In Georgia, business licenses are issued by county or city governments. Technically, business licenses are tax registration certificates, so you may find that term as a reference in some cases. There are several documents you will need before an application for a business license will be processed. Keep in mind that the requirements and procedures vary somewhat from one jurisdiction to another. Don’t assume that what is correct in one city or county applies elsewhere. You do need to have a business license for each jurisdiction your business is located in and for each location within the same jurisdiction.
Find the correct city or county office to get a Georgia business license. The Georgia Secretary of State’s office recommends you contact your local Chamber of Commerce. You can get that contact information by calling 404-223-2264 or by logging onto the Georgia Chamber of Commerce website (see Resources).
Check to see that you meet any special requirements to operate the type of business you have in mind. State, local and sometimes federal regulations require that you have specific professional licenses, experiences and/or education to operate a business. For example, you need the appropriate qualifications to open an electrical contracting business, medical practice or daycare center.
Obtain a State of Georgia Tax Identification Number. You must provide this to apply for a Georgia business license. To apply for the Georgia Tax ID Number, contact the State of Georgia Department of Revenue at 404-636-2000.
Get any additional business licenses or permits required. Local ordinances vary widely in this respect, but most require permits to sell or serve alcohol, to run daycare or health care facilities and for escort services, bonding companies and astrology practices. Your local chamber of commerce or the office where you apply for the business license will tell you what permits you must have.
Register a fictitious business name (FBN) if you will be doing business under a name other than your own. An FBN registration protects the name of your business from use by others and allows you to accept checks and other payments in the name of your business. To obtain an FBN, contact your county clerk’s office. If you apply by mail, don’t forget to include the application fee (this varies depending on the city or county).
Apply for a business license in Georgia. You can do this in person or by mail (in some jurisdictions). You must include all of the documents listed above, plus a photo ID, the names of the business owner or owners, proof of incorporation if the business is a corporation, an estimate of revenues and the name of your agent or business attorney.
Begin operating your business once the zoning commission has approved your business location and you’ve been issued a temporary license. In Atlanta and most other jurisdictions, a 30-day temporary license is granted. Your regular business license will be processed and sent to you within 30 days.
In most localities, you must renew your business license annually. Normally, this is done along with filing your business tax return. Be sure you get this done on time, as there are stiff fines for late filings. In Atlanta, for example, missing the February 15 deadline will cost you $500.