How to Register a Business Name in Washington State: Step-by-Step Guide

Founder & CEO, Newfoundrz
Passionate about helping small businesses establish LLCs

Picture yourself in bustling Seattle, or maybe in the serene beauty of the San Juan Islands, or even in the heart of the state's rich farmlands in Yakima.

Wherever you are in the Evergreen State, you're nestled in one of the corners of your home, pouring over your dream.

This dream – your dream – is about birthing a business that mirrors your unique vision and unwavering drive.

A venture that encapsulates your dedication, tenacity, and your desire to leave a remarkable footprint in Washington's thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem.

You're all set to toss your hat into the ring, ready to morph your dream into something you can touch, taste, and feel.

But before you get caught up in the whirlwind of spreadsheets, team meetings, and setting up your storefront (real or virtual), there's one big 'T' you have to cross – the name of your business.

Yes, the name, that vital, personal touch that can be as rich and diverse as Washington's landscapes, as vibrant as a Pike Place Market flower stall, or as steadfast as the Space Needle.

Fear not, this article is your friendly neighborhood guide, your manual, your compass guiding you through the process of registering your business name in Washington. From navigating through the maze of bureaucratic procedures to finally seeing your business name registered and ready, we'll take this journey together.

So, buckle up, pour yourself another cup of coffee (or maybe a glass of Walla Walla wine), and get ready for an incredible voyage.

We'll walk you through the steps to register your business name in Washington. You can do this – you're about to turn your dream into an operational, successful reality, and we're here cheering you on.

Let's get going, soon-to-be Washington business owner. Your dreams are about to be written into the annals of the state's entrepreneurial story. It's your time to shine!


In this chapter:

Disclaimer: This Business Name Registration Guidebook ("Guidebook") is provided solely as a general informational resource and is not intended to serve as legal, tax, or professional advice. While it aims to offer broad insights into the process of selecting, registering, and trademarking business names across various states, it must not be relied upon as a comprehensive or definitive guide to the laws or regulations governing these areas.

Understanding the Importance of Business Registration

As I mentioned earlier, registering a business name is crucial, and it is a legal requirement in Washington State. Business registration establishes your business as a separate legal entity and protects your personal assets from potential liabilities. Failure to register can result in fines, legal consequences, and other penalties.

When registering your business, you'll need to follow the legal requirements set by the Washington State Department of Revenue. These requirements vary depending on your business structure, location, and industry. Understanding these requirements is essential to ensure compliance and avoid any legal issues.

5 Steps to File a Business Name in Washington State:

1. Choosing the Right Business Structure.

Before registering a business name in Washington, it's important to consider the appropriate business structure.

Washington State's most common business structures are sole proprietorship, LLC, and corporation.

Each structure has its own advantages and disadvantages, including legal and tax implications.

Business Structure Advantages Disadvantages
Sole Proprietorship
  • Quick and easy to set up
  • No separate tax returns or filings
  • Unlimited personal liability
  • Difficult to raise funds or attract investors
LLC (Limited Liability Company)
  • Limited personal liability
  • Flexible management structure
  • Pass-through taxation
  • More paperwork and formalities
  • Less established in the eyes of investors
  • Limited personal liability
  • Established legal structure
  • Easier to raise funds or attract investors
  • More formalities and regulations
  • Double taxation

It's important to consult with a lawyer or tax professional when determining which business structure is right for your situation. Additionally, be sure to familiarize yourself with Washington State business laws regarding your chosen structure. You can also read more about LLCs vs. Sole Proprietorship.

Check out our guide to LLCs in Washington state for more information.

2. Conducting a Business Name Search.

Washington State business name search
Washington State business name search

Before registering a business name in Washington, it's essential to conduct a thorough search to ensure that your desired name is available. You can perform a business name search through the Washington Business Name Search on the Secretary of State's website.

If your desired business name is taken, you must register a trade name, also known as a doing business as (DBA) name. You can register your trade name with the Washington Secretary of State.

3. Register with the Secretary of State.

Washington State Secretary of State's Website
Washington State Secretary of State's Website

The next step in registering your business name in Washington is to file with the Washington Secretary of State. This process will officially establish your business as a legal entity in the state, protecting its name and ensuring compliance with state laws and regulations.

