Becoming a Sole Proprietor in Washington

Here is an outline of the steps you should follow to get started as a sole proprietor in Washington. You should also read the general section for information applicable in any state.

1. Choose a business name for your sole proprietorship and check for availability.

  • Consult Access Washington for information on how to check the availability of your desired business name in Washington.

2. File a Business License Application with the Washington Department of Licensing.

  • Before filing out the Business License Application, get the Business Licensing Guide so that you will fill out the application correctly.
  • You can file the Business License Application by printing out the form and mailing it, applying online, or by visiting a business licensing office in person. The filing fee is $20, which is a processing fee of $15, plus $5 to register a trade name. If you filed formation papers with the Secretary of State, write the Unified Business Identifier (UBI) number that was given to you on your Business License Application.
  • The Business License Application lets you register a "trade name" for your business, which you will need to do if you will operate your sole proprietorship under a name other than your own name. In addition to this, consider registering your business name as a federal and/or state trademark. Please see the Trademark for Business Naming section for details.
  • The Business License Application also lets you create a state employment account, which you need to do if you will have an employee or employees in Washington. You should not set up an employment account unless you plan to employ someone in the next 90 days.
  • Check your local county or city clerk's office for any additional licensing requirements.

3. Get an Employer Identification Number from the IRS.

  • If you have an employee or employees, you need to apply for an Employment Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. You can apply for an EIN online. You may apply for an EIN even if you have no employees. Doing so may make it easier to open a bank account and reduce your risk of identity theft. There is no filing fee.

4. Report Any New Hires.

  • Whenever you hire an employee in Washington, you must inform both the IRS and the State of Washington. You can find details of all the necessary steps, including verifying work eligibility and withholding allowances, on the Hiring Employees section of the IRS website. You can find state-level information about reporting new hires at the Washington New Hire Reporting website.
  • As a small business owner or employer, there may be other informational returns that you have to file annually or semi-annually with the IRS. For more information, take a look at the IRS Guide To Information Returns.

5. 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. The bank will probably require your Social Security Number or EIN and a copy of your business name filing, although you may not need any documentation if your business's name includes your surname. (Here is an example of what banks may require.)


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