How to Get a Small Business License in Washington State

When starting a business in Washington, you will need to examine state, county, and municipal regulations on obtaining a business license.

The Evergreen State offers many online resources on how to get a small business license. The state of Washington's Business Licensing Services provides a central online clearinghouse of forms, information, and resources for Washington businesses. The state offers a Small Business Guide to aid business people in planning for their new ventures with helpful step-by-step assistance. Each new business can also develop a customized licensing checklist with the help of an online Business Licensing Guide that can be tailored to your business activity, location, and other information. Key general business licensing issues and resources for Washington state are outlined below.

  • General Business Licenses. Typically Washington businesses are licensed on a state level and on a city or county basis for unincorporated areas wherever you have business locations. Many types of businesses can complete a state Business License Application online. Aside from online options, you can also file your application by postal mail or in-person at the Department of Revenue's Business Licensing Office. The state application will require information about the business owners, locations, estimated yearly gross revenues, any employee hiring, and any applicable insurance coverage, such as workers' compensation and unemployment insurance. Some local communities also use the state's Business License Application along with a City Business License Addendum so your business can apply for both at the same time. To determine if your city or county participates, you can click on your applicable city or town from a list of participating cities and counties. After you have applied for a state business license, you will receive a Unified Business Identifier (UBI) or tax registration number which allows you to do business in the state. The UBI number can also be used to identify your business to other key state agencies, such as the Departments of Employment Security, Labor & Industries, and Revenue. Once you determine your business structure, you must register your business entity, including various kinds of partnerships, limited liability companies, and corporations with the Office of the Secretary of State.
  • Specific Licensing for Regulated Professions and Industries. Since there are many different kinds of businesses, your licensing responsibilities will vary depending upon the nature of your business. Aside from your general business license, you may be required to obtain additional professional and specialty licenses and permits. You can renew certain specialty licenses online, by mail, or in-person with the Business Licensing Service. Other professional or commercial licenses can be renewed through the relevant professional organization or regulatory agency that granted the license.
  • Trade Name Registration. A trade name or a "doing business as" registration is mandated for any sole proprietor or partnership which operates a business under a name other than the owner's name. Similarly, a corporation, limited partnership, or limited liability company must register a trade name which uses a name other than its name registered with the Office of the Secretary of State. You can register your trade name using the business license application online, by mail or in-person. You can search online for the state's business licenses which provides links to other trade name databases to help you determine if your desired business name is available for use.

July 2013

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