Entrepreneurship is exciting—the thrill of developing a winning product or service, bringing that idea to life, and making life better for your clients—it’s fun. But unfortunately, it’s not free. Long story short: starting a business has a price tag. LLCs are no exception.
If you’re hoping to start an LLC in Georgia, you’ll quickly learn that you’ll have a pretty long list of fees for forms, licenses, and applications that you’ll need to get started. Some of those are optional fees, and some are unavoidable. In this guide, we’ll walk you through all the costs you can expect when starting a Georgia LLC. By the end, you’ll have a clear picture of how your new business will impact your wallet.
What’s the least amount I have to pay to form an LLC in Georgia?
If you’re crunching the numbers before diving right in, good on you! Planning ahead is a surefire way to start your business off on the right foot. But let’s make one thing clear: the phrase “cost to start an LLC” is a bit deceptive. That’s because you don’t want to get stuck focusing on the “day one” expenses of business.
That’s right—when budgeting for start-up costs, you need to account for the costs you’ll pay today and the costs you’ll pay a year or two down the road.
So let’s talk start-up costs and ongoing costs for your Georgia LLC. But to keep things simple, here we’ll cover the non-negotiable costs. Later on, we’ll talk about services that are nice to have (but you can live without if you have to).
GA LLC Start-up costs
There are two primary start-up costs in Georgia. The most important one is, without a doubt, the Articles of Organization. If you file online, the fee is $100; Georgia charges an extra $10 for paper filings. But whether $100 seems like pocket change or something you’ll have to pinch pennies for, you can’t avoid this cost. After all, the Articles of Organization is what officially forms your business in the state. Without it, you’re not a recognized business.
Every Georgia business also needs to get an operating license—like a general business license. However, these licenses aren’t administered on the state level. Instead, you’ll get one from your city or county. Because of that, we can’t list the application fee here; every location picks their own. But it’s reasonable to expect that you will pay a fee for this license.
There’s a good chance that you’ll need to get an industry license. For example, Georgia requires professional licenses for dietitians, foresters, music therapists, and more. For more information about licensed occupations, check out the Secretary of State’s Licensing page. And just like we can’t make a comprehensive list of application fees for county licenses, we can’t do so for professional licenses. There are too many! You’ll have to do your own research to learn what your costs will be.
Ongoing costs for an LLC in GA
If your business lasts (and we’re confident it will), then you’ll have several ongoing costs. These include license renewals, annual reports, and taxes. Let’s dig into those prices and fees.
Unfortunately, licenses don’t last forever. You’ll need to renew your licenses on a fairly regular basis. This process usually comes with a fee. However, each county in Georgia (and each industry licensing board) has a different procedure for renewals. Some might require an annual renewal, others biennial, and so on. When you obtain your licenses to begin with, we recommend taking note of the renewal procedures for your area and industry. That way, the ongoing fees won’t surprise you.
In Georgia, one of the biggest annual costs you’ll have will be taxes. Thankfully, Georgia’s taxes are pretty straightforward. Most notable are the income taxes. LLCs taxed as corporations will pay a flat rate of 5.75%. The individual income tax ranges between 1% and 5.75% depending on your income.
If your business is involved in the sale of a qualifying good or service, you’ll also need to collect and pay the state sales tax. Currently, the statewide rate is 4%, but municipalities are allowed to add on surcharges.
Last but not least, your business might be subject to some miscellaneous taxes, such as taxes for hotels, fireworks, motor fuels, and more. You can learn more about unusual business tax types (and frankly, all tax types) at the Georgia Department of Revenue.
Most states require LLCs to file some version of an “annual report,” or a document that informs the state about the current standing of your business. This document is usually required in addition to annual tax reports, since it usually includes information about your business address, members, your registered agent, and so on.
In Georgia, this report is more commonly referred to as the annual registration. It’s due between January 1st and April 1st; if you file it anytime during that window, your registration will be on time and your business will remain in compliance.
It’s easiest to file this report online, but you can also print it off and file by mail, if you prefer. That said, Georgia recommends filing online. That keeps the filing fee at just $50.
What are the discretionary costs to form a Georgia LLC?
When you’re starting your business, your budget is usually pretty tight. Prioritizing costs can get tricky. The costs we listed above are unavoidable. Well, technically, you can avoid them, but you’ll be heavily penalized if you do. And there’s not much point to spending all that money on starting a business only to knowingly let it be dissolved because you didn’t pay your ongoing costs.
But if you can help it, doing the “bare minimum” is probably not the best way to start your business. There are plenty of discretionary costs you can pay for certain services that make life easier. Here, we’ll dig into those costs—and why you might consider paying them.
1. Name reservation application
Naming things can be a bit tricky; after all, sometimes inspiration is a little lacking! And since Georgia doesn’t allow you to use a name that someone else has already claimed, you have to work even harder to pick one that’s unique, memorable, and just right for your business.
It’s a multi-step process, really: you have to brainstorm name ideas, choose just the right words, meet state name requirements, and of course, ensure that the name isn’t already in use (you can check using a Business Name Search).
