How to Start a Washington DC LLC: Step-by-Step Guide – MarketWatch

Partner content: This content was created by a business partner of Dow Jones and researched and written independently of the MarketWatch newsroom. Links in this article may result in us earning a commission. Learn More
The nation’s capital is known for many things: School trips, back-room deals and cherry blossoms. The District of Columbia also has a lot to offer in the business arena, with a growing economy and focus on helping small businesses. If you’ve got a capital business idea, follow our tips and step-by-step guide to start a DC LLC.
There are several steps to starting your DC LLC, but it’s not rocket science. Create an Access DC account to complete most of the filing process. We’ll walk you through all the steps, from the required formation documents and licenses to the optional DC LLC operating agreement
Every business needs a catchy name, of course. Perform a DC LLC search to see whether your name ideas are available, since you can’t use a name already in use. 
DC requires LLCs to include certain words or letters in the name to show what type of business it is. Your name must contain one of the following: 
Professional LLCs must meet the same requirement, with “professional limited liability company” or an abbreviated version. You can use the following abbreviations:
Your business name can’t be misleading. For example, you can’t indicate you’re affiliated with the federal government by using “FBI” or “treasury” in your name. 
Don’t forget to search online to see whether a website domain name that matches your preferred company name is available. It’s much easier for customers to find you if your website name matches your LLC name. 
Once you’ve decided on a name, you can reserve it for future use if you’re not ready to complete the filing process at that time. Reserve the name by filing a name reservation registration and transfer form (GN-3) online or by mail. The filing fee is $50 and your name will be reserved for 120 days. 
Inside Scoop: You don’t have to do business under your formal LLC name. Many people choose to use “trade” names, also called “DBAs” (“doing business as”), since they don’t have to contain the “LLC” indicator. File a trade name registration form with the superintendent of corporations in the Corporations Division of DLCP. The filing fee is $55 for the original filing and for any renewals. 
Every DC business needs a point of contact with a physical address in the District to accept legal documents during business hours on behalf of the business. This is called a “registered agent” and you must appoint one at the time of filing. 
You can choose a commercial agent (a company that provides the service for a fee and is registered with the District of Columbia) or a noncommercial agent (a person or business serving as your agent who doesn’t offer the services as part of a business). You must keep your registered agent’s contact information up to date with the District. 
Whichever type of agent you choose, you must hire them or otherwise get their consent to serve as your agent before you move to step three. You can change your registered agent or their address after your LLC is created by filing a statement of change and paying the filing fee. 
Inside Scoop: You may think you can save money by serving as your own registered agent, which is allowed, or choosing someone you know to serve as your agent for free. Keep in mind that the agent must be available during all business hours, and there are often hefty penalties for missing the delivery of legal documents. 
In other words, if your agent doesn’t forward you notice of a legal proceeding, there’s no excuse for missing it. Reputable commercial agents are available for low annual fees.
When you’ve decided on a name and registered agent, it’s time to file the document that makes your LLC official. Begin the DC LLC articles of organization filing process one of the following ways:  
The filing fee is $99. Walk-in customers who request same-day service will be charged an expedited fee of $100 in addition to filing fees. Expedited three-day service is available for an additional $50. 
You may fill out the application or use the DC LLC instruction sheet to draft your own. When filling out your articles of organization, be ready to provide the following pieces of information: 
DC LLC miscellaneous provisions are optional and consist of two possible legal statements: One creating a professional LLC and one creating a series LLC. 
A professional LLC is an LLC made up of licensed professionals like doctors, lawyers or accountants. Professional LLCs must keep regulatory licenses up to date in addition to regular business requirements. 
A series LLC consists of a “master” or “parent” LLC with two or more “series” operating under it. The series consist of one LLC divided into separate legal entities which function like separate LLCs for legal purposes, without the hassle of creating several LLCs. This business model may be good for a real estate company with more than one rental property. 
