Last updated September 30, 2020
How to Form an LLC
in Washington State
Quick Start Guide ← you are here
This Quick Start Guide is a brief overview of how to form an LLC in Washington.
Washington LLC Costs:
Washington LLC state filing fee: $200
Washington LLC annual report fee: $60
★ Check out Northwest vs LegalZoom
Here is a quick overview on starting an LLC in Washington State
Hi there, my name is Matt Horwitz and I’m the founder of LLC University®.
We’ve put together a free guide on how to form an LLC in Washington State. We hope you find it helpful!
To form a Washington State LLC, you can either follow the lessons above (which are more detailed and step-by-step), or you can follow our Quick Start Guide below (which is a brief overview of all the steps).
If this is your first time setting up an LLC in Washington, we recommend that you follow the more detailed lessons above. Please make sure to follow them in order.
A Washington Limited Liability Company (LLC for short) is a hybrid business entity that offers you personal liability protection in case of a lawsuit. In the event your LLC is sued, your personal assets (like your home, vehicles, and personal bank accounts) remain safe from creditors.
You can use your Washington LLC to run a business or you can use your LLC to purchase assets, such as real estate, vehicles, boats, and aircraft.
To form an LLC in Washington State, you can:
– follow the Quick Start guide on this page (a brief overview), or
– follow the detailed lessons linked above
(check out Northwest vs LegalZoom)
1. Washington LLC Name
• Before filing a Washington LLC with the Secretary of State, you must search the state’s database to make sure your desired LLC name is available for use.
• Your Washington LLC’s name must be unique and distinguishable when compared to all the existing businesses registered in the state.
• Washington is strict on LLC name distinguishability. If your LLC filing is submitted with a name that is not available, your filing will be rejected and the filing fee is non-refundable. For this reason, we strongly recommend you read our complete Washington LLC Name Lesson.
• Washington LLC Name Search:
You can search your desired Washington LLC name via the Advanced Business Search page: https://ccfs.sos.wa.gov/#/AdvancedSearch
- Limited Liability Co.
- Limited Liability Company
Tip: If you’re not sure which designator to use, “LLC” is the most common.
• Your Washington LLC name cannot include a designator that makes it sounds like a different type of legal entity:
- LP or L.P.
- LLP or L.L.P.
- LLLP or L.L.L.P
• Many filers rush forming their LLC and then later want to change their Washington LLC name. While an LLC name change can be done, there are multiple steps involved such as filing an amendment with the Secretary of State and updating the IRS, the bank, and the Department of Revenue. It’s a lot easier to think of a solid LLC name from the start and not have to change it later. We recommend reading how to come up with a good business name for some LLC naming tips.
2. Washington LLC Registered Agent
• The Washington Secretary of State requires you to list a Registered Agent in your LLC’s Certificate of Formation.
• A Washington Registered Agent is a person or company designated to receive your LLC’s notices from the Secretary of State and any legal mail (called Service of Process) in case of lawsuits.
• Your Washington Registered Agent should have a physical address within the state (PO Boxes are not allowed) where Service of Process and other documents can be received.
• Who can be your LLC’s Registered Agent in Washington?
You have 3 options on who can be your LLC’s Registered Agent in Washington.
Option #1 is for you to be your LLC’s Registered Agent.
Option #2 is for a friend or family member to be your LLC’s Registered Agent. They must agree to do so, and you’ll need their signed consent.
Option #3 is to hire a Commercial Registered Agent. Hiring a Commercial Registered Agent is a good idea if you don’t have an address in the state or if you prefer to keep your address off of public records since Registered Agent information is publicly available.
• Commercial Registered Agent: If you want to hire a Commercial Registered Agent in Washington State, we recommend Northwest Registered Agent ($125 per year).
Northwest has been in the Commercial Registered Agent business for over 20 years and they have great customer support. Any mail that is sent to your LLC will be scanned by them and uploaded to your online account. They’ll also let you use their office address throughout your LLC filing in order to keep your address off of public records.
3. Washington Certificate of Formation & Initial Report
• Washington LLC filing forms: Certificate of Formation & Initial Report
• Washington LLC filing fee: $200 (one-time fee)
• Method of filing: You can form an LLC in Washington State by mail or online; however, it’s much better to file online. The online LLC filing has a faster approval time and it includes your required Initial Report (at no additional charge). If instead you were to file by mail, you’d have to separately file your Initial Report and pay an additional filing fee. The state prefers online filings and it’s also what we recommend.
• File LLC online: You must create an account with the Corporations & Charities Filing System (CCFS): https://ccfs.sos.wa.gov/#/ in order to file your LLC online.
• Approval times: Your Washington LLC will be approved in 2-3 business days when you file online.
• Washington LLC approval: The Secretary of State will send you 3 LLC approval documents. They will be emailed to you and a duplicate copy will also be mailed to your LLC’s Registered Agent.
