How to File for an LLC in Washington D.C.

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How To Use This Guide

It’s easy to form an LLC, just follow these steps:

  1. Name Your LLC
  2. Choose A Registered Agent
  3. File Formation Documents
  4. Create an Operating Agreement
  5. Get an EIN

Use A Professional Service

A professional LLC service will handle the entire formation process on your behalf, allowing you to focus on the other needs of your new business.

4.7 out of 5 starsZenBusiness ($39 + state fee) for basic & quick LLC formation.

3.6 out of 5 starsLegalZoom ($79 + state fee) for the most popular LLC service available.

Forming a Washington D.C. LLC is Easy

You can start a Washington D.C. LLC (Limited Liability Company) yourself by filing the Washington D.C. Articles of Organization with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. The cost to set up an LLC in Washington D.C. is $220.

Follow our free How to File for an LLC in Washington D.C. guide below to get started today.

If you are thinking about hiring a professional service to form an LLC, read our Best LLC Formation Services review.

Steps to form an L L C in Washington D.C.

Step 1: Create A Name For Your Washington D.C. LLC

First off, in order to launch a successful Washington D.C. LLC, you need to give it the right name. Your business name needs to be catchy for branding purposes and legitimate for legal purposes. We go into depth on this topic in our LLC naming guide, but we’ll go over the legal basics below.

Legally, your business name must:

  • Not contain the words bank, credit union, deposit, savings association, building association, thrift, or trust.
  • Contain the words limited liability company, limited company, or the abbreviation LLC or L.L.C.
  • Be distinguishable from any other entity or trade name registered in Washington D.C.

If you’re having trouble coming up with a name that fully captures your desired brand, don’t let that stop you from proceeding with the LLC formation process. For now, you can focus solely on the legal requirements and consider filing a DBA (doing business as) name after you’ve nailed down your branding.

What To Do:

Once you’ve decided what you’d like to call your LLC in Washington D.C., do a business name search to find out whether or not it’s in the cards. If your business name is available, you’ll be able to lock it down when you file your Articles of Organization.

Need help naming your LLC? Check out our LLC name generator to find the best name for your LLC.

Quick Note: Before you commit 100% to a name, you might also want to check that there’s a decent URL available for your business. Use GoDaddy to search for your options. If there’s a quality domain name for purchase, we advise buying it right away. Even if launching a business website isn’t on your radar right now, it’s going to be soon, and you might as well nail down a domain name that’ll make it easy for customers to find you.

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: Appoint A Washington D.C. Registered Agent

When you file your Articles of Organization, you will be asked to appoint a Washington D.C. registered agent.

Your registered agent will be responsible for receiving important legal documents like tax forms and service of process notices on behalf of your LLC. Your D.C. registered agent can be an individual resident of the state or a company that’s legally authorized to represent businesses in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. does give you the option to act as your own registered agent, but many business owners choose to appoint a professional instead. Here are a few things to think about before you decide to act as your own:

  • You’ll have to maintain normal (9 am - 5 pm) business hours at the address you provide.
  • If you run your business from home, you’ll be required to make your personal address public.
  • You must keep up on important notices, dates, and deadlines.
  • You could be served in front of your family or coworkers.

What To Do:

If you’re considering acting as your own registered agent, do some research, starting with our registered agent guide. If you decide you’re up for the task, go ahead and list your own name and address on your Washington D.C. Articles of Organization.

If you’re leaning toward hiring a professional, we recommend doing so through an online LLC formation service. Many registered agent services offer up to one year of registered agent service free when you form your Washington D.C. LLC with them.

Step 3: File the Washington D.C. Articles of Organization

You can file your Articles of Organization with the Washington D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs through mail or Online Filing System.

If you’re going to reserve the name, do that BEFORE filing the articles which declare the basics of your LLC for the public record:

  • LLC name and address (if you have a principal location),
  • Complete name of Washington D.C. registered agent and address,
  • Hours of operation and nature of business.
  • Complete name and address of signatories in the articles.

Action Step: File your Articles of Organization with the Washington D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

Filing Fee: $220

You can handle this step on your own, but we still recommend considering the help of an LLC formation service. Why? Not only will they take the reins and make sure you file everything properly, but they’ll also provide other necessary products and services at very competitive prices.

One great option is ZenBusiness. In addition to great service, they give you a free year of registered agent service when you sign up.

Step 4: Create A Washington D.C. LLC Operating Agreement

Creating a Washington D.C. LLC operating agreement is the only way for you and your members to fully define your roles and lock down your LLC’s management and ownership structure. Having this document in place will also give you all something to return to if a dispute or lawsuit arises.

Your operating agreement should outline the following:

  • each member’s responsibilities
  • how new members will be admitted
  • how existing members may transfer or terminate their membership
  • how profits and dividends are to be distributed

From there, you can add as many provisions as you want, provided they are not in conflict with the District of Columbia business law. Learn more about Operating Agreements in the District of Columbia.

Quick Note: Download a template or create a custom Free Operating Agreement using our tool on How to Start an LLC. No credit card required, ever.

Step 5: Obtain An EIN (Employer Identification Number) For Your LLC

The Employer Identification Number (EIN), Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN), or Federal Tax Identification Number (FTIN), is essentially a Social Security number (SSN) for your company. State and federal agencies use this number to track your business activity.

Your EIN will come in handy when it’s time to:

  • Open a business bank account
  • File Federal and State taxes
  • Hire employees

We think the best way to get an EIN for your Washington D.C. LLC is by using the free online application on the IRS website. We prefer this method because it's the most efficient, but you can apply by phone, fax, or mail. You can read through our How to Get an EIN guide to find out how.

