Follow our step-by-step How to Start an LLC in Washington State guide to get started today.
- Name Your Washington LLC
- Choose a Registered Agent
- File the Certificate of Formation
- Create an Operating Agreement
- Get an EIN
- File the Annual Report
- Keep Your Company Compliant
Subscribe to our YouTube channel
Step 1: Name Your Washington LLC
Choosing a company name is the first and most important step in forming an LLC in Washington State. Be sure to choose a name that complies with Washington naming requirements and is easily searchable by potential clients.
1. Follow the naming guidelines for a Washington LLC:
- Your name must include the phrase “limited liability company” or one of its abbreviations (LLC or L.L.C.).
- Your name cannot include words that could confuse your LLC with a government agency (FBI, Treasury, State Department, etc.).
- Restricted words (e.g. Bank, Attorney, University) may require additional paperwork and a licensed individual, such as a doctor or lawyer, to be part of your LLC.
2. Is the name available in Washington? Make sure the name you want isn't already taken by doing a Washington state LLC name search on the Washington Corporations and Charities Filing System.
To learn more about searching for a Washington LLC name, read our full guide.
3. Is the URL available? We recommend that you check to see if your business name is available as a web domain. Even if you don't plan to start a business website today, you may want to buy the URL in order to prevent others from acquiring it.
Find a Domain Now
Once you have verified your name is available, you may now select a professional service to complete the LLC formation process for you.
We reviewed and ranked the best LLC services. Find out which is best for you.
Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent in Washington
LLC owners are required to appoint a Washington registered agent for their LLC.
What is a registered agent? A registered agent is an individual or business entity responsible for receiving important tax forms, legal documents, notice of lawsuits, and official government correspondence on behalf of your business. Think of your registered agent as your business's point of contact with the state.
Who can be a registered agent? A registered agent must be a resident of Washington or a business entity, such as a registered agent service, authorized to conduct business in Washington. You may elect an individual within the company, including yourself.
Recommended: Check out these best registered agent services.
Step 3: File the Washington LLC Certificate of Formation
To register your Washington LLC, you'll need to file the Certificate of Formation with the Washington Secretary of State. You can apply online or by mail.
Now is a good time to determine whether your LLC will be member-managed vs. manager-managed.
File the Certificate of Formation
OPTION 1: File Online With the State of Washington
- OR -
OPTION 2: File By Mail
State Filing Cost: $180 for filing by mail or $200 online, payable to the Secretary of State (nonrefundable).
Secretary of State
P.O. Box 40234
Secretary of State
801 Capitol Way S
Olympia, WA 98501
Initial Report: The Initial Report is included with the online filing at no cost. If it is filed at a later date (within 120 days), it is $10 by mail or $30 online. Expedited Services are available for an additional $50
For help with completing the form, visit our Washington Certificate of Formation guide.
If you’re expanding your existing LLC to the state of Washington, you will need to form a foreign LLC.
Step 4: Create a Washington LLC Operating Agreement
An operating agreement isn’t required for forming an LLC in Washington, but it’s a good practice to have one.
What is an operating agreement? An operating agreement is a legal document outlining the ownership and operating procedures of an LLC.
Why are operating agreements important? A comprehensive operating agreement ensures that all business owners are on the same page and reduces the risk of future conflict.
For more information on operating agreements, read our Washington LLC operating agreement guide.
Recommended: Download a template or create a free operating agreement using our tool.
Step 5: Get a Washington LLC EIN
You can get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS for free. It is used to identify a business entity and keep track of a business’s tax reporting. It is essentially a Social Security number (SSN) for the company.
Why do I need an EIN? An EIN number is required for the following:
- To open a business bank account for the company
- For federal and state tax purposes
- To hire employees for the company
Where do I get an EIN? An EIN is obtained from the IRS (free of charge) by the business owner after forming the company. This can be done online or by mail.
FOR INTERNATIONAL APPLICANTS: You do not need an SSN to get an EIN. Learn more here.
Step 6: File the Annual Report
Washington requires LLCs to file an annual report with the Washington Secretary of State Corporations and Charities Division.
Annual reports can be filed online or by mail, along with a $60 filing fee. The filing deadline is the end of the month in which you formed your LLC with the state.
Steps After LLC Formation
Read all the steps you’ll need to maintain your LLC’s personal liability protection, open a business bank account, get business insurance, and stay up to date with state reporting requirements.
Visit our After Forming an LLC guide to learn more.
Step 7: Keep Your Company Compliant
Washington Business Licenses & Permits
To operate your LLC, you must comply with federal, state, and local government regulations. Fees and requirements for licenses and permits will vary depending on what sort of business license you need.
