How to Form a Washington D.C. Corporation

Four Washington D.C. entrepreneurs deciding how to form a Washington D.C. corporation.

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Forming a Washington D.C. Corporation is Easy

Forming a corporation in Washington D.C. is a simple process that is completed by filing the Articles of Incorporation with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. In the guide below, we will show you step-by-step how to form a corporation in Washington D.C.

Step 1: Create a Name For Your Washington D.C. Corporation

When naming your Washington D.C. Corporation, you will need to:

  • Follow Washington D.C. Name Requirements
  • Complete a Name Search on the DC Business Center Website
  • Consider Securing a Domain Name (URL)

To learn more, read our How to Name a Business in Washington D.C. guide.

Need help naming your business? You can use our business name generator to find the best name for your corporation.


Name Requirements

First, you will need to choose a name that complies with the Washington D.C. Office of the Secretary’s naming guidelines:

  • Your name must contain the word “corporation,” “company,” “incorporated,” or “limited;” an abbreviation of one of these terms, or words or abbreviations with the same meaning in a different language.
  • Your name shall not be the same as, or deceptively similar to, the name of any department, agency, or instrumentality of the United States or the District of Columbia.
  • Your name cannot contain the words “bank,” “banking,” “credit union,” “insurance,” or words of similar meaning without the prior approval of the Mayor.
  • Your name must be distinguishable from any existing business in the district. This includes Washington D.C. reserved names.

You can read statute 29-103.01 and statute 29-103.02 about Washington D.C. corporation naming guidelines for more information.


Name Search With the Washington D.C. Business Center Website

You will need to check name availability by searching the business name database on the Washington D.C. Business Center website. You will need to register for a free account to search the database.

This tool is also useful if you decide to register a trade name or DBA (Doing Business As) for your company. For detailed information about setting up a DBA for your Washington D.C. corporation, check out our How to File a DBA in Washington D.C. guide.


Name Reservation

If you have a name in mind, but you aren’t ready to officially form your corporation, you can reserve your name. Your business name can be reserved for 120 days by filing a Name Reservation form with the Washington D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

The Name Reservation form can be filed online on the Washington D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs website or you can file the form by mail. There is a $50 fee to file your Washington D.C. Name Reservation.


Secure Domain Name

We recommend checking to see if your business name is available as a web domain (URL). Even if you don't plan to make a business website today, you may want to buy the web address in order to prevent others from acquiring it. It’s free to search.

Find a Domain Now

Service provided by GoDaddy.com

After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free

Step 2: Choose a Washington D.C. Registered Agent

When you file your Washington D.C. Articles of Incorporation, you will be asked to give the name of your Washington D.C. registered agent.

A registered agent is a person or entity that accepts tax and legal documents on behalf of an LLC or corporation. Your registered agent can be an individual resident of the state or a company that’s legally authorized to represent businesses in Washington D.C.

To learn more about registered agents, read our What is a Registered Agent guide.

Step 3: Choose Your Washington D.C. Corporation’s Initial Directors

You must appoint at least one director who, among other things, will oversee your Washington D.C. corporation until the first shareholder meeting.

The directors of a corporation are in charge of the adoption, amendment, and repeal of the operational bylaws as well as the supervision, election, and removal of officers.

Later you will need to prepare an “Incorporator Statement” with complete names and addresses of each director and keep it in your corporate records book.

Step 4: File the Articles of Incorporation

Now that you have chosen a registered agent and at least one director, it’s time to make your corporation official by filing Form DBU-1: Articles of Incorporation with the Washington D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

The Articles of Incorporation will disclose some basics of your business for the public record, including:

  • Corporate name and address
  • Corporate registered agent name and address
  • Number of authorized shares corporation is allowed to issue and their par value
  • Incorporators’ names and addresses

Filing Fee: The Articles of Incorporation filing fee depends on the amount of authorized capital your company will have:

  • <$100,000 authorized capital: $220 filing fee
  • $100,001-$500,000 authorized capital: $550 filing fee
  • $500,001-$1,000,000 authorized capital: $1,100 filing fee
  • >$1,000,001 authorized capital: $1,650 filing fee


Filing Options

Submit the completed Articles of Incorporation, along with the filing fee, using one of two options:


Mail:
Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
Corporations Division
P.O. Box 92300
Washington, DC 20090

Fax: Washington D.C. CorpOnline

Washington D.C. Corporation Operating Procedures and Housekeeping

Set Up a Corporate Records Book

Think of this as the hard-copy record book where all critical corporate documents are kept, like your Articles of Incorporation, bylaws, meeting minutes, stock certificate ledger, stock transfer documents, etc.

