How to Start an LLC in Washington DC

Last Updated: by the TRUiC Team

Start an LLC in the District of Columbia With These Six Easy Steps

Or Simply use a professional service:

four point seven out of five Northwest ($29 + State Fees)

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District of Columbia State map icon with filing cost

Starting an LLC in DC is Easy

To start a Washington DC LLC, you'll need to file the Articles of Organization with the DC Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection, which costs $99. You can apply online, in person, or by mail. The Articles of Organization is the legal document that officially creates your DC limited liability company

Follow our step-by-step How to Start an LLC in Washington DC guide to get started today. You can learn more about LLCs and their benefits in our What is an LLC guide. To learn how to form an LLC in Spanish, read our Cómo crear una LLC en Washington D.C. guide.

For more information on how to form an LLC in any state, visit our How to Set Up an LLC guide.

STEP 1: Name Your Washington D.C. LLC

Choosing a company name is the first and most important step in starting your LLC. Be sure to choose a name that complies with Washington D.C. naming requirements and is easily searchable by potential clients.

1. Follow the naming guidelines for a DC 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 D.C.? Make sure the name you want isn't already taken by doing a name search on the DC website.

To learn more about searching for a DC 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

Now that you have verified your name and secured the URL you may select a professional service to complete the LLC formation process for you. We recommend using one of these professional services:

STEP 2: Choose a Registered Agent in Washington D.C.

You are required to nominate a Registered Agent for your Washington D.C. 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 D.C. or a corporation, such as a registered agent service, authorized to conduct business in Washington D.C. You may elect an individual within the company including yourself.

Recommended: Northwest provides the first year of registered agent service free with LLC formation ($29 + State Fees)

STEP 3: File Your Washington D.C. LLC Articles of Organization

To register your LLC, you'll need to file Form DLC-1 - Articles of Organization with the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection. This can be done online, by mail, or in person.

Now is a good time to determine whether your LLC will be member-managed vs. manager-managed.

File the Articles of Organization

OPTION 1: File Online With DC CorpOnline

File Online

- OR -

OPTION 2: File Form DLC-1 by Mail or In Person

Download Form

State Filing Cost: $99 online or by mail and $199 in person, payable to the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection (Nonrefundable)

Mailing Address:
Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection
Corporations Division
P.O. Box 92300
Washington, DC 20090

Office Address:
Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection
1100 4th St. SW
Washington, DC 20024

Note: Mail-in filings must include a cover letter.

For help with completing the form, visit our Washington D.C. Articles of Organization guide.

District of Columbia LLC Formation Document

If you’re expanding your existing LLC to Washington D.C., you will need to form a Foreign LLC.

STEP 4: Create Your Washington D.C. LLC Operating Agreement

An operating agreement is not required in Washington D.C., 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 D.C. LLC operating agreement guide.

Recommended: Download a template or create a Free Operating Agreement using our tool.

STEP 5: Get a Washington D.C. LLC EIN

What is an EIN? EIN stands for Employer Identification Number. EINs are a nine-digit number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to help identify businesses for tax purposes. It is essentially a Social Security number for a business.

An EIN is sometimes referred to as a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) or Federal Tax Identification Number (FTIN).

Why do I need an EIN? An EIN is required to:

  • Open a business bank account
  • File and manage Federal and State Taxes
  • Hire employees

What if I already have an EIN for my sole proprietorship? The IRS requires that sole proprietorships get a new EIN when converting to an LLC.

Where do I get an EIN? You can get an EIN for free from the IRS. Getting an EIN is an easy process that can be done online or by mail.

FOR INTERNATIONAL EIN APPLICANTS: You do not need a SSN to get an EIN. For more information, read our How to Get an EIN as a Foreign Person guide.

Get an EIN

Option 1: Request an EIN from the IRS

Apply Online

- OR -

Option 2: Apply for an EIN by Mail or Fax

Download Form

Mail to:
Internal Revenue Service
Attn: EIN Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999

Fax: (855) 641-6935

Fee: Free

Step 6: Get a Basic Business License

All businesses that do business in Washington D.C. must obtain a Basic Business License (BBL) after obtaining an EIN. This can be done online or in person.

A list of applicable business licensing categories can be found on the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection website, as well as the fees and further licensing requirements for each industry. If your LLC doesn’t fall under one of these categories, it must register for a General Business License (GBL), which is a type of Basic Business License.

Get a Washington D.C. Basic Business License

File Online With My DC Business Center

File Online

Fee: Varies by industry

Office Address:
DLCP Business License Center
1100 4th St. SW, 2nd Fl.
Washington, DC 20024

In-Person Filing: Walk-in customers can visit the Business License Center and complete the application at a My DC Business Center kiosk.

Frequently Asked Questions

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. For more information, read our What is an LLC guide.

Watch our video: What is an LLC?

How do I name my Washington D.C. LLC?

You must follow the Washington D.C. 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, your next step is getting a unique logo. Get your 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. 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 District of Columbia registered agents.

What is the processing time to form my DC LLC?

5 to 7 business days online, up to 3 weeks by mail, but may be expedited for an additional fee.

