Washington Business License

Washington Business License

To start your new business in Washington State you probably are in need of a well-informed article that will talk about both local and state requirements. You are in the right place as this article will save your time and energy on researching topics such as: how to obtain a business license, the process of licensure in Washington State, the necessity of holding a business license, and other crucial subjects. So, let’s get started!

Do I need a business license in Washington?

The first question you perhaps have in mind is “Do I really need a business license to establish my new business in Washington State?” The short answer is it depends on what you do and the location of your business. This means there are several industries that have state, federal or local requirements of licensure.

In addition to the WA State, local and federal licenses you should also know the general requirements of licensure. As the WA State Department of Revenue states you should register for a license if your business meets one or more of the following conditions:

  • Your business requires city and state endorsements
  • Your business has a gross annual income of over 12,000 annually
  • The owner’s full legal name and the name of the business are different
  • You intend to hire employees within the next 90 days
  • Your company sells a product or offers a taxable service.
  • You are a buyer or processor of specialty wood products.
  • Your business must pay taxes and fees to the Department of Revenue.

Federal Licenses in WA State

There are certain business activities that will require federal licenses or permits. Among such business activities are:

  • Agriculture
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Aviation
  • Firearms, ammunition, and explosives
  • Fish and wildlife
  • Commercial fisheries
  • Maritime transportation
  • Mining and drilling
  • Nuclear energy
  • Radio and television broadcasting
  • Transportation and logistics

If your business activities involve one or more of the following industries you should contact the federal agency that oversees that specific activity.  For example, if your business imports or transports animals, animal products, biologics, biotechnology, or plants across the state you should reach the U.S Department of Agriculture. Your business will be federally licensed to carry out business activities in agriculture. You can acquire the full list of federally licensed activities and learn about the requirements from the U.S. Small Business Administration website.

WA State Professional/Occupational Licenses

In addition to federal licenses/permits, certain professions/occupations that are related to public safety or health will also require licensing at the state level. If your business engages in one of the following mentioned activities you should apply for a Washington State professional/occupational license:

  • Lawyers
  • Athletic trainers
  • Accountants
  • Real estate brokers
  • Medical professionals
  • Auto dealers
  • Barbers
  • Cosmetologists
  • And more

You can maintain the full list of professions/occupations and get the links of the applicable agencies from the WA State Department of Licensing. To obtain an occupational business license usually, you must meet the educational and experience requirements as well as take an appropriate exam. Luckily, Washington State offers Business Licensing Wizard that will answer all your questions about the local and state licensure requirements.

How do you get a business license in WA?

Once you check the state and federal regulations of licensure in Washington you should also reach your local municipality. A local business license/permit from the local city or county may also be required to start your business.  As each city/county sets its own requirements of licensure we will discuss the licensing procedures of the WA State main cities/counties, separately.


If you intend to open your business in Seattle, you must apply for a Business License Tax Certificate. The licensure procedures are regulated by the Department of Finance and Administrative Services. The business license tax certificate is needed for:

  • Retail sales and services
  • Wholesale
  • Providing professional or personal services
  • Manufacturing
  • Home-based businesses
  • Nonprofit organizations


The City of Spokane requires all businesses operating within the city limits to apply for a business license. There will be additional requirements for businesses in entertainment facilities, transportation services, mobile food vendors, and amusement devices.


To start your new business in the City of Vancouver you need to obtain a City Business License (also called an endorsement). In addition to a City Business License, certain businesses (e.g. ambulance companies, taxicab companies, transportation network companies, food vendors, secondhand dealers, recycling collectors, etc.) should obtain a city-issued special license.


The City of Tacoma requires all businesses to hold a business license which is issued by the Tax & License Office. The only exception of not registering your business applies if your business is located outside of Tacoma and your annual gross income is less than $2,000.  Home-based businesses in Tacoma should register for a home-occupational license which is a one-time application.

As soon as you learn about the state, local, and federal license regulations it’s time to prepare all the required paperwork. Next, we will discuss the process of business license application and what documentation you will need.

The WA State Business License Application Requirements

Before applying for a WA State business license, you can prepare the required documentation in advance. You will likely be asked to provide the following information when applying for a business license:

  • Business Name, Assumed Name, or DBA
  • The type of legal entity of your business
  • Personal and business contact information
  • Start Date
  • Federal Tax ID or EIN or your Social Security Number
  • Driver’s License
  • Seller’s permit number (if you sell goods)

Having all the information in hand will make the process of license application easier. Now it’s time to learn how to submit the application for your WA State business license.

There are two ways you can submit your application: online or by mail. You can visit the Business Licensing Wizard portal and follow the instructions. The business license online applications take 10 days to proceed while applying by mail will take up to 6 weeks.

How much is a business license in Washington State?

To start a new business or reopen your business in WA you should pay a $90 processing fee plus $10 for the annual renewal fee. An additional location is free of charge as well as if you add a city Nonresident Business Endorsement to an existing business location. For any other purposes, e.g. if you hire employees, or register a trade name it will cost $19. Remember that the fees may be subject to change depending on the location and the nature of your business. You can learn more about the fees by visiting this page on the Washington State Department of Revenue website.

Mary H

Mary H

Being a skilled creative writer and SEO content writer, with 2+ years of experience I can't imagine any other profession to fulfill my life as much as writing does. As a proud member of geek culture, I enjoy reading, writing, watching Sci-Fi gems, while also advocating the involvement of young, bright-minded girls and women in STEM research. Latter was largely the result of working at UNESCO Chair, Life Sciences International Postgraduate Educational Center as an editor of scientific journals.