Georgia Business License

Written by: Mary Gerardine

Last updated:

Georgia Business License

Launching a business in Georgia involves navigating a maze of license and permit requirements. Getting a business license may seem complicated, but it is an essential step to start and run your business legally and successfully. Depending on the type and location of your business, you may need different licenses and permits at the local, state, and federal level.

This Georgia Business License article tackles what you need to know to get started, including the requirements, steps, and relevant costs that are involved.

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Do I Need a Business License in Georgia

In Georgia, businesses are required to obtain various licenses and permits at the local, state, and federal levels. Here’s a general breakdown:

Type of Business

Below, we’ve detailed common ways in which your business type can dictate the licenses you’ll be required to obtain, as well as specific examples of these:

  • Sales and Use Tax Certificate of Registration: A business in Georgia that sells tangible personal property, specific taxable services, or enters into contracts to provide services must register for a Sales and Use Tax Certificate of Registration via the Georgia Department of Revenue (DOR). This is often referred to as a business tax certificate or an occupational tax certificate
  • Professional Licenses: A professional license is an official permit issued by the Professional Licensing Boards of Georgia that allows an individual to legally practice a specific profession or occupation. Professionals who need licenses can range from architects and interior designers to wastewater treatment plant operators
  • Environmental Permits: The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) provides many types of permits, including the industrial stormwater general permit. This ensures that businesses and industries operate in an environmentally responsible manner, protecting the state’s natural resources

However, this is not the only factor influencing the exact combination of licenses you’ll need — the location of your business within Georgia plays an important role as well.

Location

In this section, we’ve provided a succinct overview of the potential licenses and permits that your business may need due to local, state, and federal requirements:

  • Local: Businesses often need local operating licenses which they must acquire from the county or city where their main business site is located. For example, in Atlanta, businesses are required to obtain a Business Tax Certificate (referred to as a business license) to operate within the city limits
  • State: If your business sells tangible personal property or provides certain services, you must register for a Sales and Use Tax Certificate of Registration. This certificate allows businesses to collect sales tax from their customers, but be aware of the corporate income tax obligations. It is also important to understand the various business taxes that may be applicable, which must also be remitted to the state
  • Federal: If your business is in specific industries, you may need to obtain federal licenses or permits. These licenses are regulated by federal agencies to ensure safety, compliance, and the protection of national interests. These industries include alcohol, tobacco, and firearms, pharmaceuticals, transportation, and more

Since the exact permits and licenses your business will need are entirely unique to your situation, you’ll have to conduct thorough research into your own local, state, and federal regulations to smoothly launch your business.

Alternatively, many entrepreneurs opt to leverage the expertise of third-party services to handle this on their behalf.

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How to Get a Business License in Georgia

In order to get your business license(s) in Georgia, you will need to complete the following steps:

  • Form Your Business
  • Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Apply for the Required Licenses and Permits

Let’s take a look at each step in more detail below.

Step 1: Form Your Business

Before setting out to obtain a business license in Georgia, it’s pivotal that you first choose an appropriate structure for your business. Sole proprietorships, general partnerships, and corporations are all common choices, however it’s often seen as the most advantageous for small businesses in Georgia to register as a Limited Liability Company (LLC). Here are a few reasons for why:

  • Limited Liability: Members are protected from personal liability for business debts, safeguarding personal assets
  • Tax Benefits: LLCs typically enjoy a pass-through tax treatment, avoiding the double taxation that corporations are subjected to
  • Management Flexibility: LLCs allow for flexibility in management structure, either being member-managed or manager-managed based on the preferences outlined in the certificate of formation
  • Ease of Formation: With the Georgia Secretary of State providing forms that meet the minimum state law requirements and the option to file online, setting up an LLC is relatively straightforward

Many small business owners opt to avoid the tricky process of forming an LLC by instead leveraging the help of third-party LLC formation services.

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Step 2: Obtain an EIN

The second step you’ll need to complete before applying for your business license is to obtain your EIN. This is a unique nine-digit number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to businesses in the United States so that their financial transactions can be identified and tracked.

An EIN is often necessitated when applying for various permits and licenses as it allows local and state governments to ensure your business is operating within the confines of the law. You can obtain it in a number of ways:

  • Online: You can apply for your EIN on the IRS’s official website by using the EIN Assistant. You should be granted your EIN shortly after completing this application
  • By Fax/Mail: After completing Form SS-4, you can apply for an EIN by submitting it to the IRS via mail or fax
  • By Phone: International applicants and businesses located outside US Territories are required to call the IRS at (267) 941-1099 to obtain their EIN — which they should receive during this call

Note: If you are a sole proprietor, you will be able to use your Social Security Number (SSN) instead (as long as you do not have employees).

