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How to Start an LLC in Washington State

Starting an LLC can seem difficult, whether you are a new business owner or looking to convert an existing business. However, the process of setting up your LLC doesn’t need to be as confusing as you think: understanding each step will help you establish your business with as little stress as possible.

Below, we will discuss every part of the Washington LLC establishment process so that you can easily progress through each step. In addition to basic LLC setup rules, we will provide information on filing documents and the fees associated with starting your business in Washington, so you can get established for as little as $180!

We’re also going to take you through everything you need to know to start an LLC in Washington with help from third-party companies. These companies provide you with services that help you start a company, manage a company, and keep your LLC in good standing with the state. While there are many options, our top choices are ZenBusiness and BetterLegal.

LLC Services Companies

Our Top Pick: ZenBusiness

Rating: 5/5

ZenBusiness is a straightforward LLC service that can help you with all of your LLC needs. The company makes it simple to create an LLC in Washington and charges below-average prices. The cost for state LLC fees in Washington is $200, and the cost for State Corp Fees is $200. ZenBusiness also offers many additional packages for your LLC. These include registered agent services, cloud-based data storage, and many more.

Runner Up: BetterLegal

Rating: 4/5

BetterLegal is another great choice. The company offers many services that range from registered agent assistance to cloud-based data collection, storage, and transmission. To get started with BetterLegal in Washington it costs $299. There is also an additional $200 fee because of Washington’s various filing fees. Still, BetterLegal provides fledgling LLCs with the necessary services to get started quickly and easily.

Setting Up Your LLC in Washington

There are several preliminary steps to complete before officially establishing your LLC in Washington. We will discuss all these vital steps below.

Naming Your Washington LLC

A highly important step is choosing a business name that accurately represents your business and is unique from other companies in the state.

Legally Required Designation

In accordance with Washington’s LLC regulations, your chosen LLC name is required to contain the phrase “limited liability company” or one of the following abbreviations:

  • Limited Liability Co.
  • LLC
  • L.L.C.

Unique Name

It is important that the name you choose is unique and distinct from other businesses in the state. You can ensure this by using theCorporation Search tool on the Washington Secretary of State’s website.

If the name you desire is available, you can file aName Reservation with the Secretary of State to hold the name for up to 180 days before establishing your LLC. There is a $30 filing fee and an optional $50 for expedited services. You must mail the document to the address listed on the form.

Additionally, while looking for the perfect LLC name, you may also want to perform a search of availabledomain names. You can save future stress by purchasing a matching domain name for your LLC ahead of time, regardless of when you want to set up a business website.

Restricted Words

While deciding on a name, keep in mind that you should not include words that run the risk of confusing your business with a government entity. This includes words like “State Department,” “Treasury,” or “IRS.”

You should also be aware that using words such as “dentist,” “attorney,” or “chiropractor” may require the presence of a properly licensed individual in your LLC and and separate paperwork to be filed. Washington allows for the formation of professional LLCs in the state, so if you offer professional services, you may want to look into this entity type. More information can be foundhere.

Using an Assumed Name

LLCs operating in Washington can use an assumed orDBA (doing business as) name for their business. This means the business continues to use its registered LLC name on all official documents but the assumed name when interacting with the public. This allows business owners to market their LLC in a specific way or maintain an extra level of privacy.

To register an assumed name in Washington, you can file a request at the same time as submitting a business license application (virtually all businesses in the state are required to obtain a business license). You can find more information on registering an assumed namehere.

Choose a Registered Agent

Every LLC conducting business in Washington is required to appoint a registered agent. Your LLC’s registered agent is responsible for receiving all legal documents, government communications, and tax documents, essentially acting as a contact between your business and state or federal agencies. They are also the responsible party that is contacted in the event of a lawsuit against your LLC.

You can appoint any Washington resident, LLC, or business authorized to conduct operations in the state as your registered agent. As long as your appointee has a valid Washington street address, they are eligible to be your registered agent.

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File Your Certificate of Formation

To officially establish your LLC in Washington, you need to submit a Certificate of Formation to the Secretary of State’s office. This document must contain essential information about your business which the state will keep on file. A preview of this information can be found below.

  • Your LLC’s name
  • Your LLC’s duration, if not perpetual
  • Your LLC’s effective date, if not immediate
  • Your LLC’s registered agent name, address, and signature
  • Your LLC’s principal office address
  • The signature of your LLC’s executor

You can file your Certificate of Formation online or through the mail. There is a $200 fee for online filings or a $180 filing fee for mail filings. Online filings are processed within 2 to 3 business days, while mail filings are processed in the order received.

Online

If you want to file your Certificate of Formation online, you must visit the Secretary of State Corporations Filing Systemhere. From there, you can create an account and follow the directions to file your Certificate. Upon submittal, you will be prompted to pay the $200 filing fee. You can expect your document to be processed within 2 to 3 business days.

