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How to get a business license in Washington?

Washington has a thriving economy and a pro-business climate. It is home to a variety of industries from manufacturing to finance, retail trade, tourism, IT, transportation, and logistics. You can start a new business in any of these industries by obtaining a Washington business license. This guide will provide you with information concerning the different types of Washington business licenses and permits, issuing authority, and the process to obtain them.

Business Licenses in Washington

Every business operating in the USA requires some form of a license or permit to operate. The licensing requirements vary from one state to another. A Washington business license is a document issued by different government or state agencies. It is issued to individuals and businesses so that they can transact within the geographical jurisdiction of the state. Washington has specific licensing regulations, laws, fees, and renewal requirements when it comes to permits or licenses. A business or individual organizing a business may require one or more Washington business licenses and permits.

What business license do I need in Washington?

Most states in the USA normally require a general business license or a state business license. Washington also requires most businesses to obtain a state business license. If you are planning to start a new business in this state then you need to apply for state licenses and permits. The Washington State Department of Revenue is responsible for issuing this license. The best way to proceed is by completing the Business Licensing Wizard. The wizard can be used to conduct a Washington business license search.

To start, you will need to provide information in regards to the business’s primary activity to receive a comprehensive list of various licensing agencies for you to contact, along with information on additional endorsements. Be mindful of the Unified Business Identifier (UBI) number that you will be assigned after you obtain a Washington business license. Apart from state licenses, you may also need to apply for other local licenses and industry-regulated or professional licenses and permits.

State (General) Business Licenses

The most common Washington business license is the state or general business license. You will need to register your business with the Department of Revenue (DOR) to obtain this license. Not all businesses may require this license as there are certain criteria to qualify for the need. If your business meets the following conditions then you will need to apply for and obtain a Washington business license. The qualifications are:

  • If your business requires state and city endorsements
  • Sole proprietorships or other businesses using any name other than the full name of the owner
  • Planning to hire employees within 90 days of starting a business
  • Selling a product or providing a service, which requires the collection of state sales tax.
  • The annual gross income is $12,000 or more.
  • The business is required to file any fee or taxes with the Department of Revenue.
  • The business activity involves buying or processing specialty wood products.
  • The business meets the requirements of reporting thresholds and nexus

You will need to fill out the Business License Application (Form 700 028) and submit it to the Business Licensing Service, Department of Revenue (DOR). The processing fee for the license is $90. There may be additional fees for endorsements and mark registrations. It is important to note that if your business requires any state or city endorsement then it will be necessary to renew your annual Washington business license.

Specific Licensing for Regulated Professions and Industries

The requirement for licenses depends on the type of business or business activity. There is a category of Washington business licenses and permits for regulated professions and industries. The Department of Commerce has created a regulatory roadmap so that businesses can fulfill their local, regional, and state licensing requirements. This roadmap is applicable for specific industries or business activities like restaurants and manufacturing including the sale of alcohol, as well as any gambling event occurring within the premises of a business.

Some professions or occupations may require you to conduct a Washington business license search. The Washington state department of licensing provides a detailed list of professional licenses, along with information referring to the application and renewal of licenses and permits.

For example: If you want to start a business in Washington for landscaping architecture, then there is a process to obtain a Washington business license for that particular industry. You will need to apply by filing the Landscape Architect License Application along with a fee of $450. It has to be renewed once every 2 years. The business license will be issued if you have the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB) accredited degree.

City Business License

Once you start or register your business in Washington, you may also require separate licenses in the city where your business is located. To do this, you will need to conduct a Washington business license search to identify the various permits you require. You may even require multiple licenses or permits depending on the business activity. The licensing requirements and fees vary from one city to another. We have listed 5 top cities for businesses.


If your business is located in Seattle, then you will need to apply for a Seattle business license tax certificate (BLTC). This certificate is considered a Washington business license. The distribution of this license is handled by the License and Tax Administration, City Finance Division. You can apply for a new license or renewal using the online portal called FileLocal. It is important to obtain the UBI number first. There are specific business activities that require this license like Manufacturing-Extracting, Tour Operator, and Retail among others. The fee for this Washington business license and permit is $59. In the city of Seattle, a regulatory endorsement is also added to the business license tax certificate. You may need to apply for additional licenses if your business is categorized under Regulatory License.


If you are planning to establish your business in Spokane, then you may be required to obtain a Washington business license and permit in addition to the state or general business license. The permits or business licenses will vary according to the type of business and activity. If you want to start a restaurant then it will be considered an Entertainment Facility in the city of Spokane. You can conduct a Washington business license search to identify the right application as there are separate applications for permanent and temporary facilities. You will have to file the Entertainment Facility license application with the Department of Taxes & Licenses, City of Spokane along with a fee of $100.


The business licensing rules in Tacoma are a little different from Seattle because the application process is structure-based. There are two types of Washington business license structures, a general business, and a rental business. If your company falls under the general structure, you will need to apply for a City of Tacoma Business License. If the activity is related to leasing or renting real estate property, then you will have to complete and file the registration and rental business license application. The fee to obtain a Washington business license in Tacoma is based on the gross income and revenue e.g., if the gross income threshold is under $12,000 then the fee would be $25; if it is more than $250,000 then the fee would be $250. It is also important to note that there are Regulatory Business Licenses applicable in Tacoma.


The city of Vancouver has specific licensing regulations and requires all companies conducting their business activities within the city limits to have the necessary permits or licenses. The Washington business license fee is determined through a calculation of the gross annual income as well as the number of employees (full-time equivalent/FTE) working within the city limits. If the reported gross annual income is $12,000 or more then the license fee would be $200 + $90 per FTE. Some businesses may also require a Vancouver special license in addition to obtaining a Washington business license and permit, as well as city business license.


If you are planning to conduct your business in Bellevue then you need to obtain a Washington business license in Bellevue. This is true for the following conditions:

  • If a business office, warehouse, or retail outlet is located in the city per Bellevue City Municipal Code 4.09.030 (W)
  • If an individual or business is engaged in business activities within the city limits and its gross income or sales is equal to or more than $2,000, then a city license is necessary.
  • Your business may also require regulatory licenses for specific activities like adult entertainment or pawnbroker activities. Some of these regulatory activities also require additional addendums

Building & Zoning Permits

One of the focal points of conducting a Washington business license search is checking for proper building and zoning permits in the state. These permits are mostly applicable in local jurisdictions like cities and counties. If your business activity is connected to any kind of construction projects, then you will need to obtain a building permit in the respective county or city.

Example: If you are constructing a building in Clark County or are working on the structural components of a building like plumbing; then you need to apply for building permits from the Clark County Permit Center.

Each city or county has individual zoning codes that each business needs to be compliant with. Zoning involves dividing land in a specific jurisdiction into regulated zones. Some cities or counties require businesses to be established only in business districts, which is considered a commercial zone.

Need any Assistance in Obtaining Your Washington Business License?

If you are planning to start a new business in Washington, then it is important to obtain a proper Washington business license. Licenses or permits can vary depending on the type of business activity and location of the business. If you conduct your business without proper licenses and permits then you may risk facing penalties and even punitive action.

The process and requirements of obtaining and maintaining Washington business licenses and permits may look complex. Therefore, we have created a “Business License Research Report” service which constitutes detailed information concerning licensing in Washington like filing instructions and supporting document requirements. We also provide several additional services to new and existing businesses in the state.

Do you need help with a Washington Business License?