Business Startup

Registering and Licensing 101 for Your Washington Business

There are a number of government entities that Washington businesses may need to make filings with prior to commencing business:

  • Registering a business with the state. The application itself is not difficult to fill out and can be found here. However, it is ideal for many strategic decisions to be made at the formation of your business, and unless you have experience making these decisions, we suggest that you seek legal advice prior to filing paperwork with the state.
  • Applying for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the Internal Revenue Service. Partnerships, Corporations and multiple member LLC’s need their own EIN’s. If you are operating as a single member LLC or a sole proprietorship, you can use your Social Security Number instead of an EIN. However EIN’s appear more professional and protect the privacy of your social security number. You can apply for an EIN online.
  • Applying for a Master Business License from the Washington Department of Revenue. You need a Master Business License if you meet any of the following criteria: (1) your business creates gross revenues in excess of $12,000 per year; (2) you conduct business in a name other than your full legal name; (3) you plan to hire employees within the next 90 days; (4) you sell a taxable product or service; or (5) your business is required to obtain any renewable or regulatory license. Almost every business meets these criteria. You can apply online for a Master Business License with the Washington Department of Revenue.
  • Applying for a specialty license. Washington requires many industry-specific licenses. To see if the Washington requires businesses in your industry to obtain a special license, you can check whether or not you need a specialty license online.
  • Applying for a city license. Many cities require businesses in some or all industries to obtain licenses. For example Seattle requires all businesses to obtain a license. You can apply for your Seattle City Business License online.
  • Applying for a county license. Counties also require certain businesses to obtain licenses. King County only requires a handful of industries to obtain a license. Check here to see if your industry needs to obtain a license from King County.

If you’re starting a new business, it’s important to be aware of and obtain the necessary licenses. If not, you risk violating state and local business regulations, as well as the penalties that come with such violations. This guide gives you a better understanding of the various state and local business licenses you may be required to obtain.

If you’re not sure what licenses your business needs, please feel free to contact our team of business attorneys to check whether your business is compliant with state and local business regulations.


Gavin Johnson

Gavin enjoys craft beer and is learning the art of brewing.

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