Start an LLC in Washington With These Five Easy Steps
- Step 1. Name Your Washington LLC
- Step 2. Choose a Registered Agent
- Step 3. File the Certificate of Formation
- Step 4. Create an Operating Agreement
- Step 5. Get an EIN
Or Simply use a professional:
Northwest ($29 + State Fees)
LegalZoom ($79 + State Fees)
Starting an LLC in Washington State is Easy
To start a Washington State LLC you'll need to file a Certificate of Formation with the Washington Secretary of State, which costs up to $200 to file. You can apply online or by mail. The Certificate of Formation is the legal document that officially creates your Washington Limited Liability Company.
Follow our step-by-step How to Start an LLC in Washington State 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 guide.
For more information on how to form an LLC in any state, visit our How to Start an LLC guide.
STEP 1: Name Your Washington LLC
Choosing a company name is the first and most important step in forming an LLC in Washington state. Be sure to choose a name that complies with Washington naming requirements and is easily searchable by potential clients.
1. Follow the naming guidelines for a Washington 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? Make sure the name you want isn't already taken by doing a Washington state LLC name search on the Washington Corporations and Charities Filing System.
To learn more about searching for a Washington 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
You are required to appoint a Washington Registered Agent for your 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 or a corporation, such as a registered agent service, authorized to conduct business in the state of Washington. 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 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 apply online or by mail.
Now is a good time to determine whether your LLC will be member-managed vs. manager-managed.
File the Certificate of Formation
OPTION 1: File Online with the State of Washington
- OR -
OPTION 2: File By Mail
State Filing Cost: $180 for filing by mail, or $200 online. 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. Payable to the Secretary of State (Nonrefundable)
Secretary of State
P.O. Box 40234
Secretary of State
801 Capitol Way S
Olympia, WA 98501
For help with completing the form, visit our Washington Certificate of Formation guide.
If you’re expanding your existing LLC to the state of Washington, you will need to form a Foreign LLC.
STEP 4: Create a Washington LLC Operating Agreement
An operating agreement isn’t required for forming an LLC in Washington, 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.
Recommended: Download a template or create a Free Operating Agreement using our tool.
STEP 5: Get a Washington 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.
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 State 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.
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 Washington registered agents.
What is the processing time to form my Washington LLC?
Immediately after receiving payment online, 5 to 7 business days by mail.
What is the difference between a domestic 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 LLC?
The cost to start a Washington LLC is $180 by mail or $200 online.
To learn more, read our guide on the cost to form a Washington LLC.
Do I need to file my operating agreement with the State of Washington?
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 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.
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 minimum wage in Washington State?
The statewide minimum wage in Washington is $14.49 per hour.
What is the minimum wage in Seattle?
For Seattle businesses with 501 or more employees, the minimum wage is $17.27 per hour.
For Seattle businesses with less than 500 employees, the minimum wage is $17.27 without benefits and $15.75 with benefits.
How often do I need to pay employees?
Employers in Washington are required to pay employees monthly.
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.
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 LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing the corporate veil.
You can start protecting your LLC in Washington 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 software.
For more business accounting tools, read our guide to the best business accounting software.
Get Business Insurance For Your Washington 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, businesses with one or more employees, excluding business owners, 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.
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 Business Permits & Licenses
Do I need business licenses and permits?
To operate your LLC in Washington, 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 Washington business licenses and permits for your LLC or have a professional service do it for you:
- Business License Guide: Use our detailed Washington Business License guide.
- Federal: Use the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) guide.
- State: View Washington's Department of Licensing for additional information.
- Local: Contact your local county clerk and ask about local business licenses and permits.
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 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.
If you are selling a physical product, you’ll typically need to register for a seller's permit through the Washington Department of 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 sales tax guide to find out more.
If you have employees in Washington, you will need to register for Unemployment Insurance Tax through the Washington State Department of Revenue.
Business & Occupation Tax
Most businesses in Washington must pay a Business and Occupation Tax through the Washington State Department of Revenue.
Register for Washington State Taxes
Federal LLC Tax Requirements
Most LLCs will need to report their income to the IRS each year using:
- Form 1065 Partnership Return (most multi-member LLCs use this form)
- Form 1040 Schedule C (most single-member LLCs use this form)
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.
File Your LLC Annual Report
Washington requires LLCs to file an annual report with the Washington Office of the Secretary of State Corporations and Charities Division. This can be done online or by mail.
File your Annual Report
OPTION 1: File Online with the State of Washington
- OR -
OPTION 2: File by Mail
Fee: $60 for all annual reports (Nonrefundable)
Corporations and Charities Division
P.O. Box 40234
Olympia, WA 98504
Due Date: An initial report is due within 120 days of forming an LLC. In each subsequent year, a renewal report is due annually by the end of the month in which the LLC was formed.
Late Filings: Washington charges a $25 penalty for failure to file on time. In addition, LLCs may be dissolved for failing to file an annual report.
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.
If you plan to hire employees for your Washington LLC, stay compliant with the law by following these steps:
- Verify that new employees are able to work in the US
- Report employees as "new hires" to the State
- Provide workers' compensation insurance for employees
- Withhold employee taxes
- Print workplace compliance posters and place them in visible areas of your workspace
Find more information at the Washington Employment Security Department.
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
We understand that creating an LLC in Washington and getting your business up and running comes with many challenges. To help you succeed, we compiled the best local resources in every major metro area in Washington. You can get free assistance in the following areas:
State of Washington Quick Links
More Washington LLC Information
Washington 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, you will need to register as a foreign LLC. This can be done online or by mail.
Register as a Foreign LLC in Washington
OPTION 1: File Online with the Secretary of State
- OR -
OPTION 2: File by Mail
Fee: $180 (Nonrefundable)
801 Capitol Way S
Olympia, WA 98501
How to Obtain a Certificate of Good Standing in Washington
A Certificate of Good Standing, known in Washington state as a Certificate of Existence, verifies that your Washington 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 LLC Certificate of Existence online or by mail.
Order a Certificate of Existence
Request a Certificate of Existence Online
- OR -
Request Certificate of Existence by Mail
Fee: $20, payable to the Secretary of State (Nonrefundable)
801 Capitol Way S
Olympia, WA 98501
How to Dissolve an LLC in Washington
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 Washington 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 LLC Dissolution Guide.