If you’re like a lot of people, you probably want to ensure that your hard work doesn’t go to waste once you’ve created the perfect name. So you have to lay claim to your new business name. You can do so either by filing your Articles of Organization, or by filing a Name Reservation Request. You should only file this form if you’re not yet ready to file your Articles. Otherwise, you’d be wasting your hard-earned cash. Georgia requires a $25 filing fee for the Name Reservation. Unlike many states, which give you 120 days’ worth of reservation, Georgia gives you just 30 days. The reservation cannot be renewed.
2. Obtaining a Trade Name
Wait—didn’t we just cover business names? Yes. But there’s a distinction: your business name, which you’ll write in on your Articles of Organization, is the legal name of your business. A Trade Name, sometimes called an assumed name or a DBA, is like a nickname for your business. For example, your legal name might Joseph Smith, but your friends call you Joe for short. Joe is a perfectly valid name, but you can’t put it on legal paperwork. You’d have to legally change your name to do so.
A Trade Name acts kind of like a nickname for your business; some LLCs and corporations also use Trade Names to establish new product lines or new “businesses” under the LLC “parent company.” But regardless of why you use a Trade Name, if it differs from your legal name, you need to register it before you can use it.
Quick note: registering a Trade Name does not guarantee you exclusive rights to a name. To do that, you’d need to file a trademark with the state.
And more importantly, even though you register your business with the Secretary of State, you won’t register your Trade Name with them. Instead, you’ll register with your local clerk of the superior court. Fees for this registration vary depending on your location. Before you jump into registering, we recommend that you run a Business Name Search and a trademark search to ensure that your name doesn’t infringe on names that are already claimed.
For more information on this process, check out our guide to Georgia Trade Names.
3. LLC formation services
Paperwork is a massive hassle. And unless you’re starting an LLC to help other Georgians with their paperwork, odds are you don’t want to deal with much paperwork yourself.
The bad news? Paperwork is an unavoidable part of starting a Georgia LLC: the Articles of Organization, annual registrations, license applications—the list goes on and on. The good news? You can hire an LLC formation service to do the pesky paperwork for you.
Of course, there’s some cost involved. And while there are a lot of great LLC formation services, they aren’t all created equal. And they all have different price points.
Many LLC formation services offer a wide variety of packages, with basic options starting at low prices like $39 from Zen Business (one company, Incfile, even offers a starter package for $0). But if you’re willing to shell out some serious cash for comprehensive assistance, you’ll find package prices going as high as $799.
These services are completely optional; you can DIY your Georgia LLC formation. But many entrepreneurs find the time saved is worth the money. If you do opt to hire a service, please make sure you take the time to understand what you’re buying. Some services charge one-time fees, and others tack on “free services” that will cost you next year. If you don’t read the fine print, you can get slapped with unexpected service fees. And surprise bills are never fun.
4. GA Registered agent services
Georgia law clearly states that every LLC must designate a registered agent to act as a middleman between your business and the state. Long story short, the registered agent accepts service of process (and any other official communication from the state) on your behalf.
Technically, this is another thing you can DIY; Georgia allows you to serve as your own registered agent. However, in our opinion, it’s worth the expense to hire a registered agent.
Why? For starters, a registered agent’s address becomes part of the public record; anyone in the state can find that address. That leads to spam mail (sometimes worse). Plus, a registered agent must be present at the registered address during all standard business hours. If you serve as your own, you’d be tied down to your location constantly. A registered agent service prevents those annoyances. A service will also help you keep track of annual filing requirements, license renewals, and more.
These services typically charge an annual fee. For example, annual fees for our top 4 Georgia registered agent services range from $99 to $299 per year depending on the service you choose. That said, some offer the first year free if you use them as an LLC formation service.
Quick Note: If you need to later down the line, you can always change your registered agent.
5. Expedited filing fees
If you file your Georgia paperwork online, you can expect to get it approved within 5-7 business days. Mail-in filings usually require up to 15 business days.
If that seems like too long to wait, Georgia offers a wide variety of expedited filing options. They range from $100 for two-day processing to $1,000 for one-hour services. Since there’s such a good variety, you can pick what works best for your timeline and your budget.
6. Business attorneys
Starting a business is a complicated process. And it’s a legal one. We do our best to make the process seem less daunting with guides like this one. But at the end of the day, we can’t write a guide that would cover every single question every business will ever face. That’s because your business is unique.
Business attorneys, however, can talk you through all the nuances of forming and running your business. In many cases, the advice of an attorney can save you thousands by helping you avoid expensive legal mistakes.
However, the upfront costs of hiring a business attorney can be pretty pricey. For example, many attorneys charge per hour, with rates ranging between $150-$350. Others offer “LLC formation packages” for flat rates that fall between $500-$2000. And of course, those fees vary based on the attorney’s experience, location, and so on.
If you’d like to hire one, we recommend checking out sites like Avvo.com. Their database is nearly comprehensive, so it’s a great way to search Georgia business lawyers. You can also narrow results by location, cost, overall satisfaction rating, and more. It’s the best place to look to find the right legal consultation for your business.
Long story short: starting a Georgia LLC can be a pretty pricey endeavor. If you look at each cost separately, it doesn’t seem too bad (perhaps with the exception of the expedited filing fees). But when you add them all up or tack on some additional services, the total price tag grows pretty quickly.
Thankfully, since you’ve read this guide, you know what you’re up against. And sometimes, knowing is half the battle—and now you’re armed with all the information you need to budget the start-up costs so you can start your Georgia LLC off on the right foot. We wish you and your new business the best!