How to Start an LLC in Washington (2024 Guide)
Wondering how to start an LLC in Washington? We’ve got you covered.
To get started, you'll need to pick a suitable business name, choose a registered agent, and file your Certificate of Formation with the Washington Secretary of State ($200 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 LLC formation service (recommended).
Northwest ($29 + State Fees)
LegalZoom ($249 + State Fees)
How to Form an LLC in Washington in 6 Steps
In order to form your LLC in Washington, there are certain steps you’ll need to complete:
- Name Your LLC
- Choose a Washington Registered Agent
- File the Certificate of Formation
- Create an LLC Operating Agreement
- Obtain an EIN
- File a Beneficial Ownership Information Report
Step 1: Name Your Washington LLC
Before you get started, you will need to pick a suitable name for your Washington LLC.
This will need to comply with all applicable naming requirements under Washington law and be both succinct and memorable, as this will make it easily searchable by your potential clients.
1. Important Naming Guidelines for Washington LLCs:
- 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.
- An LLC’s name cannot contain words or phrases like "Cooperative," "partnership," "corporation," "incorporated," or the abbreviations "Corp.," "Ltd.," or "Inc.," or "LP," "L.P.," "LLP," "L.L.P.," "LLLP," "L.L.L.P."
- Professional LLCs must include either "professional limited liability company," or "professional limited liability" and the abbreviation "Co.," or the abbreviation "P.L.L.C." or "PLLC."
- Any PLLCs organized to render dental services must include the full names or surnames of all members, and no other word than "chartered" or "professional services" or the abbreviation "P.L.L.C." or "PLLC."
For more information, have a look at Washington State’s Official Naming Guidelines.
2. Is the name available in Washington?
To check whether your desired name has already been taken by another business entity in Washington, you can perform an Advanced Business Search on the Washington Corporations and Charities Filing System 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 180 days.
For more information, you can have a look at our Washington LLC Name Search guide.
3. Is the URL available?
You should check online to see if your business name is available as a web domain. Even if you don’t plan to make 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 LLC
LLC is short for “limited liability company.” It is a simple business structure that offers more flexibility than a traditional corporation while still protecting your personal assets from business debts. 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 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.
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.
Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent in Washington
After you find the right name for your LLC, you will need to nominate a Washington registered agent. This is a necessary step in your Certificate of Formation (i.e., the document used to file and register your LLC with the Secretary of State).
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 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 transact business in the State of Washington. You can choose to elect an individual within the company (e.g., yourself, etc.) or use a business attorney.
It’s worth noting that, under Chapter 23.95 of the Washington State Legislature, to appoint a commercial registered agent in Washington State, the individual or entity must deliver a Commercial Registered Agent Listing Statement to the Office of the Secretary of State. This document should contain:
- The name of the individual or the name, type, and jurisdiction the entity was formed in.
- A declaration that the person is in the business of serving as a commercial registered agent in Washington State.
- The address of a business location in Washington State where service of process, notices, and demands can be delivered.
On top of this, the person or entity filing this statement must have a name that is distinguishable from all other commercial registered agents listed in the state records.
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.
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 do this online, by mail, or in person.
Before filing, make sure you have completed your Certificate of Formation correctly. You will need to have filled in the following sections:
- Your LLC’s entity name
- Your reservation number (if you have a name reserved)
- Your LLC’s period of duration
- The effective date of this Certificate of Formation
- Whether your registered agent is a commercial registered agent
- The name and address of your registered agent
- Your LLC’s principal office
- The return address for this filing
- The name, address, and signature of the executor
Note: You can file your Initial Report alongside your Certificate of Formation online at no extra cost. If done separately, this report must be submitted within 120 days of formation and will cost $10 by mail or $30 online.
File the Certificate of Formation
OPTION 1: File Online With the State of WashingtonFile Online
- OR -
OPTION 2: File By MailDownload Form
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.
Note: If you're expanding your existing business to the state of Washington, you'll need to register as a foreign limited liability company (LLC).
FAQ: Filing Washington LLC Documents
Processing is completed as soon as possible, which is typically within five business days of the documents being received.
An LLC is referred to as a "domestic LLC" when it conducts business in the state where it was formed. A foreign limited liability company 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.
Step 4: Create a Washington LLC Operating Agreement
An operating agreement isn't required for forming an LLC in Washington State, 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.
FAQ: Creating a Washington 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 a Washington LLC EIN
You can get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS for free. It is used to identify business entities 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 LLC owners 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.
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Maintain Your Washington 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:
- Filing your annual report
- Sorting out your tax responsibilities
We’ve broken down how to complete each of these steps in greater detail below.
File the Annual Report
All LLCs based in Washington must file an annual report with the Secretary of State providing up-to-date information on important aspects of the business, such as its legal name, current members/managers, and the name and address of its registered agent.
For your business’s first year of operation, you’ll need to submit an initial report within 120 days of forming, however this can be done while submitting your Certificate of Formation at no additional cost (for online filings only).
Note: Annual reports can be filed online or by mail, along with a $60 filing fee.
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 a local and state level, which can vary depending on the nature of your business.
Below are some of the most common taxes in Washington State:
Business and Occupation Tax
Instead of income tax, Washington charges Business and Occupation (B&O) Tax on all a business’s revenue exceeding $35,000. There are four main classifications for B&O Tax which influence the rate and way in which it’s applied:
- Retailing B&O Tax: This is a flat tax rate of 0.471% applied to businesses involved in the sale or rentals of goods and certain services to customers. It must generally be collected on all sales unless there's a specific exemption.
- Wholesaling B&O Tax: A flat tax rate of 0.484% imposed on the sales of goods and certain services to an individual or entity who will resell them, such as packaging supplies. Buyers are required to provide you with a reseller permit before you can sell to them.
- Manufacturing B&O Tax: A tax rate of 0.484% applied to businesses manufacturing products in Washington, whether for sale or their own use. If your business also sells the products it makes, it will need to pay this tax in addition to Wholesaling/Retailing B&O Taxes.
- Service and Other Activities B&O Tax: This tax is levied at a rate of 1.5% on the income of businesses providing professional or personal services, such as offering notary services, internet access, or computer usage. This income is exempt from sales tax.
After registering with the Department of Revenue, your LLC should be provided with more detailed instructions on how to file your B&O tax return through the My DOR system.
Sales and Use Taxes
Sales and use taxes are a percentage added to the price of tangible goods and most services bought and used within the state. In Washington State, this is levied at a flat general rate of 6.50%, though local jurisdictions are also able to impose up to 4.10% in additional sales tax, with the average total sales tax rate being 8.86%.
Sales and use tax is paid online through the Washington State Department of Revenue’s My DOR platform, often on a monthly basis by the 25th of each month.
Note: If your LLC needs to collect sales/use tax, it will first need to register with the Washington Department of Revenue (DOR) and obtain a state business license by following the DOR’s instructions.