Washington Business License

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Washington State LLC Business License

Quick Start Guide
This Quick Start Guide is a brief overview of how to form an LLC in Washington.

Detailed Lessons:

 

Washington LLC Costs:
Washington LLC state filing fee: $200
Washington LLC annual report fee: $60

Need help?
Hire a reliable service to form your Washington State LLC:
Northwest ($39 + state fee) or LegalZoom ($149 + state fee)

(check out Northwest vs LegalZoom)

Note: This Business License page is not as step-by-step as our Washington LLC formation lessons. This is due to the uniqueness and variation among businesses formed in Washington, such as where those businesses are located, and how those businesses must apply for licenses and/or permits. Things vary by city and by industry. Therefore, the information below is an overview to point you in the right direction, and not a comprehensive step-by-step guide. Thank you for your understanding.

All LLCs in Washington must get a Business License. This is done by completing the Business License Application.

The term “Business License” can be a little confusing in Washington because it’s not really a business license, but rather, it’s more like a “bulk registration”. Meaning, the Business License (obtained via the Business License Application) really just registers your Washington LLC with multiple state Departments.

Meaning, after you create your Washington LLC with the Secretary of State, you then must complete the Business License Application to register your LLC with the following organizations:

  • Department of Revenue
  • Department of Labor & Industries
  • Employment Security Department

Note: Your LLC will only need to be registered for the Department of Labor & Industries and the Employment Security Department if you will have employees.

Additionally, if your Washington LLC needs a “special license” (either a City Endorsement License and/or a Specialty Endorsement License), the Business License Application will either automatically register your LLC for those, or provide you instructions on how to do it manually.

The department that handles these registrations is called the Business Licensing Service (BLS), a subdivision of the Washington Department of Revenue.

Washington Business License Fee

The Business License Application costs $19, which is a one-time fee.

The Business License Application consists of a questionnaire.

Once you complete the questionnaire, the state will automatically register your Washington LLC with the departments listed above.

Within 2-3 weeks of completing your Business License Application, each applicable department(s) will send you a welcome/informational packet in the mail.

The packet will include account details and any further requirements.

The section below jumps right into the instructions for completing the Business License Application. However, to get a better overview of the entire process, we recommend reading this entire lesson first before proceeding with the application.

Methods of Filing

Although the Business License Application can be completed by mail, the state prefers filing online. We also recommend the online filing as it’s faster and easier to go through.

If you were to file by mail, the application is more complicated (there is no questionnaire) and the processing time takes 6 weeks.

On the other hand, if you file online, there is a questionnaire to guide you through and the processing time takes approximately 2-3 weeks.

The information below is only for the online filing, however, if you prefer to apply by mail, you can scroll down to the section title “Apply by mail” on this page: https://bls.dor.wa.gov/file.aspx

Washington State Business License Application (Online)

The Business License Application is filed online via MyDOR (“My Department of Revenue“).

However, in order to login to a MyDOR account, you must first create a Secure Access Washington (SAW) account.

A Secure Access Washington (SAW) account is used as one central login across most Washington state agencies

Note: If you have an old “DOR e-File” account, that login information will no longer work.

UBI Number:

You’ll need the UBI Number from your LLC registration. You can look in the upper right corner of your LLC’s Certificate of Formation to find it. Or you can search your LLC name on the advanced business search page and find it there.

Online Filing (SAW & MyDOR Registration)

Sign up for a SAW account (to use MyDOR):

– Visit the SAW Sign Up page: https://secure.dor.wa.gov/home/Account/Register
– Enter your name and your email address.
– Create a user ID and a password.
– Agree to the terms and click “Register”.
– For the final step, you’ll need to go to your email inbox and find the activation code that the state sent you.

Apply for a Washington Business License:

– Now you’ll be on the MyDOR Services Page.
– Under the “I want to” column (on the right), click “Get Started”.
– Click “Yes” when it asks if you’re starting a new business and want to apply for a business license. Then click “Continue”.
– Complete your profile by adding a phone number and creating a security question. Then click “Save”.
– You’ll now be be inside your MyDOR account dashboard.
– On the right, under “I want to”, click “File New Business License Application”.

On the next step, select “Open or change ownership” and click “Next” to begin the Business License Application.

