Starting an LLC in Washington state involves the following steps:

  1. Naming your LLC
  2. Designating a registered agent
  3. Filing your Certificate of Formation with the state
  4. Creating an operating agreement
  5. Obtaining an EIN

Steps to Start an LLC in Washington State: Choosing a Name and a Registered Agent

The first step you'll take when starting your LLC is choosing a business name. This is one of the most important things you'll do. You should conduct some research so you select an appropriate name for your business venture. You also want a name that's easy for potential clients to remember and search for.

Adhere to Washington's business naming guidelines, which include the following:

  • You must include a designator in your business name that identifies it as an LLC, such as LLC, L.L.C., or Limited Liability Company.
  • You can't use certain restricted words — such as “Attorney” or “University” — without filing additional paperwork and/or having licensed professionals as part of your LLC.
  • You can't use prohibited words that could confuse your business with a state or federal agency, such as “FBI” or “Treasury.”

Conduct a name search at the State of Washington website to make sure your desired business name is available.

You may also want to reserve a domain name, even if you don't have plans to create a website right away. Securing it in advance will prevent someone else from purchasing it. If you wish to reserve a business name, you can file a name reservation and pay a $30 fee. The reservation is good for 180 days.

You must designate a registered agent — also known as an agent for service of process, resident agent, or statutory agent — for your LLC. This is an individual or company that agrees to accept legal paperwork and service of process on your LLC's behalf. Your registered agent is required to be a resident of the state or a company that's authorized to do business there.

You can choose someone within your company to be your registered agent, including yourself. Alternately, you can hire a registered agent service.

Necessary Documents and an EIN

File your Certificate of Formation with the state to officially register your LLC. You can file in person, by mail, or online. It costs $180 to file by mail, and $230 for expedited online service.

When filling out your Certificate of Formation, include the following information:

  • Name and main office address of your LLC
  • Dates of formation and dissolution
  • Management style, i.e., member-managed or manager-managed (in this context, this refers to who handles daily operations and makes day-to-day business decisions)
  • Registered agent name, address, and signature of consent
  • Organizer's name and address

It takes two to three days to process online filings.

The state of Washington doesn't require your LLC to have an operating agreement, but it's good practice to create one for your own records, especially if your LLC has more than one owner. This legal document is important for outlining your business's ownership and operating procedures. It's an internal document you can store with your LLC records. You don't have to file it with the state. Simply keep it as a point of reference for your LLC's rules and regulations.

You'll also need to obtain an EIN from the IRS. This is your Employer Identification Number, which is sometimes called a Federal Tax ID Number. Like a Social Security Number, it's a nine-digit number that's associated with your business. You'll need an EIN when you file business taxes. Additionally, many banks also require you to have an EIN to open a business account.

After you form your LLC, you can apply for an EIN free of charge. You can apply online or by mail.

Depending on the jurisdiction you're in, you may also need additional business permits and licenses from the city and/or county.

As with other states, Washington makes it relatively simple and quick to form an LLC. Many people can do it themselves without the assistance of an attorney. You can refer to the Secretary of State website for more information or for helpful resources geared toward small business owners.

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