You’ll receive back a:
– Congratulation Letter,
– Certificate of Formation,
– and a “Certificate of Formation with Initial Report – Fulfilled”
4. Washington LLC Operating Agreement
• A Washington LLC Operating Agreement is a written agreement among the LLC Members that spells out who owns the LLC and how much of the LLC they own.
• An Operating Agreement should be put in place for both Single-Member LLCs and Multi-Member LLCs.
• The LLC’s Operating Agreement will also include information about how profits are split, how taxes are paid, and how the LLC is managed.
• Having an Operating Agreement for your Washington LLC also helps prove that the company is a separate legal entity from you as an individual. This helps maintain the personal asset protection provided by your LLC.
• “Internal Document”: Your Washington LLC’s Operating Agreement is an “internal document”, meaning you only need to keep a copy with your business records and give a copy to other LLC Members (if applicable). You don’t have to send your LLC’s Operating Agreement to the Secretary of State, Department of Revenue, IRS, or any other government agency.
• Download Operating Agreement template: We provide a free Operating Agreement template that you can download on this page: Washington LLC Operating Agreement.
5. Apply for an EIN for your Washington LLC
• An EIN (Employer Identification Number) is obtained from the IRS after your Washington LLC is approved by the state.
• An EIN is also called an FEIN (Federal Employer Identification Number) or a Federal Tax ID Number.
• You can think of your Washington LLC’s EIN as its “social security number”. It helps identify your LLC to the IRS for tax and filing purposes.
• Your Washington LLC’s EIN will also be used when you open an LLC bank account, file taxes, apply for a business license, and to process employee payroll (if applicable).
• How is a Washington LLC taxed: The IRS doesn’t have a specific tax classification for LLCs and instead a Washington LLC can be taxed 4 different ways with the IRS; 2 of which occur by default (they occur simply by obtaining your LLC’s EIN), and 2 require a special election be made (a form must be filed after you obtain your LLC’s EIN). We recommend reading how are LLCs taxed before applying for your EIN.
• Wait for LLC approval: Don’t apply for an EIN until your Washington LLC is approved by the Secretary of State.
• An EIN is free: The IRS issues EINs to LLCs at no cost. Applying for an EIN with the IRS costs $0.
• Husband and wife LLC: If you are forming a 2-Member LLC in Washington you can elect a special type of taxation called a Qualified Joint Venture. This allows a 2-Member LLC to be treated as a Sole Proprietorship instead of a Partnership for tax purposes.
• EIN Responsible Party: This will be the IRS’s “contact person” when you apply for your LLC’s EIN. If you have a Single-Member LLC, you will be the Responsible Party. If you have a Multi-Member LLC, any LLC Member can be the Responsible Party. For more information, please see here: EIN Responsible Party for LLC.
• How to apply for an EIN: There are 3 ways to apply for an EIN for your Washington LLC:
- If you have an SSN or ITIN, you can apply for an EIN online
- If you apply for an EIN online and get an error message, you’ll need to apply for EIN with Form SS-4 instead
- If you don’t have an SSN or ITIN, you can still get an EIN for your LLC by following these instructions: how to get an EIN without an SSN or ITIN
6. Washington LLC Annual Report
• After you form an LLC in Washington State, you must file an Annual Report every year. This must be filed by all LLCs in Washington regardless of income or business activity levels.
• The Annual Report used to be filed with the Business Licensing Service, however, starting in 2018, Washington LLC Annual Reports are now filed with the Secretary of State.
• Washington LLC Annual Report fee: $60 per year. Prior to January 1st 2018, the old filing fee used to be $71, however, it’s now $60.
• Due date: The first year an Annual Report for a Washington LLC is due is the year after the LLC was formed. They are due by the last day of the LLC’s anniversary month. For example, if your LLC was formed on March 5th 2020, your first Annual Report will be due by March 31st 2021. Then it’s due March 31st every year going forward.
• How to file an Annual Report: The best way to file your LLC’s Annual Report is online (instead of by mail). This is the state’s preferred method and it’s also what we recommend. You can file online via the Corporations & Charities Filing System (CCFS): https://ccfs.sos.wa.gov/#/. Click “Business Maintenance Filings” on the left and then click “Annual Report”.
• Avoid having your LLC shut down: The most common reason that the Secretary of State dissolves (shuts down) LLCs is for failure to file their required Annual Report. We strongly recommend putting a repeating reminder on your calendar and also writing a note for a visual reminder as well.
• Annual Report approval: After you file your Washington LLC’s Annual Report online, it’ll be approved instantly and it’ll be available for download inside your CCFS dashboard.
7. Washington State Business License
• All LLCs in Washington must get a Business License.
• You’ll get your Business License for your LLC by completing the “Business License Application“.
• The term ‘business license” can be a little confusing though since it’s not really a “traditional” license. It’s much easier to think of the Business License like a “bulk registration”. Meaning, by completing the Business License Application, you will be registering your LLC for some, or all, of the following organizations:
- Department of Revenue
- Department of Labor & Industries
- Employment Security Department
• Washington Business License Fee: The fee is $19 (one-time fee).