You’ll need to have the following information ready:

  • The Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for each LLC Governor
  • The date of birth for each LLC Governor
  • If you have employees, you’ll need their start date, duties, and number of hours they have worked or will work
  • Your LLC’s UBI Number
  • Your LLC’s Federal Employer ID Number (FEIN)

Note: The term “LLC Governor” in Washington means any LLC Member or Manager.

We can’t walk you through the filing

Unlike our other Washington LLC lessons, which are step-by-step, we’re unable to guide you through the Business License Application.

The reason for this is that depending on how many members your LLC has, what industry you do business in, and how your LLC is taxed, the answers to your questions will be different.

And the questionnaire is “conditionally smart”. Meaning, depending on what you answer, you’ll see a different set of questions on each step.

Questions?
If you run into questions during the Business License Application, you can call the Business Licensing Service at 800-451-7985 or you can speak with your accountant for help.

Where does the Business License Application register my LLC?

As mentioned earlier, depending on how you answer the questionnaire in the Business License Application, the state will automatically register your Washington LLC with one (or all) of the Departments listed below.

Then within 2-3 weeks, each applicable department will mail you a welcome/informational packet which will include account details and requirements.

Department of Revenue (DOR)

The Department of Revenue (DOR) is the agency which collects taxes and pays for public services. The Washington DOR is responsible for handling over 60 different taxes.

Although Washington doesn’t have personal or business income tax, there are other taxes that your LLC must file and/or pay:

Please keep in mind these are just state-level taxes. Not mentioned here are your federal tax requirements with the IRS and your local requirements with your county, city, town, and/or township. We strongly recommend that you hire an accountant in order to properly file taxes for your Washington LLC.

For more information on taxes owed by your Washington LLC, please see our Washington LLC Taxes page.

Department of Revenue Contact Info:
Website: https://dor.wa.gov/
Phone: 800-647-7706 (8am – 5pm Pacific Time)
Contact: https://dor.wa.gov/contact-us

Department of Labor & Industries (L&I)

The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is responsible for the health, safety, and security of workers in Washington.

The Business License Application will ask you whether or not you plan to have employees. If you answer “yes”, the application will register your Washington LLC with L&I.

L&I will then set up a Workers’ Compensation account for your LLC.

Workers’ Compensation Insurance:
Workers’ Compensation Insurance is also called “Industrial Insurance” in Washington.

See what is Workers’ Compensation and do I need a Workers’ Compensation Account for more information.

Generally, your LLC Members don’t need Workers’ Compensation Insurance, however, there are a few exceptions. For details, please see L&I’s information on Limited Liability Companies.

Due quarterly:
You can submit your State Fund quarterly report and pay premiums online.

Additional requirements:
In addition to the workers’ compensation insurance, there are other business requirements that will need to be met with L&I.

Also, depending on the nature of your business, you may also need a license and/or permit from L&I. Some examples are businesses involved in amusement rides, asbestos removal (abatement), boilers, charter vessels, cranes, electrical, elevator, environmental, manufactured homes/other mobile structures, radio signaling, workplace safety, and health inspections.

Workplace posters:
As an employer, you’re required to put up workplace posters so employees know their rights. These workplace posters are provided for free from L&I.

Independent contractor versus employee:
The IRS’s definition of independent contractor vs. employee doesn’t apply in Washington. Instead, Washington has their own rules, which you can find here: independent contractor vs employee.

Workshops:
L&I offers in-person and online workshops for employers.

Department of Labor & Industries Contact Info:
Website: https://www.lni.wa.gov/
Phone: 800-987-0145 or 360-902-4817 (8am – 5pm Pacific Time)
Contact: https://www.lni.wa.gov/Main/ContactInfo/

Employment Security Department (ESD)

The Employment Security Department (ESD) helps people find jobs as well as helping those that are in transition between jobs.

The Business License Application will ask you whether or not you plan to have employees. If you answer “yes”, the application will register your LLC with ESD.

ESD will then set up an Unemployment Insurance Account for your LLC.

Unemployment insurance:
Unemployment insurance is paid to the state by both employers and employees. If an employee loses their job (not through their own fault), they are eligible for unemployment benefits and the state will provide financial assistance while they look for a new job.

Unemployment taxes:
As an employer, you must pay unemployment taxes on your employees’ wages. Employers pay taxes based on their employees’ gross wages.