By Mail

To file your Certificate of Formation through the mail, you must complete and print outthis form. Then, place the completed form into a secured envelope along with a check for $180 made out to the Washington Secretary of State.

You can also add an optional $50 expedited service fee; the address you send your form to depends on the service type you want. If you do not select expedited service, your document will be processed in the order it is received.

Regular Mailing Address

Secretary of StateCorporations DivisionP.O. Box 40234Olympia, WA 98504

Expedited Mailing Address

Secretary of StateCorporations Division801 Capitol Way SOlympia, WA 98501

Create an Operating Agreement

Your LLC will not be required to create or file an operating agreement with the state, but you may want to consider drafting one anyway. An effective operating agreement will set guidelines for how your LLC is managed, the rights that members or managers have, and what to do if your LLC dissolves or experiences a lawsuit.

If you choose not to create your own operating agreement, Washington law will dictate how your LLC is to be managed in the event of dissolution, conflict, or lawsuit. This may not be in your best interest, so to protect yourself and your assets, creating a valid operating agreement is the way to go.

Get an EIN/Tax ID Number

You must also apply for a Tax ID number, known as an EIN (Employer Identification Number), through the IRS once your LLC has been established in Washington.

Any LLC that has more than one member—or any single-member LLC that wants to hire employees or chooses to be taxed as a corporation—must apply for an EIN.

Your EIN is used to identify your business to the IRS on all tax documents and necessary government filings; it acts as a social security number for your LLC. If you want to hire employees, file federal taxes, open business bank or credit accounts, or apply for business funding, you need an EIN.

It is free to apply for your EIN with the IRS, and you can file the application online or by mailing it. Keep in mind that if you are a foreign filer or do not have a social security number, you need to file for your EIN through the mail.

Online

The quickest and easiest way to apply for your EIN is online; you will receive your number once your application is completed. Visit the IRSwebsite to apply for your free EIN.

By Mail

You must fill out thisform when applying for your LLC by mail. If you are a foreign filer or do not have a social security number, leave section 7b blank. Mail the completed form to the address below. You can follow up on any questions with the IRS at (267) 941-1099.

Internal Revenue ServiceAttn: EIN OperationCincinnati, OH 45999

Keeping Your LLC Running

There are several tasks to keep up with when running your LLC to ensure your business stays operating smoothly and remains in good standing with the state.

File Annual Renewals/Annual Reports

Every LLC in Washington is required to file annual renewals with the Secretary of State’s office. Your business must file anInitial Report within 120 days of LLC establishment; you can file this online with your online Certificate of Formation filing at no cost. If you choose to file it by mail, there is a $10 fee or a $30 fee for filing it online at a later date.

After the Initial Report, subsequent annual reports are due each year on a date determined by the Secretary of State’s office. The office will send out a renewal notice 45 days before the report is due. You can file your annual renewalsonline or through the mail (the address is listed on the form), and there is a $60 filing fee associated with it.

Filing reports can get tricky because there are many deadlines that you need to meet in Washington. Unfortunately, if you fail to meet these deadlines, you can end up with penalties and fees. In fact, missing deadlines can also lead to legal problems down the road. The good news is that companies like ZenBusiness can help you with making deadlines by filing reports for you.

Separate Your Business Finances

LLCs in Washington are not required to open separate bank accounts, but it is highly advisable to do so anyway. A dedicated business bank account will keep your LLC’s finances separate from personal ones, further establishing your LLC as an independently operating business. This can be helpful in the case of a lawsuit against your LLC.

You most likely need to show essential internal LLC documents, such as your Articles of Organization, an operating agreement, or your business’s EIN when opening a business bank account. Make sure to compare all your account options before deciding what to open, as different banks have varying minimum required balances or spending limits; you should be certain to select the best option for both you and your LLC’s needs.

Keep Up With Federal and State Taxes

As you operate your business, it is essential to keep up with federal and state tax burdens to avoid major tax penalties or interruptions in your business services.

Federal Tax Requirements

There are several tax structures you can choose from to use in your LLC that may meet different company needs; each structure comes with its own unique type of federal taxation.This article can help you gain an in-depth understanding of the differences between each type and help you decide which is best for you.

In general, most LLCs are taxed as sole proprietorships or partnerships. This means you are expected to file Schedule C with your individual income tax return to declare income that you receive through your LLC. When using this tax structure, keep in mind that you most likely need to pay self-employment tax (at a rate of 15.3%) in addition to any income tax. You may also need to make quarterly estimated tax payments to avoid IRS fines; the IRSwebsite gives more details on this.

If you want, you can choose to have your LLC taxed as a corporation, like an S Corporation or a C Corporation. You need to fill out IRSForm 8832 and IRSForm 2553 to declare this. After these are processed, your LLC will be treated as a corporation and expected to file a separate corporate tax return with the IRS.

