Tuesday, August 22, 2023

How to Incorporate in Georgia as a Nonresident


Overview of Georgia's Business Landscape

Georgia provides an excellent environment for starting and operating a business, even for nonresidents living outside the state or country. Some of the key advantages Georgia offers include:

No Corporate Income Tax

One of Georgia's main appeals is its tax structure. Georgia exempts income earned from out-of-state sales from corporate income tax. This can significantly lower the tax burden for businesses incorporated in Georgia but operating across state lines.

Low Business Costs

Compared to many other states, Georgia offers affordable filing fees to establish a business entity. The cost starts at just $100 for electronic filing or $250 for paper filing for most common business structures like LLCs and corporations. Property costs in Georgia are also typically lower than the national average, which helps reduce overhead expenses.

Favorable Tax Climate

Georgia frequently ranks among the top U.S. states for its overall tax climate. Features like the lack of personal income tax on wages make it particularly attractive for sole proprietors and pass-through entities like partnerships.

Right-to-Work State

Georgia has enacted right-to-work laws, which prohibit union security agreements and protect employees from being forced to join unions or pay dues as a condition of employment. This can give business owners greater flexibility and reduces risks of labor disruptions.

Business Incentives

Georgia provides various tax credits, workforce training programs, and other incentives to attract new businesses and investment into the state. These can provide tangible financial benefits and support for companies launching operations in Georgia.


With one of the nation's biggest and busiest airports in Atlanta and extensive highway infrastructure, Georgia offers excellent connectivity and ease of access for business travel and transportation needs.

Choosing a Business Entity Type

When starting a business in Georgia, one of the first key decisions is choosing the right legal structure and entity type for your company. Some common options include:

  • Corporation - A corporation is a distinct legal entity owned by shareholders. It provides limited liability protection but is subject to more formalities and regulations compared to other structures.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) - LLCs blend aspects of partnerships and corporations to provide flexibility along with limited personal liability protection for members.
  • Sole Proprietorship - The simplest business structure with no legal separation between the owner and the business. Owners have unlimited personal liability.
  • Partnership - An association of two or more owners operating a business together. In a general partnership, partners have unlimited personal liability.
  • Nonprofit Corporation - Formed to achieve social, charitable, religious or educational purposes rather than for profit.

Each type of legal structure has its own pros and cons related to taxation rules, liability protection, governance requirements, and the ability to raise capital. Consulting with an attorney can help identify the optimal choice based on your business activities and goals.

Registering Your Business in Georgia

To legally operate your business in Georgia, you must register your entity with the Georgia Secretary of State's office. Here are some of the key steps involved:

1. Name Your Business

You'll need to choose a distinct name that complies with the naming conventions and regulations for your preferred entity type in Georgia. You can search for availability by entity type on the Secretary of State website.

2. Designate a Registered Agent

All companies formed in Georgia must appoint a registered agent, who must have a physical street address within the state. This agent will receive official documents and notices on behalf of your business.

3. File Formation Documents

The exact documents required vary by entity type. For corporations, you'll file Articles of Incorporation, while for LLCs you'll submit Articles of Organization. Applications can be completed online or on paper.

4. Pay the Filing Fee

The filing fee is $100 for electronic filing or $250 if submitting paper forms for most common business types like LLCs and corporations. The fees are payable to the Georgia Secretary of State.

5. Obtain Necessary Licenses

Most businesses need to apply for licenses and permits based on location, industry, and activities. Common examples include occupational tax certificates, sales tax permits, and professional licenses.

6. Create an Operating Agreement (for LLCs)

For LLCs, creating an operating agreement to govern ownership percentages, distribution of profits/losses, management roles, voting rights, and procedures is highly recommended.

Post-Incorporation Requirements

After legally forming your Georgia business, some key next steps include:

  • Obtain a federal EIN number for tax and identification purposes
  • Set up business bank accounts using your EIN to keep finances separate
  • Understand and comply with regulations covering your industry
  • Maintain good standing by meeting annual filing and fee payment obligations
  • Adopt sound record-keeping practices covering assets, liabilities, revenues, expenses, payroll, taxes
  • Learn the various federal, state, and local tax filing requirements

Tips for Nonresidents

Some key tips for nonresidents forming a Georgia company:

  • There are no residency requirements to establish or own a Georgia business entity. However, you must appoint a registered agent who is physically present in Georgia.
  • Seek expert tax and legal advice to ensure compliance with U.S. rules as a foreign business owner. Understand tax obligations related to Georgia-sourced income.
  • Be mindful of immigration restrictions on earning U.S. income while in the country on visa waiver or visitor status.
  • Consider hiring a local partner or manager to handle Georgia-based compliance duties if you are unable to relocate.
  • Review international tax treaties that might impact your business as a nonresident.
  • Maintain meticulous financial records and work with experienced accounting professionals.

