Do you need a Georgian business bank account as a business owner in Georgia? The answer is, it depends. In this article I’ll cover:
- The legal requirements for business owners: Who does/does not need a business bank account;
- Alternatives to a standard business bank account in Georgia;
- How easy is it to open a personal or business bank account?
- Other FAQs about banking in Georgia.
Legal requirements: Who needs a business bank account?
Individual Entrepreneurs are allowed to accept business income to any bank account in their name or the name of their business (which, by Georgian law would include their personal name), whether it be a personal account or a business account. There is no legal requirement to open a dedicated account for your business, or even a bank account in Georgia.
That said, there are many reasons why you would want one. I’ll explain those reasons and your best options below.
Legal entities, for example, LLCs, are also not required to have a business bank account in order to transact. BUT the practicalities of operating without a business bank account will create a significant overhead, requiring your accountant to register every single movement of money to or from a personal bank account as a cash transaction for tax purposes. In addition, all VAT-registered businesses are required to link their local Georgian business bank account directly to the Revenue Service’s online system, or they won’t be able to file the mandatory tax declarations.
Bank Account Options In Georgia
As an Individual Entrepreneur (IE), your business is attached to you as an individual. Thus, income can be received to any bank account that belongs to you.
Though you can accept money to both local and international accounts, it’s normally advisable to have some separation between your business income and personal transactions.
For some, a full business account may be needed, or an online business account (with a service like Wise, formerly TransferWise) may be sufficient. For others, a separate Georgian personal account may be all they need, or they may even continue to receive money to a foreign account.
If you operate a legal entity in Georgia (such as an LLC), then accepting money to any bank account other than a business bank account in the name of your Georgian company, would be considered equivalent to a cash transaction and would need to be reported as cash in your monthly accounts.
But it should be noted that although an online business account can be used for regular business activity, it cannot be used to pay taxes to the Treasury and will not be recognized in the Revenue Service’s system on your company’s info card (mandatory if VAT registered and essential in order for tax refunds to be issued).
Let’s explore the pros and cons of each of these options.
Standard Georgian Business (Corporate) Bank Account
Can be used for banking by: Legal Entities & IEs
This type of account is held with one of the physical banks in Georgia. Bank of Georgia and TBC being the most popular.
- PoS terminal – to accept in-person card payments, and in some cases, some terminals will log cash payments (logging cash payments with a cash register is a legal requirement in most cases).
- Cards for employees – named cards for your staff to make business purchases.
- Receive income in GEL. Also in USD, EUR, GPB (conditions apply).
- This is the only account type listed in this article which can be used for proof of business turnover for a work residence permit application (Other options do exist though for turnover proof, though).
- Can connect directly to your LLCs Revenue Service account (Mandatory if VAT registered. Required for any tax refunds). Note: For IE’s, you can connect a personal account to the RS instead, so long as the IE company name matches the name on the personal account.
- One of the only options for accepting credit card payments online (in practice, very few companies, especially those accepting international cards, can use this service successfully, though we hope that to change in coming years).
- Often difficult for foreigners to open. Especially if all your business transitions will originate from abroad and/or in currencies other than GEL.
- Receiving income in USD, EUR, GPB via intermediary banks is typically more expensive than with foreign accounts, due to international wire fees..
- Must visit a bank branch in person for certain things.
For the above reasons, it should be clear that the main reason to get a corporate account is if you accept or make payments by card and/or have employees/operations physically occurring in Georgia. Also, if you need to connect your bank account to the Revenue Service (mandatory for LLCs with VAT registration), it is your only option currently.
Online Bank Account Registered To A Georgian Business
Can be used, with some limitations, by: Legal Entities & IEs
NOTE: Online bank accounts may allow you to hold currency in GEL but do not offer full account details in GEL. So they are primarily useful for businesses registered in Georgia which receive income in major currencies like USD, GBP, AUD etc. For these foreign currency accounts to be linked to your Georgian business you must open an account in the name of your Georgian business along with it’s tax ID.
An online business account is sufficient for many businesses. If you will not need to attach your bank account to the Revenue Service’s online portal (because you will not be claiming tax refunds or becoming VAT-registered) and you do not need to accept card payments directly, then an online bank bypasses the complications of opening a corporate account at one of the physical banks.
There are a number of online banks that allow you to register as a Georgian business for online accounts. The service I, and many other expats use, is Wise*. There are other services like Payoneer and Paysera but Wise (formerly TransferWise) is my preference. For this reason, the below information relates directly to functionality available with Wise. Some similarity may be found with the other similar services.
Even if you don’t need an account for your business activities, you can open a personal account with Wise, which can then be used to easily get money to Georgia and pay for local services via online transfer. Learn more and get an account here*
- Quick and easy account opening online.
- Even though the online banks are international, the income is connected directly to the Georgian business the account is registered to. This may or may not reduce the chance of tax liability in the country’s where each currency account is held. Normally lower money transfer fees and easier transfer process than between physical banks.