Due quarterly:
Employers must submit a tax report quarterly, even if no employees were paid or you’re unable to pay the amount due.

Where to get help:
Your unemployment taxes can be handled by your accountant or a payroll company.

If you need a payroll company that handles payroll taxes as well as unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation, we recommend using Gusto Payroll.

Other Employer Requirements:
You must report new hires within 20 days. If you don’t, as per RCW 26.23.040, the state can fine you $25 per month per employee.

For more information, please see the following:
https://esd.wa.gov/employer-taxes/reporting-new-hires
https://www.dshs.wa.gov/esa/division-child-support/new-hire-reporting

Employment Security Department Contact Info:
Website: https://esd.wa.gov/
Phone: 855-829-9243 (8am – 5pm Pacific Time)
Contact: https://esd.wa.gov/newsroom/contact-ESD

Trade Name Registration

Most filers won’t need to register a Trade Name for their Washington LLC.

However, this can be a little confusing since the state mentions Trade Name registrations many times on the BLS website. The reason for this is that they are primarily speaking to people operating as a Sole Proprietorship. On the other hand, an LLC is not required to register a Trade Name (it’s optional).

(related articles: LLC vs Sole Proprietorship and Do I need a Trade Name for my LLC?)

Having said that, if you want to register a Trade Name for your Washington LLC, you can do so via the Business License Application.

The cost per Trade Name in Washington is $5.

Most states refer to a Trade Name as a DBA (doing business as) or Fictitious Name, however, Washington State uses the term “Trade Name“.

A Trade Name is used/needed when a person or company chooses to do business under a name that is different from their legally registered name.

Here are some examples:

If John Doe is operating a Sole Proprietorship in Washington and wants to do business under the name “John’s Painting Company”, he would need to register the name “John’s Painting Company” as a Trade Name.

If John Doe formed a Washington LLC called “John’s Painting Company LLC”, he doesn’t need to file a Trade Name with the name of “John’s Painting Company LLC”. He can just do business under “John’s Painting Company LLC”. However, if he wanted his LLC to do business under the name “John’s Painting Company” (without the “LLC”), or he wanted his LLC to do business under the name “John’s Painting Services” (or another different name), he would need to register those as a Trade Name.

For more Trade Name examples, please see FAQ page on the BLS website:
https://bls.dor.wa.gov/faqtradename.aspx

Specialty License Endorsements

Also taken care of within your Business License Application will be any Specialty Licenses, also called a “Specialty Endorsement”.

This is a specific state-level business license which is required for any business operating within certain industries. In order to get the state-level Specialty License, you’ll need to pay a fee.

The Specialty License Endorsement fee is usually between $20 and $250, however, it depends on the industry. This endorsement/fee must be renewed each year.

For a list of industries which require a Specialty License and can be obtained in the Business License Application please see here: https://bls.dor.wa.gov/specialtylicenses.aspx

There are a number of industries which also require a Specialty License, but can’t be obtained in the Business License Application (they must be obtained manually). For a list of all licenses in Washington State, please see here: https://www.dol.wa.gov/listoflicenses.html

City/County License Endorsements

Most cities in Washington require LLCs to obtain a city-level business license (in addition to the main Business License Application and any Specialty Endorsements).

These are often called City General Business Licenses.

About 75 of the largest cities in Washington have partnered with the BLS in order to make obtaining this City Business License (aka “City Endorsement”) much easier. Meaning, they can be obtained during the Business License Application for your Washington LLC.

For a list of participating cities, please review this page: https://bls.dor.wa.gov/citycounty.aspx

The City Business License (aka “City Endorsement”) requirements are determined by where your LLC operates in Washington. Meaning, if your Washington LLC operates in multiple cities, you’ll need to pay and register for multiple City Endorsements.

Having said that, not all cities and counties have partnered with the BLS. In that case, if your Washington LLC does business in any city or county not listed in the link above (see “participating cities” link), it’ll require a manual registration process.

You’ll need to call both the county and the city where your LLC does business to determine if any additional county-level or city-level business licenses are required. You can find the county, city, or town information below.

For a list of all cities and towns in Washington, please see here: http://mrsc.org/Home/Research-Tools/Washington-City-and-Town-Profiles.aspx

For a list of all counties in Washington, please see here: http://mrsc.org/Home/Research-Tools/Washington-County-Profiles.aspx

City Permit

In addition to the above City General Business License, your Washington LLC may also need a City Permit (or Permits).

