How to Start an LLC in Washington State

L L C members happy after starting an L L C in Washington

It’s easy to form an LLC in Washington online yourself. Just follow these steps:

  1. Name Your LLC
  2. Choose a Registered Agent
  3. File the WA Certificate of Formation
  4. Create an LLC Operating Agreement
  5. Get an EIN

Or, use a professional service:

four point eight out of five stars Northwest Registered Agent ($29 + State Filing Fee)

three point four out of five stars LegalZoom ($79 + State Filing Fee)

Starting an LLC in Washington State is Easy

You can start a Washington State LLC online by filing the Certificate of Formation with the Secretary of State. The cost to set up an LLC in Washington State is $180 by mail or $200 online.

Follow our How to Start an LLC in Washington State guide below to get started.

Steps to form an L L C in Washington

To learn how to form an LLC in any state, visit our How to Start an LLC guide.

Step 1: Create A Name For Your Washington State LLC

Before you register your Washington LLC, you'll need to come up with a 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. We’ll go over the basics below.

Naming Your LLC

First, brainstorm some possibilities. Use our LLC name generator to get the ideas flowing.

Next, make sure your name meets Washington guidelines:

  • it contains the words limited liability company, limited company, LLC, or L.L.C.
  • it doesn't contain words bank, banking, banker, trust, cooperative, any combination of the words industrial and loan, any combination of any two or more of the words building, savings, loan, home, association, or society
  • it's distinguishable from any other entity or trade name registered in Washington State
  • full list of Washington naming guidelines

Next, do a Washington LLC name search with the Secretary of State to find out if your name is available in Wshington.

If your business name is available and meets guidelines, you’ll be able to register it when you file your Washington Certificate of Formation with the Secretary of State.

Is the URL available? Before you commit 100% to a name, check to see if there’s a good web domain available.

We recommend buying your domain right away because even if launching a business website isn’t on your radar right now, it will be soon.

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Once you register a domain name for your LLC, consider setting up a business phone system to establish credibility and enhance your customer service. Nextiva provides a plethora of useful features and a quick, easy setup. Try Nextiva.

Using a Washington Trade Name (DBA)

A Washington DBA (doing business as), also known as a trade name, is any registered name that a business operates under that isn't its legal business name. A trade name can be used by any type of business, including a sole proprietorship, partnership, or limited liability company (LLC).

Learn how to get a DBA in our Washington DBA guide.

Step 2: Appoint A Washington LLC Registered Agent

When you file your Certificate of Formation, you'll need to list a registered agent.

A registered agent's job is to accept legal documents like service of process and tax notices for your LLC. To learn more about Washington Registered Agents, read our guide.

Your registered agent can be a person or a registered agent service. You can act as your own registered agent, but many business owners choose to use a registered agent service.

Here are a few things to think about before you decide to act as your own registered agent:

  • You’ll need to be available during normal (9 am - 5 pm) business hours at the address you provide
  • If you run your business from home, you’ll have to make your personal address public
  • You could be served with a lawsuit in front of your family or coworkers

Recommended: Northwest Registered Agent offers a free year of registered agent services when you form your LLC ($29 plus state fees).

Step 3: File A WA LLC Certificate of Formation

It’s time to officially form your LLC by filing your Certificate of Formation with the Washington Secretary of State.

You can file online with the Secretary of State or fill out a hard copy of the Certificate of Formation and mail it in or deliver it in person. The filing fee is $50. 

Recommended: Now is a good time to decide if your LLC will be member-managed vs manager-managed.

You'll need to know the following information to complete each Article:

  1. Entity Name and Address
  2. Effective Date and Duration
  3. Registered Agent Name and Registered Office Address

For more detailed help with completing the form, visit our Washington Certificate of Formation guide.

Mail Your Articles of Organization:

Send the form and payment (payable to the Secretary of State) to:

Secretary of State
Corporations Division
P.O. Box 40234
Olympia, WA 98504

Submit In Person: 

Secretary of State
Corporations Division
801 Capitol Way S
Olympia, WA 98501

How long does it take to get a Washington LLC approved? LLCs are processed immediately after receiving payment online, or 5 to 7 business days by mail or in person.

