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Washington Business License

Once you have formed a business in Washington, you need to find out if your business requires a license to operate in the state. Business license in Washington is categorized under the following:

  • A General License: It is important to know that most Washington businesses are licensed through either a state agency or a local agency like the city clerk or counties. The application for business licensing is reviewed by the Department of Revenue’s Business Licensing Office.
  • Specific Licensing for Regulated Industries and Professions: Different types of businesses or business activities have different licensing needs. Apart from a general business license, you may also be required to obtain additional licenses also defined as specialty licenses and permits.

You can apply for licenses or renew them online, through mail or in-person.

How to Get a Business License in Washington

Where and how do you apply for a business license in Washington? Does your business fall under the “specialized licenses” or “general license” category? Does your business entity require multiple permits or licenses? Who is the issuing authority for these licenses or permits? The only way to answer these questions is through an understanding of the process of business licensing.

Here is a step-by-step approach towards acquiring a business license in the state of Washington:

Step#1: The Industry or Business Type

How would you know what type of business or professional license is required to operate in Washington? The type of industry or the activities of a business entity helps in identifying the type of business license required. It is also important to note that some businesses will require only a permit and not a license.

Let’s take a look at some examples to understand this better:

Industry or Type of Business – Vehicle manufacturer, Vehicle transport and disposal, Architect Firm, Cigarette retailer, Collection agency—in state, Collection agency—out of state, Liquor endorsements, Seed dealer, Seller of travel

  • A Washington Company License is required for all these businesses except that these require specialty licenses.
  • The license is being issued by the State of Washington – Business Licensing Service.
  • Fee: The fee varies with the type of business like the fee for an Architect Firm is $278 plus Architect Surcharge of $6.50 plus $19 non-refundable business license fee.
  • Filing: You can file business license application ONLINE or submit the Application through mail or in-person. Architect Firm Application

Industry or Type of Business – Transient Accommodations (Hotels and Motels)

  • A Washington company license is required for Transient accommodations pursuant to RCW 70.62 and that includes:
    – Hotels
    – Motels
    – Resorts
    – Bed and breakfasts
    – Inns
    – Hostels
    – Apartments
    – Condominiums
    – Crisis shelters
    – Retreats
    – Rustic resorts
  • License issued by: Washington State Department of Health
  • Fee: The business license fee varies according to the number of “Lodging Units” e.g: the license fee for an establishment with 3 – 10 lodging units will have a fee of $198 while the fee for 50 or more lodging units is $795.Transient Accommodations License Application

Industry or Type of Business – Liquor License

  • A Liquor License in the state of Washington can be categorized under:
    – Retail Licenses: Licenses issued for Grocery stores, restaurants, clubs, taverns, etc.
    – Non-Retail Licenses: Washington company license issued for Breweries, wineries, distilleries, distributors, importers etc.
    Note: A liquor license in Washington is basically an endorsement on your business license that has been issued by the Washington State Department of Revenue (DOR) Business Licensing Service.
  • Fee: The licensing fee will vary according to the type of retail or non-retail business. Let’s look at some examples. The fee for the following is:
    – Combination Spirits / Beer / Wine Off-Premises Retail License – Specialty Shop – $316
    – A Grocery Store selling beer or wine – $150
    – Hotels with at least 20 rooms and serving spirits, beer and wine – $2,000
    – Private Club – Spirits, Beer and Wine – $720
    – Spirits Distributor (Non-retail) – $1,320
    – Beer Distributor – $660
    – Domestic Winery – Production of less than 250,000 liters per year – $100
  • Filing: You can submit liquor business license ONLINE or submit the Application through mail or in-person. License Application

Step#2: Licenses issued by City/County

It is important to know that a business license in Washington is not always issued by the state agencies; sometimes they are issued by the city or county. At the same time, it is not necessary that your business may require a license at all or may simply require a permit. Let’s look at an example to understand this:

Spokane County

If you start a food establishment that is temporary in nature then you will be required to apply for a “Temporary Food Establishment Permit” in Spokane, WA. It will be issued by Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD).

Fee: The business license fee depends on the level of Temporary Food Service Establishment (TFE). The fee for level 1 – 1 day is $100 while that of 5 to 21 Days is $140. Similarly, the fee for TFE Level 3 / 5 to 21 Days is $420.

Sample Application

In Spokane, permits are also required by Caterers, Mobile Food Service Units, Waste Recycling Plants, and Water Recreation Facilities among others.

Step#3: Issuance of a Business License

A business license in Washington will be issued by different state agencies and all you have to do is complete the following process:

  1. Identify the type of business or industry
  2. Identify whether you need a license or a permit or both
  3. Identify whether it will be issued by the state or the city or county

Once you have identified the above, all you need to do is either download the application online or contact the concerned state department or city of clerk office.

It is important to note that a business license or permit will have to be renewed annually unless specific dates have been mentioned, to keep the business operational.

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