Step 3: Get a NAICS Code

In Georgia, if you’re planning to apply for a business license, you’ll need a North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code. This six-digit code identifies the specific economic activity of your business.

The Georgia Department of Revenue imposes the use of these codes for every business application. It’s possible to search for your specific NAICS code either before starting the registration or while you’re in the process. As your business evolves, you might find the need to update or change your NAICS code to better reflect your business type and activities.

For more information, we recommend having a look at Georgia’s NAICS Code List or our NAICS Code Lookup overview.

Step 4: Apply for Licenses and Permits

After settling on the appropriate structure for your business and initiating the application for your EIN, the next step is to focus on securing the necessary licenses and permits to operate legally within your locale and industry.

  • Local Licenses: While many Georgia businesses are required to register with the Corporations Division, it’s also helpful to reach out to your local business licensing agency for more details. To find out who regulates business licenses in your county, you may contact the local chamber of commerce office, the county, or municipal government
  • Statewide Licenses: If you’re applying for a Sales and Use Tax Certificate of Registration, you can do so online through the Georgia Tax Center (GTC). If you’re applying for a state-level professional license, the Professional Licensing Boards launched GOALS (Georgia Online Application Licensing System), which is an online platform for the application and management of professional licenses in the state. For more information, you can check out Georgia’s “First Stop Business Guide” booklet which offers contact details for multiple state agencies with diverse licensing and registration criteria
  • Federal Licenses: While the federal government doesn’t mandate licenses for general business operations, if your business falls under any government-regulated category, such as agriculture, fishing, firearms, and alcohol sales, it may be required to obtain additional federal licenses or permits

Note: For more detailed information on municipalities and their respective websites, check out the Georgia Municipal Association’s Member Cities page.

Step 5: Renewal of Licenses and Permits

In Georgia, license and permit renewals differ based on your location as well as the type of business you’re running. For example, in cities like Atlanta, business licenses are renewed annually, always expiring on December 31; this is the case regardless of when they were first issued.

State professional licenses, renewal requirements, and timelines can differ depending on the industry and the licensing authority. For example, insurance agents in Georgia need to renew their licenses every two years, depending on the initial issuance date.

The Sales and Use Tax Certificate of Registration does not require renewal. It remains in effect as long as the business exists with no change in ownership or structure.

If you’re uncertain whether you need to renew any of your business’s licenses, make sure to reach out to the agency that issued your business license for clarification.

Alternatively, you can use a third-party service or a professional attorney for this process. This can be a good choice if you want to ensure that you avoid potential fines, as well as if you want to be as time-efficient as possible.

If you’re interested in finding out more about this process, see our article on How to Get a Business License.

How Much is a Business License in Georgia

In Georgia, obtaining a local business license comes with varying costs, largely dependent on the city or county of operation. Take Atlanta as an example: here, the general business license fee is determined by the number of employees. Atlanta charges $25 per employee, although the first employee is exempted.

When it comes to state professional licenses, the costs are influenced by the profession and the overseeing licensing board. The Georgia Department of Revenue has set the alcohol license fees for a broker malt beverage at $50 and the broker distilled spirits license at $100.

According to the Georgia Department of Revenue, there is no fee for obtaining a Sales and Use Tax Certificate of Registration. However, you may need to pay a business tax certificate fee to the city or county where your business is based.

To learn the exact costs, you’ll need to research based on your business and location. However, many business owners use third-party services to do this on their behalf.

Georgia Business License FAQ

What business licenses are required in Georgia?

In Georgia, businesses usually need a state-level Sales and Use Tax Certificate of Registration if selling tangible goods or certain services. Local business licenses or occupational tax certificates are required based on the city or county. Additionally, specific industries may need state professional, environmental, or federal licenses. Visit our How to Get a Business License article for more information.

How much is a small business license in Georgia?

The small business license fees in Georgia depend on the type and location of the business. For example, in Atlanta, the fee is determined by the number of employees, charging $25 per employee, with the first one exempted. Keep in mind that other cities might have different criteria. To know more, check out our Georgia Business License article.

Do you need a business license for an LLC in Georgia?

Georgia’s cities or counties require LLCs to obtain business or operating licenses. The process and cost vary by location so check with your local chamber of commerce or municipal government for information. You may also need licenses from the state or federal government, depending on the industry and profession of your LLC and as a business owner.

What do you need to do to start a business in Georgia?

Starting a new business in Georgia involves determining a business structure and choosing a business name. You’ll need to register with the Georgia Secretary of State and secure an EIN or SSN (for sole proprietorship). You’ll then apply for the necessary licenses and permits in compliance with local, state, and federal regulations.

For all related articles, have a look at our How to Get a Business License page.