How to obtain a business license in Washington

Updated on December 21, 2023


Securing a business license is critical for legal operation in Washington. This guide provides in-depth insights into licensing requirements, application processes, costs, necessary documents, compliance, and industry-specific considerations in Washington.

Who Needs a Business License in Washington

Nearly all commercial business entities require licensing in WA including retailers, restaurants, contractors, consultants, rental property owners, and independent professionals.

Penalties for non-compliance include fines up to $125 per violation after initial warning, potential business closure after multiple offenses, and possible criminal charges.

Understanding Washington Business Licenses

Common Washington licenses needed:

  • Business licenses – Needed in most municipalities
  • Tax registrations – To collect and remit sales tax
  • Professional/vocational licenses – For specialized occupations and services
  • Sector permits – Liquor, marijuana, healthcare etc.

Preparing to Apply for a License

Utilize Washington’s Business Licensing System to determine necessary permits and registrations. Prepare business formation documents, ownership details, lease agreements, and financial statements. Fees vary by license type.

Step-By-Step Guide to Apply

To apply for licenses in Washington, visit the Business Licensing System, use the License Finder tool, select your required licenses, provide business information, pay fees, and await approval.

To apply digitally:

  1. Access Washington’s Business Licensing System
  2. Use the License Finder tool
  3. Select required license types
  4. Provide requested business and owner details
  5. Pay fees
  6. Obtain approvals

After Submitting an Application

Online applications typically process within 7-10 days. Check your status via your Washington Business Portal account.

If issues arise, administrators contact applicants by mail, email or phone to resolve concerns.

Maintaining Compliance

To remain legally compliant in Washington once approved:

  • Prominently display licenses onsite
  • Renew licenses annually
  • Remit timely tax, licensing and permit payments
  • Maintain required insurance policies
  • Report changes in ownership, activities or locations

Obtaining Federal Registrations

Don’t forget federal registrations such as an Employer ID Number (EIN) and trademark protections in Washington.

Special Considerations

Verify specific licensing requirements for businesses like liquor stores, marijuana dispensaries, and casinos with Washington regulatory agencies.

Registering Your Business Name

File trade name certificates via the Washington Secretary of State if operating under “Doing Business As” names.

Washington Tax Permits

Common tax registrations include Sales Tax Permits, Retail Liquor Permits, Marijuana Business Licenses, and Restaurant Permits.


Who Needs a Washington Business License?

Most commercial entities in Washington, including retailers, contractors, and hospitality companies, require a license.

What Do Licenses Cost in Washington?

License fees in Washington range from $0 to over $1,000, depending on the type of license. Multiyear discounts are sometimes available.

Final Thoughts

Adhering to licensing protocols in Washington is essential for legal operation and avoiding penalties. Utilize digital registration options for efficient processing.

Priyank Singh

Priyank Singh, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at Stilt, specializes in technology-driven financial solutions. He is having experience of starting FinTech Company, understanding regulations and coming up with creative solutions to solve difficult problems.