How to Start an LLC in Washington
Here are the 7 steps to start a limited liability company (LLC) in Washington
For more information on how to form an LLC in any state, see the article How to Form an LLC.
Find out how to form a Washington LLC for yourself
Learn about Washington LLC formation, including information on Registered Agents, naming rules, business licenses, and more.
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Creating an LLC in Washington
A limited liability company (LLC) offers many benefits to small businesses, including liability protection and tax advantages.
An Limited Liability Company LLC need to be formed in Washington by filing a Certificate of Formation with the Washington Secretary of State and paying the $180 for filing by mail, or $200 online.
However, you’ll first need to choose a name and registered agent for your Washington LLC. If you file online, you can have an LLC in Washington in 7-10 business days (or 4-5 weeks if you file by mail). unless you pay an additional $50 for expedited processing (2-3 days).
An LLC can be easily formed in Washington. Simply follow these seven steps, and you’re done. Find out more about LLCs and their benefits in our What is an LLC guide.
Step 1. Choose a Name for Your LLC Washington
Creating an LLC in Washington requires you to choose a business name before you can file a Certificate of Formation. Be sure that your business name complies with the Washington naming requirements and can be searched by potential customers.
- The name of an LLC in Washington must include the words “Limited Liability Company” or “Limited Liability Co.” or the abbreviations “LLC” or “L.L.C.,” according to washington state law.
- It is not acceptable for your Washington LLC to have words associated with a government agency (FBI, Treasury, State Department, etc.).
- You should avoid using words or abbreviations that may make your LLC Washington appear to be a different type of entity, such as “LP” or “corporation”.
- There may be additional documentation and licensure paperwork required for certain restricted words (bank, lawyer, attorney, credit union, etc.).
- Check the state’s business name database to ensure the name you want is not already taken(including businesses no longer in operation)
See a complete list Washington’ naming rules.
Check URL availability: You are likely to need a web page even if you don’t think you do. Buying your domain name now will at least give you the option of having one in the future. It’s a good idea to check the URL availability before finalizing your Washington LLC name.
Yes, The Secretary of State's Office may reserve a name for your Washington company by completing a Name Reservation form. The form is the same for both LLCs and corporations.
An LLC stands for a Limited Liability Company. A simple business structure that is more flexible and offers many of the same benefits as a traditional corporation. For more information, see "What is a Limited Liability Company?".
To form a DBA for an LLC in Washington State, you must submit your paperwork to the State Business Licensing Service, together with the applicable filing fee. A DBA, or Doing Business As, allows you to conduct business under a distinct name than your legal one.
The State of Washington has a DBA filing requirement for all firms that use a name other than their registered name (the business's formal name). A DBA allows a firm to establish bank accounts, enter into agreements, and operate the company under its new name. To learn more about DBA, read our "What is a DBA" Guide.
Step 2: Appoint Your Registered Agent in Washington
Your next step in forming an LLC in Washington is to appoint a Registered Agent, an individual or company authorized to receive legal and state mail on your behalf.
All Washington LLCs must have a registered agent. Please include your registered agent’s name and address on your Certificate of Formation.
Registered Agent Requirements in Washington
To comply with Washington law, your LLC’s registered agent must be a resident or business entity that maintains a physical address in Washington. The “registered address” cannot be a P.O. box. It must be a real physical address that can be visited in person.
Although you do not have to submit this form to the Secretary of State, your business must record it. Learn more about Washington Registered Agents by reading our full guide.
Yes, any adult over the age of 18 who lives in Washington and is an owner or employee of a business may act as its registered agent. You could also pick someone you trust to be its registered agent, as long as they meet these criteria.
Yes, Changing your LLC's registered agent is a quick and easy procedure, but it must be done correctly to avoid legal problems. A registered agent is someone or a company that acts on behalf of your LLC when receiving and sending legal papers. It's also possible to change your registered agent after you've established your LLC.
Are You looking for a Registered Agent?
Wise Business Plans offers a free year of registered agent service when forming an LLC in Washington.
Step 3.Prepare and File Certificate of Formation
To create a Washington LLC, you will need to file Certificate of Formation with the Washington Secretary of State. You may apply online, by mail, or in person.
There is a $180 filing fee by mail or $200 online. You must send the original and a copy of your certificate if you file by mail.
If you choose one of our business formation services, we can handle this step for you.
