How to Start an LLC in Washington D.C.

Last Updated: by TRUiC Team

To start a Washington D.C. LLC, you'll need to file the Articles of Organization with the DC Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection, which starts at $99. You can apply online, in person, or by mail.

Follow our step-by-step How to Start an LLC in Washington D.C. guide to get started today. 

  1. Name Your Washington D.C. LLC
  2. Choose a Registered Agent
  3. File the Articles of Organization
  4. Create an Operating Agreement
  5. Get an EIN
  6. Basic Business License
  7. Pay Your Franchise Tax
  8. File the Biennial Report
  9. Keep Your Company Compliant

Or Simply use a professional service:

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

three point nine out of five LegalZoom ($249 + State Fees)

Learn more about LLCs and their benefits in our What is an LLC guide. To form an LLC in any state, visit our How to Set Up an LLC guide.

District of Columbia State map icon with filing cost

Subscribe to our YouTube channel

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

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 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 district.

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: Check out these best registered agent services.

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

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 the District of Columbia, 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

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

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

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.

Step 7: Pay Your Franchise Tax

Washington D.C. LLCs are required to pay an annual franchise tax by filing Form D-30 (for all LLCs with a gross income of more than $12,000). Multi-member LLCs with a gross income of $12,000 or less must also file Form D-65. Franchise tax payments should be made payable to the DC Treasurer.

Franchise tax returns are due April 15 for calendar-year filers, otherwise on the 15th day of the fourth month following the close of the tax year for fiscal filers.

Step 8: File the Biennial Report

Washington D.C. requires LLCs to file a biennial report with the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection. This can be submitted online, by mail, or in person. The filing fee is $300 online or by mail and $400 in person. Mail-in filings must include a cover letter.

LLC biennial reports are due by April 1 every second year. Any biennial report received after April 1 will result in a $100 late fee.

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 district reporting requirements.

Visit our After Forming an LLC guide to learn more.

Step 9: Keep Your Company Compliant

Washington D.C. LLC Business Licenses & Permits

To operate your LLC, you must comply with federal and district 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 D.C. Business License guide.

Recommended: Consider having a professional service research your business’s licensing requirements. Read our best business license services review.

Washington D.C. LLC Tax Filing Requirements

In order to keep your business in good standing, it's important to stay up to date on your Washington D.C. LLC taxes.

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

The district sales tax in DC starts at 6%. Certain sales and services (e.g., restaurant meals, alcoholic beverages, rental vehicles, etc.) will incur a higher sales tax. A list of tax rates can be found on the Office of the Chief Financial Officer's website.

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.

Income Tax

There are seven individual income tax brackets in DC, ranging from 4% to 10.75%. Your rate will depend on your LLC's income. 

The district's tax returns are due each year by April 18. To calculate your tax or determine your tax bracket, visit the DC Office of Tax and Revenue website

You’ll also need to report your federal income tax using either Form 1065 (multi-member LLC) or Form 1040 Schedule C (single-member LLC).

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.

Common Questions About Washington D.C. 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 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, 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.

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?

Processing takes five to seven business days online and up to three 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. 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 $99 online or by mail and $199 in person.

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 district?

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?

The district's franchise tax is imposed on all LLCs and must be paid each year.

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.

Washington D.C. Business Resources

Get Help Starting a Business in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. Resources

Washington D.C. Quick Links

Have a Question? Leave a Comment!