Washington business license

How to Apply for Business Licenses and Permits in Washington

Our business license report can help you determine what licenses and permits you need to start a business in Washington.

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Congratulations on entering the world of entrepreneurship. Owning a business can be very rewarding and exciting. Amidst all the excitement, don’t forget that you have some administrative responsibilities. Filing all necessary paperwork, including Washington business licenses and permits is important in order to continue operating your business in the state. If you don’t know where to start, don’t worry. We’ll walk you through the types of business licenses and permits you might need for your Washington business and how our Business License Report service can help you get it done easily.

What is a business license?

Most businesses need some form of license or permit to operate. The exact applications you need to file depend on your location, industry, and business activities. It can sometimes feel like a wild goose chase when you are tracking down the information on what you need. 

Consider using our Business License Report Service to make the process less time-consuming and stressful. You’re going to have enough going on already when starting a new business. 

Step 1: Obtain a Washington State general business license

Not all states require businesses to obtain a general business license, but Washington does. This is typically referred to as a Master Business License and is necessary for many business tasks, including the following:

  • Sales tax collection
  • Gross income threshold
  • Hiring employees
  • Department of Revenue taxes
  • Endorsements
  • Doing Business As (DBA)
  • Specialty wood business
  • Nexus threshold

The application for your Washington State Master Business License is filed with the Business Licensing Service, which is part of the Department of Revenue. You can apply for your Washington business license online or via postal mail. Some business types are not eligible to apply online. These include: 

  • Radiology benefit businesses
  • Vehicle manufacturing and sales businesses
  • Scrap metal companies
  • Used vehicle batteries dealers
  • Waste tire businesses
  • Underground storage companies
  • Towing or taxi services
  • Wholesale cigarette businesses
  • Whitewater rafting businesses
  • Employment agencies
  • Travel agencies
  • Debt collection companies
  • Limousine companies
  • Private investigators
  • Manufactured home communities
  • Tobacco companies

Applications completed online are typically processed within two days. A confirmation email is sent at the completion of processing. Postal mail applications can take up to 21 days to be processed. You can submit payment at the time of filing. 

Washington Business License vs. Registration 

Obtaining a business license isn’t the same as registering your business. Register your business with the state before submitting your Master Business License application. For your business to become an official entity, you must register formation documents with the Washington Secretary of State. Whether you choose to form a corporation, limited liability company, sole proprietorship, or another type of business depends on a number of factors. These may include preferred business structure, management style, tax obligations, industry, and more. 

Once you register the business, you’ll be assigned a unified business identifier (UBI) number. You need to have this number for your Washington business license application. 

Step 2: Obtain applicable federal licenses for your Washington business

Business licenses requirements are found at all levels of government. Check this list to find out more about the industries that are federally regulated and determine if your Washington business fits into one of these categories. If so, you can contact the listed agency for more information. 

  • Ammunition, firearms, and explosives: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives 
  • Alcoholic beverages or tobacco: Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau 
  • Mining and drilling: Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement 
  • Agriculture (plants and animals): U.S. Department of Agriculture 
  • Aviation: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) 
  • Fish and wildlife: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Commercial fisheries: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service 
  • Radio and television broadcasting: Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 
  • Maritime transportation: Federal Maritime Commission 
  • Nuclear rnergy: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission 

If you aren’t sure whether your company falls into one of the above categories, the agency listed will be able to provide more information.

Step 3: Check for Washington permits and licenses

Washington state-level licenses and permits are called endorsements. Use the Department of Revenue Business Licensing Wizard tool as a first-stop to check for state licensing requirements. Licenses are industry-specific and regulated by various agencies. Some industries that may need state-level licenses include:

  • Retail and wholesale nurseries
  • Marijuana businesses
  • Architecture firms
  • Private investigation
  • Liquor licensing
  • Beauty Supply

Step 4: Check for city or county for local licensing in Washington

There are 39 counties in Washington. Each county or municipality may have its own licensing and permitting requirements. It’s important to make sure you check with your county clerk’s office, local tax office, and any city administrators to make sure you fulfill all local licensing and permit requirements. 

Step 5: Search for applicable Washington professional licenses

If your profession has a specific education requirement in order to perform services, you probably need a professional license. Obtaining a professional license certifies that you have the knowledge, experience, and skills to perform your specific job. Professional licenses are important and usually issued by state boards specific to the occupation. Some licensed occupations include:

  • Veterinary medicine
  • Car dealer
  • Tattoo artist 
  • Dietician 
  • Environmental engineer
  • Cosmetologist
  • Professional boxer
  • Psychologist
  • Real estate broker

This is only a small sampling of professions that require specific licensure. Check the Washington State Department of Licensing for more information on professional licenses. 

Step 6: Obtain any other necessary Washington business licenses and permits

All businesses have varying degrees of regulation. Depending on what it is that you do, you may need a number of other licenses and permits. A massage therapist is going to have very different licensing requirements than a pharmaceutical manufacturer. 

Potential permits include:

  • Sales and use tax permit
  • Seller or reseller permit
  • Alarm permit
  • Environmental health permit
  • Signage permit
  • Zoning permit
  • Building permit

This is not an exhaustive list, but these types of permits are common requirements.

Step 7: Apply for Washington home-based business licenses

Washington home-based businesses need to register with the state like any other business entity. Licensing and permits are issued by the municipality where the home is located. Each area has different stipulations regarding home-based businesses. Common rules pertain to the primary use of the residence, signage, parking, appointments, staffing, equipment, type of business, and other regulations. If you’re planning on opening a home-based business, contact your local government for more information on what you’re permitted to do and what documents need to be filed. 

Step 8: Maintain your Washington licensing

Failing to acquire and maintain all necessary Washington business licenses and permits could result in fines, penalties, legal disputes, and even an inability to operate in the state or municipality where the violation occurred. Most business licenses and permits must be renewed periodically. It’s important to keep track of what is due for renewal and when. All this compliance may seem overwhelming, but we can help. Check out our Worry-Free Compliance Service and stay on track with all of your business filings.  

We can make it easier on you

There are a lot of components to ensuring that you have your Washington Master Business License and all other licenses and permits. Learn more about how our Business License Report service can help you determine exactly what you need. Our partner uses your business activities, industry, and location to identify all requirements for your company. This could save you precious hours, days, and weeks of searching the internet and calling agencies. As a busy business owner, we are sure that you have plenty of other things you’d like to focus on. 

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

FAQs

  • Do all Washington businesses need a license?

    All Washington businesses must have a Master Business License issued by the Department of Revenue. Additional licenses and permits may be needed according to the type of industry, activities, and location of the business.

  • Can you sell things without a license in Washington?

    If you live and work in Washington State and your business grosses over $12,000 a year from company operations, you need to obtain a retail sales license and Washington business license.

  • Is it legal to run a business from home in Washington?

    Washington home-based businesses must register with the state like any other business entity. Licensing and permits are issued by the municipality where the building is located, along with regulations regarding the type of home-based business that can operate in the area and rules regarding operation.

  • What kind of license do I need for an online business in Washington?

    An online business will need a Master Business License and all other applicable licenses and permits, similar to a brick and mortar business.

  • Do I need a license to collect sales tax in Washington?

    If our business provides a service or sells a product that requires the collection of sales tax you need a license to collect sales tax in Washington.

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