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How to Apply For a Washington State Business License

In order to operate a business in Washington, you’ll need a Washington state business license, permit, or certificate of some kind. There will likely be more than one of these documents required, depending on the type of work and the location of the business.  

In Washington what kinds of business licenses do you need, and which ones must you obtain? Let’s break everything down so you know how to get your business license in Washington.

Federal Licensing and Permits

There are no license or permit requirements by the federal government for most small businesses. Although some activities are regulated by federal agencies and require their own permit or license, there are other activities that require federal licenses or permits. Among these 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

Your next step should be to get in touch with the federal agency responsible for any activity that falls under federal regulation. Do your research and make sure you comply with all legal requirements before launching a business.

In the case of an alcoholic beverage business, you would be governed by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and the Local Alcohol Beverage Control Board. You would go to that for more information.  

Tip: The US Small Business Administration maintains a comprehensive website with information about all federally licensed activities, including links to more information.

Business license requirements in Washington State

There are only a few states that require state licenses, in addition to any needed local licenses, for all businesses. Washington is one of them.  

In Washington, there is a requirement for virtually every business to obtain a business license. 

You only have to pay a $19 fee and submit the Washington state Business License Application to obtain a business license. It is possible to apply online or by post. 

The Washington State Department of Revenue requires you to complete this application in order to register your business with the Departments of Employment Security, Labor and Industries, and Revenue. 

When you register, you will receive your Washington state UBI number, which is a unique number you can use to identify your business, as well as a business license from the Business Licensing Service. You must have a nine-digit UBI number in order to conduct business in Washington state.

Licenses for professional and occupational occupations in Washington

The state of Washington requires business licenses as well as licenses for professionals and occupations. 

The state of Washington requires licenses and certifications so businesses and occupations requiring extensive training or exposing consumers to potential hazards are able to operate legally. 

Some of those include:

  1. Medical professionals
  2. Lawyers
  3. Accountants
  4. Building contractors and other construction-related occupations
  5. Barbers and cosmetologists
  6. Architects and engineers
  7. Real estate brokers and salespersons, and
  8. Private investigators and other security services  

When it comes to real estate brokers, you have to get a real estate broker’s license from the Washington State Department of Licensing.  

We have compiled a comprehensive list of all Washington state agencies that regulate occupations and includes links to their websites. 

In Washington, the process for obtaining an occupational business license varies by profession. You may need to meet specific educational or training requirements or be required to possess professional experience. A license may also require you to pass a written examination, and there is usually a license fee you’ll need to pay.

This is all a very complex process. A great tool available from the Washington State Department of Commerce is their Business Licensing Wizard. Using it, you can find out which license you need and where to get it.

Does WA state require you to obtain a business license? 


You can encounter all sorts of problems if the state finds out your business is operating without a state of Washington business license. The court will likely sentence you to a suspension of your business and a possible fine.  

It is also a criminal offense to fail to obtain a license. Before beginning your business, it is always a wise move to go through the proper steps to get your licenses.

Are there any local business licenses in Washington state?

It is possible that you will need to obtain a local business license in addition to a Washington state business license, depending on what city or county your business is located in. If you operate in more than one area, you may even need multiple licenses.

All cities and counties within the state of Washington have their own licensing requirements and procedures. Please note, however, that most counties and cities in Washington require a business license or permit for any business, including those run by one person.

In Washington, you can usually obtain a local business license by simply paying a small fee. The cost of the service will vary depending on the location but is usually less than $25. A percentage of your estimated gross revenue can be also be used to calculate fees (for example, 10% of projected revenue).

What is required to get a business license in Washington state?

Getting your license in your local area is quite easy. You can find the licensing requirements of your city or county on its website. You can find a complete listing of license links for Washington state’s cities and towns here

The Washington State Business Licensing Service is utilized by many localities so that you can apply for a business license. 

Some organizations allow online filing through the FileLocal website, while others may require you to download the application and email it to the right person or as old-fashioned as mailing it in.

When applying for a Washington state business license, you will need to provide the following information:

  • Social Security Number or Federal Employment Identification Number
  • A description of your business activities
  • Your legal business name and any assumed name or “dba”
  • Your business start date
  • The number of employees and your expected annual sales
  • Your business address and contact information,
  • Each business owner’s contact information
  • Your business sales tax number, if any

Your license or certificate with a business license number should arrive in the mail within a few weeks after submitting your application. It is likely the site will require that you display this form at your place of business once you have it in your possession.

Another thing to know: Your license might need to be renewed periodically and the fee could be added. You need to renew your license every one to three years, so mark your calendar. 

Does Washington state allow businesses to operate without a local license?

Not at all!  

There are some self-employed individuals who don’t get a local business license, particularly if they work from home. Your local government could fine you or stop you from doing business if they find out that you run an unlicensed business.  

In order to do business without worry, it is always wise to find out what licenses are needed and apply for them in advance.

How Do We Move Forward?

After you finish all the loan paperwork, it’s time for you to start promoting your business online. Today, without it, it is impossible to succeed in the market. Due to increased competition, it is critical that you take proactive steps to reach your clients instead of cold-calling out.

The best approach is to use Search Engine Optimization techniques. You can contact our Spokane SEO & PPC Agency for any questions regarding this. Please do not hesitate to contact us today!

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