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