Starting a DC LLC, step-by-step
Starting a Washington DC LLC costs $99. And it takes 5 days to get an LLC in the District of Columbia.
Here are the 8 steps to forming an LLC in DC:
- Choose an LLC Name
- Select a Registered Agent
- File Articles of Organization
- Create an Operating Agreement
- Get an EIN
- File for Tax Registration
- Get a Certificate of Occupancy or Home Occupation Permit
- Get DC Business Licenses and Permits
If you want to form your LLC yourself, follow our free guide below.
If you want someone to take care of it for you, we recommend hiring Northwest Registered Agent
(We recommend Northwest. We've reviewed all the top companies in the industry. And Northwest is our #1 pick for prices, customer support, and address privacy. Check out Northwest vs LegalZoom to learn more.)
How much does it cost to start an LLC in DC?
It costs $99 to start an LLC in DC.
And then you’ll need to pay additional fees. Some are one-time fees, and others are due every 2 years.
What are these fees for?
- The $99 is to file the Articles of Organization – the document that creates an LLC.
- The $75 – $125 is for your Certificate of Occupancy or Home Occupation Permit – a mandatory permit required for LLCs operating from a commercial or residential building in DC.
- The $200 – $500 every 2 years is for your Basic Business License – a license that allows your Limited Liability Company to do business in the District of Columbia.
- The $300 every 2 years is for your Biennial Report – a mandatory filing that keeps your LLC in good standing.
To learn more about LLC Costs, see LLC Costs in DC.
How long does it take to get an LLC in DC?
If you file your DC LLC by mail, it will be approved in 2-4 weeks (plus mail time).
But if you file online, your DC LLC will be approved in 5 business days.
Please see How long does it take to get an LLC in DC to check for any delays.
Here are the steps to forming an LLC in DC
1. Search your LLC Name
Search your District of Columbia LLC Name to make sure it’s available in the state.
You need to do this because two businesses in the state can’t have the same name.
First, search your business name and compare it to existing businesses in DC. You can make sure the LLC Name you want is unique from existing businesses using CorpOnline.
Second, familiarize yourself with the naming rules in DC (so your District of Columbia LLC gets approved).
We’ll explain both in more detail here: District of Columbia LLC Name.
2. Choose a DC Registered Agent
The next step is to choose a DC Registered Agent.
A DC Registered Agent is a person or company who accepts legal mail and state notices on behalf of your DC Limited Liability Company.
Who can be an LLC Registered Agent?
You have 3 options for who can be the Registered Agent:
- A friend or family member
- A Registered Agent Service
The Registered Agent for your LLC must have a physical street address in the District of Columbia. PO Boxes aren’t allowed.
And the Registered Agent’s name and address will be listed on public records.
If you don’t have an address in DC, or you want more privacy, you can hire a Registered Agent Service for your LLC.
We recommend Northwest Registered Agent
Our favorite feature about Northwest is they’ll let you use their business address throughout your LLC filing. This way, you can keep your address off public records.
They’ll also scan any mail sent to your LLC and upload it to your online account.
Northwest has excellent customer service, and they’re who we trust to be our own Registered Agent.
3. File LLC Articles of Organization
To start an LLC, you need to file the DC Articles of Organization.
This gets filed with the DC Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection (DLCP).
The DC Articles of Organization costs $99 if you file online.
This is a one-time fee to create your LLC.
If you want to file this yourself, see our step-by-step guide: DC Articles of Organization.
Or, you can hire a company to do it for you.
4. Create an LLC Operating Agreement
A District of Columbia LLC Operating Agreement serves as a “companion” document to the Articles of Organization.
The Articles of Organization creates your LLC, and the Operating Agreement shows who owns the LLC.
Additionally, some banks require an Operating Agreement when you open an LLC bank account.
And having an Operating Agreement will be very helpful if you ever end up in court. Reason being, it helps prove that your LLC is being run properly.
That’s why we recommend that all LLCs have an Operating Agreement – including Single-Member LLCs.
Furthermore, an Operating Agreement is an “internal document“. Meaning, you don’t need to file it with any government agency (like the DLCP or the Internal Revenue Service). Just keep a copy with your business records.
You can download a free template below.
Then, learn how to fill it out by watching our step-by-step DC LLC Operating Agreement video.
5. Get an EIN for your LLC
The next step is to get a District of Columbia EIN Number from the IRS for your LLC.
Note: An EIN Number is also called a Federal Tax ID Number or Federal Employer Identification Number.
An EIN Number is used to:
- identify your LLC for tax purposes
- apply for business licenses and permits
- open a business bank account
How much does an EIN cost?
Getting an EIN Number from the IRS is completely free.
How long does it take to get an EIN?
If you apply online, it takes 15 minutes.