To learn more, go to our How Long Does it Take to Form an LLC in Washington D.C. guide.

What is the difference between a domestic DC LLC and foreign LLC?

An LLC is referred to as a "domestic LLC" when it conducts business in the state where it was formed. Normally when we refer to an LLC we are actually referring to a domestic LLC. 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 DC LLC?

The cost to start a Washington D.C. LLC is $220.

To learn more, read our guide on the cost to form a Washington DC LLC.

Do I need to file my operating agreement with the state?

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 D.C. 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.

However, some LLCs can reduce their federal tax obligation by choosing the S corporation (S corp) status. To learn more, read our LLC vs. S Corp guide.

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 Washington D.C. Franchise Tax?

There is a Franchise Tax for each LLC formed in Washington D.C. which varies depending upon your LLC’s income.

What are the rates DC LLCs pay for franchise tax?

The District of Columbia levies a franchise tax on all LLCs with more than $12,000 in gross receipts, and which are not otherwise exempt. The tax is 9.0% of all taxable income. Taxable income is derived from your LLC’s net income, minus a $5,000 exemption for unincorporated entities and a 30% salary allowance for the owners of your LLC.

The minimum tax rate is $250 for companies with DC gross receipts under $1 million, and $1,000 for companies with DC gross receipts over $1 million.

What is the minimum wage in Washington D.C.?

The minimum wage in Washington D.C. is $16.50 per hour.

How often do I need to pay employees?

Washington D.C. requires wages to be paid regularly at least twice per month.

Steps to start an L L C in District of Columbia

Considering Using an LLC Formation Service?

We reviewed and ranked the top 5 LLC formation companies.
Find out which is best LLC service for you.

Compare LLC Services

Important Steps After Forming an LLC

Separate Your Personal and Business Assets

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your Washington D.C. LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing the corporate veil.

You can start protecting your LLC in Washington D.C. with these steps:

1. Opening a business checking account:

  • Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
  • Makes accounting and tax filing easier.

Need help finding your EIN for your bank application? Visit our EIN Lookup guide for help.

Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.

2. Getting a business credit card:

  • Helps categorize and separate all business expenses for end-of-year tax purposes.
  • Helps build your business credit score — an essential step toward getting a line of credit or business loan in the future. 
  • Allows you to keep track of department expenses by issuing multiple cards (with multiple budgets) to your employees.

For a closer look at business credit cards and their benefits, check out our review of the best small business credit cards.

Recommended: Visit Divvy to apply for their business credit card and build your business credit quickly.

3. Hiring a business accountant:

  • Prevents your business from overpaying on taxes while helping you avoid penalties, fines, and other costly tax errors
  • Makes bookkeeping and payroll easier, leaving you with more time to focus on your growing business 
  • Manages your business funding more effectively, discovering areas of unforeseen loss or extra profit

Recommended: Find out how much you could be saving today by trying our recommended accounting service.

For more business accounting tools, read our guide to the best business accounting software.

Get Business Insurance for Your Washington D.C. LLC

Business insurance helps you manage risks and focus on growing your LLC. The most common types of business insurance are:

  • General Liability Insurance: A broad insurance policy that protects your business from lawsuits. Most small businesses get general liability insurance.
  • Professional Liability Insurance: A business insurance for professional service providers (consultants, accountants, etc.) that covers claims of malpractice and other business errors.
  • Workers' Compensation Insurance: A type of insurance that provides coverage for employees’ job-related illnesses, injuries, or deaths. In Washington D.C., businesses with one or more employees are required by law to have workers' compensation insurance. 

Ready to Protect Your Business?

Get the protection you need with a dedicated small business insurance provider. Find out how much insurance will cost you by getting a quote from our partners at Next Insurance.

Read our review of the best small business insurance companies.

Create Your Business Website

Creating a website is an important step in legitimizing your business. Every business needs a website if you want your customers to find you.

Recommended: Get started today using our recommended website builder or check out our review of the Best Website Builders.

Send Out a Press Release

Press releases are among the easiest and best ways to promote your business. They are also one of the most cost-effective strategies as they:

  • Provides publicity
  • Establish your brand presence on the web
  • Improve your website’s search engine optimization (SEO), driving more customers to your website
  • Are a one-time cost in terms of effort and money
  • Have long-lasting benefits

Read our review of the best press release services.

Keep Your Company Compliant

Washington D.C. LLC Business Permits and Licenses

Do I need business licenses and permits?

To operate your LLC you must comply with federal, state, and local government regulations. For example, restaurants likely need health permits, building permits, signage permits, etc.

The details of business licenses and permits vary from state to state. Make sure you read carefully. Don't be surprised if there are short classes required as well.

Fees for business licenses and permits will vary depending on what sort of license you are seeking to obtain.

Find out how to obtain necessary licenses and permits for your business or have a professional service do it for you:

Recommended: If you are a first-time entrepreneur, consider having a professional service research your business’s licensing requirements. Read our best business license services review on Startup Savant.

Washington D.C. LLC Tax Filing Requirements

Depending on the nature of your business, you may be required to register for one or more forms of state tax.