• How to apply: While the state offers filing by mail or filing online, we recommend the online filing as it’s easier to complete. You first need to create a Secure Access Washington (SAW) account and then you can login to MyDOR (“My Department of Revenue”).
• Application questionnaire: Inside MyDOR, you’ll go through the Business License Application (which is a questionnaire) in order to get your Washington LLC properly registered.
• Specialty license endorsements: Depending on the industry your LLC operates within, you may also need to obtain a Specialty License Endorsement for an additional fee.
• City/county license endorsements: Depending on where your LLC does business, you may also need to obtain a City or County License Endorsement.
• Additional requirements: Depending on the details of your business and where it’s located, you may also need a City Permit and/or a Reseller Permit.
• Instructions: Please see our Washington State LLC Business License page for further details and instructions.
• If you don’t want to make the calls and determine your licensing requirements, we recommend using IncFile.
8. Washington State Taxes
• Income tax: Typically, income taxes are paid on 3 levels:
(Unlike most states, Washington doesn’t have a personal or corporate state income tax)
• Federal income taxes: A Washington LLC is a pass-through entity which means the profits and losses of the LLC flow through and will be listed on your personal federal income tax return.
- If you have a Single-Member LLC taxed as a Sole Proprietorship, you’ll likely list your business income on a Schedule C as a part of your personal 1040 return.
- If you have a Multi-Member LLC taxed as a Partnership, you’ll need to file a 1065 Partnership Return, issue K-1s to each of the LLC Members, and then the LLC Members will include the K-1 income on their personal 1040 return.
The IRS doesn’t have a specific tax classification for LLCs, therefore, LLCs are taxed based on the number of Members they have. For more information, please read how LLCs are taxed. Additionally, an LLC can elect to be taxed as an S-Corporation to save money on self-employment taxes.
• Although the state of Washington doesn’t have income tax, there are other taxes you are likely responsible for:
- business & occupation tax (“B&O”)
- retail sales tax
- use tax
- property tax
- other industry-specific taxes
• Sales tax: If you sell retail goods or offer certain services, you need to collect and remit sales tax to the state. Details on Washington sales tax rates can be found here: Washington sales tax rates.
Tip: If you need help automating your sales tax filings, we recommend setting up an account with TaxJar.
• Recommendation: You’ll need to speak with an accountant to determine all of your tax reporting and filing requirements. Figuring out all of your tax filing requirements can be very complicated and if filed improperly, it can lead to penalties, fines, and interest.
9. Washington LLC Bank Account
• Once the IRS has issued your Washington LLC’s EIN Number, you can then open a business checking account.
• It’s best practice to have a business checking account for your Washington LLC in order to maintain your personal liability protection. Using a personal bank account for your LLC is called “commingling assets” and this can lead to personal liability issues if you end up in court.
• Having a separate business bank account for your LLC also makes recordkeeping easier for accounting and tax purposes.
• Generally, business banking is very similar among banks, however, each bank has their own rules and regulations, so we recommend calling around to determine the following:
- minimum initial deposit
- minimum balance requirements
- monthly maintenance fees (if any)
• Required LLC paperwork: In order to open a business bank account for your Washington LLC, you’ll generally need to have the following:
- approved Certificate of Formation (bring your “Certificate of Formation” and your “Certificate of Formation with Initial Report – Fulfilled”)
- EIN Confirmation Letter from the IRS
- photo ID (driver’s license and/or passport)
- Operating Agreement (may not be needed, but best to bring it anyway)
Note: Call the bank ahead of time and double-check what documents are required.
• For more tips on how to find the best business bank account for your LLC, please see here: business bank accounts for LLCs.
• LLC Members: If you have a Multi-Member LLC, all Members that want to be on the bank account need to be present.
• Debit card and credit cards: Most banks will provide a business debit card on the spot after the account is opened. If not, they’ll usually mail the debit card in 1 to 2 weeks.
• If you want to obtain a business credit card, we recommend searching for cards at www.creditcards.com.
• Non-U.S. residents: If you are a non-US resident that has formed an LLC, you can still open a U.S. bank account. You can find more information here: opening an LLC bank account for non-US residents.
10. Business Phone Number
Instead of giving out your actual cell phone number (or home telephone number), it might be a good idea to get a “virtual business number” for your Washington LLC. You’ll be able to customize the number so it forwards to your cell phone.
Our favorite company is Phone.com. They have the cheapest plans and the best customer support.
You can get a local Washington telephone number or you can get a 1-800 number for your business. Phone.com lets you easily setup call forwarding to any number you like, create pre-recorded messages, and you can get your voicemails sent right to your email.
Getting a separate phone number for your Washington LLC is a good idea if you’d like to keep your actual phone number off of those annoying “public record” websites (and stop the spam phone calls).