If you apply by mail or fax, it can take 1-3 months.
How can I get an EIN?
US Citizens/US Residents: If you have an SSN or ITIN, you can apply for an EIN online. Follow these instructions: Apply for an EIN online.
Non-US Residents: You can’t get an EIN online, but you can still get one by fax or by mail. Follow these instructions: How to get an EIN without an SSN or ITIN.
6. Register with the Office of Tax & Revenue
All LLCs in DC must register for taxes with the Office of Tax & Revenue (OTR).
You’ll need your EIN Number from the IRS for this.
How much does LLC Tax Registration cost?
Tax Registration with the DC Office of Tax & Revenue is free for DC LLCs.
How can I register my DC LLC for taxes?
You can register your DC LLC for taxes online using the OTR’s web portal: MyTaxDC.
Once submitted, your LLC will be registered for the required District of Columbia taxes, and you’ll be notified about when those taxes are due.
For step-by-step tax registration instructions with screenshots, see our guide: DC LLC Tax Registration.
Important: After you submit your tax registration, you’ll get a Notice of Business Tax Registration letter in the mail within 3 to 5 business days. Your LLC’s Notice Number will be printed In the upper-right corner of this letter.
And you’ll need the LLC Notice Number number to apply for your Basic Business License (discussed a few steps below).
7. Get a Certificate of Occupancy or Home Occupation Permit
All LLCs in the District of Columbia must have either a Certificate of Occupancy or Home Occupation Permit in order to operate.
- Your LLC will need a Certificate of Occupancy if your LLC will own or develop office or commercial space.
- Your LLC will need a Home Occupation Permit (HOP) if you work from home (in a residential building).
How much does a DC Certificate of Occupancy cost?
A Certificate of Occupancy is $75 for most LLCs, but may cost more depending on the square footage of the commercial building.
That said, if you rent office or commercial space, you may be able to use the building’s existing Certificate of Occupancy. Check with the owner or management.
How can I get a DC Certificate of Occupancy?
Most Certificate of Occupancy applications are filed by emailing the forms to the DC Department of Buildings.
How much does a DC Home Occupation Permit cost?
A Home Occupation Permit is $122. And you must get a HOP regardless of whether you rent or own the home.
How can I get a DC Home Occupation Permit?
You can apply for a Home Occupation Permit online.
Important: If you have a physical location in DC or you work from home in DC, you’ll need the Certificate of Occupancy or Home Occupation Permit Number for the next step – applying for a Basic Business License.
If you don’t have a physical location in DC and you don’t work from home in DC, then you don’t need a Certificate of Occupancy or a Home Occupation Permit.
8. Get DC Business Licenses and permits
All LLCs in the District of Columbia must also have a Basic Business License (BBL) in order to operate.
Before applying for an LLC Business License, make sure you have your:
- LLC Certificate of Organization
- LLC’s EIN Number
- Notice of Business Tax Registration letter
- Certificate of Occupancy or Home Occupation Permit
You will need all this information when applying for your BBL.
How much is a DC Basic Business License for an LLC?
How much a Basic Business License costs varies based on what your business does to make money. This is called your business’s endorsement category.
On average, a BBL will cost between $200 to $500 (every 2 years).
If your business doesn’t fall into any of the available endorsement categories, then you can use the “General Business License” endorsement category.
A GBL costs $325 every 2 years.
Note: All Basic Business Licenses must be renewed every 2 years. (Unless you buy a 4-year license. Then the license is renewed every 4 years.)
Also, depending on where your LLC is located, you may need a local business license or permit.
For example, if you want to start a daycare, you may need a business license from the city or county.
You can learn more on our DC Business License page.
What do I do after my Limited Liability Company is approved?
After your LLC is approved, there are some additional steps.
File your District of Columbia LLC Biennial Report
All District of Columbia LLCs must file a Biennial Report every 2 years.
The Biennial Report keeps your LLC in good standing with the state.
How much does a District of Columbia LLC Biennial Report cost?
The Biennial Report filing fee is $300 every 2 years.
When is the Biennial Report due?
Your LLC’s Biennial Report is due every 2 years by April 1st.
When is my first Biennial Report due?
Your first Biennial Report is due the year after your LLC was approved.
For example, if your LLC was approved on February 15, 2023, your first Biennial Report is due by April 1, 2024.
And then it’s due by April 1st every 2 years after that.
How do I file my LLC Biennial Report?
You can file your LLC’s Biennial Report online or by mail. We recommend the online filing because it’s easier to complete.
Follow our step-by-step guide here: DC LLC Biennial Report.
Open an LLC business bank account
You’ll want to open a business bank account for your LLC.
This makes accounting and record-keeping much easier for your business finances.
Having a separate business bank account also maintains your personal liability protection. This is because it keeps your business income separate from your personal finances.