- Borderless accounts give you full bank details (IBAN, etc) for accounts in 8+ currencies (including USD, EUR, GBP, AUD, NZD), meaning clients can send money via a domestic bank transfer (not an international wire transfer) from their local bank account in any of those currencies.
- Hold income in more than 50 currencies. In addition to actual account details, you can also receive and hold money in many different currencies (including GEL) and then withdraw to a local account of the same currency – avoiding currency conversion fees – or send it to your local Georgian bank account.
- Georgian version of Wise does not have a debit card, so you have to move money elsewhere to perform card transactions.
- Can only accept money by transfer. Cannot accept credit cards, cash or online payment processing.
- Not sufficient to pay your GE taxes to the RS. Or to connect to the RS info card for if VAT registered or for tax refunds.
If you decide to go with the online business/personal account option, then opening an account is easy:
- Head to wise.com*
- When opening a business account, select Georgia as your country.
- Include your business name and tax ID
- Once the account is open, you can request the borderless accounts so you have full bank details in USD and other currencies. A nominal one-off fee is charged for opening.
- Once you have these bank details, they can be used as any regular bank account would for sending and receiving money.
How to use a Wise account in Georgia:
- Sign up for a Georgian Wise business account, where all your business income will be received.
- Business expenses: Make payments by bank transfer to vendors, contractors and employees worldwide, direct from your account, keeping the income in the original currency it was received. For LLCs to pay expenses by card, make a cash advance to a personal account, then pay by card from there. This must be tracked in your accounts. IEs, in most cases, can pay expenses from any account without making a cash advance so long as they log the expenses in their general journal (ledger).
- Send money direct to Georgian banks in GEL, with low exchange rates and fees. Pay yourself to a local account, or even pay local staff and vendors directly to their bank accounts.
*Disclaimer: The links to Wise on this page are affiliate links, meaning we receive a commission if you choose to register and transact with their service. This is a service the directors at ExpatHub use themselves, have for many years, and recommend to many clients as we believe it is the best option to fulfill the exact need explained above. If you do not want us to be credited for this recommendation, you can use this link to Wise instead, which will result in no commissions for us.
Georgian Personal Bank Account
Can be used by: IEs & Individuals (natural persons)
(Though, technically, an LLC could use one in a limited way)
IEs can legally accept business income to their regular personal account in Georgia. However, our recommendation, if choosing this method, is to open a second personal account for the business income, so business transactions are not mixed with personal ones.
For individuals, A Georgian personal bank account works in a similar way to any other personal account worldwide. Information on how to open one is further below.
On the basis of holding a second personal account:
- Much easier to open than a corporate account.
- Receive cash payments through payboxes across Georgia. This avoids the mandatory requirement of having a cash register in order to receive cash.
- Receive income in GEL, USD, EUR, GPB.
- Separate debit card can be used to pay for expenses and online purchases.
- Business income and expenses are kept clear and separate from your personal finances.
- Full online banking portal (with most major banks)
- Receiving income in USD, EUR, GPB via intermediary banks is typically more expensive than with foreign accounts, due to international wire fees.
- Though you can have multiple debit cards, they will all be in your name and cannot be in the name of employees.
Foreign Bank Account
Can be used by: IEs
You can legally continue to accept your IE income to any foreign account.
However, It should be noted that, if you are accepting income to your foreign business account (if you already had a business registered abroad before registering in Georgia), then this can lead to a whole host of other tax issues, potentially, depending on the type of business. You can read more about the tax pitfalls of transacting through your foreign business while actively managing it from Georgia, here.
Assuming your foreign account is a personal account, or an account linked to you as an individual and not to a legal entity you own, then the below information is worth considering.
- You can accept business income to that account without any special rules or restrictions on the Georgian side – obviously, that income must be declared here if it is tax liable (Read more about foreign source income here)
- BUT tax liability for that income in the country where the bank account is held can vary. It’s worth discussing any tax implications with an adviser based in that country, especially if that country does not have a double tax treaty with Georgia.
- It’s important to note that tax liability is never based on the location of remittance when it comes to Georgian taxation. It is based on liability of the business or individual. This means that the mere fact that funds don’t arrive to a Georgian bank account is never a basis for these funds not being taxed.
A foreign PayPal account, for tax purposes, would be treated the same as any other foreign bank account.
A Georgian PayPal account would be treated the same as any other Georgian online bank account.
The main things to know about PayPal in Georgia:
- Accepting credit card payments is almost impossible. So, for online payment processing, tools like PayPal or Stripe are a non-starter (we hope this will change soon).
- Getting money out of PayPal to a bank account is difficult and involves connecting a Visa card (not MasterCard) to the account, and withdrawing funds to the card, not to the bank account. Users report mixed results with making this work reliably.
