Washington Incorporation Services
To start a corporation in Washington, you must file Articles of Incorporation with the Corporations & Charities Division. You can file the document online or by mail. The Articles of Incorporation cost $180 to file. Once filed with the state, this document formally creates your Washington corporation. However, to actually ready the corporation to do business, you must complete several additional steps.
Starting a Washington Corporation Guide:
- Choose your WA corporation filing option
- Submit the WA Articles of Incorporation
- Create Washington corporate bylaws
- Get a Federal EIN from the IRS
- Open a corporate bank account
- Apply for a Washington Business License
- File the Washington Initial and Annual Reports
- Pay taxes on the corporation’s income
Washington Corporation Filing Options
Skip the state fees! Get a Washington 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 Washington corporation today. Includes Washington incorporation and maintenance walkthrough and company document creation. All for free.
Pay in Full
Includes Washington corporation, business address & free mail forwarding, Privacy by Default®, lifetime support from local Corporate Guides® and a year of registered agent service.
Washington Articles of Incorporation Requirements
To form a Washington corporation, you must complete and file the Articles of Incorporation with the Corporations & Charities Division. See the document below and click on any number to see what information is required in the corresponding section.
Odds are, you don’t already have a UBI number. No worries—the state will give you one once your Articles are approved. If you already have a UBI for your corporation from completing paperwork with other state agencies, include that 9-digit number in this section.
Your name must include “Corporation,” “Incorporated,” “Company,” “Limited,” or an abbreviation for one of these words. Tip: Most corporations keep it brief with “Corp” or “Inc.”
Want your corporation to continue indefinitely? Choose “perpetual.” Prefer to put a self-destruct timer on your business? List either an end date or an amount of time to exist. Tip: Most corporations are perpetual.
When do you want your business to start? You can either choose the date of filing or you can choose a specific start date up to 90 days in the future. Tip: Most corporations begin upon filing.
You can either choose a commercial registered agent (like Northwest) or a noncommercial agent. A noncommercial agent could be a family member, a business entity (but not your own), or a director/officer in your corporation. Your agent will also need to sign your Articles to show they have consented to the position. Tip: We recommend Northwest for all your registered agent needs.
If you have a noncommercial agent, you’ll need to list the Washington street address where your agent will be available to accept legal notices. Have a commercial agent like Northwest? No need to write in our address—it’s already on file with the Secretary of State.
Your incorporator signs your Articles of Incorporation. Some people assume your incorporator must be a director or officer, but it can be whomever you authorize to submit your Articles. Incorporators must include their names and addresses. Tip: We’ll be your incorporator when you hire Northwest to form your Washington corporation.
List the number of shares you’re creating. You must create at least one share. If you have multiple classes of shares, you’ll need to attach a description of each share type, including rights and limitations.
Documents in response to your filing will be sent to your registered agent. If you’d like any docs to also be sent to an additional address, you can include that information here—but it’s optional. Tip: Don’t forget that all the information in your Articles becomes part of the permanent public record of your corporation. If privacy is a concern, you might not want to include a personal address.
How much does it cost to start a Washington corporation?
Paper filings are $180 ($280 expedited). Online filings are $200.
Hire Northwest to form your Washington corporation, and your total out-the-door cost is $425. This includes state filing fees, Initial Report filing, a full year of registered agent service, and all the forms and tools you need to get your business up and running.
Need it fast? For $510 total, we’ll send a courier to the Secretary of State Office for 1-day filing.
*NOTICE: Washington Secretary of State is temporarily closed to the public, so walk-in filings are unavailable. This includes our 1-day filing option. Online filings, including our 3-day option, are still in service.
How long does it take to start a Washington corporation?
For fastest processing, expedite in person. Of course, that means driving to Olympia, finding parking, and waiting in line. If you file online or expedite your mailed filing, it’ll take around 3 days. If you mail your filing without expediting, you’ll get your approval in anywhere from 1-4 weeks. At least you’ll finally have time for that central Washington winery tour vacay.
If you hire Northwest to start your corporation, we file online and typically have your Washington corporation formed within 3 days.
Does a Washington corporation need a registered agent?
Yes, you must include your Washington registered agent in your Articles of Incorporation. So what are your agent options? One option is to appoint yourself or someone in your corporation. Odds are there won’t be many volunteers though. Agents have to list their name and address in your public Articles of Incorporation—so any data-seller, competitor, or weirdo could see this info. Agents also have to be regularly available at the listed address. If you’re like most business owners, however, you’re always on the go. One day you’re meeting with investors in Olympia, and the next day you’re stuck waiting for the ferry to Whidbey. You should be free to go wherever you’re needed (or just take a day off now and then and go hike the Centennial Trail without worrying about missing a process server).
A better option? Hire a commercial registered agent service like Northwest. We list our Washington address in your Articles of Incorporation so you can better maintain your privacy. We also accept, scan and send any legal notifications the same day, so your corporation can stay on top of your business from wherever you are.
Create Bylaws for Your Washington Corporation
Do I need bylaws?
Absolutely. Your Articles of Incorporation create your corporation, but bylaws are what organize your Washington corporation.
Why are corporate bylaws important?
Essentially, your bylaws determine who has power over what in your corporation. In your bylaws, you decide who’s on the board of directors, how long they stay, and how they’re replaced. You decide who your officers are and what their duties will be. You also lay out what classes or series of shares you’ll have, including any voting rights or restrictions. And while bylaws are a private, internal document, you’ll occasionally need to present your bylaws to those outside your corporation. Your bank will need your bylaws when you open a corporate account, and potential investors and partners will want to check out your bylaws as well.
Do I have to write bylaws?
Your bylaws spell out how your business actually works—so in short, they’re critical. That’s why we give you free corporate bylaws when you hire Northwest to form your Washington 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 Washington Corporation
Do I have to get a tax ID number (EIN)?
Absolutely. You’ll need your EIN to file federal taxes, hire employees and apply for your Washington Business License. How do you get an EIN? The IRS issues these tax IDs. You can download an application from their website and submit it for free.
If you feel like you already have too many other things to do, you can skip the paperwork and hire us to get your EIN for you. You don’t even need an extra form. Just tick the box that says “EIN service” during checkout when you sign up for our Washington incorporation service.
Open a Bank Account for Your Washington Corporation
To open a corporate bank account, you will need to bring the following to the bank:
- A copy of the Washington corporation’s Articles of Incorporation
- The Washington corporation’s bylaws
- The Washington 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 Washington corporation need a business license?
Yes, all Washington businesses need a business license. You can apply online or download a paper form here. To apply, you’ll need your UBI number (which you’ll get once your Articles are approved), your EIN, and general business information, including corporate owners. A basic license is $19 and takes about two weeks to arrive in the mail.
File Washington Corporation Reports
Do I need to file a Washington Initial Report?
Yes, your Initial Report is due within 120 days of forming your Washington corporation. Most of the required information is the same as what’s included in your Articles of Incorporation, but you’ll also need to provide a description of your business and information about your “governors” (directors).
The Initial Report isn’t difficult to complete and only costs $10 to file. If you file your Articles of Incorporation online, you have the option to submit the Initial Report at the same time for no additional fee. If you hire Northwest to form you Washington corporation, we will file your Washington Initial Report as part of our formation package.
What is a Washington Annual Report?
Your Washington Annual Report is a form you file with the Secretary of State each year to confirm or update your ownership and contact information. The report and $60 fee are due at the end of your anniversary month (the month you first registered your business in the state). If you forget or file late, you’re stuck with a $25 late fee.
Avoid annoying late fees and penalties when you hire Northwest as your registered agent. We’ll send you report reminders to help ensure you stay in compliance with the state. Or, just let us do it all—for $100 plus state fees, we’ll prepare and file your Washington Annual Report on behalf of your corporation.
How much does a corporation in Washington cost each year?
$60. This is the fee to file the mandatory Washington Annual Report.
Pay Corporate Taxes
What are the taxes for a Washington corporation?
No corporate net income tax and no personal net income tax—many businesses are excited to learn they don’t have to pay either one in Washington. This isn’t to say Washington is tax free. The state does have a more unusual tax that affects many businesses: the Business and Occupations (B&O) tax.
The B&O is a tax on gross receipts. The rates vary depending on the type of business activity. For instance, the rate for retailing is 0.471%. While the tax can be a bit confusing with different rates for different activities, Washington businesses tend to pay a low tax rate overall.
The state sales tax rate is 6.5%. City, county and specialty rates can also be added on, so total sales tax rates can top 10%. To get an idea of what customers actually pay at the counter, below are the total sales tax rates in Washington’s 5 largest cities: