What Business Licenses and Permits are Needed in Washington?

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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.

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

  • The business grosses $12,000 or more 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 service that is taxable.
  • The business has specialty licenses available through the Business Licensing Service.

To register for a Washington business license, visit the State of Washington Business Licensing Service.

The fee to file for the Business License is $19.

Local Business License – In addition to the state business license, many cities require businesses to be licensed in order 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 located in city limits or is operating 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 operate in generate over $2,000 within city limits will need to register the business with the Bellevue Tax Division.

Employer Identification Number (EIN) – Many businesses will register with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for an EIN or Employer Identification Number.  The EIN is the business equivalent for 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.

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

Reseller Permit – Businesses purchasing merchandise to resell will usually want to obtain a Washington Reseller Permit in order to not pay sales tax for merchandise that is 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 professions 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.

Trade Name Registration – While not a business license, it’s common for Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships operating under a 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 a few of the most common business licenses, but there are way too many licenses and permits in Washington for us to keep track of. Before starting your business, check with the City Hall, County Clerk, Chamber of Commerce and/or Economic Developer in your area to get more information regarding business licensing.  Additionally, there are companies like IncFile or CorpNet that can do the research to ensure you have the proper federal, state and local licenses.