Step 4: Create A Washington State LLC Operating Agreement

Creating a Washington LLC operating agreement is the only way to legally lock down your LLC’s management and ownership structure. Having an operating agreement in place will give you something to return to if a dispute or lawsuit arises.

Even single-member LLCs benefit from having an operating agreement.

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 will be distributed

You can add as many provisions as you want, as long as they don't conflict with Washington business law. Take a look at our What is an Operating Agreement guide to learn more.

Download a template or create a custom Free Operating Agreement using our tool.

Step 5: Get an EIN

An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is like a Social Security number (SSN) for your company. The IRS and the state of Washington will 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

The best way to get an EIN for your LLC in Washington is by using the free online application on the IRS website.

Read our Get an EIN guide for instructions.

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Steps After Forming an LLC in Washington

After forming your Washington LLC, it's important to:

Open A Business Bank Account

A business bank account helps separate personal expenses and company expenses, which is required to maintain your Washington LLC's corporate veil. A corporate veil protects your personal assets from creditors in potential lawsuits against your LLC or Business.

Learn more by reading this guide to Banking for Entrepreneurs. For a multi-member LLC, you'll also want to set up capital accounts for LLC members. We also recommend checking out our review of the best business bank accounts.

Get A Business Credit Card

A business credit card will help separate personal and business expenses while building your company's credit history. A strong credit history will be useful for raising capital in the form of venture capital, angel investment, or small business loans.

Set Up Business Accounting

Hiring a business accountant is one of the best ways to ensure you’re taking advantage of LLC tax benefits; possibly saving you and your business thousands of dollars per year.

When forming an LLC in Washington, it’s a good idea to start a relationship with a business accountant as soon as you start your business to help set your company up for success.

Get Business Insurance

Business insurance helps manage risk. The most common forms of business insurance are general liability, professional liability, and workers' compensation.

Find out the real cost of getting insurance for your business. Get a free quote or call 855-965-3168.

Keep Your Company Compliant

Research Washington Business Licenses and Permits

To operate an LLC in Washington, you will need to comply with federal, state, and local government regulations such as health permits, building permits, and signage permits. 

Business licensing and permit requirements vary from state to state. To get started, visit our How to Get a Business License in Washington guide. To help facilitate this process, you can also utilize a business license service.

Most Washington businesses will need to register for a business license with the Department of Revenue. This is typically done shortly after business formation, as a license is needed to hire employees and pay taxes to the Department of Revenue. The filing fee varies based on your business’s needs.

File Your Washington LLC Annual Report

Washington LLCs must submit an annual report to the Secretary of State either online or by mailing in an annual report form. The filing fee is $60.

Understand Washington State Tax Requirements

Washington businesses selling a physical product are generally required to register for a seller’s permit with the Washington Department of Revenue. Visit our Washington Sales Tax guide to learn more about seller’s permits and Washington sales tax.

If you have employees in Washington, you will also need to sign up for unemployment insurance tax with the Washington Employment Security Department. Additionally, most businesses are subject to the state’s business and occupation tax on the gross income of their activities.

Understand Your Washington LLC’s Federal Tax Requirements

Most Washington LLCs will need to report their income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) each year using Form 1065: Partnership Return (multi-member LLCs) or Form 1040 - Schedule C (single-member LLCs).

How you pay yourself will affect your federal taxes. Visit our guide to learn more about how to pay yourself from your LLC.

Know Your Washington LLC’s Federal Tax Election Options

Pass-through taxation entails a business’s profits passing through to the LLC member’s individual tax returns. Like a sole proprietorship, an LLC is taxed as a pass-through entity, also known as a disregarded entity. 

Once this process is completed and after any tax-deductible expenses are taken out, the LLC members pay self-employment taxes and income tax on their portion of the business income. 

Alternatively, Washington LLCs can choose to elect to be taxed as an S corporation (S corp) or C corporation (C corp). If S corporation tax status is elected, LLC members can be taxed as employees of the business, potentially reducing tax burden.

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