Start a District of Columbia LLC

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Are you ready to start a limited liability company (LLC) in the District of Columbia? This is a huge step, and we’re sure you’re excited about where this could lead.

If this is your first time starting a business in Washington, DC, then you may have many questions. Like the 50 states, the District of Columbia has requirements for LLCs, it’s important to know what to do to start one. Check out our guide below.

How to Create an LLC in DC

Starting a limited liability company in Washington, DC

In this guide, we’ll take you through the entire LLC creation process so that you’ll know what to expect each step of the way. If you’re worried about the paperwork and other requirements needed to set up your LLC, don’t worry — we’ll walk you through how to handle things and explain how an LLC business service like ours can help with the administrative tasks.

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Starting a DC LLC is no different

The good news is that LLC formation in Washington, DC, isn’t any more difficult than in the rest of the country, even though this area is a territory and not a state. This territory has a local government with rules and regulations that businesses within its borders must follow, similar to a state government.

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5 steps to setting up a DC LLC

Once you’ve decided to form an LLC in Washington, DC, there are a few steps you’ll need to do. First, you’ll want to register it with the local government. By doing so, you’ll create a public record of your LLC in this area, which allows the local government to deem you as an official business and contact you as needed.

However, before you can officially register your LLC in DC, you’ll need to make some decisions. These include deciding on an official name and choosing a registered agent for your company. You’ll also need to file all official paperwork for your LLC, draft an operating agreement, and ensure your company is set up to follow local and federal tax laws.

We know all of this information can seem overwhelming. To help, we’ve created a five-step process to get your LLC up and running.

1. Name your District of Columbia (DC) LLC

Naming your LLC in Washington, DC is often the most enjoyable and creative part of the setup process. When selecting an official name, consider one that helps market your brand by easily communicating the goods or services you offer. It’s a good idea to come up with a few memorable names and jot them down on a list during this step.

Once your list is ready, you can go online to the D.C. government website to do some research so you can lock in your company’s name.

Ensure your DC LLC name is unique

Washington, DC LLC names must be unique, so if another company has already registered the name you want, you’ll need to choose another one. To complete this search, you’ll need to create a login to the District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) web portal.

Check your DC LLC name availability

From there, you can search if the name you’ve chosen is available. Once you’ve found a name you like, you can move on to the next step. Be sure to also review the statute on naming your LLC and ensure you don’t include words that aren’t allowed, such as “FBI.”

Choose an LLC designator

Next, choose an official LLC designator. This is a suffix at the end of your business name that identifies it as an LLC. For instance, if you chose the name “Lisa’s Designs,” you’ll need to add a designator at the end, like “Lisa’s Designs, LLC.” You can choose from a list of approved designators:

Reserve a business name for your LLC

You now have your company’s official name! To ensure there are no complications, it’s a good idea to reserve your name with the DC government. Use our business name reservation service! As part of the service, we also check to see if your desired name is available.

File a DBA in DC

While searching for a name, you might come across a DBA form. A DBA, or “doing business as” form, is paperwork you’ll fill out if you choose to operate under a name other than your registered LLC name. For instance, if your company’s registered name is “Custom Concepts Agency, LLC,” but you sell your services as “CC Agency,” you’ll need to register this secondary name as a trade or fictitious name. You’ll need to pay a fee to register your trade name with the DC government.

Check your business name and logo with the USPTO

Visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office website to see if your business name or logo is federally trademarked. Trademarks can also happen at the state level. However, in DC, you can only do this at the federal level since there is no DC trademark law.

Get a website for your new LLC in DC

Consider a website domain name for your Washington, DC LLC. When coming up with a business name, it’s wise to consider if you can secure a matching domain name so that your future website can be easily found online.

We have a tool to help you do a preliminary domain name search, and our domain name registration service can help you secure an online name that will best serve your company.

2. Appoint a registered agent in the District of Columbia (DC)

Once your Washington, DC LLC has been officially named, you’re ready to appoint a designated registered agent. All states require LLCs to choose a registered agent, and DC is no different.

What is a registered agent?

A Washington, DC registered agent is the person or company that works on your behalf to receive and pass on legal notices, such as subpoenas. This means that your registered agent in DC might receive sensitive paperwork at any point throughout the business day.

As a result, your Washington, DC registered agent will need to hold regular office hours at a DC office. They must be present during the workday, and their operating address cannot be a P.O. box.

Using a Registered agent service

Some Washington DC LLCs decide to act as their own registered agent, and you might wonder if you should do the same. While it’s perfectly legal to be your own registered agent, there are some important things to consider before making this decision.