Maintain Your LLC's Personal Asset Protection

Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.

Now that you’ve made it through the formation process for your Washington D.C. LLC, you’ll need to take steps to protect your personal assets and establish your business as an independent entity.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your Washington D.C. LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

You can go a long way in protecting your assets with these three steps:

1. Open a business bank account.

A business bank account separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection. A designated business bank account also makes accounting and tax filing easier.

Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Startups and Entrepreneurs review to find the best online bank, eCommerce banks, the best for tech startups, real estate investment banks, and more.

2. Get a business credit card.

A business credit card helps you separate personal and business expenses. A business credit card will also build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise capital later on.

Learn about the best small business credit cards.

3. Designate an authorized representative.

Make sure all documents are signed by a representative of your Washington D.C. LLC and not by you (or other LLC members) directly. This will help separate you from liability incurred by the LLC.

4. Learn how to build business credit

A good business credit score will help establish your business’s fundability. It can help with many things, including credit cards that are issued in your business’s name and score instead of depending on your personal credit score, better interest rates on loans, higher lines of credit, and more.

Reduce the Liability of Your Washington D.C. LLC

Business Insurance

Business insurance helps you manage risk and focus on growing your business. Carrying the right coverage protects your Washington D.C. LLC from liability and keeps you safe in the event of a loss.

The most common types of business insurance are:

  • General Liability Insurance: A broad insurance policy that protects your business from lawsuits. Most small businesses get general liability insurance.
  • Professional Liability Insurance: A business insurance for professional service providers (consultants, accountants, etc.) that covers claims of malpractice and other business errors.

If you plan to hire employees, you might also be required to invest in Workers' Compensation Insurance. This type of policy provides coverage for employee job-related illnesses, injuries, or loss of life.

There are free services available that quickly assess your business’s insurance needs. These services suggest customized policies with various insurance carriers so that you can choose the best value. One such reliable service is Coverwallet.

Labor Law

You can reduce your LLC’s liability by being fully compliant with employer laws such as:

  • Verifying new employees are allowed to work in the US.
  • Reporting employees as "new hires" to the state.
  • Withholding employee taxes.
  • Printing workplace compliance posters and placing them in visible areas of your workspace.

If you plan to hire employees, you might also be required to invest in Workers' Compensation Insurance. This type of policy provides coverage for employee job-related illnesses, injuries, or loss of life.

Find out more information at the Washington D.C. Department of Employment Services.

Stay Compliant

As a new LLC in Washington D.C., you will need to stay compliant with permits, licenses, taxes, and state filings like your annual report. This is a serious business; failure to comply can lead to fines, tax penalties, and dissolution (the end) of your Washington D.C. LLC.

Business Licenses and Permits

To operate your Washington D.C. LLC, 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 you research carefully and plan accordingly.

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

Federal: Use the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) guide.

State: Use Washington D.C.'s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs website.

Local: Contact your local county clerk and ask about local licenses and permits.

Sales Tax

If you are selling a physical product, you’ll typically need to register for a seller's permit through Washington D.C.'s Office of Tax and Revenue.

This certificate allows a business to collect sales tax on taxable sales.

Sales tax, also called "Sales and Use Tax," is a tax levied by states, counties, and municipalities on business transactions involving the exchange of certain taxable goods or services.

Here’s a sales tax guide to find out more.

Employer Taxes

If you have employees in Washington D.C., you will need to register for Unemployment Insurance Tax through the Washington D.C. Department of Employment Services. You will also need to sign up for Employee Withholding Tax through the Washington D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue.

Biennial Report

Washington D.C. requires all LLCs to file a biennial report. This form can be submitted online or by mail. You could face fines or even automatic dissolution if you miss state filings like the biennial report. If your LLC is dissolved, you risk the loss of limited liability protection. A quality registered agent service, like ZenBusiness, can help protect your assets.

How to File your Biennial Report:

Mail to:

Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Corporations Division
PO Box 92300
Washington D.C. 20090

Due Date: Due April 1st of the first year your business is formed and every other year after that, meaning you always skip a year to file.

Late Filings: The late fee is $100 If you miss your filing deadline. Washington D.C. will dissolve your LLC within 60 days for failure to file a Biennial Report.

Easy Action Steps for Staying Compliant:

  1. Check on and comply with licensing and permit requirements.
  2. Check on and comply with tax requirements.
  3. Stay up to date on state filing deadlines, especially the biennial report.

Reduce Administrative Burden

There will be lots of demands on your time once you start your business. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to streamline your workflow and reduce administrative overhead from the get-go.

Accounting For Your Washington D.C. LLC

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 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.

Employee Payroll

If you have employees for your Washington D.C. LLC, a payroll service will save you a lot of time and also save you from having to become an expert on state compliance or employee tax withholdings and filings.

Gusto is a reliable and good payroll service for small businesses.

Need Help to Start an LLC in Washington D.C.?

Have A Professional Service Form Your Washington D.C. LLC For You

When you’re starting a Washington D.C. LLC, it might be worth getting professional help.

You have several resources at your disposal, and it’s up to you to decide which you’d benefit from the most. That said, here are three of the most popular LLC formation services and our reviews of them:

ZenBusiness ($39 + state fee) = Best Price & Overall Value

LegalZoom ($79 + state fee) = Best For Brand Recognition

Useful Links for your Washington D.C. LLC