- PayPal has horribly high fees in general. Which, if you have used it for international business in the past, you probably know already. If you have only ever dealt with one currency, in one country, then you may not be aware of just how overpriced PayPal can get.
Other online payment processors, like Stripe, are simply not available in Georgia yet. More info below.
Which Physical Georgian Bank Should I Use?
If you want to open a personal or corporate account locally, there are a few common options. Bank of Georgia and TBC are two of the largest commercial banks by far, as well as being the most popular with foreigners.
In most circumstances, it makes sense to open your personal bank account and business bank account with the same bank so your accounts are linked.
Bank of Georgia (& Solo Bank)
Bank of Georgia (or BoG) has a significant presence nationwide with service centers where you can get your banking done in person, as well as a modern and easy to use online banking portal and app.
In terms of business banking, BoG is probably the hardest to get accepted but the easiest to work with once you have been accepted.
Solo Bank is the premium arm of Bank of Georgia, for personal banking only. The reasonable annual fee comes with a host of benefits, including a personal banker who can assist you with many banking activities remotely, rather than having to visit a branch.
They will also speak better English than most of the front desk staff in regular branches, making your life much easier. A major benefit to Solo is the ability to conduct banking operations over email, rather than having to go to a branch or complete endless SMS verifications.
TBC offers most of the same services that Bank of Georgia does. Anecdotally, they are slightly more hasty in blocking large payments from abroad. Every foreigner will have a different story though, and we have no concrete reason to recommend BoG over TBC.
Beyond the main two, check out VTB, ProCredit and Liberty Bank. Be prepared for the typical question that the smaller banks will ask… “Why did you choose our bank?”. You do not want the answer to be “The other banks rejected me”.
Online Payment Processors In Georgia
At time of writing, the options for accepting payments online are severely limited. The large banks do offer some limited payment processing options, however persuading them to allow you to get approved is not easy. Even when approved, the consistency of the service for processing foreign card payments is too low to make it a tenable solution for any typical business transacting regularly.
Workable solutions are on the horizon but at this time, transacting through a foreign company (set up solely as a payment processing company) with the ultimate beneficiary being your Georgian company, is a common solution.
This option creates a host of other tax and business considerations, though, which are worth discussing with an expert before attempting. Book a free consultation with us if you’d like to discuss this along with your other tax and business questions.
How easy is it to open a personal or business bank account in Georgia?
For a personal bank account, the requirements have increased recently and we expect account opening to become gradually harder in the future.
The essentials of opening a personal account:
- Basic KYC questions relating to your personal wealth, sources/amounts of income.
- Relevant proof relating to income and wealth (in some cases). This can be in the form of employment or service contracts, proof of foreign pension or inheritance, proof of business income, of an investment portfolio, etc.
- For US citizens only, full compliance with the FATCA agreement, including sharing of your IRS information.
This is not an exhaustive list and the bank has the right to refuse account opening without providing a reason. You do not need to be a resident of Georgia and, at this time, proof of local address is also not required.
Business account opening for foreigners
For anything but the online banks, opening a business account as a foreigner has become very difficult. The best strategy is dependent on your unique business setup and a number of other factors. If you need assistance with this, please contact us.
Other FAQs about banking in Georgia
What if I want to transfer large amounts from overseas?
The bank may freeze your account until such time as you can prove the origin and legality of the received amount. They also have the right to reject the payment and close your account.
Though an exact figure of what is acceptable to transfer is not defined, a ballpark figure, above which problems are more likely to arise, would be ~$10,000 USD or equivalent. That said, people have transferred higher sums, regularly, without ever having problems. In contrast, lower sums have sometimes triggered problems.
If you need assistance because your account has been frozen, or you have concerns about transferring a large amount, you can contact our office for advice.
Does the Georgian Revenue Service keep track of my banking activity?
With a business bank account, yes, the Revenue Service has access to certain information from your bank account.
With a personal bank account, the banks in Georgia are obliged by law to report any bank account that they believe is being used for economic activity, within 3 days of identifying said economic activity. (See Georgian Tax Code, 71.1.c1)
To the best of our knowledge, none of the banks have made their internal policies for identifying economic activity, publically available.
Can other countries (such as my country of citizenship) track my banking activity?
At time of writing, the USA, via the FATCA agreement, is the only country where their tax authorities have access to limited information (such as annual balance) from your Georgian bank accounts.
However, as Georgia will join the CRS (Common Reporting Standard) in 2023, all countries within that network (inc. EU, UK, AUS etc.) will be able to obtain certain financial information from your Georgian bank account, and vice versa.
The countries most likely to request access to this information would be any country where you have previously had residency or citizenship. Though others may also have reason and ability to access your financial information. It also means that Georgian Revenue Service would be more easily able to request financial information about your bank accounts in any of those countries within the CRS network – also, most likely, ones where you have previously been tax resident.
If you need assistance with your tax, business, banking, real estate or residency matters in Georgia, then book a free consultation with us.