Washington D.C. Business License

A businessman opening the office door for his employees

General Business License Requirements for Washington D.C..

Business licenses are often required of business entities, regardless of their products and services. This page provides an overview of business license requirements in Washington D.C..

Washington D.C. General Business Licenses

District of Columbia Basic Business License - General Business

Agency:District of Columbia Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection - Business and Professional Licensing Administration - Business Licensing Division

DC Code § 47-2851.03d

Foreign Qualification is Prerequisite:Not Set

Businesses that have a basic business license in a different classification than the general business license typically do not need a general business license as well. Only businesses with elevator, retail cigarette, patent medicine, food product, or vending machine classifications will need to apply for the additional general business license. Nonprofit organizations generally hold a charitable solicitation license instead of a general business license.

To obtain a general business license, the organization must:

  • foreign qualify
  • obtain a tax registration or exemption
  • obtain their certificate of clean hands
  • obtain a certificate of occupancy if they have a physical presence in the district
  • apply for the general business license

What is “Clean Hands”? (DC Code § 47-2862)
During the Basic Business License application process, all applicants must certify that no more than $100.00 is owed to the District of Columbia Government as a result of fees, penalties, interest, or taxes. This must be obtained in one of two ways: 

  1. If you are a District of Columbia individual or business taxpayer, you must log-in to your MyTax.DC.gov account to generate the request. If you do not have a MyTax account and are required to pay District of Columbia taxes (business or individual), you must first create a MyTax.DC.gov account. Once the account has been created, you can utilize the self-service feature to execute the request.
  2. If you are not required to pay District of Columbia taxes and require a Certificate of Clean Hands, a manual request can be requested here.

In either case, the Certificate of Clean Hands will expire 90 days from the date of issuance. 

Exam Required?Not Set
Registered Agent (Special Agency) Required?Not Set

Automatic Exemption

Exemption Eligible Organizations:
  • Entities that have an endorsement under a different license endorsement category
  • Entities comprised of principals who are required to maintain licenses granted or regulated by a local, state, or national certification board or body
Agency Fee:



Code of the District of Columbia § 47-2851.03d.

Initial Registration

Filing Method:


Agency Fee:




Registration Renewal

Filing Method:


Agency Fee:


  • Biennially by the end of the month prior to the registration anniversary month.
  • Renewals can be filed as early as 75 days prior to the expiration date.

Penalty fees accumulate as follows:

  • $250 starting 1 day after the expiration date
  • $500 starting 1 month after the expiration date
  • $500 + an additional fee based on the license fee starting 6 months after the expiration date. The license also becomes ineligible for renewal and a new application must be filed.


Learn about general business licensing requirements in other states: