How to Form an LLC in Washington

This guide to starting an LLC in Washington provides step-by-step instructions on filing formation documents, obtaining tax IDs, and setting up company records.

Overview

LLCs are the most popular business structure because they are inexpensive to form, provide flexibility to the owners, and are easy to run. Forming your LLC legally establishes your business, limits your personal liability, and gains tax flexibility. The following step-by-step will help you as you undertake this process.

Fast Facts: Your Budget and Timeline

Here is an overview of the total paperwork, cost, and time it takes to form an LLC in Washington. Be sure to read the final step in this guide - "Ongoing Filings" - to understand your ongoing costs to maintain a compliant Washington LLC.


Paperwork
  • Form LLC2010: Certificate of Formation - Washington Limited Liability Company
  • Operating Agreement
  • IRS Form SS-4: Obtain an EIN
  • Form BLS-700-028: Washington Business License Application
Cost
  • Formation: $180 by mail or in-person. $230 expedited by mail or in-person. $200 online.
Time
  • Formation: ~2 months by paper. ~2-3 business days expedited paper or online.

Step-by-Step Washington LLC Instructions

  1. Check Name Availability

    The legal name of your LLC may not conflict with any other registered name. Check availability of your desired name by conducting a name search.

    Name Search: Washington Secretary of State - Corporations Division
    Name search
    Name Reservation: Optional
    Suffix:

    Must contain the words "Limited Liability Company," the words "Limited Liability" and abbreviation "Co.," or the abbreviation "L.L.C." or "LLC" 
    RCW &sect23.95.305

  2. Appoint a Registered Agent

    Before you officially file to create your Washington LLC, you will need to decide who your Washington registered agent will be. A registered agent is a business's legal appointee to receive notice of lawsuit and other legal or government notices.

    State law requires every LLC to have a registered agent. The registered agent is designated when you file Washington articles of organization with the Washington Secretary of State - Corporations Division.

    Our reliable registered agent service fulfills this requirement. You get:

    • Same-day documents from our local office in Spokane
    • Immediate online access to state forms with our address and, where required, our signature
    • Annual fees from $89 to $99 per state with no additional charges

    Order Now
  3. File Washington Certificate of Formation

    File the articles of organization to create your limited liability company.

    Agency:Washington Secretary of State - Corporations Division
    Form:

    Certificate of Formation - Washington Limited Liability Company

    Filing Method:

    Mail, in-person, or online.

    Agency Fee:

    $180 by mail or in-person. $230 expedited by mail or in-person. $200 online.

    Turnaround:

    ~2 months by paper. ~2-3 business days expedited paper or online.

    Law:

    RCW §25.15 Limited Liability Companies

    Notes:
    • The Secretary of State will issue your Unified Business Identifier (UBI) which is your state id across state departments.
    • Professional LLCs have other formation requirements.
    Fact Checked:6/13/17
  4. File Initial Report

    Agency:Washington Secretary of State - Corporations Division
    Form:

    Use the form the secretary mailed to you with your formation certificate or file online.

    Filing Method:

    Mail or online.

    Agency Fee:

    $10 application fee + $20 online filing fee.

    Due:

    Within 120 days of formation or qualification.

    Law:

    RCW 23B.16.220

    Original Ink:Not required
    Notarize:Not required
    Fact Checked:11/2/18
  5. Establish Company Records

    Your LLC must keep correct and complete books and records. Your filed articles of organization are the first documents for your LLC’s records. Your LLC will generate many other official records such as:

    • Meeting minutes
    • Operating agreement
    • EIN verification letter
    • Amendments and other filings made to the LLC throughout its lifetime

    Organizations need a secure, centralized tool for managing and accessing sensitive records. Our Records Manager software offers a simple, efficient way for LLCs to store records, track members and managers, and customize meeting notifications.

  6. Create the Operating Agreement

    Draft an Operating Agreement (potentially using a template) which is the governing document for the LLC. It defines the formalities of how the LLC will run itself such as holding an annual meeting. You will review and adopt the agreement at your organizational meeting.

  7. Hold the Organizational Meeting

    The first meeting of the members of the LLC is the organizational meeting. You will need your filed articles of organization and your operating agreement in order to conduct this meeting. Keep minutes of this meeting and store them in your company record book.

  8. Get a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)

    If your LLC has more than one member or will hire employees, it must obtain an EIN. An EIN is also often required to open a bank account.

    Agency:Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
    Form:

    IRS Form SS-4

    Filing Method:

    Mail, phone, fax, or online.

    IRS fee:

    $0

    Turnaround:

    Immediately online or by phone. 4 business days by fax. 4-5 weeks by mail.

