Washington Business Filing Tips

We work with entrepreneurs every day. Our filing staff fields hundreds of questions each day about how to handle Washington business filings, how to maintain Washington compliance, and how to stay in the good graces of the Secretary of State. Below are some answers to the most common questions and some tips on proper business filings in the Evergreen State.

Before You File

There are three things you want to consider before you form a business in Washington:

  • Name Availability
  • Registered Agent Appointment
  • Governing Document

Check for Name Availability

This is a common mistake for new entrepreneurs. One of the most frustrating things you can do is file your formation document and have it rejected because the name you chose for your company is already registered to another business. Not only does your filing get rejected, you’re out your filing fee.

It’s easy to check for availability: do a Washington business name search. It’s fast and simple, and checking in advance should ensure that your filing is rejected.

Washington Registered Agent

You will need a Washington registered agent if you are going to do business in the state. It’s worth your time to search around, compare prices and service options. We always suggest that you consider how reliable an agent is, what kind of business they do, and how long they’ve been in business. Hiring a registered agent that isn’t dependable can cause serious headaches down the line.

Our service is only $59 a year.

Writing a Governing Document

A business entity needs a governing document. While not necessarily a legal requirement, it is not a good idea to start a company without one. Your governing document will lay out all kinds of essential points: who owns your company, what positions they have within the business, who is responsible for what, as well as “rules of the road” for managing your LLC or corporation.

We advise every one of our clients to take the time to write a thorough Washington LLC Operating Agreement or Washington Corporate Bylaws. We guarantee it will save you a lot of trouble later on.

Business Formation

In Washington the most common business entity types are LLCs and corporations. The documents you need to file to form one or the other are:

The filing fees are:

  • LLC: $200 (online)
  • Corporation: $200 (online)

You can submit a paper filing for $180. If you wish to expedite your formation, you can add an additional $50 for expedite processing.

We suggest that you handle any filing online. Online filings are easy to manage and are generally processed more quickly.

Initial Maintenance

After you file your formation document, there are two important initial maintenance filings which must be taken care of: filing for a Washington Business License and submitting your Initial Report. Many of our clients forget about these filings and later find themselves slapped with fines or unable to conduct business.

Washington Business License

The most important thing to remember about filing for a WBL is to file your formation document with the Secretary of State first. Don’t file for your WBL and submit your formation document at the same time. This can result in your company being issued two Unified Business Numbers: one from the Secretary of State and another from the Business Licensing Service.

While we suggest that you file online, certain types of businesses cannot. Please see our Washington Business License page for a list of businesses that must submit a paper application.

Initial Report

Both LLCs and corporations are required to file an Initial Report within 120 days of formation. Many clients forget about this filing and are fined for filing late. Washington is a little odd in that your Initial Report is filed with the Secretary of State, while your subsequent Annual Renewal filings are submitted to the Business Licensing Service.

Ongoing Maintenance

The most significant annual maintenance filing is the Washington Annual Renewal. This filing updates the information that is listed with the Business License Service. You must file every year and pay the $71 fee.

We suggest that you file online, which is simpler and more efficient. To file online, you will need a MyDOR account, which you would have set up if you formed your business online.