How to Start an LLC in Washington in 5 Steps and Save Big on Taxes

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Washington state requires that you have a business license to operate your LLC. Once you’re registered, however, you’ll unlock additional benefits and protections that will save you money when tax season rolls around.
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Registering a Limited Liability Company (LLC) in Washington State can save you money on taxes, protect your personal assets, and jumpstart a business that helps you create financial independence.

“I formed an LLC to have legal protection and separation from my personal assets,” says Steve Sponseller, a Washington-based business owner and intellectual property attorney. “Registering my LLC was pretty smooth. As an attorney, I’ve talked to people who’ve tried registering LLCs in other states, and it can be challenging. For Washington, you go through the checklist and provide the documents they want. It’s straightforward.”

Forming a Washington LLC doesn’t have to be complicated, and in Washington the paperwork can be filed online. The state has a thriving entrepreneurial community, with over 608,000 small businesses currently registered. If you’ve been thinking about making your Washington State-based business or side hustle official, you can register your limited liability company yourself, hire a CPA and/or lawyer, or use a guided tool like LegalZoom to help you get started quickly.

Our Pick
LegalZoom
LegalZoom
LegalZoom
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  • Price:
    From $79, plus the fees to register your LLC and file annual reports
  • Additional help available?:
    Yes
  • State-specific checkout?:
    Yes
Overview:

LegalZoom helps you set up an LLC in your state quickly, easily, and entirely online. An LLC is needed for important business functions, such as opening a business bank account. Different states have different business formation requirements; LegalZoom customizes the process for you based on what state you live in, and the company helped consumers form 447,000 businesses in 2021, according to a press release.

Mistakes can be made when trying to form an LLC by yourself, and business formation professionals can be expensive. If you want a cost-effective and convenient way to create your LLC (and keep more of the money you make from your side hustle or business when tax time rolls around), LegalZoom is a great option.

We asked Washington LLC owners what to keep in mind when registering for an LLC in the Evergreen State. Here are their top tips, along with what you need to know to get up and running smoothly. 

Step 1: Choose an LLC Name and Check Its Availability  

To form a Washington LLC, it’s necessary to register with the Secretary of State. You’ll have to file the required forms, pay fees, and meet all requirements regarding your LLC’s name and business formation guidelines.

You’ll first need to choose a name for your business. You can check the availability of a potential name by searching Washington Secretary of State’s business name database.  

Here are some things to know when choosing a business name: 

  • An LLC name must contain the phrase “Limited Liability Company” or “Limited Liability Co.”, or the abbreviation “L.L.C.” or “LLC.” 
  • The LLC’s name must be distinguishable from other business names on file with the Washington Secretary of State. 
  • The LLC name must follow Washington State’s naming rules
  • The LLC’s name cannot use any references to government agencies (e.g., State Department, Treasury, FBI, etc.). 
  • Certain restricted words—such as bank, lawyer, attorney, or credit union—may involve additional documentation or industry regulations.

You may reserve a business name for 180 days by filing a Name Reservation form with the Washington Secretary of State. This reservation must be filed by mail.

You don’t have to use your LLC’s official registered name in your Certificate of Formation when you do business. You can use an assumed name, also called a fictitious business name, “Doing Business As” name (DBA), or trade name. You must register your assumed name with the Washington Secretary of State. You can register the trade name when you obtain a state business license or later. You may register online or mail in a Business License Application form.

One consideration when choosing your LLC name is the availability of that name as a URL for a website. You can check if the URL is available and include that in your decision-making. Think about the future goals for your side hustle or business, as you may wish to sell products or services online at some point. 

Step 2: Choose Your LLC’s Registered Agent

LLCs are required to have a registered agent for service of process. Your Washington registered agent can be an individual or business entity that receives and handles legal paperwork on the LLC’s behalf. 

The requirements for a Washington registered agent are:

  • The registered agent must be at least 18 years old.
  • The registered agent must have a physical street address in Washington State. 
  • If using a registered agent service, the service must be a business entity authorized to do business in Washington.
  • The registered agent or registered agent service must keep regular business hours (9 am to 5 pm).

In the state of Washington, you can be your own registered agent, but it means your name, address, and other private information will go on the public record. Registered agents for limited liability companies also have to keep regular, nine-to-five business hours at your registered address. 

Step 3: Prepare and File a Certificate of Formation

To form your Washington LLC, you’ll need to complete and file a Certificate of Formation with the Secretary of State. The Certificate of Formation may be filed online or by mail. The filing fee for a Washington LLC certificate is $180 for filing by mail or $200 for online filings (which can be processed in 2-3 business days). If you’re using a third-party service like LegalZoom, there will be an additional cost.

Your Certificate of Formation must include: 

  • The LLC’s name.
  • The effective date of formation.
  • Indicate whether the LLC’s period of duration is perpetual or limited.
  • The name and address of the LLC’s registered agent.
  • The signature of the registered agent.

The Washington Secretary of State will process your filing. You can purchase expedited service online, in-person, or by mail. The fee for expedited service is $50 per entity, and online submissions are $20 per entity (in addition to regular fees). 

“The process of filing my LLC online was pretty easy, [but] what was confusing was figuring out how to start,” says Zoe Sponseller, founder of Red Thread Unraveled and an entrepreneur who registered her Washington-based business at 17 with her dad as an LLC member. 

