Washington D.C. Incorporation

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How to Incorporate in Washington D.C.

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If you’re looking to incorporate in Washington D.C., you’re in the right place. This guide will help you file formation documents, get tax identification numbers, and set up your company records.


Paperwork Cost Time
  • Form DBU-1: Articles of Incorporation of Domestic Business Corporation
  • Bylaws
  • IRS Form SS-4: Obtain an EIN
  • Form 2553: S-Corp Election, if desired
  • Form FR-500: Combines Business Tax Registration
  • Incorporation: $220 for authorized capital up to $100,000 + optional $50-$100 expedite fee
  • Incorporation: ~3-4 weeks by mail. ~10 business days online. ~3 business days for $50 expedite fee. ~1 business day for $100 expedite fee. In-person documents are expedited and processed same-day.

How to Incorporate in Washington D.C.

1 Choose a corporate structure

Incorporating means starting a corporation. If you want to form an LLC, please see "How to Form an LLC in Washington D.C.".

Is your corporation for-profit or not-for-profit? If you are starting a nonprofit, please see "How to Start a Non-Profit Organization in Washington D.C.".

C-Corp and S-Corp refer to taxation with the IRS, not to legal structures. Your corporation is taxed as a C-Corp unless you file an election to be taxed as an S-Corp (explained below).

2 Check Name Availability

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

Name Search:
DCRA CorpOnline Web Portal
Name Reservation:
Optional
Suffix:
The name of a business corporation shall contain the word "corporation", "incorporated", "company", or "limited", or the abbreviation "Corp.", "Inc.", "Co.", or "Ltd.", or words or abbreviations of similar import in another language. D.C. Code §29-103.02(a)
3 Appoint a Registered Agent

Identify the corporation’s Washington D.C. registered agent. This individual or company receives notice of lawsuit and other legal service for the corporation.

4 File Washington D.C. Articles of Incorporation

File the articles of incorporation to create your corporation.

Agency:District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs - Corporations Division
Form:

Articles of Incorporation of Domestic Business Corporation DBU-1

Filing method:

Mail, in-person, or online

Agency fee:

$220 for authorized capital up to $100,000 + optional $50-$100 expedite fee

Turnaround:

~3-4 weeks by mail. ~10 business days online. ~3 business days for $50 expedite fee. ~1 business day for $100 expedite fee. In-person documents are expedited and processed same-day.

Law:

D.C. Code §29-301 et seq

5 Establish Bylaws & Corporate Records

Your corporation must keep correct and complete books and records.

A corporation shall keep as permanent records minutes of all meetings of its shareholders and board of directors, a record of all actions taken by the shareholders or board of directors without a meeting, and a record of all actions taken by a committee of the board of directors in place of the board of directors on behalf of the corporation.
D.C. Code §29-313.01 (Justia)

Your filed articles of incorporation are the first document for your corporate records. Your corporation will generate many other official records such as bylaws, meeting minutes, and your EIN.

Office supplies intended for a corporation will help you stay organized and save time. Optionally, get a corporate record book, seal, and document templates.

Draft bylaws (potentially using a template) which is the governing document for the corporation. The bylaws of a corporation may contain any provision for managing the business and regulating the affairs of the corporation that is not inconsistent with law or the articles of incorporation (D.C. Code §29-302.06 (Justia)). You will review and ratify the bylaws at your first board of directors meeting.

6 Appoint Initial Directors

The initial directors serve on the board until the annual meeting of shareholders (when directors are elected to the board). If the initial directors are not named in the articles of incorporation, they are appointed by the incorporator. The incorporator documents and signs this action for the corporate records.

7 Hold Organizational Meeting

Hold the organizational meeting of the incorporators or initial directors in compliance with D.C. Code §29-302.05 (Justia). Keep minutes of this meeting. Keep minutes of this meeting.

The following state laws apply unless overridden by the organizational documents, where permissible.

Directors Officers
  • Number: One or more required.
  • Qualifications: None.
  • Quorum: Majority of directors, unless bylaws or articles of incorporations fix a different number. No less than one third.
  • As stated in the bylaws, but a minimum of one. One person may hold multiple offices. One officer is required to be responsible for maintaining corporate records.
8 Issue Stock Certificates

The owners may be issued stock certificates to serve as proof of ownership in the corporation. Remember to hold the first annual meeting of the shareholders (the owners of the corporation) according to bylaws and keep minutes of this meeting.

The following state laws apply unless overridden by the organizational documents, where permissible.

Shareholders Annual Shareholder Meeting
  • Qualifications: N/A
  • Stock Certificate: Not required.
  • Voting Trusts Allowed: Yes.
  • Required: Yes, unless directors are elected by written consent.
  • Action by written consent: Allowed if by all shareholders entitled to vote on the action. Bylaws may provide if enough shareholders consent to equal the number required to take action by vote.
9 Get a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Your corporation must obtain an EIN regardless of whether it will hire employees.

Submit to:
Internal Revenue Service
http://www.irs.gov/
Form:
IRS Form SS-4
Guidance:
IRS Pub 1635: Understanding Your EIN
Filing Method:
Mail, phone, fax, or apply online with the IRS
Fee:
$0
Turnaround:
Immediately online
Notes:
The IRS website is only available during certain hours. Print your EIN before closing your session.
10 Get Washington D.C. State Tax Identification Numbers/Accounts

The District of Columbia offers a consolidated state tax registration application.

Submit to:
District of Columbia - Office of Tax and Revenue
http://otr.cfo.dc.gov/
Form:
Form FR-500: Combines Business Tax Registration
Fee:
$0
Filing Method:
Mail or online
11 Consider Electing S-Corp Taxation

By default, your corporation is taxed as a C-Corporation. Some corporations, especially smaller ones, benefit from electing S-Corp tax treatment:

  • 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.
  • S-Corp treatment avoids double-taxation. It is generally the best choice for small businesses. To accomplish this, file Form 2553: S-Corp Election with the IRS.
12 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.

13 Ongoing Filings to Maintain Your Corporation

You must file federal and state tax returns. You must also file:

  • The DCRA requires an Initial Report ($300 state fee), due April 1st .
  • The DCRA requires a Biennial Report ($300 state fee), due April 1st every two years following your Initial Report.

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