How to Start a DBA in Washington
Washington state has forests, seaports, and a lot of industry in between. This state also has a culture described as an “inspirational lifestyle.” It has small towns and urban centers, opportunities for culture and recreation, and a mild climate. It prides itself on spurring creativity, with companies like Starbucks, Amazon, Microsoft, and Nordstrom headquartered there. Washington welcomes startups and one way you can have a business there is to run it under a DBA. Before you open up, there are things you should know, like how Washington views DBAs and the regulations that govern them. We’ve provided a guide to help so you can grow your company with all the protections offered.
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What is a DBA?
DBA is an acronym that means “doing business as.” The DBA meaning is when the name, also called a trade name or fictitious name, isn’t registered as an LLC or some other legal entity but is a legal business.
Practically, using the DBA or a fictitious business name as a company name is when you call and promote your business under a different name other than the legal name or your own name. This is helpful for marketing but also offers legal protections and tax advantages to sole proprietors, a limited liability companies (LLC), and general partnerships.
How to search DBA names in Washington
No one can start running a business under a company name like a DBA. There are rules that states have about the name of your business, including Washington State. One of the biggest rules states have is that you can’t have a registered name that’s exactly like or too similar to another company name.
Potential business owners must check for name availability against a registered name even when picking a DBA name. Start with the state list from the Washington Secretary of State office, but you can also double-check local DBA names against business licenses at the county clerk’s office.
Be sure to check under general licenses, and corporate entity searches, and also check with the U.S. Patent and Trade Mark Office if you plan to launch a national company or have an invention.
Go to the Washington Clerk’s Secretary of State’s page
Once you are on the Secretary of State page, look for the free tool to check corporate entity listings. Put your name idea into the entity box. This is a free tool so you can check as many names as you want. Although there is a place to create an account, you don’t have to make one in order to use the tool located further down on the page.
Review the search results
The search will show you any exact matches or similar names to the name you want. You want your business name to be unique so you can do better marketing and not be confused with other businesses. However, the state doesn’t prevent anyone from using the same DBA name, even if it’s a registered name.
Register a name you like
When you find a unique name, you can go ahead and register it with the Washington Department of Revenue as a trade name. You must register a trade name if you have a sole proprietorship and are using any other name for business, if you are an LLC, limited partnership, or corporation using any name other than the legal name, or if you are any business using any other name other than the legal registered name.
You can register an unlimited number of trade names, each remaining registered indefinitely until you cancel it.
Have a name in mind? Check on name availability first here.
How to register a DBA in Washington
Once you ensure that your business can get a business license in Washington State, filing for a DBA is pretty simple. There is one process for everyone at the Department of Revenue. Be sure to check to see if you need city or county endorsements and if you meet the financial threshold to get a business license. There is a revenue threshold required before the state enforces business licenses.
Those who want to file a trademark may also want to consult an attorney to ensure the process is done legally and properly. To get started understanding Washington State’s requirements regarding trade names, go here. The DOR has all the links you need to get your DBA registration.
Use the state’s trade name tool
The Washington State DOR has a Business Licensing Wizard tool that simplifies filing your trade name.
Submit the form with the fee
The tool submits your application electronically, and you will pay the fee using a debit or credit card. The portal is secure.
Washington State has a few processes you must do for DBA filing. To register a trade name, you must also get a business license through the state. There are several requirements to be eligible for a business license, which is listed here.
Business owners who have questions can contact someone either by emailing at [email protected], calling 360-725-0377, or in writing at:
Washington Secretary of State Corporations & Charities Division
801 Capitol Way
South Olympia, WA 98501
You can then get a copy of your name certificate.
Ready to register your DBA? Find out more here.
What comes next
Just because you have a registered trade name doesn’t mean you are ready to open your doors. There are several other things you must do at the state level to be ready to open for business in Washington. These are things that make sure you are cleared legally to do business.
Open up a business checking account
Banks will allow those with DBA certificates to open up accounts under the DBA name. This should be one of the first things you should do for your new business to accept payments and pay for expenditures.
