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Entrepreneurs in Georgia must select a registered agent when they set up a company in the state. A registered agent is a person or company that receives important documents for the company. These documents could include tax notices or notices of a lawsuit.
Selecting a registered agent is one of several decisions you must make when you set up an LLC in Georgia.
Many business owners have questions about the roles of a registered agent and who can serve as one. To help answer these questions, we’ve created this guide. Since selecting a registered agent is tied to setting up a business, that’s where we’ll start.
How is an LLC formed in Georgia?
In Georgia, an LLC is formed by filing documents called Articles of Organization with the Georgia Corporations Division. These are official, legal papers that establish a company in the state. To do so requires several steps. Here’s what you need to know about setting up an LLC:
1. Name the company
For starters, the LLC formation paperwork requires a name for the company, so that must be selected before filing any documentation with the state. As you consider different names, it’s a good idea to see if the name is already in use in Georgia. If it is, you’ll need to come up with a new one. Georgia state law says a company name must be “recognizably different” from others.
When you have a name in mind put the name into a database search on the Georgia Corporations Division website to make sure it’s available. You can also reserve a name 30 days before filing LLC formation paperwork.
In addition to being a unique name, Georgia has a few additional naming rules. They are:
- The name of the company must have “LLC” or “Limited Liability Company” in the title.
- The name can’t include any false claims.
- The name can’t include any references to the government that alludes to the fact you work for the government when you don’t.
Business owners usually check on the availability of a matching domain name at this time too. Ideally, the company website and the company name are similar to help customers find the business online.
2. Pick a registered agent
The Articles of Organization will ask the business owner to select a registered agent. A registered agent is a person or company that agrees to accept legal documents for the company. If the company is sued, for example, legal documents are sent to the company’s registered agent.
This person is essentially a point of contact for the company and should be available during normal business hours to accept documents as needed.
An owner can be his or her own registered agent. If you plan to pick another person, like an employee, that person must agree to this role and be aware of the responsibility.
The Articles of Organization will ask for the registered agent’s name and address.
3. File the Articles of Organization
The Articles of Organization are filed with the Georgia Secretary of State Corporations Division. This document will ask for the company name, the name and address of the registered agent, and the signature of the LLC organizer.
Most organizers choose to file this paperwork online, but there is a mail-in option too. The cost to file this paperwork with the state is $100.
4. Create a company operating agreement
The Articles of Organization are the only forms required by the state to set up an LLC, but experts suggest creating a company operating agreement as well. An operating agreement outlines how the company will operate and specifics things like how much money each investor has put into the business, how decisions are made, how daily operations take place, and how profits and losses are handled.
Before a company opens to the public, this document should be created and agreed upon. Once it is, it becomes a binding contract used to solve (or avoid) problems in the long run.
5. Obtain an EIN
Before doing business, go to the IRS website and get an EIN, or employer identification number. This nine-digit number is easy to get online. It takes about five minutes to receive one. The EIN is needed to:
- Open business accounts
- Hire and pay employees
- Pay taxes
6. File an annual registration
Most states require businesses to file an annual report, but in Georgia, it’s called an annual registration. Essentially, the documents confirm that you’re still in business. The registration is required yearly and a $50 fee must be paid as well.
The annual registration form is also the way you provide updates to the state. If, for example, you want to change who your company’s registered agent is, you do so via the annual registration.
What is a Georgia registered agent?
A Georgia registered agent is a person or company that agrees to accept official documents on behalf of the company. The registered agent should be trustworthy since he or she will be handling sensitive documents.
Do I really need a registered agent in Georgia?
Yes. Georgia, as in other states, requires every business to list a registered agent on its LLC formation paperwork.
Can I be my own registered agent in Georgia?
Yes. The state does allow the business owner to be his or her own registered agent. If you’re working from the company office regularly, it’s an ideal role to fill. However, some people choose another person or company to serve as a registered agent.
Who can be a registered agent in Georgia?
In Georgia, a registered agent can be the business owner, an employee, or another company authorized to do business in the state.
Essentially, the state says any person or business in the state with a physical street address can serve as a company’s registered agent. Ideally, the person or company is available during regular business hours to accept documents as needed.
A registered agent service is also a choice. A registered agent service is a professional company that you pay to be your registered agent and accept documents as needed.
Why would a company choose to work with a registered agent service?
Selecting a registered agent service has added benefits for business owners. For starters, it removes one of the many responsibilities that an owner has and frees up some time. Business owners also mention these benefits:
- Convenience. For some business owners, having someone else listed as the company’s point of contact is simply easier. A registered agent service is always open during regular business hours and is readily available to accept documents when needed.
- Peace of mind. Business owners take comfort in knowing that important paperwork is all funneled to one location, where people are available to receive notifications. It ensures that nothing gets missed, and for some business owners, that’s worth paying for.
- Privacy. When you use a registered agent service, a business adds a layer of privacy. The company can list the registered agent services’ address as its physical address, which keeps valuable information private. In addition, sensitive paperwork is sent to a private location and not presented in front of customers or employees.
List of Georgia registered agent services
A registered agent service can also serve as your company’s point of contact. For those interested in a service, here are a few to choose from in Georgia:
- Northwest Registered Agent: Northwest is one of the most recognized names in the registered agent business. The company has decades of experience and local offices scattered across the U.S. to serve small businesses like yours. The cost for a registered agent service is comparable to others. Business owners can also take advantage of additional services like report filing.
- ZenBusiness: ZenBusiness is fairly new to the market, but they’ve grown a strong following. Business owners love the affordable rates for a registered agent service, which are as low as $99 per year. The company offers worry-free compliance too, to help business owners file the necessary reports on time.
- Incfile: Incfile is another trusted name for business services, including its registered agent services. Business owners can get a registered agent free for a year. That’s right, free. After the first year, the price kicks in at $119. An online dashboard, automatic mail forwarding, and tailored notifications also come with the service.
How much does a registered agent service cost in Georgia?
Man entrepreneurs wonder how much a registered agent service costs. Since many startups are watching their bottom line, the cost is always a concern. However, a registered agent service is fairly affordable even for the most boot-strapped of businesses.
There are companies that offer basic services, which include mail forwarding, for about $50 a year. Of course, there are companies that offer more features like mail forwarding coupled with online accounts, customer support, and annual report reminders, which charge more. As you might expect, the more services you want, the higher the prices. More advanced features will cost around $100-250 annually.
How does an owner select a registered agent in Georgia?
Selecting a registered agent is a simple process. The person or company that will fill this role is listed on the LLC formation paperwork known as the Articles of Organization, which are filed with the state.
The person selected and listed on the paperwork can be changed, if necessary.
Can a company change its registered agent?
Yes. In Georgia, there isn’t a “change form” like other states have to change information that’s on file. Instead, the state of Georgia asks that business owners make those changes when filing their annual registration.
What’s a statutory agent?
A statutory agent is the same as a registered agent. Different states use different names. Arizona, for example, uses the name statutory agent. The name service of the process agent is also used.
What’s a commercial registered agent?
Some states ask LLC organizers if the registered agent is commercial or non-commercial. It may even be asked on the LLC formation documents. If it is, it’s asking whether or not your company has a registered agent service, which is considered commercial, or a person or an unpaid company, which is non-commercial.