    Notes:

    The IRS website is only available during certain hours. Print your EIN before closing your session. For additional guidance, see IRS Pub 1635: Understanding Your EIN.

    Fact Checked:8/28/19
  9. Get Washington State Tax Identification Numbers/Accounts

    The Unified Business Identifier (UBI) issued to your LLC by the Secretary of State is also your organization's id with the Department of Revenue.

    You must register with the Department of Revenue if you meet any of the following conditions:

    • Your business is required to collect sales tax.
    • Your gross income is $12,000 per year or more.
    • Your business is required to pay taxes or fees to the Department of Revenue.
    • You are a buyer or processor of specialty wood products.
    Submit to:
    Washington Department of Revenue
    http://dor.wa.gov/
    Guidance:
    Washington Department of Revenue - New Business Tax Basics Booklet
    Form:
    Form BLS-700-028: Washington Business License Application
    Filing Method:
    Mail or online
    Fee:
    $19
    Turnaround:
    ~2 business days online. ~21 business days by mail.
  10. Consider Electing S-Corp or C-Corp Taxation

    By default, your LLC receives pass-through taxation and the vast majority of LLCs keep this tax classification. Some LLCs benefit from electing S-Corp or C-Corp tax treatment:

    • S-Corp treatment can help owner-employees who earn more than ~$75,000 per year save on self-employment taxes. File Form 2553: S-Corp Election.
    • C-Corps suffer from double taxation: the corporation pays taxes on profits then members pay taxes on their distributions. If profits exceed $250,000 per owner, you provide employee benefits, or you will re-invest most of your profit in the business, you may benefit from the low tax rates on retained earnings under C-Corp treatment. File Form 8832: C-Corp Election.
  11. Obtain Business Licenses & Permits

    To run your business legally, you must obtain applicable licenses and permits. The easiest way to navigate the wide range of federal, state, and local requirements is to search by your business type and locality using the Small Business Administration Business License & Permit look-up tool.


    Washington Business License

    Agency:Washington Department of Revenue
    Law:

    RCW § 19.02.070.

    Notes:

    You need a license if you meet 1 or more of the following criteria:

    • Your business grosses $12,000 or more per year.
    • You’re doing business using a name other than your full legal name.
    • You plan to hire employees within the next 90 days.
    • You sell a product or provide a service that is taxable.
    • Your business has specialty licenses available through the Business Licensing Service.
    Fact Checked:9/18/19

    Initial Registration

    Form:

    Business License Application

    Filing Method:

    Mail or online

    Agency Fee:

    $19

    Fact Checked:8/4/17

    Registration Renewal

    Form:

    Business License Application

    Filing Method:

    Mail or online

    Agency Fee:

    $19

    Due:

    Only after changes or updates to the business.

    Penalties:

    Late license renewal fee.

    Fact Checked:8/4/17

    Renewal Not Required

    Not required



  12. Ongoing Filings to Maintain Your LLC

    You must file federal and state tax returns.

    Many states also require business entities to file an annual report to maintain good standing with the secretary of state. If an annual report is required for LLCs formed in Washington, view the table below.


    Washington Corporation Annual Report Requirements:

    Agency:Washington Secretary of State - Corporations Division
    Form:

    Paper Annual Report

    Filing Method:

    Mail or online.

    Agency Fee:

    $60

    Due:

    By the end of the registration anniversary month. So if you incorporated or foreign-qualified on March 15, then your annual report is due every year by March 31. You may start filing 45 days prior.

    Law:

    RCW 23.95.255

    Penalties:

    $25 late fee. Your business also risks being dissolved or revoked.

    Notes:
    • Anyone with authority may file.
    • Original signatures are not required.
    • Expedited service is available for an additional $50.
    Fact Checked:1/11/21

    For more details, see our Washington annual report information center page.

    As your LLC grows, you will need to demonstrate your company’s good standing to banks, customers, and other state agencies. After all the work involved in forming your Washington LLC, don’t let a missed annual report filing cause your new business to fall out of compliance.

    Tracking and filing annual reports on your own can be time consuming and lead to accidental lapses. Protect your LLC’s good standing with Managed Annual Report Service, which tracks and automatically files reports on time, every time, so you can focus on your business.

Order Registered Agent Service Order Online

Helpful Tools


Welcome to Our Community

We're committed to publishing free informational resources such as this how-to guide. Our resources have been shared by important industry organizations including:






© 2012 - 2021 Harbor Compliance. All rights reserved. Harbor Compliance does not provide tax, financial, or legal advice. Use of our services does not create an attorney-client relationship. Harbor Compliance is not acting as your attorney and does not review information you provide to us for legal accuracy or sufficiency. Access to our website is subject to our Terms of Use and Service Agreement.