To find the requirements for your LLC, you’ll need to call the city (or cities) where your LLC will do business.

For a list of all cities and towns in Washington, please see here: http://mrsc.org/Home/Research-Tools/Washington-City-and-Town-Profiles.aspx

You can also try googling “{city} business permit”.

Some examples of permits that may be required are:

  • Building permit
  • Fireworks permit
  • Fire safety permit
  • For-hire driver permit
  • Health permit
  • Home occupation permit (for home-based businesses)
  • Mobile food cart permit
  • Open burn permit
  • Rental permit (for real estate rental property)
  • Sidewalk vending permit
  • Signage permit
  • Solicitation permit
  • Special event permit (competitive event, fair, concert, parade, etc.)
  • Zoning permit

Reseller Permit

If your Washington LLC is in the retail, wholesale, or manufacturing business, you will need a Reseller Permit.

A Reseller Permit exempts a Washington LLC from paying sales tax on items that are purchased for resale (retailers and wholesalers) or items that are purchased for manufacturing new articles or substances (manufacturers).

Your Business License Application will most likely register your LLC to receive a Reseller Permit, however, if that’s not the case, you can apply for one later from the Department of Revenue: https://dor.wa.gov/find-taxes-rates/retail-sales-tax/reseller-permits

For more information on Washington Reseller Permits, please read the state’s FAQs: https://dor.wa.gov/find-taxes-rates/retail-sales-tax/reseller-permits/reseller-permit-your-questions-answered

Retail Sales Tax & Use Tax

Your Washington LLC is required to collect retail sales tax or use tax (but not both). Then those taxes are paid to the state.

Sales and use tax are taxes collected against the sales of retail products and certain services in Washington.

Sales tax must be collected for brick-and-mortar stores in Washington as well as online sellers.

Sales tax rates are calculated as state sales tax + city/county sales tax. So the total sales tax that needs to be collected, depends on where your store is located or where the ship-to address of your buyers are (since Washington is a destination-based sales tax state).

Calculating sales tax and meeting your filing deadlines can be a major headache for business owners. Your accountant may be able to help, but many accountants stay away from sales tax and recommend hiring a sales tax company.

Need help with sales tax? To automate all of your Washington sales tax filings (sales tax and use tax), we recommend checking out TaxJar. TaxJar helps online sellers as well as brick-and-mortar businesses automate their sales tax filings.

TaxJar also has a helpful guide on Washington sales tax: Washington Sales Tax Guide for Businesses

Washington Business License Annual Renewal

A number of changes took effect in early 2018 regarding the Washington LLC “Annual Renewal”.

First, the old term, “Annual License Renewal” (or “Annual Renewal”) is no longer being used. Instead, it’s now referred to as the LLC Annual Report.

The LLC Annual Report is due each year by your LLC’s anniversary month. You can find instructions on how to file your Washington LLC Annual Report here: Washington LLC Annual Report.

Second, the LLC Annual Report used to be filed with the Business Licensing Service (BLS), however, that is no longer the case.

Starting January 1st 2018, Washington LLCs are to file their Annual Reports with the Secretary of State. You can find more information on this here: Washington LLC Annual Reports now filed with the Secretary of State.

However, the “sub-level” registrations that took place during your Business License Application must be renewed each year. And these will vary depending on if your Washington LLC needed a Specialty License Endorsement and/or City Endorsement.

That includes City Endorsements, Specialty Endorsements, City/County Permits, and City/County Tax Certificates. On the other hand, Reseller Permits are usually renewed every 2-4 years.

Reminders:
The state will mail you renewal notices about 6 weeks before your license endorsements expire. Included will be details and instructions on how to renew your LLC’s license endorsements.

Next Step

After you’ve completed your Business License Application, as well as researched and obtained any additional licenses and/or permits for your Washington LLC, you can then proceed to the next lesson: Washington LLC Taxes.

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Matt Horwitz
Founder & Educator at LLC University
Forming an LLC shouldn't be so complicated. Our step-by-step guide will make the process a breeze – and no complex legal jargon! We teach people how to form an LLC for free in all 50 states. We hope you find our free guides and resources helpful in your entrepreneurial journey.

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