Washington Business Taxes

Washington does not have a general income tax for individuals in the state, but certain businesses may be liable to pay the state’s Business and Occupation Tax, which is a tax on the gross income a business earns. You need to register with the WashingtonDepartment of Revenue (this is done as part of filing for a business license, which we talk about [ANCHOR TO #Acquire Necessary Permits]below[END ANCHOR LINK]) to file this tax. More information can be foundhere.

Sales and Use Taxes

Sales and use taxes are required for any Washington LLC that sells goods or services. The Washington Department of Revenue oversees this tax. For more information, including instructions on how to calculate and pay for this tax, clickhere.

State Employer Taxes

There is no state withholding tax in Washington because the state does not impose an individual income tax. However, if your business will be hiring employees, you will likely be liable to pay unemployment insurance taxes.

This tax is handled by Washington’s Employment Security Department. More information can be foundhere.

Acquire Necessary Permits and Licenses

Almost every business and LLC in Washington must apply for a business license with the Department of Revenue as soon as their Certificate of Formation is processed by the state. The business license allows you to pay taxes, hire employees, and access other business services. The fee for your business license application varies, depending on your business type and income level. Application instructions and more information can be foundhere.

Additionally, you may need to obtain certain permits and licenses on a local level. Check Washington’sbusiness licensing wizard for information on professional licensing and city or country permit requirements.

On a federal level, you may also need to acquire specific permits or licenses, depending on the type of business you run. For help determining if you need to meet additional federal licensure requirements, you can use the directory on the US Small Business Administration’swebsite.

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FAQs

The frequently asked questions below can ease any lingering worries about starting up your LLC in Washington.

How Much Does It Cost to Set Up an LLC in Washington?

In Washington, it costs $180 to file your Certificate of Formation by mail or $200 to file online. You may also need to pay $30 to reserve an LLC name, as well as pay for certain expedited service fees, or fees associated with filing for a state business license.

What’s the Cheapest Way to Start an LLC in Washington?

The cheapest way to start your LLC in Washington is to file your Certificate of Formation through the mail without first reserving an LLC name or paying for any type of expedited service fee. Doing it this way will only cost $180 to establish your business in the state.

How Long Does It Take to Start an LLC in Washington?

In Washington, it will take up to 2 business days to process online filings of your Certificate of Formation. If you choose to file by mail and don’t use expedited servicing, your document will be processed in the order it is received. This can take up to 7 business days or longer, depending on the volume of documents sent in.

How Much Do Washington LLCs Pay in Taxes?

How much your Washington LLC pays in taxes depends on the individual tax structure you set up. In addition to federal taxes, you may also be liable to pay the state’s business and occupation tax, sales and use taxes, or state employer taxes.

How Often Do I Have to File State Reports?

You must file state reports for your LLC on an annual basis. Your business’s initial report will be due within 120 days of your LLC’s establishment, with subsequent reports due on a date that the Secretary of State chooses each year. There is a $60 fee for filing annual reports every year.

How Do You Dissolve a Washington LLC?

If you are finished conducting business under your LLC in Washington, you must file aCertificate of Dissolution with the Secretary of State’s office. There is no fee for filing this document, though you can opt for expedited services for $50.

You also must consult any operating agreement or internal documentation that your LLC has to proceed down previously agreed-upon terms and fully close your business’s operations.

Washington LLC Resources

The below collection of resources can guide you through each step of the Washington LLC establishment process.

Start an LLC in Washington Quickly With a Professional Service

Washington is a great place to start an LLC. The state has LLC-friendly laws and makes it hassle-free for anyone who wants to get started. That said, starting an LLC is a lot of work, especially if you’re doing so on your own. This is because there are many requirements LLC owners need to keep in mind and deadlines that need to be reached in order to maintain good standing with the state.

While it’s possible to create an LLC in Washington, working with a professional service is even easier. This is because these services can help you get started, provide you with a registered agent, and even help keep your LLC in good standing.

When it comes to starting an LLC in Washington, our favorite choices are ZenBusiness and BetterLegal.

Our Top Pick: ZenBusiness – 5/5 Rating

ZenBusiness is our top choice when it comes to LLC services. It’s the best company to work with when you want to start an LLC because the company is flexible, available nationwide, and easy to use. There is around-the-clock customer service and the company has affordable options in every state.

ZenBusiness also goes above and beyond for its customers. This is because the company has registered agent services, accounting assistance, and even cloud-based storage. These features help ZenBusiness separate itself from the competition and create a company that helps other companies get started. While it’s not the only LLC services company, it’s the best LLC services company.

Runner Up: BetterLegal – 4/5 Rating

BetterLegal is a simple company that helps LLCs get started. Starting an LLC is challenging, so BetterLegal provides a sense of companionship for new business owners. The combination of solid services and warm customer service helps BetterLegal stand out from other LLC startup companies.

That said, BetterLegal is also a well-rounded LLC service company. This is because the company offers registered agent services, cloud-based storage solutions, and even assistance with accounting and the filing of reports. Overall, BetterLegal is one of the best companies around for general LLC services, second only to ZenBusiness.

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