Step 1) Verify & Secure Your Brand Name
Finding the perfect business name is the first step toward forming your Georgia corporation. Georgia requires your corporation’s name to:
- Be distinguishable from any other registered business name in the state of Georgia
- Not exceed 80 characters (including punctuation)
- Include one of the following suffixes: "corporation," "incorporated," "company," "limited," “corp.," "inc.," "co.," or "ltd.”
If you’re concerned about overlooking any important name requirements, you can also check out Georgia’s corporate name statutes yourself! That being said, don’t get so caught up in the legal side of things that you forget to choose a name that captures the essence of your brand.
What To Do:
First things first, you’ll want to run a quick business name search on Georgia’s state website to see if your desired name is available.
This is also a good time to search WEEBLY for a domain name for your business. It’s extremely helpful for brand visibility to have a website that’s easy for potential customers to find. If there’s a decent domain name available, I recommend locking it down now -- even if you’re not planning on creating a website right away.
Step 2) Appoint A Registered Agent
Now that you’re getting ready to officially register your corporation in Georgia, it’s time to choose someone to act as your registered agent.
Your registered agent may be a resident of Georgia, or a company that’s authorized to do business in the state. They’ll be responsible for accepting a ton of important documents on your behalf, including tax forms, service of process notices and other legal paperwork.
Legally, Georgia does allow business owners to act as their own registered agents, but I highly recommend appointing a third-party professional for this role. As your corporation’s registered agent, you’d have to:
- Maintain normal (M-F, 9-5) business hours at your home or business address
- Publically link your home address to your business (if you work from home)
- Risk being served in front of customers, friends or family members
Again, you’re free to sign yourself up, but be aware that it is a considerable commitment.
What To Do:
If you’re thinking seriously about taking on this responsibility, I encourage you to head over to our registered agent guide to learn more about what it entails. If you decide you’re up for the task, go ahead and sign yourself up on the Articles of Incorporation (Step 3).
Otherwise, I recommend checking out Incfile’s registered agent services. They’re one of our favorite online filing providers, and they offer a free year of registered agent services when you form your corporation with them.
Step 3) File Articles Of Incorporation
Congratulations! Filing your Articles of Incorporation is a huge step for your business -- after this, you’ll be an official Georgia corporation!
This document will ask for:
- The full name of your corporation
- The number of shares your corporation is authorized to issue.
- The full name and street address of your registered agent
- The full name and address of each incorporator
- The principal mailing address of your corporation
- The effective date
- Your signature
- $100.00 filing fee (made payable to Secretary of State)
You’ll be able to file the Articles of Incorporation online (after creating an eCorp account) or on paper, depending on your preference. Either way, you’ll also need to complete and include Form 227 with your filing. (Learn more)
What To Do:
Since Georgia’s incorporation process is significantly more complicated than other states’, we really recommend handing the reins over to a professional here. Using an online filing service is a quick and worry-free way to incorporate -- check out our top recommendations!
Step 4) Obtain EIN
Now it’s time to obtain your EIN, or Employer Identification Number.
Think of this as a corporate social security number. The federal government will use it to monitor your business activity, and it’ll be necessary for pretty much every major financial move you make going forward (including opening a business bank account).
What To Do:
The easiest and most efficient way to obtain an EIN is through the IRS website. Their free online application enables you to get your identification number as soon as you’re done filling it out.
That said, there are other ways to get an EIN for free if the online approach doesn’t suit you. (Read our EIN guide to learn more)
Step 5) Meet With Directors and Establish Bylaws
At this point in time, you may or may not have already elected corporate directors. If you have, now’s the time to get together and hold an organizational meeting, during which you’ll:
- Create your corporate bylaws
- Issue shares of stock
- Appoint corporate officers
- Establish the corporation’s fiscal year
- Design a banking resolution
- Record your first meeting minutes
If you haven’t already appointed initial directors, you and your fellow incorporators should do so at this meeting.
It’s also a good time to address any other logistical issues that come to mind. This is a critical moment for your business, so it’s important to go into the meeting with a solid idea of what needs to be accomplished.
What To Do:
We recommend doing a significant amount of research in preparation for this meeting. Browse through Georgia’s corporation statutes and see if there are any topics you’re uncertain about. You can also take advantage of meeting minute and bylaw templates if you’re unfamiliar with these documents. Basically, do whatever you’ve got to do to feel confident when you walk through the door!
Step 6) Start A Corporate Records Book
By now you’ve accumulated quite a few important documents, so it’s a good time to start a corporate records book. This is exactly what it sounds like: an organized book or binder where you’ll keep all your business records. This typically includes documents like your:
- Articles of Incorporation
- Licenses and permits (see step 8)
- Corporate bylaws
- Meeting minutes
- Banking resolution
Your corporate records book may take a variety of forms depending on your personal preference. You might opt for a simple binder, or maybe you’ll take the opportunity to invest in a full-on corporate kit. Corporate kits typically include customized pieces like embossing seals, stock certificates and printed bylaws.
What To Do:
Corporate kits are often included in higher-tiered online incorporation packages, so if you're already planning on working with one of these services, it’s worth checking out what products they have available.
If you’re not looking for custom pieces and would prefer a simple binder, you could easily find one at your local office supply store. The most important thing here is to keep everything organized!
Step 7) Open A Business Bank Account
To start off on solid financial footing, you’ll need to open up a business bank account for your corporation. There’s no room to mix your personal and professional expenses here!
Ideally you’ll decide on a bank during your organizational meeting (Step 5), considering:
- Local banks, like Fidelity Bank
- Local credit unions, like Georgia Credit Union
- National banks, like Wells Fargo
Each of these options has its own set of pros and cons, so make sure to do some in-depth research before settling on one. That said, it’s also important to work through this process fairly quickly and start properly managing your finances ASAP.
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What To Do:
Research your local options and find out what they have to offer in terms of customer service, national ATM accessibility, minimum account balances or whatever your top priorities may be. Then, look into some national banks and compare their features (feel free to start your research with our top business bank account reviews).
Once you’ve opened up your business bank account, sync it with some accounting software as soon as possible to start monitoring your financials. This is especially important if you haven’t hired an accountant yet! We’ve reviewed our favorite accounting software tools to help you figure out which program is right for you.
Step 8) Handle Taxation & Licensing/Permits
The final step to check off your to-do list is securing any necessary permits/licenses and taking care of any special taxes. This will involve quite a bit of research on federal, state and local requirements, so here are some of the best resources for each:
- Federal: You can find a ton of information on federal licenses and permits on the Small Business Association website. As far as federal taxes go, head straight to the IRS business taxes page.
- State: For information on tax and license requirements at the state level, you’ll want to head over to Georgia’s state website. The SBA also has a helpful overview of Georgia state business taxes and licenses. Keep in mind that you may need to secure a state tax identification number before moving forward with this process!
- Local: For information on municipal business requirements, contact your local chamber of commerce.
What To Do:
If you’re going to need quite a few permits and licenses to legally conduct business in Georgia, you might want to leverage the help of a business license service. These companies will take care of all the heavy lifting for you -- all you’ll need to do is fill out the paperwork!
Need Help Incorporating?
If you need some help incorporating in Georgia, there are plenty of ways to lighten your load. We’ve discussed quite a few services throughout the course of this guide, but here are the three we recommend most:
– Incfile ($49 + state fees) = Best Price & Overall Value
– LegalZoom ($149+ state fees) = Most Popular Service
– Harbor Compliance ($499 + state fees) = Better Customer Service