Find out how to get the necessary business licenses and permits for your LLC with our Washington Business License guide.
Recommended: Consider having a professional service research your business’s licensing requirements. Read our best business license services review.
Washington LLC Tax Filing Requirements
It's important to stay up to date on Washington LLC taxes.
Depending on the nature of your business, you may be required to register for one or more forms of tax:
If you are selling a physical product, you’ll typically need to register for a seller's permit through the Washington Department of Revenue website.
Washington's base state sales tax is 6.5%. Counties and cities can add an additional local sales tax of up to 4.1%.
If you’re hiring employees, you’ll need to register for Unemployment Insurance Tax with the Washington Employment Security Department.
Business & Occupation Tax
Most businesses in Washington must pay a Business & Occupation Tax through the Washington State Department of Revenue. This tax is based on the gross income of business activities, and tax rates vary based on your LLC's classification.
If you plan to hire employees for your Washington LLC, stay compliant with the law by following these steps:
- Verify that new employees are able to work in the US
- Report employees as "new hires" to the state
- Provide workers' compensation insurance for employees
- Withhold employee taxes
- Print workplace compliance posters and place them in visible areas of your workspace
Find more information at the Washington Employment Security Department.
Recommended: Check out our Hiring for Your Small Business Guide for resources like sample job descriptions, payroll service reviews, and more.
Common Questions About Washington LLCs
What is an LLC?
LLC is short for “limited liability company.” It is a simple business structure that offers more flexibility than a traditional corporation while providing many of the same benefits. Read our What is a Limited Liability Company guide for more information.
Or, watch our two-minute video: What is an LLC?
How do I name my Washington State LLC?
You must follow the Washington State LLC naming guidelines when choosing a name for your LLC:
- Include the phrase "limited liability company" or one of its abbreviations (LLC or L.L.C.).
- Do not use words that could confuse your business with a government agency (FBI, State Department, CIA, etc.).
- Receive the proper licensing when using the words such as lawyer or doctor.
If you are having trouble coming up with a name for your LLC, use our LLC Name Generator. That will not only find a unique name for your business but an available URL to match.
After you get your business name, get a unique logo using our Free Logo Generator.
Do I need to get a DBA or trade name for my business?
Most LLCs do not need a DBA, known as a trade name in Washington State. The name of the LLC can serve as your company’s brand name and you can accept checks and other payments under that name as well. However, you may wish to register a DBA if you would like to conduct business under another name.
To learn more about DBAs in your state, read our How to File a DBA guide.
Can I be my own registered agent?
Yes. You or anyone else in your company can serve as the registered agent for your LLC.
Read more about being your own registered agent.
Is a registered agent service worth it?
Using a professional registered agent service is an affordable way to manage government filings for your LLC. For most businesses, the advantages of using a professional service significantly outweigh the annual costs.
For more information, read our article on Washington registered agents.
What is the processing time to form my Washington LLC?
Processing is immediate after receiving payment online and typically takes five to seven business days by mail.
What is the difference between a domestic LLC and a foreign LLC?
An LLC is referred to as a "domestic LLC" when it conducts business in the state where it was formed. A foreign LLC must be formed when an existing LLC wishes to expand its business to another state.
Read our What Is a Foreign LLC article to learn more.
How much does it cost to start a Washington LLC?
The cost to start a Washington LLC is $180 by mail or $200 online.
To learn more, read our guide on the cost to form a Washington LLC.
Do I need to file my operating agreement with the State of Washington?
No. The operating agreement is an internal document that you should keep on file for future reference. However, many states do legally require LLCs to have an operating agreement in place.
How do I get an EIN if I don’t have a Social Security number?
A Social Security number is not required to get an EIN. You can simply fill out IRS Form SS-4 and leave section 7b blank. Then call the IRS at (267) 941-1099 to complete your application. Learn more here about applying as an international applicant.
What tax structure should I choose for my Washington LLC?
When you get an EIN, you will be informed of the different tax classification options that are available. Most LLCs elect the default tax status.
Do I need an EIN for my LLC?
All LLCs with employees, or any LLC with more than one member, must have an EIN. This is required by the IRS.
Learn why we recommend always getting an EIN and how to get one for free in our Do I Need an EIN for an LLC guide.
What is the minimum wage in Washington State?
The statewide minimum wage in Washington is $15.74 per hour.
What is the minimum wage in Seattle?
For Seattle businesses with 501 or more employees, the minimum wage is $18.69 per hour.
For Seattle businesses with less than 500 employees, the minimum wage is $18.69 without benefits and $16.50 with benefits.
How often do I need to pay employees?
Employers in Washington are required to pay employees monthly.