Here is an outline of the steps you need to follow in order to form a partnership in the District of Columbia. You should also read the general section on forming a partnership for information applicable in any state.
1. Choose a business name for your partnership and check for availability.
- Please see our section on choosing and checking the availability of a name for your small business, as well as our section on the trademark law aspects of choosing a name.
2. Register the business name with local, state, and/or federal authorities.
- If you will be operating your partnership under a name that is different from your name and that of your partners, then you will need to apply for permission to use a "trade name". The cost to register a trade name is $50.
- Although you are not required to do so, you should consider registering your business name as a federal and/or state trademark. Please see the Trademark for Business Naming section for details.
3. Draft and sign a partnership agreement.
- Although not legally required, it is strongly suggested that you and your partners sign a partnership agreement laying out the rights and responsibilities of the partners. For details, please see the Partnership Agreements section.
4. Obtain any required local licenses.
- The District of Columbia issues what is known as a Basic Business License (BBL) to new local businesses. The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs website has a helpful Basic Business License Information page, which includes an online interface to help you determine whether you need a BBL.
5. Determine what tax and other regulatory obligations your partnership has, and take care of any necessary registrations.
- Request an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. This can be done via its online application. There is no filing fee.
- Register for District of Columbia business taxes using the FR-500 Combined Business Tax Registration service. This service will tell you what taxes you will be responsible for (including income and employment taxes), guide you to what forms you will need to file, and tell you when they must be filed.
- Whenever you hire an employee in the District of Columbia, you must inform both the IRS and the District of Columbia. The IRS details all of the necessary steps to complete, including verifying work eligibility and withholding allowances certificates, on its page entitled Hiring Employees. Information on what to do on the District level will be detailed when you register for taxes using the FR-500 Combined Business Tax Registration service.
- If you have employees in the District of Columbia, you must carry workers' compensation insurance.
- There may be other informational returns that you may have to file annually or semi-annually with both the IRS and the District of Columbia. For more information, check out the IRS Guide To Information Returns and the DC Business Resource Center's Report Requirement and Deadline Generator.
- You may be subject to unincorporated business franchise taxes imposed by the District on income earned within the District.
6. Open a bank account for your business.
- It is a good idea to keep your business's finances separate from your personal accounts. A good way to do this early on is by opening a bank account for your business. You will probably need a Tax ID number (EIN) and either a copy of the partnership agreement or a business name filing indicating the partners' names. (Here is one example of the documentation banks ask for.)