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How to Start a Corporation in Washington

To start a Washington corporation, you must file Articles of Incorporation with the Corporations & Charities Division and pay a $180 filing fee ($200 online). While this filing creates your business, it’s really just the first step to launching your Washington corporation. The complete steps to incorporating in the Evergreen State are as follows:

  1. File your Washington Articles of Incorporation
  2. Pay the Washington Corporations & Charities Division $180
  3. Wait to receive your approved Articles
  4. Get a federal tax ID (EIN) for the corporation
  5. Create Washington corporate bylaws
  6. Take these documents to the bank and get a Washington corporate bank account
  7. Apply for a Washington Business License and pay the $19 fee
  8. File an Initial Report within 120 days of formation ($10)
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Washington Articles of Incorporation free download. When you're done filling out the form, submit it to your state.

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How to File Washington Articles of Incorporation

To form a Washington corporation, you file the Articles of Incorporation in the following steps:
Step 1 Choose a name for your new corporation
Step 2 Choose how long you’d like your corporation to exist and when you’d like it to begin
Step 3 Decide if you want to hire a registered agent service to minimize public disclosures
Step 4 Choose an incorporator to sign and submit your Articles
Step 5 Decide how many shares of stock to authorize
Step 6 File online and pay $200 with a credit card (fastest) or submit a paper filing to the Office of the Secretary of State, Corporations & Charities Division at 801 Capitol Way S, Olympia WA 98504-0234 with a check or money order for $180

How Long Does it Take to Start a Washington Corporation?


Fastest: 1 Day

For fastest processing, expedite in person. Of course, that means driving to Olympia, finding parking, waiting in line...or you can just hire us to do it for you. We’ll prepare your filing and send it with a courier.


Almost Fastest (and some might say better): 2-5 Days

Either file online or expedite your mailed filing. Better yet, avoid the headache and paperwork and let Northwest file online for you. Just answer a few easy questions, sit back and let our Corporate Guides do the rest.


Archaic: 1-4 Weeks

Forgo expediting fees and mail your filing. Eventually, someone will take pity on you and process your Articles of Incorporation. At least you’ll finally have time for that central Washington winery tour vacay.

What is the Cost of 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 $505 total, we’ll send a courier to the Secretary of State Office for 1-day filing.

Do Washington Corporations File an Initial Report?

Yes, your Initial Report is due within 120 days of forming your Washington corporation. The information is mostly the same as what you wrote in your Articles of Incorporation, but you’ll also need to include a description of your business and information about your “governors” (directors).

The Initial Report isn’t difficult and only costs $10 to file. If you file your Articles of Incorporation online, you have the option to complete the Initial Report at the same time for no fee. If you hire Northwest to form you Washington corporation, your Initial Report is included in our formation package.


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How Much Does a Corporation in Washington Cost Each Year?

$60. This is the fee to file the mandatory Washington Annual Report.


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.

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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:

Seattle: 10.1%
Spokane: 8.8%
Tacoma: 10.1%
Vancouver: 8.4%
Bellevue: 10%

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Is a Registered Agent Required for a Washington Corporation?

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.

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Washington Corporation Versus Washington LLC:

State costs are pretty much the same for Washington LLCs and corporations. It’s the same price to form a business. Fees for maintaining your business—from Annual Reports to amendments—are the same as well. LLCs and corporations are even subject to the same state taxes. There’s no corporate or personal net income taxes, and both business types are subject to the state’s B&O tax.

There are, however, other differences to consider. Corporations and LLCs operate a bit differently. For instance, corporations often appeal to large businesses—their familiar, formal structure makes managing easier on a bigger scale. The flexibility of stocks also gives corporations options LLCs don’t have, like offering preferred stock to more cautious investors. LLCs, on the other hand, are popular for small businesses or new business owners because they’re a little simpler to operate and understand. Leaning toward a Washington LLC? Here’s information on starting an LLC in Washington.

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Do I Need a Tax ID Number (EIN) for a Washington Corporation?

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.

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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.

Does a Washington Corporation Need Bylaws?

Absolutely. Your Articles of Incorporation create your corporation, but bylaws are what organize your Washington corporation.

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.

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.

Washington Articles of Incorporation Requirements

UBI Number

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.

Business Name

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.

Effective Date

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.

Registered Agent

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.

Registered Office

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.

Washington Incorporator

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.

Authorized Shares

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.

Return Address for Filing

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.

Corporate Compliance
by Local Corporate Guides®