This is the first and most important step in starting your LLC. Do some research to make sure the name you choose is suited to your business venture and is easily searchable by potential clients.
- Follow the Washington naming guidelines: Your entity name must contain the words Limited Liability Company or the abbreviation L.L.C. or LLC. Restricted words require additional paperwork (e.g. Banc, Bank, Banque, etc) and/or licensed individuals (e.g. Doctor, Engineer, etc). to be part of the LLC. Prohibited words are those that would confuse the name of your LLC with a federal or state agency e.g. FBI, Secret Service, Treasury etc.
- Is the name available in Washington? Make sure the name isn't already taken by doing a name search on the State of Washington website.
- Is the URL available? Check to see if the name of your LLC is available so that you can reserve your domain name. Even if you don't plan to make a website today, you may want to buy the domain name in order to prevent others from acquiring it.
An email address is also something to consider when choosing a name. Get a professional email (@yourcompany.com) with Google apps. Also get access to the top business tools, cloud storage, and business-grade security. - Try it for free
You are required to nominate a Registered Agent for your Washington LLC
What is a Registered Agent? A registered agent is a person or business nominated by your company to officially receive and send papers on your behalf including annual state filings.
Who can be a Registered Agent? The registered agent must be a resident of Washington or a corporation authorized to transact business in Washington. You may elect an individual within the company including yourself.
Click here to find out why you may want to use a registered agent service.
* Recommended: INCFILE.COM provides free registered agent service for the first year as part of their LLC Packages.
To register your LLC, you will need to file the Certificate of Formation with the State of Washington.
Important: If you're expanding your existing LLC to the State of Washington you are forming a Foreign LLC. Learn how.
What is an Operating Agreement? An operating agreement is a legal document outlining the ownership and operating procedures of your LLC. This agreement allows you to form financial/working relationships with co-owners into an established system suitable to your business. An Operating Agreement is not required to form an LLC in Washington, but is good practice to have one.
* Recommended: We provide a free sample operating agreement however we recommend getting one professional drafted by a lawyer, especially if you are starting a multi-member LLC.
What is an EIN? The Employer Identification Number (EIN), or Federal Tax Identification Number, is used to identify a business entity. It is essentially a social security number for the company.
Why do I need an EIN? An EIN 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 the business owner after forming the company. This can be done by one of two ways:
* Important: An EIN is obtained after the LLC is formed. Obtaining an EIN registers the company for federal taxes.
Opening a business bank account is an important first step, as it:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Getting a business credit card allows you to:
- Separate personal and business expenses.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money for your company later.
* Recommended: Compare business credit card offers at CreditCards.com.
Set up your accounting system early to manage your finances and avoid future complications. It's important for many reasons including:
- Tracking the financial wellbeing of your business, including bills, expenses and income.
- Also makes filing your tax returns a lot easier.
Bookkeeping and accounting can be frustrating for many people but the right accounting software can make the process simple and hassle-free.
* Recommended: Try Xero Small Business Accounting Software for free, with an easy mobile app to manage your finances on-the-go.
Do I need to register for State taxes? If you have employees or are selling a product, you are required to register for State Taxes in Washington.
- If you have Employees in Washington you will have to register for Unemployment Insurance Tax on behalf of your Employees
- If you are selling a Product in Washington, you will need to register for Washington Sales Tax
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.
Find out how to obtain necessary licenses and permits for your business:
- Federal: Use the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) guide to federal business licenses and permits.
- State: View Washington's Department of Licensing for additional information.
- Local: Contact your local Chamber of Commerce and ask about local licenses and permits.
- Alternatively, you can use a professional service to research all of your business licensing needs.
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.
What is Workers Compensation Insurance? This form of insurance is required for most businesses with employees, but varies by State. Click here to learn more.
What is General Liability Insurance? This is an important service, but is not required in most States. Click here to learn why.
How much will the right insurance cost you? Click here to find out.
Once a business decides to hire employees, certain legal obligations are required, such as:
- Ensuring that potential employees are eligible to work in the US
- Reporting employees as "new hires" to the State of Washington (Must create an account first)
- Providing workers compensation insurance for employees
- Withholding income taxes
- Printing compliance posters and place in a conspicuous location
- Ensuring payment of employees in specific increments as required by the state
Discover more employer tips and information at Washington Employment Security Department.
A great resource for posting jobs and finding qualified employees is Indeed.com
How to Start a Business
5 easy steps to starting a business in Washington.
We have a far more detailed guide - How to Start a Business which will go over the points in more details.
- Identify a suitable business idea that works for you - Check out our Business Ideas Tool.
- Critically analyze your idea with our Lean Business Model Canvas Tool. You can then go on to create a full business plan with our Free Online Business Plan Tool.
- Formally organize your Business into a company. An LLC is the most popular way to structure your business. Learn how to Form your LLC in Washington.
- Complete important key steps after formation such as acquiring business licences & permits, registering for state taxes, and opening a business bank account.
- Build your website and develop your brand. Learn more about marketing and brand establishment.
To maintain a Washington LLC, it is necessary to make periodic filings with the State of Washington. Learn how to keep your LLC in good standing and avoid state penalties.
Washington requires LLCs to file an annual report with the Washington Business and Licensing Service.
File a Report with the State of WashingtonFile Online
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.
Fee: $250 for reports filed on paper and $300 for reports filed online
Washington charges a $25 penalty for failure to file on time. In addition, LLCs may be dissolved for failing to file an annual report.
Prevent Late Fees
A registered agent service can help you avoid penalties and additional fees by notifying you of upcoming filing deadlines and submitting reports on your behalf.
Recommended: INCFILE.COM offers a reliable registered agent service.
Would you like free legal forms for your business?
Join our Business Center and check out our free legal forms.
If you have an existing LLC and want to register to do business in Washington, you will need to form a foreign LLC.
Benefits of Forming a Foreign LLC
The major benefit of becoming a foreign corporation is that it allows your company to operate as one entity in many jurisdictions. For example, if you originally incorporate your LLC in the State of Delaware, you can file your existing domestic LLC as a foreign corporation in other states.