How to Form an LLC in Washington
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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.
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 LLC.
- 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
- Formation: $180 by mail or in-person. $230 expedited by mail or in-person. $200 online.
- Formation: ~2 months by paper. ~2-3 business days expedited paper or online.
Step-by-Step Washington LLC Instructions
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 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"
Appoint a Registered Agent
Identify the LLC’s Washington registered agent. This individual or company receives notice of lawsuit and other legal service for the LLC.
File Washington Certificate of Formation
File the articles of organization to create your limited liability company.
Agency: Washington Secretary of State - Corporations Division Form: Filing Method:
Mail, in-person, or online
$180 by mail or in-person. $230 expedited by mail or in-person. $200 online.
~2 months by paper. ~2-3 business days expedited paper or online.
- 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.
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.
Mail or online.
$10 application fee + $20 online filing fee.
Within 120 days of formation or qualification.
Law: Original Ink: Not required Notarize: Not required
Establish Company Records
Your filed articles of organization are the first document for your limited liability company records. Your LLC will generate many other official records such as your operating agreement, meeting minutes, and your EIN.
Office supplies intended for an LLC will help you stay organized and save time. Membership certificate templates should come with your company record book. Each owner receives a membership certificate as evidence of his or her ownership in the LLC.
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.
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.
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: Filing Method:
Mail, phone, fax, or online.
Immediately online or by phone. 4 business days by fax. 4-5 weeks by mail.
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.
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
- Washington Department of Revenue - New Business Tax Basics Booklet
- Form BLS-700-028: Washington Business License Application
- Filing Method:
- Mail or online
- ~2 business days online. ~21 business days by mail.
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.
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 LLCs are required to file Washington Annual Renewal.
- Washington business licenses must be renewed with the Department of Revenue Business License Service ($19 state fee).
You must file federal and state tax returns. You must also file: