District of Columbia Incorporation Services
To start a corporation in the District of Columbia, you must file Articles of Incorporation with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA). You can file the document online or by mail. The Articles of Incorporation cost a minimum of $220 to file. Once filed with the state, this document formally creates your DC corporation. However, to actually ready the corporation to do business, you must complete several additional steps.
Starting a District of Columbia Corporation Guide:
- Choose your DC corporation filing option
- Submit the DC Articles of Incorporation
- Create District of Columbia corporate bylaws
- Get a Federal EIN from the IRS
- Open a corporate bank account
- Obtain any required business licenses
- File the District of Columbia Biennial Report
- Pay taxes on the corporation’s income
District of Columbia Corporation Filing Options
Skip the state fees! Get a District of Columbia corporation and the best of our services today. Includes EIN, hassle-free maintenance, business address & mail forwarding, Privacy by Default®, local Corporate Guide® service, and everything you need to operate at full capacity.
Do It Yourself
Sign up for a free account and use our online tools to start your District of Columbia corporation today. Includes District of Columbia incorporation and maintenance walkthrough and company document creation. All for free.
Pay in Full
Includes District of Columbia corporation, business address & free mail forwarding, Privacy by Default®, lifetime support from local Corporate Guides® and a year of registered agent service.
DC Articles of Incorporation Requirements
To form a District of Columbia corporation, you must complete and file the Articles of Incorporation with the DCRA. See the document below and click on any number to see what information is required in the corresponding section.
Your name must include “Corporation,” “Incorporated,” “Company,” “Limited,” or an abbreviation for one of these words. Tip: Most businesses keep it simple with “Corp” or “Inc.”
List how many shares you want to create for your District of Columbia corporation. You have to list at least one. You can distribute some or all of these shares later on at your organizational meeting. You’ll also need to include the par value of each share. Par value is the “face value” of a share (what’s listed on stock certificates) and is typically the lowest price at which a share will be sold.
List either an individual DC resident (like yourself) or a business that provides DC registered agent service (like Northwest). Tip: We recommend Northwest.
This District of Columbia street address will become part of the permanent public record of your DC corporation. Tip: Hire Northwest and our address will go here.
If you need or want to add extra information (for example, you want to be registered as a benefit corporation), you can enter that information here. Tip: Feel free to skip this section if you don’t have anything special to add—it’s optional.
“Incorporator” may sound like a fancy title, but it’s really just the person authorized to sign and submit your Articles. It doesn’t have to be a director, officer, or anyone in your DC corporation. Incorporators need to include their name, address, signature and date. Tip: We’ll be your incorporator when you hire Northwest.
How much does it cost to start a District of Columbia corporation?
The DCRA charges a base filing fee of $220 to file Articles of Incorporation. However, if the value of your authorized capital is more than $100K, the fee increases to $550. (More than $500K? The fee goes to $1100. More than $1 million? The fee tops out at $1650).
Hire Northwest and your total, out-the-door cost is $445 for up to $100K in authorized capital. Need it expedited? Total cost is $495 for 3-day expediting or $545 for 1-day expediting.
How long does it take to start a District of Columbia corporation?
Standard online processing takes 15 days. Mailed filings take even longer, sometimes up to a month. Expediting is available for mailed or in-person filing. For 1-day expediting, add $100 and for 3-day expediting, add $50.
If you hire Northwest to start your corporation, we file online and can have your expedited DC corporation formed in as little as 24 hours.
Does a District of Columbia corporation need a registered agent?
Absolutely. You’re required to list your District of Columbia registered agent—and the address where they’ll be available to accept legal notifications—in your Articles of Incorporation.
So who should you appoint? You could try to save a few dollars by appointing yourself (after all, you don’t get rich giving away money). Being your own agent, however, can be quite a headache. The address you list becomes part of the permanent record of your DC corporation—and a prime target for data-sellers and spammers. You’ll also have to be regularly available at the listed address during business hours in case a process server shows up. Missing legal notifications can end up costing much more than a registered agent fee.
A better option? Hire Northwest. Our address will go in your Articles (instead of yours). We’re in the business of being available—and of getting you your notices ASAP. We accept, scan and send notices the same day. We’re ready and waiting in the office so you can spend your time doing what you really want to do: running your business.
Create Bylaws for Your DC Corporation
Do I need bylaws?
