Forming a Limited Liability Company (LLC) in Washington State is an easy process, but it involves a few steps. 

Start a Washington State LLC for $0 + state fee 

To form an LLC in Washington State for free + state fee, we have listed 3 options to consider: 

You can go online and visit the Washington State Secretary of State’s website and do it yourself or you can use the ‘free’ service from Incfile or ZenBusiness.

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Forming an LLC in Washington State for $0 (DIY Summary)

Here’s a brief step-by-step guide to help you through the DIY process, along with relevant links to official resources:

Step 1: Choose a Name for Your LLC

The first step in forming a limited liability company (LLC) in Washington State is to choose a unique name for your business.

Make sure the name you select is not already taken by another registered business entity in the state.

You can perform a name search on the Washington Secretary of State’s Corporations Division website to check for availability.

Step 2: File Articles of Organization

Once you have a name for your LLC, you need to file the Articles of Organization with the Washington Secretary of State’s office.

The articles provide basic information about your LLC, such as its name, principal place of business, registered agent, and the names and addresses of the initial members or managers.

You can file the articles online through the Secretary of State’s website or by mail.

Step 3: Appoint a Registered Agent

Every LLC in Washington State must have a registered agent. The registered agent is the person or entity responsible for accepting legal documents on behalf of the LLC.

The registered agent must have a physical address in Washington State. You can appoint yourself as the registered agent or hire a professional registered agent service.

Step 4: Create an Operating Agreement

Although not required by Washington State law, it is highly recommended to create an operating agreement for your LLC.

An operating agreement outlines the ownership structure, management responsibilities, and operating procedures of the LLC. It helps establish clear guidelines for decision-making and can be useful in case of disputes or conflicts among LLC members.

Step 5: Obtain Necessary Permits and Licenses

Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to obtain specific permits and licenses to operate legally in Washington State.

The requirements vary based on the industry and location of your LLC. The Washington State Business Licensing Service website provides information and resources to help you determine the permits and licenses applicable to your business.

Step 6: File Annual Reports

After forming your LLC, you are required to file annual reports with the Washington Secretary of State’s office.

Annual reports provide updated information about your LLC, such as its current registered agent, address, and members or managers.

Failure to file annual reports can result in penalties or even the dissolution of your LLC. You can file the reports online or by mail.

Step 7: Comply with Tax and Regulatory Requirements

As an LLC, you must comply with various tax and regulatory requirements in Washington State.

This includes obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) if you have employees, registering for state and local taxes, and fulfilling any industry-specific regulations.

The Washington State Department of Revenue website offers resources to guide you through the tax obligations for your LLC. 

Washington State LLC: Definitions

  1. Washington Secretary of State: The Washington Secretary of State is the government agency responsible for overseeing business registrations and other official matters related to forming an LLC in Washington State. It provides information and resources for entrepreneurs and businesses looking to establish an LLC.
  2. Articles of Organization: The Articles of Organization is a legal document that must be filed with the Washington Secretary of State to formally create an LLC in Washington State. It contains essential information about the LLC, such as its name, registered agent, and purpose.
  3. Registered Agent: A registered agent is an individual or business entity designated to receive legal documents and official correspondence on behalf of an LLC in Washington State. The registered agent must have a physical address in the state and be available during regular business hours.
  4. Operating Agreement: An operating agreement is a legal document that outlines the internal structure, management, and decision-making processes of an LLC in Washington State. It clarifies the roles and responsibilities of members, the distribution of profits and losses, and other important aspects of the business.
  5. UBI Number: The UBI (Unified Business Identifier) number is a unique identification number assigned by the Washington Secretary of State to registered businesses, including LLCs. It is used for tax purposes and other official transactions.
  6. Business License: A business license is a permit or authorization required by some cities or counties in Washington State to conduct business within their jurisdiction. Depending on the nature of the LLC’s activities, it may need to obtain specific licenses or permits to operate legally.
  7. Annual Report: An annual report is a document that LLCs in Washington State must file with the Secretary of State’s office on a yearly basis. It provides updated information about the LLC’s registered agent, business address, and other relevant details.
  8. Certificate of Good Standing: A Certificate of Good Standing is an official document issued by the Washington Secretary of State that confirms an LLC’s compliance with all legal requirements. It serves as proof that the LLC is in good standing and authorized to conduct business in the state.

Extended Version

Washington state has a thriving business community and is home to tech giants Amazon and Microsoft. Costco also has headquarters in Washington.

A business license is required to start any state-owned business. A business license can be used to refer to multiple licenses or permits or a general operating license.

To legally start a business, you may need to obtain a variety of licenses and permits from local, county, and state governments.

This guide will help you get a Washington business license so that you can start a new venture in Washington.

If you want to use an LLC formation service, visit our list of the best LLC services in Washington.

Are You a Washington Business License Required?

Washington offers a statewide license for business licensing, which is a better option than many other states.

This license replaces a mix of local and state licenses. However, certain types of professions or businesses may require local licenses.

Additionally, certain municipalities might have additional licensing requirements.

What are the requirements for a Washington business license?

Nearly every business that meets the following criteria is required to obtain a Washington state business license.

  • Selling a product or service that is subject to sales tax
  • A minimum of $12,000 in gross income per year
  • You can do business under a different legal name than your full legal name.
  • State and city endorsements are required
  • In the next 90 days, plan to hire employees
  • Specialty wood products can be purchased or processed

To obtain a State of Washington license, business owners should visit the Washington Department of Revenue. To assist business owners in determining their specific requirements and to obtain information about additional licenses or endorsements that are handled at a state level, Washington offers a list of state endorsements.

