What Do I Need to Obtain a DC Business License?

To obtain a DC business license after initially coming up with the business structure category, register your business with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), Corporate Division, if needed.

It is important to meet several requirements before submitting the DC Basic Business License Application to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) Business License Division, which would be your second step.

Do You Need a DC Basic Business License?

The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs does not require a business license from all DC businesses; some businesses need to obtain only a Basic Business License.

There are fees for standard business license application and renewal; however, operating without having a business license first will cost you more.

Depending on the type of business that you have, a specific license will be needed.

The DC business license is usually required for most businesses, except those whose principals are licensed professionals. In such case, the DC business license is no longer needed.

If you think that a tax ID number is sufficient and that you should be exempt and not required to get a DC basic business license, you may file an Exemption Request Certificate form with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) that is available on their website.

Who Needs an Additional Endorsement on Their Washington, DC Business License?

An endorsement to obtain a DC business license is necessary for businesses to operate and offer goods and services.

The number of endorsements depends on the number of business activities that you have, and multiple endorsements might be needed.

The requirements for a DC Basic Business License contain 14 categories with different subcategories, all of which have a different set of requirements.

How do You Apply for a Business License in DC?

Applying for a DC basic business license can be done by mailing your DC Basic Business License Application BBL-EZ form to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) Business License Division or bringing the application to their physical address at the Business License Center.

Applications for a business license sent by mail should include your check payment or money order addressed to the Treasurer of DC.

Cash, check, credit card, and money order can be used when going directly to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and paying in person.

The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) Business License Division may have the applications for a few, although not all DC business licenses, available on their website.

Information on what you will need and how to get your General Business License is provided when you go to the webpage of the Washington, DC business license.

You can request the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) to fax or mail you an application for the basic business license by calling them at (202) 442-4400.

The DCRA office operates from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day except the weekends, when it is closed, and Thursdays, when it is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

How Much Does the Washington DC Business License Cost?

There are a number of fees to be paid to obtain a Washington DC basic business license. Fees still need to be paid even without a specific endorsement of a general business license.

Payments of $70 for an application and up to $25 for each endorsement are required.

Payments and deposits for all basic business license applications should be sent to the Basic Business License funds. Various business activities, which will be determined, will require an additional license fee.

Lastly, for enhanced technological capabilities, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) requires a technology fee equivalent to 10 percent of the total to pay for all licensing, permitting, and registration services.

How do You Know if You Need a DC General Business License Endorsement?

Having a DC General Business License is a bit confusing, although it is good to include all endorsements for DC business licenses that do not have to meet a specific requirement.

Businesses with tax identification number, businesses that operate without the need for an additional DC basic business endorsement, and unlicensed professionals fall under the general business classification.

The business activities that you have will determine the Washington, DC business license that you need.

Retail and office businesses need a General Business License.

An application for a Basic Business License with a different endorsement is required for businesses with a need for a specialized license, such as restaurants and industry, is required.

Do You Need a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) to Get a Washington, DC Business License?

It is necessary to get a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) by contacting the IRS directly. You can also get your FEIN online.

Do You Need to Register With the Office of Tax and Revenue to Get a Washington, DC Business License?

A Combined Business Tax Registration Application, FR-500 form, is required to be filed with the DC Office of Tax and Revenue in order to get a Washington, DC business license.

The DC Tax and Revenue Office will send a confirmation upon receiving your application.

You also need to include a copy of your tax registration when submitting your Washington, DC business license application.

Do You Need a DC Certificate of Occupancy to Get a Washington DC Business License?

It is necessary to get a DC Certificate of Occupancy when your business premise is within DC. It is not necessary to have a certificate if you are leasing a space and your building already has one. It is not necessary to have a certificate of occupancy if there is no need for a business to have a physical location in DC.

Working from home will require you to get a Home Occupation Permit from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and not a certificate of occupancy.

The Application for Certificate of Occupancy can be downloaded from the website of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA).

An application cannot be mailed to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) Permit Center and should be submitted only in person.

It may take 30 days to issue the certificate of occupancy, and it is processed by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA).

You only need to indicate the DC Certificate of Occupancy number and date when it was issued on the DC business license application.  It is not required to attach the actual certificate to your DC business license application.