File and pay taxes
LLCs don’t pay federal income tax. Instead, the LLC Members pay the taxes for the LLC.
Said another way, the owners pay taxes for the LLC as a part of their personal tax return.
How will my LLC be taxed?
By default, a DC LLC is taxed by the IRS based on the number of owners your LLC has:
- A Single-Member LLC is taxed like a Sole Proprietorship.
- A Multi-Member LLC is taxed like a Partnership.
Alternatively, you can ask the IRS to tax your LLC like a C-Corporation or S-Corporation.
Besides federal taxes, there are also state and local income taxes – and sales tax. Learn more in District of Columbia LLC Taxes.
How to Start an LLC in DC FAQs
Can I start an LLC online in DC?
Yes, you can file your LLC online in DC. The Articles of Organization filing fee is $99.
When you start your LLC online, it will be approved in 5 business days.
What are the benefits of an LLC?
The first benefit of an LLC is protecting your personal assets. Meaning, if your business is sued, your personal assets – like your home, cars, and bank accounts – are protected.
This protection applies to all LLC owners (called LLC Members). It doesn’t matter if you have a Single-Member LLC or Multi-Member LLC. All of the LLC owners are protected from the business debts and liabilities.
This type of protection wouldn’t apply if you operate as a Sole Proprietorship or Partnership. With these types of informal business structures, the owners aren’t protected in the event of a lawsuit. For that reason, Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) are a much more popular business structure.
Another benefit is LLC pass-through taxation. This means the LLC itself doesn’t pay federal income taxes. Instead, the profits “pass through” to the LLC Members. And the Members pay the taxes on their personal tax return.
And DC income taxes are very similar, since the district honors the federal tax treatment of your LLC.
To learn more, please see How are LLCs taxed.
Is DC a good “state” to start an LLC?
Whether DC is a good state to start an LLC depends on where you live – and where you’re doing business.
Meaning, if you live in or do business in DC, then you should start your LLC in DC. While many websites talk about tax rates and advantages of certain states, none of that applies if it’s not the state where you live and do business.
For example, if you form an LLC in Delaware, but live in and conduct business in DC, you’ll also need to register your Delaware LLC in DC (and pay extra fees). And you’ll end up paying DC taxes anyway. This ends up leading to more costs and more headaches with no advantages.
In summary, if you live in and conduct business in DC, then yes, DC is a good state to start a business. If you don’t live in and do business in DC, then no, DC isn’t a good state to start a business.
Real estate exception: If you’re purchasing real estate outside of DC, you should form your LLC in the state where the property is located.
For more information, please see Best State to Form an LLC.
What is the difference between a Domestic LLC, a Foreign LLC, and a PLLC?
The main differences between Domestic LLCs, Foreign LLCs, and Professional LLCs are where they are formed and their business purpose.
A Domestic Limited Liability Company is an LLC that is formed in its “home state”, meaning, where the business owner lives and does business.
For example, if you live in and do business in Georgia, you would form your Domestic LLC in Georgia.
A Foreign Limited Liability Company is an LLC that is formed in a state that isn’t its home state. In this case, the term “foreign” simply means that the LLC is foreign to its “home state”.
For example, if you live in and do business in Georgia, you would form your Domestic LLC in Georgia. If you later expand into Florida, you would register your existing Georgia LLC as a Foreign LLC in Florida.
Said another way, LLCs are created at the state-level.
So if you want your LLC to do business in two separate states, you have to form or register an LLC in both states.
This works by forming a Domestic LLC in your home state, and a Foreign LLC in the other state.
What is a PLLC?
A Professional Limited Liability Company (PLLC) is a type of LLC formed for the purpose of providing “professional services”.
In this case, “professional” refers to business types that require special permissions (like a license, registration, or certification from the state) in order to do business legally.
For example, architects, attorneys, and social work counselors, doctors, and veterinarians often form their business practices as PLLCs.
You can read more about PLLCs, their availability, and their stricter requirements in: What’s a Professional LLC?
And for more information on Foreign and Domestic LLCs, please see:
What happened to the DCRA?
The DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) used to handle LLC processing.
However, in October of 2022, the DCRA was replaced. And its responsibilities were split between two new departments: The Department of Buildings, and the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection.
DLCP Subdivisions & DC Agencies
Website: DLCP: Corporations Division
Department of Buildings
(Certificate of Occupancy or Home Occupation Permit)
Website: DC Department of Buildings
Business Licensing Division
(Basic Business License)
Website: DLCP: Get a Business License
Small Business Resource Center
(General Advice and Resources for Small Businesses)
Website: DLCP: Small Business Resource Center (SBRC)
Office of Tax & Revenue
(Registration and payment of DC taxes)
Website: DC.gov: Office of Tax and Revenue