Starting a new business in The Evergreen State is an exciting venture, but it’s essential to understand the various licenses and permits required to operate legally within Washington. Forming an LLC in Washington requires licenses and permits, as different industries and locations have specific regulations. This article will provide a comprehensive guide to Washington Business Licenses, helping you navigate the process and ensure your new venture complies with all necessary requirements. By understanding the permitting landscape in Washington, you can ensure that your business is fully prepared to succeed while avoiding potential legal pitfalls.
Webinarcare Editorial Team will help you easily obtain a business license in Washington. You must be guided by all the factors gathered in this article.
What is a Business License?
A business license is a legal authorization, permit, or document that allows a business to operate within a specific jurisdiction, such as a city, county, or state. Washington Business Licenses are issued by Washington Secretary of State and ensure that businesses comply with applicable laws, regulations, and standards in their respective industries.
A business license protects public health, safety, and welfare by ensuring businesses operate responsibly and lawfully. Acquiring a business license often involves registering the business, paying applicable fees, and meeting specific requirements or qualifications for the type of business.
Business licenses can vary greatly depending on the location and nature of the business. Some common types of business licenses include:
1. General Business License: This is a basic license required for most Washington Businesses to operate within a specific jurisdiction, such as a city or county.
2. Professional and Occupational Licenses: These licenses are specific to certain industries or professions, such as healthcare, construction, real estate, or cosmetology, and are typically issued by state licensing boards or agencies.
You must have a professional and occupational license to form Washington General Partnership and offer your service.
Here are some examples of Professional and Occupational Licenses:
- Medical License: Physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare professionals must obtain a medical license to practice medicine in a specific state. This license is issued by the Washington medical board after verifying the applicant’s education, training, and examination results.
- Realtor License: Washington Realtors and brokers must obtain a real estate license to buy, sell, or lease properties on behalf of clients. Washington has its own real estate commission or board responsible for issuing licenses and regulating the industry.
- Contractor License: General contractors, electricians, plumbers, and other construction professionals must often have a contractor license to work in Washington.
- Cosmetology License: Professionals in the beauty industry, such as hairstylists, estheticians, and nail technicians, must obtain a cosmetology license to provide services. Washington boards of cosmetology oversee licensing and regulations for this industry.
- Certified Public Accountant (CPA) License: Accountants who wish to use the CPA designation and provide specific services, such as auditing financial statements, must obtain a CPA license from their Washington’s board of accountancy.
- Attorney License: Washington Business Attorneys must obtain a license to practice law in a particular jurisdiction, typically by passing the state’s bar examination and meeting other requirements set by the Washington bar association.
- Architect License: Architects must obtain a license to practice architecture in Washington. This typically involves meeting education and experience requirements and passing the Architect Registration Examination (ARE).
3. Health and Safety Permits: Washington businesses involved in food service, hospitality, or other industries directly impacting public health and safety may require specific permits from local health departments or regulatory agencies.
4. Environmental Permits: Washington businesses that involve activities that may impact the environment, such as waste disposal, air or water emissions, or hazardous materials handling, may require permits from local, state, or federal environmental agencies.
5. Sales Tax License: Washington businesses that sell goods or services may be required to collect sales tax from customers and remit it to the appropriate tax authority. A sales tax license is typically required to legally collect and remit sales tax. Currently, in Washington, the state sales tax rate is 6.50%.
Washington business owners must research the specific licensing requirements for their business in their jurisdiction and obtain all necessary licenses and permits to operate legally and avoid potential fines, penalties, or legal troubles.
Steps in Obtaining a Business License
To obtain a business license, you must follow the guidelines below, including determining if your Washington business requires a license or permit, identifying the appropriate licensing agencies, researching license and permit requirements, completing and submitting license applications, and maintaining license and permit requirements.
Step 1: Determine if Your Business Requires a License or Permit
The first step in obtaining a business license is determining if your business needs one. Some businesses may not require a license or permit, while others may need multiple licenses depending on their industry and location. As stated above, the following types of businesses typically require some form of licensing or permit:
- Professional services, such as medical, legal, and accounting
- Food establishments, including restaurants, bars, and catering businesses
- Retail businesses, including stores, shops, and online retailers
- Construction and contracting companies
- Manufacturing and industrial businesses
Step 2: Identify the Appropriate Washington Licensing Agencies
Once you’ve determined that your business requires a license or permit, you must identify the appropriate Washington agencies responsible for issuing these documents. In Washington, numerous agencies oversee licensing and permitting, including:
- Washington Secretary of State: This office is responsible for issuing licenses for many professional services, including legal, medical, and accounting.