Yes, your District of Columbia corporation needs bylaws, but they aren’t something you’ll have to submit to any DC agency. Your corporation’s public filings (like your Articles of Incorporation and Biennial Reports) only have basic information. DC doesn’t really need (or want) more information—they just want to be able to keep tabs on you and make sure you pay all your taxes and fees.
Why are corporate bylaws important?
However, there’s a lot of essential information your business still needs to put into writing (but that doesn’t need to go in a public document). You’ll have to decide who’s on the board of directors, how long they’ll stay, how they’ll be replaced, and how many board members are needed to pass a resolution. You’ll need to decide who your officers are and what their duties will be. You’ll also need to lay out what classes or series of shares you’ll have. All this information goes in your DC corporation’s bylaws. Bylaws are a private, internal document—but one you’ll occasionally need to present to those outside your business. Your bank will need your bylaws when you open a corporate account, and potential investors and partners will want to check them out as well.
Do I have to write bylaws?
Bylaws are critical—which is why we give you free corporate bylaws when you hire Northwest to form your District of Columbia corporation. We’ll give you other key forms as well, from resolutions to meeting minute templates. We’ve spent years refining and developing our forms to ensure our clients have everything they need and don’t waste their time agonizing over paperwork. Take a look at the free corporate forms we provide to help corporations form and maintain their businesses.
Get an EIN for Your DC Corporation
Do I have to get a tax ID number (EIN)?
Yes, your District of Columbia corporation is required to get a federal tax ID (also called an EIN or FEIN) for federal tax filings. After you launch your business, you’ll also find yourself using your EIN again and again for a surprising number of things—not just federal taxes. Your bank will almost certainly request it when you go to open a corporate bank account, and you’ll likely need it for local tax registrations and applications for permits and licenses. You can apply for an EIN directly from the IRS for no fee. Or, skip the extra paperwork and hire Northwest to get your EIN for you. Just add on EIN service during checkout when you sign up for our services.
Open a Bank Account for Your DC Corporation
To open a corporate bank account, you will need to bring the following to the bank:
- A copy of the District of Columbia corporation’s Articles of Incorporation
- The DC corporation’s bylaws
- The DC corporation’s EIN
If your bylaws don’t specifically assign the power to open a bank account, you may also want to bring a corporate resolution to open a bank account that states that the person going to the bank is authorized by the business to open the account in the name of the corporation.
We recommend calling your bank ahead of time before going in and asking what their requirements are. Most banks don’t open corporate accounts nearly as frequently as personal accounts, so some bankers may be unfamiliar with their own bank’s requirements. As frustrating as that may be for you, calling ahead will help save you from being super annoyed when you walk into the bank.
Obtain a Business License
Does a District of Columbia corporation need a business license?
Yes. If you plan to engage in any business in DC, you will have to get a business license. Unfortunately, licensing your DC corporation is not exactly straightforward. Fees and license types vary widely, depending on your licensing category. A basic business license typically lasts 2-4 years and will set you back at least $100.
File District of Columbia Corporation Reports
What is a District of Columbia Biennial Report?
Your District of Columbia Biennial Report is a form you file with the DCRA to confirm or update your contact and ownership information. The report and $300 filing fee are due April 1st every other year. Miss the deadline? You’ll incur a $100 late fee and lose your good standing.
At Northwest, we can help you stay in compliance (and avoid annoying late fees). When you hire us as your registered agent, we send you reminders to file your report. Better yet, forgo this headache entirely and hire us to file your Biennial Reports for you.
How much does a corporation in DC cost each year?
Every other year, DC corporations have to shell out $300 to the DCRA for the District of Columbia Biennial Report.
Pay Corporate Taxes
What are the taxes for a District of Columbia corporation?
The District of Columbia has a corporate net income tax called a “corporate franchise tax.” The tax rate is 8.25%. There’s a minimum tax of $250 (or $1000 if your gross receipts are over $1 million).
Have an S corporation? Although S corporations are treated as pass-through entities on the federal level, DC doesn’t treat S corporations the same way. Instead, DC taxes S corporations like regular corporations. What does that mean for you? While you may not have to pay a federal corporate income tax, you still have to pay DC’s corporate income tax.
DC’s sales tax is a flat 5.75%—cities and counties can’t tack on their own sales taxes. However, specific goods and services (especially those aimed at tourists and visitors) have their own rates. For example, commercial parking has an 18% sales tax. The rate for hotels is nearly as steep at 14.8%.