start, there are so many different licenses that may be needed. Double-check with the City Clerk’s Office, Chamber of Commerce, and/or Economic Development office in your area before opening your doors.

 

Author

  • Greg Bouhl

    With over two decades as an entrepreneur, educator, and business advisor, Greg Bouhl has worked with over 2,000 entrepreneurs to help them start and grow their businesses. Fed up with clients finding and acting on inaccurate and outdated information online, Greg launched StartUp101.com to be a trusted resource for people starting a business.

Georgia Business License Basics

Georgia Business License Basics

2 Responses

  1. What would be the steps needed for an online business in the state of Georgia? I have spoken to a economic person from Georgia revenue and was told doing business in a home with it being online I didn’t have to apply for a business license or EIN number that I would use my SSN. Some of the wholesalers ask for a sellers permit number, EIN, or business license. So I’m confused on what all needs to take place. You’re help would be very appreciated.

    1. Hi Rhonda – The steps to get started will be largely the same regardless of whether the business is online or brick-and-mortar. This resource – https://startup101.com/georgia/ should help outline things a bit.

      Regarding the business license, there isn’t a state business license in Georgia, but the rules in each town/city are going to be different. A business license isn’t always required for a home-based business, but some cities require one, or they may require an occupation permit to legally operate out of the home. Your best bet is to call your local city hall, economic development office, or chamber of commerce to see if licensing is required.

      You can use your social security number, if you register as a sole proprietorship or LLC as long as you don’t have employees or elect s corp taxation (LLC only). There is more info in the first link that explains explains the difference in entities.

      I’m not sure why this wasn’t mentioned in your call, but you will need to register for a sales tax number with the Department of Revenue – https://startup101.com/how-to-register-for-a-sales-tax-number-in-georgia/, since that is where your business is based and will be selling goods. Once you get that number, you will be able to get a sales tax certificate of exemption https://startup101.com/georgia-sales-tax-certificate-of-exemption/. This certificate allows you to purchase products to resell from your vendors and not pay sales tax, as the customer you sell to will pay sales tax.

      Making matters more complicated, but something you won’t have to worry about until you start selling a lot is that if you exceed a certain dollar amount or number of transactions to customers in a state, that state will require you to register and collect sales tax. Here is a good resource to help with being a remote seller – https://www.streamlinedsalestax.org/for-businesses/remote-seller-faqs/remote-seller-state-guidance.

      Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions!

      Greg

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