What Business Licenses and Permits are Needed in Washington?

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What Business Licenses and Permits are Needed in Washington?

Starting a business in Washington will mean potentially registering with a number of federal, state, and local agencies.  Let’s take a look at common licenses and permits a business will register for in Washington.

Before applying for any licenses, the legal structure of the business will need to be established. Learn more about the differences between the sole proprietorship, general partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC).

Related: Comparison of Business Entities

Learn more about forming an LLC in Washington

Also see: Steps to starting a business in Washington

State Business License

Washington requires a business license if your business meets 1 or more of the following criteria:

  • The gross annual income for the business is over $12,000 per year.
  • The business is operating under a name other than the owner’s full legal name.
  • The business plans to hire employees within the next 90 days.
  • The business sells a product or provides a taxable service.
  • The business has specialty licenses available through the Business Licensing Service.

To get the Washington business license application, visit the State of Washington Business Licensing Service.

The filing fee for the Washington State Business License is $19.

City Business License

In addition to the state business license, many cities require businesses to be licensed to operate. Rules for business registration vary depending on location and what the business does.  Below are a few cities that have licensing requirements. 

Seattle – All businesses operating in the city of Seattle will need to have a Business License Tax Certificate.  The cost of a Seattle business license varies depending on the amount of taxable revenue. 

Spokane All businesses located in or conducting business within city limits will need to obtain a business license.  In addition, businesses with amusement devices, entertainment facilities, transportation services, and mobile food vendors will need additional registration.

Tacoma – The Tacoma Tax & License Office issues business licenses for all businesses operating in the city.  Home-based businesses will also need to register for a Home Occupational License, which is a one-time application. 

Vancouver – The City of Vancouver requires businesses to be located within city limits or operate within city limits to register for a City Business License.

In addition, certain businesses such as taxi companies, food vendors, secondhand dealers, and others will need to obtain a city-issued special license.  Home-based businesses will also need to hold a Home Occupation Permit.   

Bellevue – Businesses located in Bellevue or generate over $2,000 within city limits will need to register the business with the Bellevue Tax Division.


Done for you license research

Take the guesswork out of figuring out what licenses and permits are required to start your business with license research packages from IncFile or CorpNet.

For as little as $99, you can save a lot of time and know your business is in compliance with local, state, and federal requirements. 


Building & Zoning Permits

ZoningDepending on the location of the business, it’s important to verify whether the business needs an occupancy permit or has specific zoning regulations to follow. Depending on city requirements, home-based businesses may need to apply for a home occupation permit.

Building Permit – A building permit may be needed from the city or county building and planning department if there is any construction or renovations to a facility.

Signage Permit – Some municipalities require a permit before adding signage.

Business Tax Number

Businesses in Washington selling a product or offering certain services will need to register for a Washington sales tax registration number from the Washington Department of Revenue.

Reseller Permit

Businesses purchasing merchandise to resell will usually want to obtain a Washington Reseller Permit to not pay sales tax for merchandise being resold to customers.

Professional License

A variety of professions in the state are regulated and need to be registered before offering certain services.  A few common occupations that require licensing in Washington include; appraisers, cosmetologists, home inspectors, limousine services, tattoo studios, and many more.   Additional information, fees, and licensing requirements for professions are available from the Washington State Department of Licensing.

Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Many businesses will register with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for an EIN (also referred to as a FEIN, Federal Employer Identification Number, or Federal Tax ID Number). The EIN is the business equivalent of a Social Security Number for an individual. Corporations, Limited Liability Companies, Partnerships, and Sole Proprietorships with employees will all need to register for one. Sole Proprietorships without employees can use the owner’s Social Security Number.

There is no cost for an EIN, and it only takes a few minutes to get.

Learn how to apply for an EIN

Trade Name Registration

While not a business license, it’s common for Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships operating under a business name that is different from the full name of the owner(s) to register for a Trade Name (also known as a Doing Business As or DBA) with the Secretary of State’s Office.


These are just some of the most common business licenses a new business will need to register before starting. Before starting your business, be sure to check with the Department of Revenue, City Hall, County Clerk, Chamber of Commerce, and/or Economic Developer in your area to get more information regarding business licensing.

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