You may reach the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) Permit Operations Customer Service center at (202) 442-4589 for inquiries on DC certificates of occupancy and home occupation permits.

To get a Washington, DC business license, applicants need to fill the BBL-EZ portion, proving that they do not owe more than $100 to the DC government in fines, parking tickets, taxes, etc.

What Professions do not Need a DC Basic Business License?

Professionals governed by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) Occupational and Professional Licensing Division are not required to apply for a DCRA business license.

The license comes from various DC boards and agencies.

Almost all businesses with principals who are licensed by one of the following boards do not require a DC Basic Business License to begin a business in DC:

  • The DC Bar
  • Department of Health
  • Board of Accountancy
  • Board of Industrial Trades
  • Board of Barber and Cosmetology
  • Board of Funeral Directors
  • Board of Architecture and Interior Design
  • Boxing and Wrestling Commission
  • Board of Professional Engineering
  • Real Estate Commission
  • Board of Education
  • Notary Public
  • Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking
  • Department of Transportation/Department of Public Works
  • Public Service Commission
  • Office of Cable Television

Some business professional licenses must be filed together, as a funeral establishment business license must be accompanied by a funeral director's license.

Completion and submission of the Exemption Request Certificate form to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) is still required, even if you have a business tax id number and think you are exempt from the DC basic business requirement.

You may go to the Washington, DC Exempt Profession page for specialized professions exempt from a General Business License.

When do You Need to Renew Your DC Business License With the DCRA?

The business license needs to be renewed every two years. Renewing the basic business license costs $70 along with $25 for each endorsement. All basic business license renewal application fees shall be deposited in the Basic Business License Fund.

Assessment is done two times a year, and an annual fee for $200 is payable for the Basic Business License.

Follow the instructions on the renewal notice and invoice sent by mail to the address you have on file with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) Business License Division when renewing your Washington, DC business license.

You may contact the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) Business Division at (202) 442-4311 if you did not receive a renewal notice and your license is near its expiration.

Having a six-digit pin will let you renew your DC business licenses online through the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) website.

Do You Need to List a DC Registered Agent on the DCRA Basic Business License Application?

Businesses getting their Washington, DC business license are required to list a registered agent residing in the District of Columbia who may receive documents, such as service or process of official notices.

Pre-signed and populated business license application form with the DC registered agent information is available in your online account.

It is necessary to list your DC agent registered with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) Corporate Division for you to register a corporation, LLC, partnership, sole proprietorship, or DBA.

It is further necessary to list a DC registered agent on the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) Basic Business License Application for all domestic or foreign corporations, LLCs, and partnerships.

Sole proprietors not residing in DC must list a DC registered agent on the Basic Business License application.

Corporations and business license forms have information on the DC registered agents. Agencies that are also listed as DC agents are not charged twice.

The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) can act as your DC registered agent, charging only $49 yearly if you sign up for a DC registered service with the DCRA during application for your DC business license.

What Should I Gather to Apply for My Washington, DC Business License Application?

For your application, collect information on the following:

  • Language preferred
  • Business type: sole proprietor, partnership, limited liability corporation, for-profit corporation, or a nonprofit corporation
  • Business owner
  • Federal Employee ID Number
  • Social Security
  • Number of business owner and property owner
  • Trade name
  • Number of employees
  • Business address
  • Officers, partners, and members names, addresses, and contact phone numbers
  • Business location

If weights and measures will be utilized for your business, contact the Office of Weights and Measures at (202) 698-2130.

Signatures of business owner(s), partner(s), member(s), and property owner(s) and dates are required.

Basic Business License in 2016

For some categories, including housing, motor vehicle sales, service and repair, and home improvement contractors, business licenses are issued from 2016.

The business licenses data is shared through an automatic process where addresses are matched by batch or geocoded to the District's Master Address Repository.

A few data points may represent 0,0 for X,Y coordinates, which results in inconsistent spatial locations found by users.

It is useful to use the MAR Geocoder to complete the process of geocoding addresses for these data points, as some will not let you geocode automatically and will need manual geocoding to obtain the best fit.

If you need help with your DC business license, you can post your legal need (or post your job) on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.