Being your own agent ties you to the office all day, and being served with a lawsuit in front of clients can be bad for business. A registered agent service like ours can help you avoid that.

3. File District of Columbia (DC) Articles of Organization

Now that your name is ready and you’ve chosen a registered agent, it’s time to file your Washington, DC LLC’s official paperwork. Your Articles of Organization sometimes referred to as a Certificate of Organization in other states, will officially register your company with the District of Columbia’s government.

Filing official government documents like this can be intimidating and/or complicated for many people. With our business formation plans, our professionals handle the filing for you to make sure it’s done quickly and correctly the first time. Although we can handle this for you, we’ll show you how the process works below.

You can register your Washington, DC LLC by filling out the Articles of Organization form, paying the fee, and submitting it online or by mail via a check. Note that if you mail your forms, you’ll also need to include form RA-1, which is the registered agent’s written consent form. If you file online, you don’t need to worry about this.

Washington, DC LLC Articles of Organization requirements

You’ll need to fill out the following fields when completing this form:

Keep all your new Washington, DC LLC paperwork in one digital dashboard

You can have us handle filing your Washington, DC Articles of Organization. Once the state approves your Washington, DC LLC, your paperwork will be available from your ZenBusiness dashboard where you can keep it and other important paperwork digitally organized.

Once you get your physical paperwork back from the state approving your new Washington, DC LLC, you’ll want to keep it in a safe location along with your other important documents, such as your operating agreement, member certificates, contracts, compliance checklists, transfer ledger, etc.

We offer a customized business kit to help you keep these important documents organized and looking professional.

Get a Virtual Business Address for your LLC

By now you’re realizing how often you’ll need to supply an address for your Washington, DC LLC. That can be unsettling for some business owners, especially those running theirs from home. In instances where you’re not required to give the registered agent address or official principal address for your business, a virtual business address can come in handy.

With our virtual business address service, we supply you with a physical street address where you can have your mail sent without divulging your real address to more people than necessary.

4. Create an operating agreement

An operating agreement is a contract that details your Washington, DC LLC’s structure and key rules and regulations about company operations. In Washington, DC, you’re not required to have an operating agreement, but getting one can help your company run smoother and prevent and resolve any conflicts between members and other vested parties.

Your Washington, DC LLC’s operating agreement lays out how your company will be run, detailing your management style and member powers and limitations. It can even explain member voting structures to help handle disagreements if they arise. You’ll want to make sure all members read, agree to, and sign the operating agreement.

The benefits of an operating agreement

Although operating agreements are considered a smart move for Washington, DC LLCs with multiple members, they can also be beneficial even if you’re the only member. Here’s why:

Use our operating agreement template for your Washington, DC LLC

Creating an operating agreement requires a bit of a time since it details how your LLC will be run. Luckily, you don’t have to construct this all from scratch. If you’re unsure of how to create an operating agreement, we offer a customizable template to help get you started.

5. Apply for an EIN

Now that you’ve officially registered your company as an LLC in Washington, DC, you’re ready to get your tax information set up with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). To do this, you’ll apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

Think of an EIN like your business’s Tax ID Number (also referred to as a Federal Tax Identification Number). It helps identify your limited liability company to the government and can be used when filing taxes, opening business bank accounts, and hiring and paying employees.

If you have employees or other members in your Washington, DC LLC, you’ll need to apply for an EIN. If you’re the sole member of the company, you may not need to secure an EIN, but it can be beneficial.

You can get your Washington, DC LLC’s EIN through the IRS website, by mail, or by fax, but if you aren’t fond of dealing with that particular government agency, we can get it for you. Our EIN service is quick and eliminates the hassle.

Open a business bank account for your Washington, DC LLC

Once you’ve secured an EIN, you’ll be able to open a business bank account. Having separate accounts for your business and your personal banking is critical for sorting out your finances at tax time and helps you avoid commingling funds.

Commingling funds can not only make your taxes more difficult, but could also be used against you if someone takes you to court to challenge whether you and your Washington, DC LLC are truly separate entities.

Banking payment and invoice solutions for your Washington, DC LLC

We offer a discounted bank account for your business. This allows for unlimited transactions, online banking, a debit card, and more. If you want to authorize others in your business to use the account, then we offer a banking resolution template to simplify the process.

For further help managing your business’s finances, try ZenBusiness Money. It can help you create invoices, receive payments, transfer money, and manage clients all in one place.

District of Columbia (DC) LLC FAQs

District of Columbia DC Business Resources

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