- Step 1. Naming Your Washington LLC
- Step 2. Choosing a Registered Agent
- Step 3. Filing the Certificate of Formation
- Step 4. Create an Operating Agreement
- Step 5. Getting an EIN/Tax ID Number
- Step 6. Keeping Your LLC Running
- Washington LLC FAQs
Step 1. Naming Your Washington LLC
A highly important step is choosing a business name that accurately represents your business and is unique from other companies in the state.
Legally Required Designation
In accordance with Washington’s LLC regulations, your chosen LLC name is required to contain the phrase “limited liability company” or one of the following abbreviations:
- Limited Liability Co.
It is important that the name you choose is unique and distinct from other businesses in the state. You can ensure this by using the Corporation Search tool on the Washington Secretary of State’s website.
If the name you desire is available, you can file a Name Reservation with the Secretary of State to hold the name for up to 180 days before establishing your LLC. There is a $30 filing fee and an optional $50 for expedited services. You must mail the document to the address listed on the form.
Additionally, while looking for the perfect LLC name, you may also want to perform a search of available domain names. You can save future stress by purchasing a matching domain name for your LLC ahead of time, regardless of when you want to set up a business website.
While deciding on a name, keep in mind that you should not include words that run the risk of confusing your business with a government entity. This includes words like “State Department,” “Treasury,” or “IRS.”
You should also be aware that using words such as “dentist,” “attorney,” or “chiropractor” may require the presence of a properly licensed individual in your LLC and filing separate paperwork. Washington allows for the formation of professional LLCs in the state, so if you offer professional services, you may want to look into this entity type. More information can be found here.
Using an Assumed Name
LLCs operating in Washington can use an assumed or DBA (doing business as) name for their business. This means the business continues to use its registered LLC name on all official documents but the assumed name when interacting with the public. This allows business owners to market their LLC in a specific way or maintain an extra level of privacy.
To register an assumed name in Washington, you can file a request at the same time as submitting a business license application (virtually all businesses in the state are required to obtain a [ANCHOR TO #Aquire Necessary Permits and Licenses]business license[END ANCHOR LINK]). You can find more information on registering an assumed name here.
Step 2. Choosing a Registered Agent
Every LLC conducting business in Washington is required to appoint a registered agent. Your LLC’s registered agent is responsible for receiving all legal documents, government communications, and tax documents, essentially acting as a contact between your business and state or federal agencies. They are also the responsible party that is contacted in the event of a lawsuit against your LLC.
You can appoint any Washington resident, LLC, or business authorized to conduct operations in the state as your registered agent. As long as your appointee has a valid Washington street address, they are eligible to be your registered agent.
Step 3. Filing the Certificate of Formation
To officially establish your LLC in Washington, you need to submit a Certificate of Formation to the Secretary of State’s office. This document must contain essential information about your business which the state will keep on file. A preview of this information can be found below.
- Your LLC’s name
- Your LLC’s duration, if not perpetual
- Your LLC’s effective date, if not immediate
- Your LLC’s registered agent name, address, and signature
- Your LLC’s principal office address
- The signature of your LLC’s executor
You can file your Certificate of Formation online or through the mail. There is a $200 fee for online filings or a $180 filing fee for mail filings. Online filings are processed within 2 to 3 business days, while mail filings are processed in the order received.
If you want to file your Certificate of Formation online, you must visit the Secretary of State Corporations Filing System here. From there, you can create an account and follow the directions to file your Certificate. Upon submittal, you will be prompted to pay the $200 filing fee. You can expect your document to be processed within 2 to 3 business days.
To file your Certificate of Formation through the mail, you must complete and print out this form. Then, place the completed form into a secured envelope along with a check for $180 made out to the Washington Secretary of State.
You can also add an optional $50 expedited service fee; the address you send your form to depends on the service type you want. If you do not select expedited service, your document will be processed in the order it is received.
Regular Mailing Address
Secretary of State
P.O. Box 40234
Expedited Mailing Address
Secretary of State
801 Capitol Way S
Olympia, WA 98501
Step 4. Create an Operating Agreement
Your LLC will not be required to create or file an operating agreement with the state, but you may want to consider drafting one anyway. An effective operating agreement will set guidelines for how your LLC is managed, the rights that members or managers have, and what to do if your LLC dissolves or experiences a lawsuit.
If you choose not to create your own operating agreement, Washington law will dictate how your LLC is to be managed in the event of dissolution, conflict, or lawsuit. This may not be in your best interest, so to protect yourself and your assets, creating a valid operating agreement is the way to go.
Step 5. Getting an EIN/Tax ID Number
You must also apply for a Tax ID number, known as an EIN (Employer Identification Number), through the IRS once your LLC has been established in Washington.
Any LLC that has more than one member — or any single-member LLC that wants to hire employees or chooses to be taxed as a corporation — must apply for an EIN.
Your EIN is used to identify your business to the IRS on all tax documents and necessary government filings; it acts as a social security number for your LLC. If you want to hire employees, file federal taxes, open business bank or credit accounts, or apply for business funding, you need an EIN.
It is free to apply for your EIN with the IRS, and you can file the application online or by mailing it. Keep in mind that if you are a foreign filer or do not have a social security number, you need to file for your EIN through the mail.
The quickest and easiest way to apply for your EIN is online; you will receive your number once your application is completed. Visit the IRS website to apply for your free EIN.
You must fill out this form when applying for your LLC by mail. If you are a foreign filer or do not have a social security number, leave section 7b blank. Mail the completed form to the address below. You can follow up on any questions with the IRS at (267) 941-1099.
Internal Revenue Service
Attn: EIN Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999
Step 6. Keeping Your LLC Running
There are several tasks to keep up with when running your LLC to ensure your business stays operating smoothly and remains in good standing with the state.
