How to Get a Business License in DC
You can get a business license online or in person by applying with the correct licensing or regulatory agency for your business.
Business licensing requirements generally depend on your business’s activity and location (zoning requirements).
There are two main licensing jurisdictions:
Washington D.C. Business Licensing
Most businesses in Washington D.C. must register for a basic business license through the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), which includes specific endorsements for businesses in certain professions. Businesses that do not fit in the specific endorsement categories receive a general business license, which is effectively a type of basic business license.
You can register for a Washington D.C. basic business license through the My DC Business Center website.
Sales Tax License
Another main permit or license in Washington D.C. is the sales tax license, also known as a seller’s permit.
You must obtain a seller's permit if you:
- Are engaged in business in Washington D.C.
- Intend to sell or lease tangible personal property that would ordinarily be subject to sales tax if sold at retail.
Visit the MyTax DC website to obtain a seller’s permit.
Additionally, businesses in certain industries and professions must obtain specific licenses through other regulatory agencies. The DCRA provides a list of these professions and links to more information.
Steps for Obtaining a Business License in Washington D.C.
Washington D.C. Basic Business License
You can register for a Washington D.C. business license online or in person.
The registration fee will vary depending on if you need a Basic Business License with a specific endorsement or if you need a General Business License. The Washington DC Start a Business Wizard can help you figure out which type of endorsements you need.
Washington D.C. Sales Tax License
You can register for a Washington D.C. sales tax license online by submitting Form FR-500.
Other Washington D.C. Business Licenses
The processes for obtaining licenses that are not issued by the DCRA vary. The DCRA provides a list of professional and occupational licenses issued by other agencies, as well as contact information for those agencies.
Washington D.C. business licenses must be renewed every two years. Businesses will receive a renewal packet in the mail prior to the expiration date. Renewal fees vary depending on the type of endorsement your license has, and the license can be renewed online or in person.
You do not need to renew your Washington D.C. sales tax license.
Check with the relevant licensing agency for the renewal requirements of any other license your business may have.
Federal Business Licenses and Permits
You can get a business license by applying with the correct licensing and regulatory agency for your business. Business licensing requirements depend on your business’s activity and location (zoning requirements).
If your business conducts activities that are regulated by the federal government, you will need to apply for the appropriate business license or permit.
Choose a business activity below to learn how to apply:
Firearms, ammunition, and explosives
Fish and wildlife
Mining and drilling
Radio and television broadcasting
Transportation and logistics
DC Business License FAQ
What is a business license?
A business license is a permit issued to businesses by a government office that allows the business to operate in a particular area. They can be issued by federal, state, or local governments. There are typically different licensing requirements for different businesses and different locations.
What are the types of business licenses?
There are many types of business licenses. These include licenses at the local, state, and federal levels, licenses related to sales tax and other taxes, and specific licenses for various professions. There are also environmental licenses, zoning permits, and more.
Is there a national business license?
Most businesses don’t need a federal business license, but some industries, including broadcasting, investment advising, and drug manufacturing, do have federal regulations and licenses.
Is an EIN the same as a business license?
No. An employer identification number (EIN) is issued by the IRS to identify and keep track of businesses, but it does not license them to operate.
Is an LLC considered a business license?
No. An LLC is a type of business structure. While you are required to register as an LLC, it is not a business license.
Who needs a Washington D.C. business license?
Most businesses need a Washington D.C. business license, and many also need a sales tax license. Businesses in certain professions may need other specific licenses.
What is a seller’s permit?
A seller’s permit is the common name for a license or permit that allows you to sell products or services. In Washington D.C., this is called a sales tax license.
How much does a Washington D.C. business license cost?
The cost of registering for a Washington D.C. business license varies. A Basic Business License starts at $95, while a General Business License costs $200. These licenses are valid for two years, and renewal fees vary.
There is no fee for a sales tax license, and the fees for other licenses vary.
How do I get a Washington D.C. business license?
You can register for a Washington D.C. business license online through the My DC Business Center website or in person. You can register for a sales tax license through the MyTax DC website. The processes for obtaining other licenses vary.
Do I have to renew my Washington D.C. business license?
Washington D.C. business licenses must be renewed every two years, sales tax licenses do not need to be renewed, and the renewal requirement for other licenses vary.