Business owners are encouraged to investigate license regulations within their local communities. Some cities require additional licensing while others do not. For example, Spokane has partnered with the state Business Licensing Service to manage all of its local business licensing. Seattle handles its own licensing.

Types of business licenses

Practically every business based in Washington must have at least one license or permit in order to legally operate in the state. It can be difficult to determine which licenses you need to operate in your locality or industry. You will need the appropriate licenses for your business type. For information about local licensing requirements, you will need to contact your county clerk or city hall. The Washington Department of Revenue can also provide details on any state-specific regulatory licenses.

Steps to Obtaining Your Washington Business License

Step 1.

Name and form your company is the first step to obtaining a Washington business license. You can find help starting your business or creating an LLC with one of the best LLC services. Next, prepare all paperwork and information.

  • Name of the business
  • An EIN (Employer Identification number) (or SSN if you are a sole proprietor).
  • Type of business entity (LLC, partnership or corporation)
  • An address for your business and a phone number
  • A business plan which includes expected revenue and expenses
  • Certificate of insurance (COI), for your business insurance policy

Step 2. Apply for your Washington business licence

If a business is located in Washington, they must obtain a state business license. This includes a gross income of more than $12,000 per year, and/or sales of products or services subject to sales tax. Washington offers statewide licensing, which can be purchased at the Washington Department of Revenue site. This is easier than in most other states.

Washington also requires additional endorsements for certain types of businesses and professions. These endorsements are valid for various agriculture, construction, alcohol, and automotive businesses. You may need additional endorsements at the local level depending on where you live. Washington’s Business Licensing Wizard provides more information about your business and profession.

Step 3.

Although Washington licenses businesses primarily at the state level, some cities may require endorsements to do business within their municipality. The complete list of endorsements for city licenses can be found on the Washington state Department of Revenue webpage. If your city isn’t listed, or if you live in one of the few Washington cities that handles business licensing (such as Seattle), then you will need to contact your local city to find out which licenses are required.

Also, you’ll want to verify which local endorsements and other licenses/permits are required for your business. For specific endorsements at a local or state level, use Washington’s Business Licensing Wizard.

Additional Local Permits

Depending on where your business is located, you may need additional permits, licenses, or endorsements. Multiple municipalities may require multiple endorsements or licenses. Additional permits may include occupancy permits and home occupation permits. A building permit is required for any new or renovated construction. A signage permit may be required before you add any signs to your property.

Other regulations may apply to businesses. Businesses may also be subject to regulations governing exterior appearance in cities like Leavenworth. This city features Bavarian-style architecture.

It is important to note that if you are providing accommodation or food service, you will need a permit from the local government. This permit may be required in addition to the statewide license you need for public accommodations or food service.

These permits may not be the same as or included in a business licence so it is important to research which permits you might need before you start your business.

Step 4.

Finally, although most licensing is done at the state level, depending on your industry, your company may need to obtain licenses from specific federal agencies. The following are common federal areas for business licensing:

  • Agriculture
  • Serving, distribution, or importing alcohol
  • Aviation
  • Explosives, ammunition, and firearms
  • Wildlife and fish
  • Commercial fisheries
  • Transport maritime
  • Drilling and mining
  • Nuclear energy
  • Broadcasting on radio and television
  • Transport

What is the cost of a Washington business license?

The cost of a statewide license in Washington is $90 for the first or second opening of a business. You can add additional locations to your business, or obtain nonresident business endorsements to do business in a different city. The annual renewal of your state business license costs only $10. Additional fees may apply for endorsements at the city or state level.

Washington Business License Renewal

Annual renewal of the Washington state business license and endorsements is required. Check with the license issuer to find out more about local licensing, permits, and endorsements.

Most Frequently Asked Questions

What types of business licenses are available?

Although the term “business license” may be used to describe an operating license, it is also used to refer to a variety of permits. These are the most popular types of business licenses:

  • A business operating license, sometimes referred to as a business license
  • A sales tax license allows businesses to sell products and services.
  • If your business sells, distributes, or trades in alcohol, you will need a liquor license
  • Licenses for specialties, such as plumbing, accounting, massage therapy or legal counsel, are available.

To sell online, do I need a Washington business license?

Although your business may not be based in brick-and-mortar, you can still do business in Washington. Your business will need to get a business license.

What is the difference between an EIN and a business license?

An EIN is not the equivalent of a business license. EIN is a tax identification number that is used to identify commercial businesses. It is not required for Washington business licenses.

Is it possible to run a business in the absence of registering it?

Instead of creating a corporation or LLC, you can operate a business as a sole proprietorship or general partnership. Sole proprietorships and partnerships will still need to register DBAs with government agencies and get business licenses. Find out more about the differences between a sole proprietorship and an LLC.

What is the cost of a Washington business license?

A Washington state business license costs $90 to open a new business or to reopen one. Each year, the renewal fee is $10. Additional endorsements and certificates may be required.

author avatar
Brian Wilson Writer and Editor
Brian Wilson is the content manager and founder of LLC Radar. Brian grew up in North Texas, just outside of Dallas, and has a bachelor's degree in business from Southern Methodist University. Since graduating from SMU, Brian has gained over 10 years of experience in business writing for several online publications. Brian resides in Plano, Texas and he can be reached by email: Phone: 972-776-4050
  Information provided on this website is for general information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to offer legal advice specific to your business needs. If you need legal advice, you should consult with an attorney. Rankings and reviews are the personal opinions of the authors and/or editors. For questions, while starting a business, we recommend consulting with an attorney or accountant.