Step Description
Step 1 Visit the Secretary of State website to access the required forms. You will need to submit a trade name registration form if you plan to operate under a name that differs from your legal name. Alternatively, you can file an application for registration of an assumed business name.
Step 2 Complete the required forms, providing accurate and detailed information about your business, its structure, and its operations. You will also need to provide information about the registered agent for your business, who will be responsible for receiving legal notices and documents on behalf of your business. Check out more details about Washington state registered agents.
Step 3 Pay the necessary fees and submit your completed forms electronically or by mail. You will receive a confirmation of your registration once your application has been processed.

It is important to keep in mind that certain types of businesses, such as limited liability companies (LLCs) and corporations, may have additional registration requirements.

For example, LLCs must file a certificate of formation, while corporations must file articles of incorporation with the Secretary of State.

Registering with the Secretary of State: Tips and Considerations.

When registering your business with the Secretary of State, it is important to ensure that your business name is distinguishable from other registered entities in the state. This can be done by performing a business name search through the Secretary of State's website or by using a third-party service.

You may also choose to engage the services of an attorney or a business registration specialist in Washington to guide you through the registration process and ensure that all necessary requirements are met. You can also check out our list of registered agents in Washington too.

4. Obtaining a Business License.

After registering your business name with the Secretary of State in Washington, you will need to obtain a business license. The type of business license you need will depend on the structure of your business and the industry you are in.

The Washington State Business Licensing Service provides an online application process for most business types. Before applying, make sure you have the required information and documents, such as your Unified Business Identifier (UBI) number, federal tax ID number, and any necessary permits or certifications.

Steps to obtain a business license
1. Determine the type of license you need based on your business structure and industry.
2. Gather the required information and documents.
3. Fill out the online application on the Washington State Business Licensing Service website.
4. Pay the application fee.
5. Wait for approval from the Business Licensing Service.

Note that some business types may require additional licensing or certification from specific boards or agencies. Make sure to research any additional requirements for your business before applying for a license.

Once you receive your business license, make sure to display it prominently at your business location. Failure to obtain the necessary licenses or permits can result in fines or legal penalties, and can negatively impact your business operations.

5. Fulfilling Additional Legal Requirements.

Depending on the type of business you are starting, there may be additional legal requirements you need to fulfill in Washington. For example, businesses that deal with food or alcohol may require specific licenses or permits.

It is important to thoroughly research any additional legal obligations that may apply to your business and ensure compliance with Washington state laws and regulations. Failure to do so can result in penalties, fines, and even legal action.

Understanding Washington State Business Tax Obligations

As a business owner in Washington State, it is crucial to understand your tax obligations and comply with all state tax laws and regulations. The Washington State Department of Revenue (DOR) is responsible for Administration taxes in the state, including Business & Occupation (B&O), Retail Sales, and Use tax.

The B&O tax is a gross receipts tax levied on businesses operating in Washington State. It is calculated based on the value of products, gross proceeds of sales, or gross income of the business. Retail Sales tax is applicable when a business sells tangible personal property in Washington, while Use tax is applicable when a business purchases tangible personal property for use or consumption in the state.

Registering with the DOR and obtaining a Unified Business Identifier (UBI) number before conducting any business activities in the state is important. The UBI number is a unique identifier used by the DOR to track your business and ensure proper tax compliance.

Additionally, businesses are required to file tax returns with the DOR on a regular basis, depending on their tax classification and revenue. Failure to file and pay taxes on time can result in penalties and interest charges.

It is recommended that business owners seeking more information about their tax obligations consult with a tax professional or visit the DOR website for comprehensive guides and resources.

Resources for Starting a Business in Washington

If you're looking to start a business in Washington, a variety of resources are available to help you through the process. Some organizations and websites can provide valuable information and assistance:

1. Washington State Department of Commerce.

The Washington State Department of Commerce offers a range of resources and programs for small business owners, including information on business planning, financing, and regulatory requirements.

2. Small Business Administration (SBA).

The Seattle Small Business Administration has a local office in Seattle that can provide guidance on starting and growing a small business. The SBA also offers various loan programs and other resources to support small businesses.

3. Business Licensing Service.

The Business Licensing Service is a partnership between several Washington state agencies that simplifies the process of obtaining licenses and permits for small businesses. The service can help you determine which licenses you need and provide assistance with the application process.

4. Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

The Washington SBDC provides free, one-on-one counseling and training to new and existing small businesses across the state. They can assist with business planning, marketing, financing, and other critical aspects of starting and operating a business.


SCORE is a national network of volunteer business mentors who provide free, confidential advice and guidance to entrepreneurs. SCORE has a local chapter in Seattle that can help you with all aspects of starting and growing a business.

By utilizing these resources and organizations, you can gain valuable knowledge, support, and guidance as you navigate the process of starting a business in Washington.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When registering a small business in Washington, entrepreneurs must pay close attention to the registration process to avoid common mistakes, such as:

  • Choosing a business name without conducting a thorough search, which can lead to trademark infringement and legal issues
  • Failure to register a trade name if the desired business name is already taken
  • Incorrect completion of the registration forms, such as omitting required information
  • Delaying the registration process, which can result in penalties and fees
  • Failure to obtain the necessary licenses and permits, which can lead to fines and legal repercussions
  • Ignoring the legal and tax obligations of a business, which can cause financial and legal issues down the road

By avoiding these common mistakes and seeking professional assistance when needed, entrepreneurs can ensure a successful registration process and start their business on the right foot.


Q: How do I register a business name in Washington?

A: To register a business name in Washington, you need to follow a specific process. First, you should understand the importance of business registration and the legal requirements set forth by the Washington State Department of Revenue. Choosing the right business structure, conducting a business name search, registering with the Secretary of State, obtaining a business license, and fulfilling additional legal requirements are all essential steps in the registration process. It is also crucial to understand the business tax obligations in Washington and utilize the available resources for starting a business in the state. Lastly, familiarize yourself with common mistakes to avoid to ensure a smooth registration process.

Q: What is the importance of business registration?

A: Business registration is crucial because it establishes your business as a legal entity, helps protect your brand and intellectual property, and ensures compliance with state laws. By registering your business, you gain access to various legal benefits and protections.

Q: How do I choose the right business structure?

A: When selecting a business structure, you need to consider factors such as liability protection, tax implications, and flexibility. The available options in Washington State include sole proprietorship, LLC, and corporation. Each structure has its advantages and disadvantages, so it's important to assess your specific business needs and consult professionals if needed.

Q: How do I conduct a business name search in Washington?

A: To ensure the availability of your desired business name, you should perform a business name search in Washington. This search will help you determine if your desired name is already in use. If it's taken, you may need to register a trade name instead. Both the business name search and trade name registration can be easily done online.

Q: How do I register my business with the Secretary of State in Washington?

A: Registering your business with the Secretary of State in Washington involves several steps. You'll need to complete the necessary forms, pay the required fees, and provide specific information about your business. The Secretary of State's website provides step-by-step instructions and resources to assist you throughout the registration process.

Q: How do I obtain a business license in Washington?

A: To obtain a business license in Washington, you must fulfill certain requirements. The Business Licensing Service handles the licensing process and provides information on the necessary steps, documents, and fees. Make sure to carefully review the requirements specific to your business to ensure compliance.

Q: Are there additional legal requirements for businesses in Washington?

A: Yes, depending on the type of business, there may be additional legal requirements in Washington. It's important to familiarize yourself with the specific laws and regulations that apply to your industry or business activities. Compliance with these requirements is essential to operate legally and avoid potential penalties.

Q: What are the business tax obligations in Washington State?

A: Washington State has specific business tax obligations that business owners must fulfill. It's crucial to understand these obligations and ensure proper compliance. The Washington State Department of Revenue plays a significant role in administering and regulating business taxes. Familiarize yourself with the tax requirements and seek professional guidance if necessary.

Q: What resources are available for starting a business in Washington?

A: Several resources and organizations can assist you in starting a business in Washington. Government websites, business development centers, and relevant guides provide valuable information and support for entrepreneurs. Utilize these resources to gain knowledge and access the necessary assistance.

Q: What are common mistakes to avoid when registering a business in Washington?

A: Registering a business in Washington can be a complex process, so it's important to avoid common mistakes. Some common pitfalls include failing to conduct a thorough business name search, not understanding the required legal requirements, and overlooking tax obligations. Take the time to research and seek professional advice to avoid these mistakes and ensure a smooth registration process.

CEO & Co-Founder

Nick Cotter

Nick is a seasoned entrepreneur with a wealth of experience in establishing and managing successful Limited Liability Companies (LLCs).