Washington D.C. Sales Tax

If you are selling a physical product, you’ll typically need to register for a seller's permit through the Washington D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue website.

This certificate allows a business to collect sales tax on taxable sales.

Sales tax, also called "Sales and Use Tax," is a tax levied by states, counties, and municipalities on business transactions involving the exchange of certain taxable goods or services.

Read our Washington D.C. sales tax guide to find out more.

Washington D.C. Employer Taxes

If you have employees in Washington D.C., you will have to register for Unemployment Insurance Tax through the Department of Employment Services. You will also need to sign up for Withholding Tax through the Office of Tax and Revenue.

Register for Washington D.C. Taxes

Sales Tax | Unemployment Insurance Tax | Withholding Tax

Federal LLC Tax Filing Requirements

Most LLCs will need to report their income to the IRS each year using:

How you pay yourself as an owner will also affect your federal taxes. Visit our guide to learn more about how to pay yourself from your LLC.

Read our LLC Tax Guide to learn more about federal income taxes for LLCs.

Washington D.C. Franchise Tax

Washington D.C. LLCs are required to pay an annual Franchise Tax. 

File the Annual Franchise Tax With Washington D.C.

OPTION 1: File Form D-30 (for all LLCs with gross income more than $12,000)

Download Form

- OR -

OPTION 2: File Form D-65 (only for multi-member LLCs with gross income of $12,000 or less)

Download Form

State Filing Cost: Free to file. Franchise tax payments should be made payable to the DC Treasurer.

Due Date: Due on April 15th for calendar-year filers, otherwise on the 15th day of the fourth month following the close of the tax year for fiscal filers

Late Filings: For all late payments, the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue will charge:

  • a penalty of 5% per month, up to 25% of the total tax due,
  • an interest penalty of 10% per year, compounded daily, and
  • a collection fee of 10% the tax balance due after 90 days.

File Your LLC Biennial Report

Washington D.C. requires LLCs to file a biennial report with the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection.

File your Biennial Report

OPTION 1: File Online With DC CorpOnline

File Online

- OR -

OPTION 2: File Form BRA-25 by Mail or In Person

Download Form

Fee: $300 online or by mail and $400 in person, payable to the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection (Nonrefundable)

Mailing Address:
Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection
Corporations Division
P.O. Box 92300
Washington, DC 20090

Office Address:
Business License Center
11 4th St. SW, 2nd Floor
Washington, DC 20024

Due Date: Washington D.C. LLC biennial reports are due by April 1 every second year.

Late Filings: Any biennial report received after April 1 will result in a $100 late fee.

Note: Mail-in filings must include a cover letter.

Avoid Automatic Dissolution

LLCs may face fines and even automatic dissolution when they miss one or more state filings. When this happens, LLC owners risk loss of limited liability protection. A quality registered agent service can help prevent this outcome by notifying you of upcoming filing deadlines and by submitting reports on your behalf.

Recommended: Northwest offers a reliable registered agent service and excellent customer support. Learn more by reading our Northwest Review.

Hiring Employees in Washington D.C.

If you plan to hire employees, stay compliant with the law by following these steps:

Find out more information at the Washington D.C. Directory of New Hires.

Recommended: Check out our Hiring for your Small Business Guide for resources like sample job descriptions, payroll service reviews, and more.

Small Business Resources

Get Help Starting a Business in Washington D.C.

We understand that creating an LLC and getting your business up and running comes with many challenges. To help you succeed, we compiled the best local resources in Washington D.C. You can get free assistance throughout the district:

Washington D.C. Resources

Washington D.C. Quick Links

More Washington D.C. LLC Information

Washington D.C. Foreign LLCs

Forming a foreign LLC allows your company to operate as one entity in multiple states. If you have an existing LLC and want to do business in Washington D.C., you will need to register as a foreign LLC. This can be done online or by mail.

Register as a Foreign LLC in Washington D.C.

OPTION 1: File Online With Washington D.C. CorpOnline

File Online

- OR -

OPTION 2: File by Mail 

Download Form

Fee: $220, payable to the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection (Nonrefundable)

Mailing Address:
Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection
Corporations Division
PO Box 92300
Washington, DC 20090

How to Obtain a Certificate of Good Standing in Washington D.C.

Certificate of Good Standing verifies that your LLC was legally formed and has been properly maintained. Several instances where you might need to get one include:

  • Seeking funding from banks or other lenders
  • Forming your business as a foreign LLC in another state
  • Obtaining or renewing specific business licenses or permits

You can order a Washington D.C. Certificate of Good Standing online.

Order a Certificate of Good Standing

Request Certificate of Good Standing Online

Order Online

Fee: $50 (Nonrefundable)

How to Dissolve an LLC in Washington D.C.

If at any point in the future you no longer wish to conduct business with your LLC, it is important to officially dissolve it. Failure to do so in a timely fashion can result in tax liabilities and penalties, or even legal trouble. To dissolve your LLC, there are two broad steps:

  • Close your business tax accounts
  • File the Articles of Dissolution

When you are ready to dissolve your LLC, follow the steps in our Washington D.C. LLC Dissolution Guide.

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