You should keep the corporate records book at your principal location. Corporate records book kits can be purchased online, or you can use a large generic binder to store your records.

Prepare Bylaws for Your Washington D.C. Corporation

Bylaws are the rules that determine how your organization will be governed and run.

You can think about the bylaws as a constitution for your corporation. It makes the rules and priorities clear for everyone involved.

In your bylaws, be sure to include:

  • How the corporation will be governed – the role of directors and officers
  • How meetings are held, voting procedures, electing officers or directors
  • How records will be kept and managed
  • How disputes will be handled
  • How bylaws will be added/amended in the future

NOTE: A corporation’s bylaws will supplement any rules set forth by the federal government or the state.


Ready to get started? Check out these bylaws templates which you can customize to suit the needs of your incorporated business.

Conduct Your First Board of Directors Meeting

An organizational meeting is the first official meeting of your corporation.

These are some of the things that are discussed in a typical organizational meeting:

  • Taking attendance to show you have a quorum (minimum number needed)
  • Appointing temporary officers, chairmen, secretary, etc.
  • Adoption of the bylaws
  • Adoption of conflict of interest policy

Don’t forget to record “minutes” of the meeting and have it signed by all attending directors. Here are some corporate minutes templates to help you get the ball rolling.

Protect Your Assets and Stay Compliant

In order to protect your assets and stay compliant after you start your Washington D.C. corporation, you will need to:

Table showing the three steps to compliance

Get an EIN

The Employer Identification Number (EIN), or Federal Tax Identification Number, is used to identify a business entity. It is essentially a social security number for the company.

Why do I need an EIN? An EIN is required for the following:

  • To open a business bank account for the company
  • For Federal and State tax purposes
  • To hire employees for the company

Where do I get an EIN? An EIN is obtained from the IRS (free of charge) by the business owner after forming the company. This can be done online or by mail.

To learn more about EINs, read our What is an EIN guide.

Open a Bank Account for Your Washington D.C. Corporation

There are two critical reasons to open a unique corporate bank account.

The first is that separating your personal assets from your business assets adds another layer of protection in the event that your business is sued.

The second is that syncing a single account with business accounting software will make managing your finances much easier.

To begin your research, check out the breakdown of our favorite business checking accounts.

Recommended: Find the right bank for you, read our review of the The 5 Best Banks for Startups and Entrepreneurs

Accounting For Your Corporation

It's important to get your books in order, even if you haven't officially opened for business. A well-managed accounting system will help you:

  • Track your business finances, including bills, expenses, and income.
  • Simplify and file your annual taxes.

You can maintain your accounting in two ways:

  • Use a DIY accounting software. This can come with an increased risk of errors especially when starting a new business.
  • Hire an accounting service. They can provide comprehensive advice to help optimize your bookkeeping and taxes as well as additional services such as payroll etc.

Recommended: For most small businesses, we recommend using a reputable accounting service. Schedule a free tax consultation for your business now to avoid costly errors in the future.

Research Business License Requirements

To operate your corporation, you must comply with federal, state, and local government regulations. The details of business licenses and permits vary from state to state, so make sure to research carefully and plan accordingly.

Find out how to obtain necessary licenses and permits for your business or have a professional business licensing service do it for you:

What is an S Corporation?

An S Corporation (S corp) is an incorporated business that is taxed as a pass-through entity. This means that S corps do not pay federal taxes on their business income. Instead, the business profits "pass-through" to the owners of the S corp, who are also known as shareholders. Then, the shareholders pay income tax and report their share of the profits in the form of salaries on their individual tax returns, which are then taxed.


In order to elect an S corporation status for tax purposes, corporations will need to file form 2553 Election by a Small Business Corporation. The form must be signed by all shareholders and must be filed within two months and 15 days after the start of the initial tax year.

To learn more, read our What is an S corporation guide.

Have a Professional Service Form Your Washington D.C. Corporation For You

If you'd like to have a reliable service help you incorporate in Washington D.C., here are our top recommendations:

  • ZenBusiness ($39 + state fees) = Good rates and convenient features
  • LegalZoom ($149 + state fees) = Most popular among business owners

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