How to Start an LLC in Washington DC (2024 Guide)
Wondering how to start an LLC in Washington DC? We’ve got you covered.
To get started, you'll need to pick a suitable business name, choose a registered agent, and file your Articles of Organization with the DC Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection ($99-$199 processing fee).
You can do this independently, consult with a business attorney for specialized legal guidance, or join the other 65% of our readers and hire a specialized Washington DC LLC formation service (recommended).
Northwest ($29 + District Fees)
LegalZoom ($249 + District Fees)
How to Form an LLC in Washington DC in 6 Steps
In order to form your LLC in Washington DC, there are certain steps you’ll need to complete:
- Name Your Washington DC LLC
- Choose a Registered Agent
- File Your Articles of Organization
- Create an LLC Operating Agreement
- Obtain an EIN
- File a Beneficial Ownership Information Report
Step 1: Name Your Washington D.C. LLC
Before you get started, you will need to pick a suitable name for your Washington DC LLC.
This will need to comply with all applicable naming requirements under Washington DC law and be both succinct and memorable, as this will make it easily searchable by your potential clients.
1. Important Naming Guidelines for Washington DC LLCs:
- Your name must include the phrase “limited liability company,” “limited company,” “professional limited liability company” or any accepted abbreviation: “PLLC, LLC, L.L.C., LC, or L.C.”
- Your name cannot include words that could confuse your LLC with a government agency; examples of such words include “Treasury,” “FBI,” and “State.”
- Your name cannot include certain words and/or phrases (e.g., Architect, Lawyer, Doctor, etc.) without written approval from the relevant governing board.
For more information, we recommend having a look at the Council of the District of Columbia’s Business Name Requirements page.
2. Is the name available in Washington DC?
To check whether your desired name has already been taken by another business entity in Washington DC, you can perform a business entity search on the DC website.
If you’re not going to start your LLC right away, it might be a good idea to consider reserving your name for up to 120 days.
For more information, you can have a look at our DC LLC Name Search 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 right away, this is an extremely important step as it will prevent others from acquiring it, potentially saving you both time and money in the long term.
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Once you have verified your name is available, you may now select a professional service to complete the LLC formation process for you.
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FAQ: Naming a Washington D.C. LLC
LLC is short for “limited liability company.” It is a simple business structure that offers more flexibility than a traditional corporation while still providing legal protection for your personal assets. Read our What is a Limited Liability Company guide for more information.
Or, watch our two-minute video: What is an LLC?
You must follow the Washington DC 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.
Most LLCs do not need a DBA, known in DC as a trade name. 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.
Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent in Washington DC
After you find the right name for your LLC, you will need to nominate a Washington DC registered agent. This is a necessary step in your Articles of Organization (i.e., the document used to file and register your LLC with the District).
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. You can think of your registered agent as your business’s primary point of contact with the district.
Who can be a registered agent? A registered agent must be a resident of Washington DC or a corporation authorized to transact business in the district. This can be a registered agent service, an LLC member (such as yourself), or a business attorney.
FAQ: Nominating a Registered Agent
Yes. You can choose to act as your own registered agent, appoint a member of your LLC, work with a business attorney, or hire a professional registered agent service (recommended).
Read more about being your own registered agent.
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.
Step 3: File the Washington DC 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 (previously the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs). You can do this online, by mail, or in person.
Before filing, make sure you have completed your Articles of Organization correctly. You will need to have filled in the following sections:
- Your LLC’s company name
- The business address of your LLC’s initial principal office
- The name and address of your registered agent in the District of Columbia
- The effective date of this form
- The names and addresses of your LLC’s members and managers
- The organizer’s name and address
- The organizer’s signature and date
File the Articles of Organization
OPTION 1: File Online With DC CorpOnlineFile Online
- OR -
OPTION 2: File Form DLC-1 by Mail or In PersonDownload Form
Filing Cost: $99 online or by mail and $199 in person, payable to the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection (Nonrefundable)
Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection
P.O. Box 92300
Washington, DC 20090
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 DC Articles of Organization guide.
Note: If you're expanding your existing business in Washington DC, you'll need to register as a foreign limited liability company (LLC).
FAQ: Filing Washington D.C. LLC Documents
The Corporations Division typically processes filings (both by mail and online) within 15 business days of receiving the paperwork. Expedited processing is available for walk-in filings, with a three-day service costing $50 and a one-day service costing $100.
To learn more, go to our How Long Does it Take to Form an LLC in Washington DC guide.
An LLC is referred to as a "domestic LLC" when it conducts business in the state where it was formed. A foreign limited liability 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.
The cost of filing your Washington DC LLC’s formation documents — known as the Articles of Organization — is $99 online or by mail and $199 in person.
Having said that, it’s important to keep in mind that your total cost may be higher (e.g., if you use a business attorney, etc.).
To learn more, read our guide on the cost to form a Washington DC LLC.
Step 4: Create a Washington DC LLC Operating Agreement
An operating agreement is not required in Washington DC, 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 DC LLC operating agreement guide.