Get an EIN
This is a federal employer identification number associated with your business. This is important in filing taxes, hiring employees, and dealing with vendors. Most require it on contracts or other financial forms.
Check state tax requirements
Washington has a different set of tax requirements for businesses, so you should check where your DBA falls in the system. How you are taxed sometimes depends on whether you are a sole proprietor or a registered business like an LLC, but it’s always safe to check to make sure you’re aware of the requirements by clicking here.
Check with state insurance and hiring requirements
Some states are more strict than others when it comes to hiring practices and worker’s compensation for employees. Some require it for even part-time or family workers. Be sure to look here at Washington’s laws, so you stay within the standards. You should include liability insurance in your plan to have liability protection.
Set up your business goals and policies
A business plan makes good sense even for sole proprietors. Having a good, written business structure provides a reference whenever something comes up, whether it’s dealing with employees or customers.
Establish a marketing plan
A solid marketing plan for your new DBA can help your business go in the right direction from the state. A good marketing plan, including internet and local newspaper ads, will help you hit the ground running and be an avenue for growth. It helps establish your brand and keeps your DBA in front of the public.
Connect with resources for help
Washington State has plenty of resources to help small business owners in their startups. The Office of Commercialization at Washington State University has a list, but there is also Startup 365 from the Washington State Startup Small Business Training & Education Center and startup resources from the Foster School of Business.
If you plan to get an EIN, you can do so on the IRS website.
Who is a DBA best for?
Sole proprietorships often use DBA names so they can separate their personal name from the business name to protect personal assets. General partnerships use it for the same reason, and so all partnerships can monitor business dealings.
Any type of legal business entity can do business under a DBA, and many do it to build a branded image or because they have multiple niche businesses they wish to keep as separate legal entities. The idea is to keep a DBA name from the legal name, which can be a company name or a personal name. The name of the business is one of the most important things you can do.
Why would entrepreneurs choose to set up a DBA in Washington?
Washington is a trendsetter when it comes to business. This can be a clear advantage to those who want to do business there. There are several benefits to moving to the northwest to do business in the state.
- It’s keen on clean energy and alternative power and produces an enormous amount of hydroelectric power.
- Washington State has a complete product supply chain. It can supply raw materials, has distribution with highways, airports, and ports, and also can service products at the end of their lifespans with recyclable services.
- It has a lot of ports with an active Washington Public Ports Association. The group has 108 associate members.
- Several large military bases are in the state, with most centered around Seattle, which means there are families and potential customers.
Cost to get a DBA set up
Washington has inexpensive costs of getting a DBA certificate but has other costs.
- All DBA certificates filed with Washington State only cost $5.
- Business license fees are $50.
- Registering a business is $180.
Those who wish to register their limited liability company (LLC) or other business corporation will pay a $180 fee to get a state certificate. A DBA certificate will still cost $5 each after you submit articles of incorporation and they are approved.
Is Washington State a good place to start a business under an assumed name?
The state consistently ranks high for entrepreneurial businesses due to its education and energy sectors. It also ranks in the top five for venture capital investments and lenders.
How long does it take to get approved for a business license in Washington State?
Going online will make getting a decision faster, as it takes about ten days. However, those who need city and county endorsements will find it takes longer, with an additional two weeks.
Is Washington State a tax-friendly state?
It depends on the type of business. There is a .471% retailing B&O tax rate on gross receipts. The state also has a retail sales tax collected on all sales that fall under the retailing classification of the B&O tax. There are some specific retail sales tax deductions and exemptions you will check to see if they apply.
Is there an annual fee for a DBA in Washington State?
There isn’t an annual fee to maintain your DBA name in the state. However, LLCs and other business entities have an annual registration fee to maintain their Articles of Organization in the state.
How does Washington State define a small business?
The state defines a small business as a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or other legal business entity that is owned and operates independently and employs 50 or fewer employees.
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