File Annual Renewals/Annual Reports
Every LLC in Washington is required to file annual renewals with the Secretary of State’s office. Your business must file an Initial Report within 120 days of LLC establishment; you can file this online with your online Certificate of Formation filing at no cost. If you choose to file it by mail, there is a $10 fee or a $30 fee for filing it online at a later date.
After the Initial Report, subsequent annual reports are due each year on a date determined by the Secretary of State’s office. The office will send out a renewal notice 45 days before the report is due. You can file your annual renewals online or through the mail (the address is listed on the form), and there is a $60 filing fee associated with it.
Separate Your Business Finances
LLCs in Washington are not required to open separate bank accounts, but it is highly advisable to do so anyway. A dedicated business bank account will keep your LLC’s finances separate from personal ones, further establishing your LLC as an independently operating business. This can be helpful in the case of a lawsuit against your LLC.
You most likely need to show essential internal LLC documents, such as your Articles of Organization, an operating agreement, or your business’s EIN when opening a business bank account. Make sure to compare all your account options before deciding what to open, as different banks have varying minimum required balances or spending limits; you should be certain to select the best option for both you and your LLC’s needs.
Keep Up With Federal and State Taxes
As you operate your business, it is essential to keep up with federal and state tax burdens to avoid major tax penalties or interruptions in your business services.
Federal Tax Requirements
There are several tax structures you can choose from to use in your LLC that may meet different company needs; each structure comes with its own unique type of federal taxation. This article can help you gain an in-depth understanding of the differences between each type and help you decide which is best for you.
In general, most LLCs are taxed as sole proprietorships or partnerships. This means you are expected to file Schedule C with your individual income tax return to declare income that you receive through your LLC. When using this tax structure, keep in mind that you most likely need to pay self-employment tax (at a rate of 15.3%) in addition to any income tax. You may also need to make quarterly estimated tax payments to avoid IRS fines; the IRS website gives more details on this.
If you want, you can choose to have your LLC taxed as a corporation, like an S Corporation or a C Corporation. You need to fill out IRS Form 8832 and IRS Form 2553 to declare this. After these are processed, your LLC will be treated as a corporation and expected to file a separate corporate tax return with the IRS.
Washington Business Taxes
Washington does not have a general income tax for individuals in the state, but certain businesses may be liable to pay the state’s Business and Occupation Tax, which is a tax on the gross income a business earns. You need to register with the Washington Department of Revenue (this is done as part of filing for a business license, which we talk about [ANCHOR TO #Acquire Necessary Permits]below[END ANCHOR LINK]) to file this tax. More information can be found here.
Sales and Use Taxes
Sales and use taxes are required for any Washington LLC that sells goods or services. The Washington Department of Revenue oversees this tax. For more information, including instructions on how to calculate and pay for this tax, click here.
State Employer Taxes
There is no state withholding tax in Washington because the state does not impose an individual income tax. However, if your business will be hiring employees, you will likely be liable to pay unemployment insurance taxes.
This tax is handled by Washington’s Employment Security Department. More information can be found here.
Acquire Necessary Permits and Licenses
Almost every business and LLC in Washington must apply for a business license with the Department of Revenue as soon as their Certificate of Formation is processed by the state. The business license allows you to pay taxes, hire employees, and access other business services. The fee for your business license application varies, depending on your business type and income level. Application instructions and more information can be found here.
Additionally, you may need to obtain certain permits and licenses on a local level. Check Washington’s business licensing wizard for information on professional licensing and city or country permit requirements.
On a federal level, you may also need to acquire specific permits or licenses, depending on the type of business you run. For help determining if you need to meet additional federal licensure requirements, you can use the directory on the US Small Business Administration’s website.
Washington LLC Resources
The below collection of resources can guide you through each step of the Washington LLC establishment process.
- Available LLC name search
- Reserve an LLC name
- Available domain name search
- Register an Assumed Name
- Certificate of Formation
- Washington Corporations Filing System
- IRS EIN online application
- Initial Report form
- Annual Renewal form
- Business and Occupation Tax information
- Washington Department of Revenue
- Washington Employment Security Division
- Business License application information
- Business licensing wizard
- S. Small Business Administration
Washington LLC FAQs
The frequently asked questions below can ease any lingering worries about starting up your LLC in Washington.
In Washington, it costs $180 to file your Certificate of Formation by mail or $200 to file online. You may also need to pay $30 to reserve an LLC name, as well as pay for certain expedited service fees, or fees associated with filing for a state business license.
The cheapest way to start your LLC in Washington is to file your Certificate of Formation through the mail without first reserving an LLC name or paying for any type of expedited service fee. Doing it this way will only cost $180 to establish your business in the state.
In Washington, it will take up to 2 business days to process online filings of your Certificate of Formation. If you choose to file by mail and don’t use expedited servicing, your document will be processed in the order it is received. This can take up to 7 business days or longer, depending on the volume of documents sent in.
How much your Washington LLC pays in taxes depends on the individual tax structure you set up. In addition to federal taxes, you may also be liable to pay the state’s business and occupation tax, sales and use taxes, or state employer taxes.
You must file state reports for your LLC on an annual basis. Your business’s initial report will be due within 120 days of your LLC’s establishment, with subsequent reports due on a date that the Secretary of State’s chooses each year. There is a $60 fee for filing annual reports every year.
If you are finished conducting business under your LLC in Washington, you must file a Certificate of Dissolution with the Secretary of State’s office. There is no fee for filing this document, though you can opt for expedited services for $50.
You also must consult any operating agreement or internal documentation that your LLC has to proceed down previously agreed-upon terms and fully close your business’s operations.