FAQ: Creating a Washington DC LLC Operating Agreement
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.
Step 5: Get an EIN for Your Washington DC LLC
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 district 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.
Get an EIN
Option 1: Request an EIN from the IRS
- OR -
Option 2: Apply for an EIN by Mail or Fax
Internal Revenue Service
Attn: EIN Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999
Fax: (855) 641-6935
FAQ: Getting an EIN
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.
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.
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.
Step 6: File a Beneficial Ownership Information Report
Beginning January 2024, LLC owners will need to file a Beneficial Ownership Information (BOI) Report with the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). Existing LLCs can file their report any time between January 1, 2024, and January 1, 2025, while new LLCs will need to file their report within 90 days of formation.
This contains similar information to that of your Articles of Organization, such as your LLC name and member information, and can be filed online for free. Failure to file an accurate report on time can result in a $500 per day fine.
Note: There are certain filing exemptions, such as for large companies (i.e., more than 20 full-time employees), tax-exempt entities, and publicly traded companies.
Considering Using an LLC Formation Service?
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Maintain Your District of Columbia LLC
After you’ve successfully formed your LLC, there are a couple of steps you’ll need to periodically take in order to maintain it, including:
- Getting a Basic Business License
- Paying your Franchise Tax
- Filing a biennial report
- Sorting out your tax responsibilities
We’ve broken down how to complete each of these steps in greater detail below.
Get a Basic Business License
Before you can conduct business in the District of Columbia, all LLCs are required to obtain a Basic Business License (BBL), regardless of their income level. To get this license, you’ll need to have obtained an EIN and:
- Register your LLC with the Office of Tax & Revenue
- Obtain a Home Occupation Permit or a Certificate of Occupancy
You will then be able to complete the application for a Basic Business License online or in person at the My DC Business Center kiosk in the Business License Center.
There are a number of different business licenses available depending on the industry you work in. A full list of these different 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.
Note: 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.
Pay Your Franchise Tax
All qualifying Washington D.C. LLCs are required to pay franchise taxes annually by April 15 for calendar-year filers, or on the 15th day of the fourth month following the close of the tax year for fiscal filers. There are two types of franchise taxes for businesses based in the District of Columbia:
- Corporate Franchise Tax: LLCs treated as C or S corps for tax purposes must pay corporate franchise tax on all income from business activity within DC as well as file Form D-20 with the District of Columbia Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR). This tax is levied at a flat rate of 8.25% with the following minimums:
- $250 Minimum Tax: For businesses with gross receipts of $1 million or less.
- $1,000 Minimum Tax: For businesses with gross receipts exceeding $1 million.
- Unincorporated Business Franchise Tax: This tax is levied on the net income of Washington DC LLCs with a default structure and is separate from the personal income tax obligations of the individual members. It is also applied at a flat rate of 8.25% with the same minimums as corporate franchise tax. LLCs earning more than $12,000 in gross revenue will need to file Form D-30 with the OTR to submit its tax returns.
File the Biennial Report
In order to keep your LLC compliant in DC, you’ll need to file a biennial report with the DC Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection every two years. This report keeps the District up-to-date on your LLC’s important information, such as its principal address and details on its members and registered agent.
You’ll need to file this biennial report fee by April 1 of every odd-numbered year, alongside a $300 filing fee. Failing to submit your biennial report by this deadline will incur a $100 late fee or administrative dissolution if you continue to ignore it.
Note: You can file your biennial report online through the CorpOnline website.
Sort Out Your Taxes
Regardless of where your LLC is registered, you will be required to pay certain federal taxes. This includes corporation and employer taxes (for LLCs filing as a C corporation) and federal income tax and self-employment taxes (for LLCs taxed as pass-through entities).
In addition, there are a number of different taxes you’ll be required to pay at the District level, which can vary depending on the nature of your business.
Below are some of the most common taxes in Washington DC:
In addition to your federal income tax responsibilities, LLCs based in Washington DC are also required to pay the district's income tax.
This is a gradual individual income tax, with rates ranging between 4% and 10.75% depending on the total taxable income.
Keep in mind that this needs to be paid in addition to your annual franchise tax (if your LLC makes over $12,000 per annum).
Sales and Use Tax
Sales and use tax is applied at a general rate of 6% for most goods and services sold within Washington DC, though some special rates are applied to certain items like alcoholic beverages and hotels. The Office of the Chief Financial Officer website provides a detailed look into all these specific rates.
Sales tax returns must be filed with the Office of Tax and Revenue using MyTax DC by the 20th of the month after the reporting period.
Note: For your LLC to be able to collect and remit sales and use tax, it will need to obtain a Basic Business License by registering with the DC Office of Tax and Revenue. Some businesses may require more than one license, depending on the nature of the goods or services they sell.
Steps After LLC Formation
After forming your LLC, you will need to get a business bank account and website, sort any required business licensing, and get business insurance, among other things.
Visit our After Forming an LLC guide to learn more.