Starting a business is an exciting time. You’re optimistic about what the future holds and ready to turn your dream into a reality.
Then you visit your state government’s website and get lost in a sea of confusing jargon, hard-to-find information, and lengthy to-do lists.
If you’re feeling confused about whether you need a Georgia business license and worried about doing something wrong, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ve searched the state sites and analyzed the applications to give you a simple guide to GA business registration.
Take a deep breath, and let’s get started.
What is a business license? A GA business license helps the state make sure you are who you say you are, and that you’re qualified to run a company. These are sometimes called business tax certificates, since they also help the state track you for taxes.
In Georgia, companies generally need to get an operating license from their county or city. Depending on the type of work you do, you also may need a state or federal agency license.
For example, The Secretary of State regulates interior designers, architects, cosmetologists, electrical contractors, plumbers, and more. Eleven professions require a federal license or permit, which you can review here.
While getting a business license will require you to jump through a few hoops, it’s worth it. For starters, it puts you on the right side of the law to avoid potential penalties or fines. Plus, you’ll look professional to potential customers if you’re licensed and insured.
Each city or county’s application may vary slightly, but all will request information about you and your business. To make the actual application process easier, we suggest having the following on hand:
Personal information like your name, address, phone number, and driver’s license number.
Business details including your business name, Federal Tax ID, EIN, or Social Security number, and address.
Exam or education proof when applicable.
Proof of insurance as a Certificate of Insurance (COI) for your general liability insurance policy.
The SAVE program, or Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, verifies your citizenship or citizen status
E-Verify is a Department of Homeland Security program that confirms an employee’s eligibility to work. If you have eleven or more employees, you need to register with E-Verify to receive an operating license in some cities. If you have fewer than eleven employees, you may need to provide proof that you’re exempt.
Your city will usually include these forms on their website or the application.
You’ll need to contact your local business licensing office to apply for an operating license. To make this a bit easier for you, we’ve rounded up the websites you’ll likely need to visit for a few of Georgia’s largest cities:
Remember also to check with the Secretary of State’s website here for profession-specific instructions. The easiest way to find your application is by selecting your business type under the “Boards and Licensed Professions” tab.
Depending on where you live, you might need to take a trip down to city hall to get your GA business license. While some towns let you mail your application documents, other locations may want to complete everything in person.
Even if you’re able to mail your application and supporting documents, you’ll probably have to get your SAVE and E-Verify documents notarized in person.
Once you have all of your documentation ready, it’s time to pay your licensing fee and submit your application. You can submit a new business application anytime, but be aware of your town’s deadlines for annual or bi-annual renewal.
The waiting time for receiving your license will depend on where you live, who you’re applying with, and how many requests they’re currently processing. Generally, submitting documents in person can cut down on some wait time since it won’t have to work its way through the mail. If your town allows an online application, you can skip the lines and mailing times.
For a state of GA business license, “You have to spend money to make money.” Business licenses come with an upfront fee, plus renewal costs. The two main fee structures you might see are:
This means, for example, that a startup in Savannah may pay $85 in taxes based on its revenue, while an accountant in Atlanta may instead be responsible for $125 in fixed fees. Thankfully, renewal costs are usually cheaper than getting a new license.
There’s one more term you may come across in your license application that you should be aware of: business insurance. Sometimes, your state or local government requires you to have general liability insurance to cover any accidents, third-party property damage claims, or injuries.
Business insurance is typically required for jobs that could be dangerous or put customers at risk. However, every business can benefit from a custom policy. You’ll gain peace of mind, and you’ll look professional and trustworthy to potential customers.
If you want to quickly complete something that may be on your business license to-do list, use our free quote comparison tool to find your perfect insurance plan.
Go ahead and pat yourself on the back for getting your business license ball rolling. Your work isn’t over yet, but taking the time to get organized first will make the process easier.
Our hope with these guides is to make setting up your business simpler so that you can get back to doing what you do best. If you ever start to feel overwhelmed, remember that every business grows one step at a time. You’ve got this.
You may need to show proof of business insurance to get your license.
That’s where we come in. Compare free insurance quotes for policies as low as $25.95/month.*Start Here >
* Monthly payment calculations (i) do not include initial premium down payment and (ii) may vary by state, insurance provider, and nature of your business. Averages based on January - December 2020 data of 10% of our total policies sold.
I'm a freelance writer who has always had an interest in entrepreneurship, starting way back with lemonade stands. These days I write to help business owners with their everyday challenges and choices. When I'm not typing away, you'll find me eating pizza, volunteering at the animal shelter, or taking too many pictures of my cats.
This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer
*Harborway Insurance policies are underwritten by Spinnaker Insurance Company and reinsured by Munich Re, an A+ (Superior) rated insurance carrier by AM Best. Harborway Insurance is a brand name of Harborway Insurance Agency, LLC, a licensed insurance producer in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. California license #6004217.