What is a master business license? A master business license is a license that some businesses are required to have to conduct business in Washington state. The license is required for all businesses that have employees, earn $12,000 gross annual income, collect sales tax, or are involved in specialty foods. The license is obtained from the Washington Business Licensing Service of the Department of Revenue.

Situations Under Which Businesses Need a Master Business License

All Washington state businesses are not required to have master business licenses. All new businesses in the following situations that are required to have a master business license:

  • Businesses that will need to hire employees.
  • All businesses that will earn a gross income of $12,000 or more per year.
  • Any business that will be collecting sales tax needs a master business license.
  • If a business will be paying state taxes to the Washington State Department of Revenue, then it needs the license.
  • If a business will be involved in processing or buying specialty foods, it definitely needs a master business license.
  • All businesses which will be doing business under a Doing Business As (DBA) or another name other than their full legal names also need master business licenses.

Even existing businesses which undergo the following changes are required to obtain master business licenses:

  • Your business will need the license if you require a new specialty license or city license.
  • If you are selling the business or if the business is otherwise changing ownership, it needs the master business license.
  • Businesses that are adding new business locations are also required to have licenses.
  • Businesses whose trade names are being changed or businesses needing to register new trade names are also required to have licenses.
  • If the business is hiring employees for the first time, it should obtain the license.
  • A business that wants to pay industrial insurance or unemployment insurance also needs this license.

How to Get a Master Business License

Before you get a master business license, you need to register the business with the secretary of state. This may be by incorporating or filing the pertinent entity formation forms. The Washington secretary of state will assign your company a UBI number. This number is needed for the master business license application.

The application for the master business license is done with the Business Licensing Service under the Department of Revenue and not with the office of the secretary of state. You can apply either online or by postal mail using the printed form. You will get your license faster if you apply online.

Businesses that deal in any of the following industries cannot apply online; instead, they are required to apply by mail.

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

The online application process will require you to create a username and password on the website of the Business Licensing Service. After that, you'll be required to fill in replies to a number of questions. A confirmation page will appear when you are done. Payment for this filing can be done either by credit card or e-check. The printed Master Business License Application form consists of four pages. Send the completed form along with a check to the Department of Revenue by postal mail.

Applications done online are typically processed within two days, after which, a confirmation email is received. The postal mail application can take up to 21 days to be processed. In each case, the master business license is sent through the mail, but businesses that applied online can begin operations as soon as they get the email confirmation.

It is worth noting that the master business license is not the only license you need to operate. Depending on your industry, you'll still need other permits and licenses to comply with the laws of the state. The master business license application actually enables other state agencies to notice your business, and some agencies may get in touch to let you know of the need to meet their requirements.

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