If you’re moving your business to Washington from another state, your LLC is known as a foreign LLC. Out-of-state LLCs registering to do business in Washington must file a Foreign Registration Statement. You must attach a Certificate of Good Standing from your state of formation dated no more than 60 days before the date you file the registration statement. Foreign LLC filings have the same fees and processing times as domestic LLC filings. 

Step 4: Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Once your Washington LLC has been filed and approved, you can register for a nine-digit federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the internal revenue service (IRS). An EIN is like a social security number for your business. You can use this number to file taxes, open a business bank account, apply for a business credit card, manage payroll, and file federal taxes. 

The Washington-based business owners we interviewed recommend you keep personal and business expenses separate to ensure personal asset protection and clear separation in the eyes of the IRS and state taxing authorities. 

Step 5: Obtain a Business License

Washington is one of the few states that requires a business license. You can obtain business licenses after your LLC is approved by the Secretary of State. Here is a list of business licenses in Washington State. 

You must complete the Washington State Business License Application and pay a $19 fee to get your business license. You can apply online or by mail. This application will register your LLC with Employment Security, Labor and Industries, and other state agencies. 

Once registered, you’ll receive a business license and Washington State UBI number. The UBI is a nine-digit number that allows you to do business in Washington state.

Additional Steps

If you follow the steps listed above, your Washington LLC will be approved and active. Here are some additional steps specific to Washington you should know about.

Create an Operating Agreement

The state of Washington does not require LLCs to have an operating agreement. However, creating an operating agreement ensures all LLC members understand their roles and responsibilities. An operating agreement can also be used in court if legal disputes arise among LLC members. Your operating agreement clarifies which members (owners) and managers will do what to ensure the business runs properly; having this information in writing is a good safeguard.

Register with the Washington Department of Revenue

All Washington businesses with $12,000 or more in revenue — or that are required to collect sales tax — must register with the Washington Department of Revenue. Washington has no income tax on individuals or businesses, but it does have a business and occupation tax on gross business income.

File an Annual Report 

Every Washington LLC must file an annual report with the Secretary of State. The initial annual report must be filed within 120 days of the filing date to create your LLC. Subsequent annual reports are due on dates determined by the Secretary of State. 

The Secretary of State will send a renewal notice to the LLC’s registered agent approximately 45 days before the Annual Report is due. The Initial Report and Annual Report may be filed online or by postal mail. The fee for filing Initial and Annual Reports is $60.

“Once you figure out where to start, the whole process makes sense,” says Kevin Mikolajczak, a Washington-based business owner. “After forming my LLC, one thing I had to keep in mind was filing my Annual Reports. Every year, you have to go to the Secretary of State [website] and report your total revenue and any business updates you have.”

How Much Does it Cost to Start an LLC in Washington State?

The filing fee to form an LLC in Washington State is $200 if you file online or $180 if you file by mail. You can purchase expedited filing online, in-person, or by mail. The fee for expedited service is $50 per entity, and online submissions are $20 per entity (in addition to regular fees). There is also a $19 fee to obtain your business license.

Is it Worth Starting an LLC in Washington State?

If you have a a side hustle or business, you should consider registering an LLC in Washington. The structure of an LLC can protect your personal assets, lower tax liability, and allow you to build a more credible business in the eyes of your future customers. 

How Long Does it Take to Form an LLC in Washington State?

The typical processing times for forming an LLC in Washington State are 2 to 3 business days if you file online and 2 to 3 weeks if you file by mail. 

You can purchase expedited service online, in-person, or by mail. The fee for expedited service is $50 per entity, and online submissions are $20 per entity (in addition to regular fees).

“It was easy and straightforward to register my LLC,” says Jennifer Malocha, founder of Winner Circle Coaching, a consulting business based in Washington state. “I just went to the Washington Secretary of State’s website and filled out the required forms. My LLC was formed within days.” 

Our Pick
LegalZoom
LegalZoom
LegalZoom
Learn More externa link icon
  • Price:
    From $79, plus the fees to register your LLC and file annual reports
  • Additional help available?:
    Yes
  • State-specific checkout?:
    Yes
Overview:

LegalZoom helps you set up an LLC in your state quickly, easily, and entirely online. An LLC is needed for important business functions, such as opening a business bank account. Different states have different business formation requirements; LegalZoom customizes the process for you based on what state you live in, and the company helped consumers form 447,000 businesses in 2021, according to a press release.

Mistakes can be made when trying to form an LLC by yourself, and business formation professionals can be expensive. If you want a cost-effective and convenient way to create your LLC (and keep more of the money you make from your side hustle or business when tax time rolls around), LegalZoom is a great option.

Do You Need an EIN to Start an LLC?

You don’t need a federal employer identification number to start an LLC in Washington, but you’ll want to get one as soon as your LLC is approved. An EIN allows you to open a business bank account, obtain a business credit card, and register with the appropriate Washington state licensing and taxing authorities. Registering an EIN with the IRS is free.

Starting an LLC in Washington may feel intimidating at first, but doing so will make your side hustle or business official and, ultimately, more profitable. Take some time to review this guide and get the official documentation you need to form an LLC so that you’re well-positioned to build a business that leads to financial independence.