How to Start an LLC in Washington D.C.

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

  1. Name Your LLC
  2. Choose a Registered Agent
  3. File the DC Articles of Organization
  4. Create an LLC Operating Agreement
  5. Get an EIN

Or, use a professional service:

four point eight out of five stars Northwest ($29 + State Fees)

three point nine out of five stars LegalZoom ($249 + State Fees)

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

Starting an LLC in DC is Easy!

You can get a Washington DC LLC online by filing the DC LLC Articles of Organization with the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection. The cost to start an LLC in Washington DC starts at $99.

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

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 DC LLC

Before you register your Washington D.C. 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 DC guidelines:

  • it contains the words limited liability company, limited company, LLC, or L.L.C.
  • it doesn't contain restricted words or phrases (these often include words like bank, attorney, and university) without approval
  • it's distinguishable from any other entity or trade name registered in DC
  • full list of Washington DC naming guidelines

Next, do a DC LLC name search with the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection to find out if your name is available.

If your business name is available and meets guidelines, you’ll be able to register it when you file your Articles of Organization with the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection.

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 D.C. Trade Name (DBA)

A Washington D.C. 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 D.C. DBA guide.

Step 2: Appoint a Registered Agent

When you file your Articles of Organization, 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 D.C. 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 offers a free year of registered agent services when you form your Washington D.C. LLC ($29 plus state fees) with them.

Step 3: File the Articles of Organization

It’s time to officially form your LLC by filing your Articles of Organization with the DC Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection.

You can file online with the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection or fill out a hard copy of Form DLC-1 and mail it in or submit in person. The filing fee is $99 online or by mail and $199 in person. 

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 the form:

  1. Entity Name and Address
  2. Registered Agent Name and Registered Office Address
  3. Effective Date
  4. Organizer Information

For more detailed help with completing the form, visit our DC Articles of Organization guide.

Mail Your Articles of Organization:

Send the form and payment (payable to the Secretary of State) to:
Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection
Corporations Division
PO Box 92300
Washington, DC 20090

Submit In Person: 
Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection
1100 4th Street SW
Washington, DC 20024

How long does it take to get a Washington D.C. LLC approved? LLC processing time is 5 to 7 business days online, up to 3 weeks by mail. Expedited processing is available.

Step 4: Create an LLC Operating Agreement

Creating a Washington DC 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 DC 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 DC 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 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 D.C.

After forming your Washington D.C. 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 D.C. 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 D.C., 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 D.C. Business Licenses and Permits

To operate an LLC in Washington D.C., you will need to comply with federal 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 D.C. guide. To help facilitate this process, you can also utilize a business license service.

All DC businesses will require one of two business licenses to operate in the district. The Basic Business License covers businesses that operate in certain industries, while the General Business License covers all other businesses. Both can be obtained through the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection.

File Your Washington D.C. LLC Biennial Report

All businesses in Washington D.C. must file a biennial report with the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection every other year from the date of formation. This can be filed online or by submitting Form BRA-25: Two-Year Report by mail or in person. The filing fee is $300 online or by mail and $400 in person. Mail-in filings must also include Form EX-2: Mail-in Filing Cover Letter.

Understand Washington D.C. State Tax Requirements

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

If you have employees in Washington D.C., you will need to register for unemployment insurance tax through the DC Department of Employment Services and employee withholding tax through the MyTax DC portal.

LLCs with more than $12,000 in gross income from DC sources must also pay the district’s franchise tax. The minimum tax payment is $250.

Understand Your Washington D.C. LLC’s Federal Tax Requirements

Most Washington D.C. 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 D.C. 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 D.C. 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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