By understanding the state's business landscape and incorporating properly with expert guidance, nonresidents can capitalize on Georgia's many advantages. With the right preparation and partnerships, Georgia offers a great location for nonresidents to build their business.


Can a nonresident form a business entity in Georgia?

Yes, Georgia allows both residents and nonresidents to establish corporations, LLCs, partnerships, and other business entities in the state. There are no residency or citizenship requirements to form a business in Georgia. Nonresidents can complete the full incorporation/registration process remotely through the Georgia Secretary of State's website without needing to visit Georgia.

What business structures can a nonresident create in Georgia?

Nonresidents have the flexibility to choose among all the main entity types available in Georgia:

  • C Corporations
  • S Corporations
  • Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
  • General or Limited Partnerships
  • Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs)
  • Nonprofit Corporations

Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages in terms of liability protection, pass-through taxation, operational flexibility, fundraising ability, and compliance complexity. Nonresidents should evaluate their business model and goals to determine which structure best suits their needs. For example, LLCs offer personal liability protection while allowing pass-through taxation that may benefit nonresidents. Consulting a business attorney can help nonresidents make informed choices.

Does a nonresident need a Georgia address to incorporate?

No, nonresidents do not need a Georgia address to form a business entity. However, Georgia law does require all entities to designate a registered agent with a physical street address located in Georgia. This registered agent address will be listed on the public formation documents filed with the Secretary of State.

Virtual offices that only provide a mailing address without actual office space do not satisfy the registered agent requirement. But nonresidents have the option to engage a third-party registered agent service or management company with offices in Georgia to serve as their registered agent and business mailing address. This allows the nonresident to remain private and meet the requirements without personally having a Georgia address.

What are the ongoing compliance requirements?

After initial formation, key requirements for nonresidents running a Georgia company include:

  • Filing an Annual Registration with the Secretary of State to maintain active status
  • Paying all requisite state/local business taxes and fees
  • Complying with Georgia regulations relevant to your industry
  • Meeting employment, payroll and workers' comp insurance requirements
  • Maintaining company records/information in the registered agent's Georgia office
  • Filing federal tax returns and paying federal taxes on company profits

Nonresidents must either stay up-to-date themselves on compliance duties or engage local accountants, lawyers and registered agent services for assistance. Proper compliance helps preserve the liability protections afforded under Georgia law.

How can a nonresident manage a Georgia company?

Nonresidents have several options to handle day-to-day management and operations for their Georgia company:

  • Appoint a local partner or manager as the Operating Member of a multi-member LLC
  • Hire a local Management Company to provide administrative and compliance support
  • Use online tools and video conferencing to conduct virtual meetings and collaborate remotely
  • Travel periodically to Georgia to directly manage higher-level business functions
  • Grant a Power of Attorney to a Georgia representative to act on the owner's behalf
  • Set up mail forwarding with a registered agent service to receive important company correspondence

Proper preparation and partnerships enable nonresidents to run their Georgia businesses successfully even while living and working outside the state.

How does a nonresident pay taxes for a Georgia business?

As a nonresident owning a Georgia company, you must comply with all applicable U.S. federal, state and local tax laws. For federal obligations, most Georgia entities are pass-through, meaning profits/losses pass to the owners to report on their personal tax returns. Nonresident aliens may need to file special forms like Form 5472 for foreign-owned U.S. companies or Form 1040-NR. Work with a knowledgeable U.S. tax professional to understand your cross-border tax duties. Georgia also has a 6% state income tax that likely applies if you actively operate your Georgia company.

Can a nonresident open a business bank account in Georgia?

Yes, nonresidents can generally open Georgia business bank accounts remotely without needing to be physically present in the state. The nonresident will need to provide the necessary documentation to the bank, such as business formation documents, business licenses, EIN, and valid ID. Banks may request additional information to comply with “Know Your Customer” rules. Working with a major national bank may offer a smoother online application process for nonresidents compared to smaller local banks.

Can a nonresident qualify for Georgia business incentives?

Yes, some Georgia economic development incentives and programs are open to nonresident owners - especially those based abroad looking to setup U.S. operations. For example, Georgia offers job tax credits for creating new jobs that residents and nonresidents alike can claim. Other programs provide assistance for globalizing your sales. Do proper research to find incentives fitting your business situation. Hiring a local consultant can help navigate what's available.

What visa do nonresidents need to work for their Georgia company?

Nonresidents cannot work for their Georgia company while visiting on a tourist or visa waiver program. Generally, you would need to obtain a suitable U.S. work visa such as an E-2 Treaty Investor visa or L-1 Intracompany Transferee visa. The specific visa options and eligibility requirements will depend on your country of citizenship and circumstances. It is highly advisable to consult an experienced U.S. immigration attorney to identify the appropriate work visa strategy.