- Washington Department of Health: Food establishments, healthcare providers, and other businesses related to health and safety may require licenses from this department.
- Washington State Department of Revenue: If your business sells goods, you may need a sales tax license or permit from this department.
- Washington Department of Labor: Businesses that involve construction or contracting may need licenses from this department.
- Local City or County Governments: Depending on your business’s location, you may also need to obtain licenses or permits from your local government.
Step 3: Research License and Permit Requirements
After identifying the appropriate agencies, research the specific requirements for each license or permit your business needs. This may involve reviewing the Washington agency’s website, contacting their office directly, or consulting with a legal or business professional. Some common requirements for obtaining a business license or permit include:
- Completing an application form
- Providing proof of insurance or bonding
- Passing background checks or inspections
- Paying application fees
Some licenses or permits may have ongoing requirements, such as annual renewals, inspections, or reporting.
Step 4: Complete and Submit License and Permit Applications
Once you’ve gathered all the necessary information and documents, complete the application forms for each required license or permit. Be sure to carefully follow the instructions provided by each Washington agency, as incomplete or incorrect applications can lead to delays or denials.
In addition to the application forms, you may also need to submit supporting documentation, such as:
Proof of Business Registration with the Washington Secretary of State
You can find it on the Washington Secretary of State website. There should be a search feature specifically for businesses. This will often be labeled as “Business Search,” “Washington Secretary of State Corporations and Charities Filing System,” or something similar. In the search feature, enter the name of the business you are looking for, and once it appears, you will now have proof of your business registration.
Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service
Aside from opening a Business Bank account, you must have an EIN to file and submit for a business license. An EIN, also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number, is used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to identify your business for tax purposes. You’ll need an EIN to open a business bank account, file taxes, and hire employees (if necessary).
The application of an EIN in Washington can be through the following:
- Apply Online- The online EIN application is the preferred method for customers to apply for and obtain an EIN.
- Apply by Fax- Taxpayers can fax the completed Form SS-4 application to the appropriate fax number), after ensuring that the Form SS-4 contains all of the required information.
- Apply by Mail- The EIN application Form SS-4 can be filed via mail. The processing time frame to receive the mail is four weeks.
- Apply by Telephone-International Applicants – International applicants may call 267-941-1099 (not a toll-free number) from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday to obtain their EIN.
Proof of Insurance, Bonding, or Worker’s Compensation Coverage
To have a business license, you need proof of insurance, bonding, or worker’s compensation. You need to obtain a certificate or policy document as additional documents for your proof of insurance. Also, there is a database of businesses with worker’s compensation coverage or require businesses to register their insurance or bonding information. Visit your Washington Department of Labor, Department of Insurance, or another relevant agency website to find information about the business’s coverage.
Professional Certifications or Licenses
As I have mentioned, if you will form a general partnership and offer your service, you must have professional certifications or licenses.
Submit your completed applications, along with the Washington business license fee that ranges to $50 – $300, to the appropriate Washington agencies. The processing times for license and permit applications can vary, so plan accordingly and allow ample time for approval.
Step 5: Maintain License and Permit Compliance
Once you’ve obtained the necessary licenses and permits for your Washington business, it’s essential to maintain compliance with all requirements. This may include:
- Keep your Washington licenses and permits current by renewing them on time, typically annually.
- Reporting any changes to your business, such as a Change Washington LLC Address, ownership, or business structure. You may amend your Certificate of Formation if you change anything in your Washington business.
- Maintaining proper insurance, bonding, or worker’s compensation coverage.
- Complying with any inspection, reporting, or record-keeping requirements.
Failing to maintain compliance with your Washington business licenses and permits can result in fines, penalties, or even the loss of your license. It is better to comply with Washington state rules.
In addition to the steps outlined above, there are a few additional considerations to keep in mind when navigating the Washington business licensing process:
- Licenses and permits are often industry-specific, so research your business type’s requirements.
- Some businesses may need licenses or permits from multiple agencies at the state and local levels. Be sure to research and comply with all necessary requirements to avoid complications.
- If your business operates in multiple locations or across state lines, you may need to obtain licenses or permits for each jurisdiction in which you operate. You can form Washington Foreign LLC.
- Stay informed about licensing and permitting requirements changes, as regulations can change over time.
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Obtaining the necessary licenses and permits is crucial in starting a new business in Washington. Following the steps outlined in this guide and consulting with the appropriate agencies or professionals, you can ensure that your business complies with all state and local requirements. This will protect your business from legal issues and help establish your reputation as a responsible and trustworthy business operator.