Start A Business In Washington

Forming & maintaining a Washington business

There are a lot of reasons Washington State is a great place to start a business. Washington individuals don’t file personal income tax returns with the state. And for small businesses, the first $43,000 of revenue is tax-free in Washington. Before you can reap these benefits, however, you have to make it through the actual Washington state business formation process, which can be formidable.

Washington Registered Agent LLC has you covered from A to Z when it comes to incorporating in our state. If you’d like to leave the bureaucracy to a local expert you can trust, hire us to form your Washington LLC or Washington corporation, obtain your master business license application, obtain your EIN, and even obtain your contractor’s license. Our corporate filing experts could do all of this in their sleep!

how to start a business in Washington

Step-by-step guide to starting a business in Washington

If, however, you’d rather save a little money, simply hire us as your registered agent, and let the following guide walk you through step-by-step. Depending on the nature of your business, some steps may not apply:

1. File your formation document with the Secretary of State.
Whether you’re forming a WA corporation or a WA LLC (or a nonprofit, or a partnership), you should start here. You might find advice, even on official websites, to start with the Department of Revenue by applying for your business license. But trust us: Starting anywhere else will only slow you down. And you can check this step off fairly quickly if you play your cards right.The document you’ll need to submit is either called Articles of Incorporation (for corporations) or a Certificate of Formation (for LLCs).

  • Exact company name
  • Street address and PO box of principal office
  • Effective date of formation
  • Tenure (duration)
  • Class of shares (for corporations only)
  • Management type (for LLCs only)
  • Name, physical address and mailing address of Washington registered agent
  • Signature of registered agent
  • Names, addresses, phone numbers and signatures of of signer(s)

As you can see, you’ll need a WA State registered agent’s name, addresses, and signed consent. We recommend hiring a registered agent, rather than filling that role yourself. You can silence that worry in the back of your mind that a process server might show up at your business—or worse, might miss you because your office isn’t open. Hiring a Washington registered agent service you can trust takes care of this—and other headaches—so you can focus on the actual purpose of your business.

While you may file your Washington LLC or corporation by paper, online filing is straightforward and much faster.

2. Wait for processing and your UBI number.
If you filed online, your filing will be processed within 5 days. If you file by mail without expediting, it may be up to 3 weeks to receive confirmation. The Secretary of State will send you an email confirming that your business is formed, and providing you with your 9-digit UBI number. UBI stands for “Unified Business Identifier,” which means that multiple Washington state use the UBI to identify your business. The key is to make sure you receive your UBI number from the Secretary of State—otherwise you could get duplicate numbers from multiple agencies, and you may waste valuable time trying to sort that out, instead of forming your WA company.

3. Submit your master Business License Application.
With your UBI number, you’re ready to apply for your business license—that isn’t really a business license—with the Business Licensing Service. The Master Business License Application is really a business registration that lets each related agency know what you’re up to, so you can pay taxes, employment insurance, etc. In some cases, you can file this application online (with 5-day processing), and in other cases, you must file by paper (up to 21-day processing).It’s important to fill this 4-page application out with care, because the way you fill out each section alerts specific agencies to the reports, fees and other requirements you’ll need to submit to them. The last thing you need is extra paperwork, zero returns, etc. That’s one reason we offer the master business license as an optional service when you incorporate with us. At, we file these almost every day.

4. Apply for other licenses and permits.
Depending on what business you’re in, you may be able to apply for your specialty license with your Master Business License Application. See the links below to learn about which specialty licenses you can apply for at the same time as the master business license, and which ones will require you to file by paper. In some cases, additional fees and paperwork will still be required even if your specialty license is included, but you’ll receive a packet of information from the proper agency.Most WA cities require you to get a license to do business within the city limits. You may apply for a license for a few cities via the Master Business License Application (see link below). You may also need to apply for zoning and permits, or a contractor’s license.

5. File your Initial Report.
For WA State corporations and LLCs, an initial report is due 120 days after the day you filed your formation document. If you filed online, you can file your initial report online as well. You’ll need your UBI number and the application ID you were given during your online filing process when you formed your business.

File for an EIN for your Washington LLC

6. Obtain a Federal Tax ID Number (EIN).
If you will need to pay federal taxes as a business or will have employees, you are required to get an EIN. You can obtain one yourself online, or hire us to get one for you.

7. File Beneficial Ownership Report to FinCEN. Effective January 1, 2024, businesses must file a Beneficial Ownership Information (BOI) report to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network after forming with the state. Reporting businesses formed prior to January 1, 2024 may file their initial BOI report anytime in 2024. Businesses created in 2024 must file within 90 days of formation. The filing period shortens for businesses formed in and after 2025: these companies have 30 days to file.

BOI reports are filed online for free and collect company and individual information in an effort through the Corporate Transparency Act to combat money laundering and other financial crimes. Collected data is held secure by FinCEN and is not made public.

Get peace of mind and remain in compliance with our professional BOI report filing service, just $9.

Beneficial Owner
Company Applicant
DefinitionThe company itself; an entity registered to do business in the USAny person who directly or indirectly exercises substantial control over the business, owns 25% or more of the company, and/or receives substantial economic benefitThe person who formed the company (and if different, the person who directed it be formed).
Required InformationCompany name/DBAs
US street address
Tax ID number
Formation jurisdiction
Full legal name
Date of birth
Residential address
Copy of accepted ID
Full legal name
Date of birth
Residential address
Copy of accepted ID

8. Pay taxes to the Department of Revenue.
If you checked certain boxes on your master business application, you should be receiving a packet of information from the Department of Revenue. Washington State has no personal income tax, but they do have what’s called a B & O tax on your gross income. Find out more on our Washington taxes page.

9. Get Workers’ Compensation and Unemployment Insurance.
If you have employees and indicated that on your master business license application, the WA Department of Labor & Industries will automatically set up a workers’ compensation account for you. Then the WA Employment Securities Department will set up your unemployment insurance account. Within 2 weeks, you’ll receive information packets from L&I and Employment Securities, including how much money to deduct from employees’ paychecks, quarterly report instructions, your workers’ comp rate, and workplace health and safety information.

10. Keep in compliance.
The state of Washington requires what they call an annual license renewal, or annual report, every year. The Secretary of State has the Business Licensing Services handle it for them. The fee is $71, and you may file online. Your registered agent will receive an Annual Renewal Notice in the mail with a password that you’ll need to log in to the online filing system. This renewal notice will arrive 45 days before the due date, which is the last day of the month you formed your company—your anniversary month.

If you choose to work with us for your Washington business, we offer a compliance service to have our office automatically handle your renewal on your behalf.

If you’re less enthused about tackling a lot of busy work, you have options. When you hire us to incorporate your Washington business, you get one year of our registered agent service, our incorporation service, and a 2-5 day turnaround for $365 (includes state fees). In addition, you can pick and choose other services—we can do most of the steps above for you. You can add the master business license, city licenses, EIN and annual report compliance. Let us free up your time and frustration levels, so you can focus on what matters in forming your business in Washington.

Specialty Licenses Covered by Online Business License Application

Business Activities that Require a Paper Business License Application

Specialty Licenses not Covered by Business License Application

City Licenses You Can Apply for Via the Business License Application