Starting a Washington LLC, step-by-step
Starting a Washington LLC costs $200. And it takes 14 days to get an LLC in Washington state.
Here are the 6 steps to forming an LLC in Washington:
- Choose an LLC Name
- Select a Registered Agent
- File a Certificate of Formation & Initial Report
- Create an Operating Agreement
- Get an EIN
- Get a Business License
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 Washington?
It costs $200 to start an LLC in Washington.
And then it costs $60 per year.
What are these fees for?
- The $200 is to file the Certificate of Formation – the document that creates an LLC.
- The $60 per year is for your Annual Report – a mandatory filing that keeps your LLC in good standing.
To learn more about LLC Costs, see LLC Costs in Washington.
How long does it take to get an LLC in Washington?
If you file your LLC by mail, it will be approved in 5-6 weeks (plus mail time).
But if you file online, your LLC will be approved 12-14 business days.
Please see How long does it take to get an LLC in Washington to check for any delays.
Here are the steps to forming an LLC in Washington
1. Search your LLC Name
Search your Washington 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 entity name and compare it to existing businesses in Washington. You can make sure the LLC Name you want is unique from existing businesses using the state’s Advanced Business Search.
Second, familiarize yourself with the naming rules in Washington (so your Washington LLC gets approved).
We’ll explain both in more detail here: Washington LLC Name.
2. Choose a Washington Registered Agent
The next step is to choose a Washington Registered Agent.
A Washington Registered Agent is a person or company who accepts legal mail and state notices on behalf of your Washington 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 Washington. 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 Washington, 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 office 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 Washington LLC Certificate of Formation & Initial Report
To start an LLC, you need to file the Washington Certificate of Formation and Initial Report.
This paperwork gets filed with the Washington Secretary of State.
The LLC Certificate of Formation and Initial Report cost $200 if you file online.
Pro Tip: We recommend filing online because it’s easier, faster, and cheaper.
If you file by mail, you’ll pay $200 for the Certificate of Formation and an extra $30 for the Initial Report. And you’ll have to file these documents separately.
This is a one-time filing to create your LLC.
If you want to file this yourself, see our step-by-step guide: Washington Certificate of Formation.
Or, you can hire a company to do it for you.
4. Create a Washington LLC Operating Agreement
A Washington LLC Operating Agreement serves as a “companion” document to the Certificate of Formation.
The Certificate of Formation 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 Washington Secretary of State 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 Washington Operating Agreement video.
5. Get an EIN for your LLC
The next step is to get a Washington 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
- open a business bank account
- apply for business licenses and permits
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 to get an EIN for a Washington State LLC.
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. Get Washington Business Licenses and Permits
All businesses in Washington are required to get a general business license from the state government.
And depending on where your LLC is located, you may also 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 Washington Business License page.
What do I do after my LLC is approved?
After your Washington LLC is approved, there are some additional steps.
Get 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 entity finances separate from your personal finances.
File your Washington LLC Annual Report
All Washington LLCs must file an Annual Report every year.
The Annual Report keeps your LLC in good standing with the state.
How much does a Washington LLC Annual Report cost?
The Annual Report filing costs $60 per year.
When is the Annual Report due?
Your LLC’s Annual Report is due by the end of your LLC’s anniversary month. (Your anniversary month is the date your LLC is approved.)
For example, if your LLC was approved on March 16, your Annual Report is due by March 31 every year.
When is my first Annual Report due?
Your first Annual Report is due the year after your LLC was approved.
For example, if your LLC was approved on March 16, 2023, your first Annual Report is due by March 31, 2024.
How do I file my LLC Annual Report?
You can file your LLC’s Annual Report online or by mail. We recommend the online filing because it’s easier to complete.
Follow our step-by-step guide here: Washington LLC Annual Report.
File and pay taxes
LLCs don’t pay federal taxes. 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 Washington 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.
Married Couples: Instead of having your LLC taxed as a Partnership, married couples can elect to be taxed as a Single-Member LLC (aka Qualified Joint Venture). This is allowed in Washington because Washington is a community property state.
Besides federal taxes, there are also state and local income taxes – and gross receipts tax.
The good news is that Washington doesn’t have state-level income tax.
This means you don’t have to file an individual state-level income tax return with the Washington Department of Revenue for your Washington LLC income.
That said, all businesses must pay the Business & Occupation Tax (B&O Tax) every year.
The B&O Tax is a gross receipts tax. This means the amount you owe for this tax is based on the total amount of money your LLC makes each year.
There are also other types of Washington business tax that apply to certain industries and types of businesses.
Learn more in Washington LLC Taxes.
How to Start an LLC in Washington FAQs
Can I start an LLC online in Washington?
Yes, you can file your LLC online in Washington. The Certificate of Formation filing fee is $200.
When you start your LLC online, it will be approved 12-14 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 Washington state income taxes are very similar, since the state honors the federal tax treatment of your LLC.
To learn more, please see How are LLCs taxed.
Is Washington a good state to start an LLC?
Whether Washington 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 Washington, then you should start your LLC in Washington. 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 Washington, you’ll also need to register your Delaware LLC in Washington (and pay extra fees). And you’ll end up paying Washington 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 Washington, then yes, Washington is a good state to start a business. If you don’t live in and do business in Washington, then no, Washington isn’t a good state to start a business.
Real estate exception: If you’re purchasing real estate outside of Washington, 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: