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How to Start an LLC in Washington

To start an LLC in Washington, you must file a Certificate of Formation with the Washington Corporations Division, pay a $180 filing fee, and get an EIN from the IRS. The complete steps to forming a Washington LLC are as follows:

  1. File your Washington LLC Certificate of Formation
  2. Pay the Washington Corporations Division $180 ($200 online)
  3. Wait to receive your approved Certificate
  4. Get a Federal EIN tax ID for the LLC
  5. Create a Washington LLC Operating Agreement
  6. Take these documents to the bank and get a Washington LLC bank account
  7. Apply for a Washington Master Business License and pay the $19 fee
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Washington LLC Certificate of Formation free download. When you're done filling out the form, submit it to your state.

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Our free account and tools will walk you through starting and maintaining a Washington LLC. All for free.

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Documents & Forms

How to File Washington LLC Certificate of Formation

To form a Washington LLC, you file the LLC Certificate of Formation in the following steps:
Step 1 Choose a name for your new LLC
Step 2 Decide what address you’d like to list publicly
Step 3 Decide when you’d like your business to begin
Step 4 Choose how long you’d like it to exist
Step 5 Decide if you want to hire a registered agent service to minimize public disclosures
Step 6 Decide who you will list publicly as members or managers
Step 7 File online and pay $200 with a credit card, drop off with payment at the Corporations Division (801 Capitol Way S, Olympia WA 98501-1226), or mail to the Corporations Division (PO Box 40234, Olympia WA 98504-0234) with a check or money order for $180

How Long Does it Take to Start a Washington LLC?

1

Fastest 1 day

The absolute fastest way to file your Certificate of Formation is in person. Of course, that means completing your form yourself, driving to Olympia, and waiting in line at the Corporations Division. Need it fast but don’t have time for all this? Hire Northwest and choose 1-day filing.

2-7

Almost Fastest (and some might say better) 2-7 days:

Expedite your online or mailed filing. (Tip: Online filings are automatically expedited and are typically ready in 2 business days. An expedited mailed filing will cost you $30 more and take an extra day or two). Make it easy on yourself and hire Northwest to file online for you. When you hire Northwest, just answer a few brief questions about your business, sit back, and let our Corporate Guides file everything correctly the first time.

14+

Archaic 2-5 weeks

Yes, that’s WEEKS. Unexpedited mailed filings are lowest priority. Eventually, someone will dust off your Certificate, enter all your data in by hand, and process your filing.

What is the Cost of a Washington LLC?

The Washington Corporations Divisions charges $180 ($230 expedited) for paper filings. Online filings are $200.

Hire Northwest and your total, out-the-door cost is $425, including state fees. Or, choose 1-day filing for $485 total.

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How much does an LLC in Washington cost each year?

Every year, your Washington LLC must file an Annual Report and pay the $71 filing fee.

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What are the Washington LLC taxes?

Your Washington LLC Annual Report is a form you file with the Secretary of State each year to ensure the state has your most current contact and ownership information. The Annual Report is similar to the Initial Report, except that it costs a whole lot more: $71. And if you file late? Add on an extra $25. Washington LLC Annual Reports are due each year at the end of the month you initially filed in (instead of an easy-to-remember date like January 1st or tax day). No worries though—Northwest will help you remember to file. When you sign up for our services, we send you annual reminders. Or, skip this annoying filing entirely and hire us to file your report for you each year.

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Is a Washington LLC Registered Agent Required?

Yes, your LLC is required to have a Washington registered agent. You could do it yourself—but then you’d have to publicly list a physical address (no PO Boxes) that would become part of the permanent record of your Washington LLC. Goodbye privacy, hello junk mail. You’d also have to actually be available at that address during business hours to accept legal notices. Not keen on giving up your privacy or being tied to the office? When you hire Northwest Registered Agent, you can list our address instead of your own. We’ll also scan and send any service of process the same day, so you’re free to focus on your business. (Or you know, hike these amazing Pacific Northwest trails.)

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Washington LLC Versus Washington Corporation:

When it comes to costs, both entities are neck-and-neck. The state filing fees for Washington LLCs and Washington corporations are the same, including formation, expediting and Annual Report fees. Both entities are subject to the Business and Occupation tax. (Washington has neither a corporate tax nor an income tax.)

With costs being so similar, people tend to choose their entity type based on how it operates. Small businesses and new businesses often go with LLCs. LLCs are easier to maintain, more flexible in deciding how to deal with federal taxes, and have fewer corporate formalities (like a board of directors or annual meetings). Corporations are more common for large businesses (and those with Wall Street dreams). Interested in a corporation? Here’s information on Washington incorporation.

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Do I Need a Tax ID Number (FEIN) for a Washington LLC?

Yes—you’ll need your federal tax ID to submit your Washington Business License application with the Department of Revenue. You’ll also need your FEIN for a variety of other reasons—if you have employees, want to be taxed as an S corporation, or have to file certain federal excise returns. Nine times out of ten you’ll need a FEIN just to open a business bank account. FEINs are free and easy to get directly from the IRS. Want to skip this extra application? Hire Northwest to get your FEIN for you when you sign up with our services.

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Does a Washington LLC Need a Business License?

Yes. All newly formed businesses must acquire a Master Business License (basically a registration with the Department of Revenue). You can apply online for Washington’s Master Business License here. When the Washington Secretary of State files your LLC’s Certificate of Formation, they will assign you a UBI number. You’ll need this number in order to apply for the Master Business License.

To finish the Master Business License application, you’ll need to list:
Purpose of application

Licensing needs (if you have employees, you’ll need to check several boxes)

Business information (location, estimated gross income, tax information)

Ownership information (names and addresses of owners/members)

Employment information (descriptions of the types of employees your LLC will hire)

The Washington Master Business License application costs $19. After applying, you should receive your Master Business License in the mail in approximately two weeks.

Do Washington LLCs have Initial Reports?

Yes, Washington LLCs are required to file an Initial Report within 120 days of the LLC’s formation date. The report can be filed online here. You’ll be required to list the following information:

  • The name of your LLC and the state or country under whose law it is organized
  • The street address of your registered office and the name of your registered agent at that office
  • In the case of a foreign company, the address of your principal office in the state or country under the laws of which your LLC is organized
  • The address of your principal place of business in Washington
  • The names and addresses of your LLC’s members (or managers if the management of the company is vested in managers)
  • A brief description of the nature of your business

The Initial Report only costs $10 to file, and can be completed at no additional cost at the time of filing.

 

 

What is a Washington LLC Annual Report?

Your Washington LLC Annual Report is a form you file with the Secretary of State each year to ensure the state has your most current contact and ownership information. The Annual Report is similar to the Initial Report, except that it costs a whole lot more: $71. And if you file late? Add on an extra $25. Washington LLC Annual Reports are due each year at the end of the month you initially filed in (instead of an easy-to-remember date like January 1st or tax day). No worries though—Northwest will help you remember to file. When you sign up for our services, we send you annual reminders. Or, skip this annoying filing entirely and hire us to file your report for you each year.

Does a Washington LLC Need an Operating Agreement?

Yes, yes, yes. Although it’s not a mandatory public filing like your Certificate of Formation, your operating agreement is your Washington LLC’s most critical internal document. Why? Your operating agreement is where you set the terms for your business. It’s where you list who actually owns the LLC. It’s where you document who invested what. It’s where you spell out how profits and losses are allocated, what happens if there’s a dispute, and what happens if (knock on wood) you shut it all down.

If you’re the only member of your LLC, you may think putting all this in writing is unnecessary—but people outside your business will need your operating agreement too. Just to open a business bank account, you’ll almost certainly need your operating agreement. Potential members, investors, lenders, and partners will want to check out your agreement as well. What you state in your operating agreement is significant and carries legal weight—it’s important to take it seriously. You don’t want to just throw something together at the last minute when someone requests a look at your agreement.

That’s why we give you a free operating agreement—specific to your management style—when you hire Northwest to form your Washington LLC. We give you loads of other free forms as well, like membership certificates and resolutions. Even when business owners understand the importance of internal LLC forms, they’re often unsure where to begin. We want to make sure your business start out on the right foot. We were the first website to hand out free LLC forms, and we’ve spent years refining and improving them. We’re proud to say that over a million LLCs have used our free LLC forms to create and maintain their businesses.

 

 

Washington LLC Certificate of Formation Requirements:

Company Name

Your name must include “Limited Liability Company” or an abbreviation. Most businesses go with “LLC.” There are also a fair number of words (or combinations of words) you can’t use in your name. For example, words like “bank,” “cooperative,” or “trust” are off the table, as are word combos like “industrial” and “loan.”

Principal Office

This street address is your Washington LLC’s official address. Hire Northwest as your registered agent and you can use our Washington address as your principal office address.

Effective Date

When do you want your business to start? Most LLCs choose “upon filing.” If you’d prefer to push back your start date a bit (maybe the next tax period is right around the corner), you can list an effective date up to 90 days in the future.

Tenure

This section is just asking how long you want your Washington LLC to exist. Want to put a self-destruct timer on your business? Enter an end date or the number of years you’d like to exist. Want to keep going indefinitely? Choose “perpetual.” Tip: Most LLCs choose “perpetual.”

Registered Agent

You can choose a commercial agent (like Northwest), a noncommercial agent (like yourself), or a position like “manager” (if whoever is manager will always be the registered agent). Personally, we’re fans of Northwest.

Registered Office

If you listed a position or noncommercial agent for your registered agent, you’ll have to include the Washington street address where the agent will be available during business hours. Chose a commercial agent like Northwest? Our address is already on file with the state.

Washington LLC Executor

While it sounds a bit dark, your executor is just the person who signs and submits your Certificate of Formation. Executors don’t have to be members or managers, but they do have to include their name, address and phone number. (Online, you’ll also be asked for the name of an “authorized person” at the end of your filing—this is typically the same person as your executor.) Rather not include all this personal contact information on a public document? We’ll be your executor when you hire Northwest.

Governors

If filing online, you’re required to list the name of at least one governor. A “governor” is someone with decision-making authority for your LLC, such as a manager (or member if the LLC has no managers).

Nature of Business

In online filings, you can select your primary business activity from a drop-down menu. Tip: Many LLCs keep it simple and just choose “any lawful purpose” from the choices.

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