The following information is typically required to create a Certificate of Formation:
- Your LLC name and principal place of business.
- Name, address, and signature of the LLC’s registered agent
- The reason for forming the LLC in Washington.
- Name and address of the LLC’s organizer.
- The effective date of the certificate,
- The person forming the LLC must sign the Certificate.
Foreign LLCs: LLCs that are based in another state but intend to conduct business in Washington must complete a form called the Qualification of Foreign LLC.
A filing fee of $180 by mail or online for $200 also applies to this form, and you need to attach your state’s certificate of good standing.
Two Ways to File the Certificate of Formation
The 1st option is:
Online filing through the State of Washington
The 2nd option is:
Filing the Certificate of Formation by Mail
State Filing Cost: You can file by mail for $180 or online for $200. Online filing includes the Initial Report for free. If filed later (within 120 days), it is $10 by mail or $30 online. Expedited services are $50 extra. Payments to the Secretary of State are nonrefundable.
Address to Mail
Secretary of State
P.O. Box 40234
Secretary of State
801 Capitol Way S
Olympia, WA 98501
In a member-managed LLC, the owners have control over corporate policies. A professional manager or one or more elected members has management power in a manager-managed LLC.
Because foreign LLCs are not registered in the state of Washington, there are no specific rules for doing so. Instead, the Act directs readers to a separate set of laws that govern the registration of foreign businesses. Foreign entities are referred to in Washington legislation as "foreign entities."
Step 4. Get a Certificate From the State
Upon filing your Certificate of Formation, the secretary of state will review it. As soon as the Certificate of Formation is approved, the LLC becomes a legal entity.
By obtaining this certificate, LLCs will be able to obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN), licenses, and business accounts.
Step 5. Write an Washington LLC Operating Agreement
An operating agreement is a legally-binding document that sets out how your LLC will operate, from the voting process to mergers.
Operating agreements are not required in Washington, but they are an essential part of your business.
Written operating agreements are helpful for different reasons, including resolving disputes over financial agreements and other potential litigation.
The LLC declaration can prove that your LLC is a separate entity, which can help preserve your limited liability.
An operating agreement ensures that all business owners are on the same page and reduces the possibility of future conflict.
How should an operating agreement be drafted?
The operating agreement should detail the LLC’s overall business purpose and other important matters, such as how the company will be taxed and how new members will be accepted. Legal agreements can clarify several important con
- If a partner leaves the company, what will happen to their ownership interests in the corporation.
- The members and their contributions
- How profits and losses will be divided
- Procedures for admitting new members and removing outgoing members
In Washington, you can include just about anything in your operating agreement, as long as it doesn’t violate the state law or the Certificate of Formation.
Yes. A single-member LLC must have an operating agreement in order to open a bank account and maintain limited liability.
Not at all. It is a document you should keep on file for future reference. Although many states do legally require LLCs to have operating agreements in place, not all do so.
Step 6. Get an EIN for Your Washington LLC
Basically, an employer identification number (EIN) is a social security number for your LLC in Washington.
Washington LLCs need this tax ID number, even if they are single-member LLCs with no employees.
To identify your LLC for tax purposes, the Internal Revenue Service assigns a nine-digit Employer Identification Number (EIN). You can apply for your EIN either by mail or online.
An EIN is used for the following purposes:
- Manage state and federal taxes
- Create a business bank account
- Hire employees
Get an EIN Number in Washington
Getting an EIN number is easy and free, There are two ways to get an EIN number in Washington.
The 1st option is:
Apply online for an EIN from the IRS
The 2nd option is:
Get an EIN by Mail or Fax
Internal Revenue Service
Attn: EIN Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999
Regardless of what type of corporation you choose to have your LLC classified as, you will almost certainly need an EIN. Remember that if you run a single member LLC and want to be treated as an S corporation, simply choosing this option requires an EINS.
You will be informed of the different tax classification alternatives accessible after you obtain an EIN. The default tax status is most frequently chosen by LLCs. However, some LLCs may decrease their federal tax obligation by taking the S corporation (S corp) status.
When converting to an LLC, the IRS requires sole proprietorships to get a new EIN.
Step 7. Report on Annual Renewal
Every LLC authorized to conduct business in Washington must file an annual report (also known as a yearly renewal) Washington State Office of Secretary of State Corporations and Charities Division. This may be done online or by mail.
The initial annual report must be filed within 120 days after you established your LLC. Subsequent yearly reports are due on dates set by the Secretary of State.
Approximately 45 days before the LLC’s Annual Report is due, the Secretary of State will send a reminder to its registered agent. The online or postal filing of Initial and Annual Reports fee $60 each.
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What to do After Forming Your Washington LLC
Keep your personal and business assets separate
Your personal assets (such as your home, car, and other valuables) may be at risk when your Washington LLC is sued if they are mixed with your business accounts.
Here are some steps you can take to protect your LLC in Washington:
1. Create a Business Plan:
If you decide that a limited liability company will be a good choice for your business, your next step is to create a business plan (although it is not required), so that you have a roadmap for what you will do and how you will accomplish it.
Free: Business Plan Examples
Do you need help creating a business plan? Check out these six free, proven business plan examples from different industries to help you write your own.
1. Open a Bank Account
As soon as your LLC is officially formed, you should open a business bank account. Why? Keeping separate bank accounts will help you maintain the legal distinction between the LLC and you (the owner).
Because LLCs are limited liability companies, creditors and litigants can’t take your assets.
It is essential for small business owners to partner with the right bank. Find out which banks offer the best business checking accounts, have low or no fees, ATM accessibility, and interest-earning accounts as well as online or mobile banking tools.
Recommended: Check out our business bank account page to learn which banks offer the best business check accounts, ATM access, interest-bearing accounts, and online and mobile banking options for businesses.
2. Obtaining a business credit card:
- Allows you to separate personal and business expenses.
- Develops your company’s credit history, which can be helpful to raise capital (e.g., small business loans) later.
3. Hiring a business accountant:
- It prevents your business from overpaying taxes while preventing penalties, fines, and other costly tax mistakes.
- Gives you more time to focus on your growing business by simplifying bookkeeping and payroll.
- Manage your business’s funding more effectively. Find out where extra profit or loss can be made
Getting Business Insurance for Your LLC
You can manage risks and grow your LLC with business insurance. Here are the most common types:
- General liability insurance protects your business from lawsuits. Most small businesses purchase general liability coverage.
- Professional liability insurance protects professionals and businesses from claims of negligence from their clients or customers. Liability insurance typically covers negligence, copyright infringement, personal injury, and more.
- Workers’ compensation insurance: Covers illnesses, injuries, and deaths resulting from a worker’s work.
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Let us help you with your business insurance needs.
- General business liability insurance
- Medical insurance
- Term life insurance
- Workers’ Comp
- Surety bonds
- Commercial auto
Create Your Business Website
A website is an important step in legitimizing your business. It is essential for all businesses. You are missing out on a large percentage of potential customers and revenue if you don’t have a website, even if your business is too small or in an offline industry.
More than 90% of consumers begin their search for products and services online. If you don’t have a website that is ready to welcome your customers, then they will simply find your competitors.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- Every respectable firm has a website. When it comes to getting your firm online, size or sector isn’t a concern.
- Creating a basic website has never been easier, thanks to website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder. To design a website, you don’t need to hire a web designer or developer.
Recommended: If you want to enhance your conversion rates and maximize revenue in order to help expand your business and meet objectives, you should always hire a professional business website design company to build your business website.
Wise Business Plans is a leading web design company, We have created over 2000 + websites across 20 countries for our clients but we are physically based in 7 major cities in the United States including Alabama web design, Pennsylvania, Las Vegas, Colorado Springs, Iowa, Michigan and San Diego.
Washington LLC FAQs
To file the Certificate of Formation, you must pay a filing fee of $180 via mail or $200 online. For $30, you can reserve an LLC name. For an extra $50, you may have your paperwork processed more quickly.
Although LLCs are not required to have operating agreements in Washington, it is strongly advised that you have one. An operating agreement will assist safeguard your limited liability status, avoid financial and administrative disputes, and ensure that you choose the rules for your business rather than state law by default.
If you file online, you can have an LLC in Washington in 7-10 business days (or 4-5 weeks if you file by mail). unless you pay an additional $50 for expedited processing (2-3 days).
There is no filing fee to dissolve your Washington LLC. For $50, you may ask for expedited service. All faxed papers to the Washington Secretary of State are deemed an expedited service request and your credit card will be charged for it.
You'll need to file the Amendment for Formation Limited Liability Company form with the Washington Secretary of State's office in order to alter anything like your LLC's name, business type, registered agent, or main location.