Inside Scoop: Consult with a tax professional about the effective date of your LLC if you aren’t ready to start doing business right away after filing. You may be able to save on taxes if you strategically plan what day you’re able to start doing business.
An operating agreement is not a legally mandated part of your DC LLC application, but it’s vital to helping your business launch smoothly. Operating agreements are binding on all members of the business and spell out how the business should be run. 
You’re in charge of drafting it, so your agreement can be as detailed or vague as you want — but, generally speaking, the more details the better. Otherwise, default LLC laws govern. Search online for free templates and resources to help you draft your agreement, or have a business lawyer or expert draft one for a flat fee.
Inside Scoop: Keep a signed copy of your operating agreement in the principal office and in another safe place like your home or a safety deposit box.You’ll want a backup to reference in case one is destroyed or technology fails.
Best LLC Services Overview
ZenBusiness Review
Northwest Registered Agent Review
Incfile Review
LegalZoom Review
ZenBusiness vs. LegalZoom
IncFile vs. LegalZoom
Now your business is official, and you need to keep it that way. Do this by registering with the state and federal tax authorities so you can file yearly or biennial reports. 
First, request a federal employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS one of three ways: 
An EIN is free to obtain and you don’t need a Social Security number to do it. If you’re converting one type of business to another, you need a new EIN. 
Use your EIN to register your business with the tax and revenue office in DC. Create an online account where you can handle all of your tax returns. 
File reports with the DC corporations division every two years, beginning the next April 1st after the LLC is created. The filing fee is $300 and there is a $100 penalty for late filings. 
Inside Scoop: To officially launch your business in DC, you need what’s called a “clean hands” certification. This means you don’t owe the District of Columbia more than $100 in fines — for example, unpaid parking tickets. 
There are two other licenses you’ll likely need when setting up your DC LLC. Of course, your business may need more than that depending on what services you offer. 
You’ll likely need to register with the office of the zoning administrator to get permission to use a physical address for business purposes in the District. This requires one of two types of permits: 
If you’re starting one of the following types of businesses out of your home, you may be able to apply for a joint basic business license and expedited HOP: 
Once you have an occupancy permit, apply for a basic business license online at the DC business center. You’ll need the following documentation: 
You’ll need to categorize your business to get a basic business license. You can choose from the following categories: 
After your application is submitted, it will be screened and then formally reviewed. You will receive an invoice and then your permit will be issued if the application is accepted. The process takes approximately 24 hours (unless your business is childcare-related) and can be tracked online
Finally, make sure you have the required occupational and professional licenses to keep your business legitimate. 
Take some stress off of creating a new business by hiring a formation company to prepare your paperwork and file for you. Your filing is guaranteed to be accepted — so you can focus on your business plans. 
Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information, but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation and should not be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.
Alabama LLC
Arkansas LLC
Colorado LLC
Iowa LLC
Louisiana LLC
Ohio LLC
Oklahoma LLC
New Jersey LLC
If you want to start a business without the expense and trouble of forming a corporation, but with protection for your personal assets, you may want to form a DC limited liability company. An LLC is more formal than a partnership or sole proprietorship, but less formal than a corporation — good middle ground for an entrepreneur. These tips will help you decide if a DC LLC is right for you. 
DC has a diverse economy — you have options for starting a business here. These industries are growing quickly in DC, according to the Washington DC Economic Partnership
DC wants your business to succeed: A win-win for the District and for you. Several local and government organizations offer help to entrepreneurs. 
One resource is the DC Department of Small and Local Business Development. Sign up for updates to learn about funding and networking opportunities.  
You can also visit the DC Small Business Resource Center (SBRC) — described as a “one-stop-shop concierge service” for future or current business owners. Sign up for free SBRC workshops or check out the services guide.
The filing fee for a limited liability company in the District is $99 at minimum. That will cover your articles of organization, the most important step in creating your LLC.  
You may have to spend money to make money, but you can do that wisely. There are ways to save when starting an LLC. 
One cost that may be worth the money is to hire a formation company to help you file your paperwork. Formation companies typically charge a flat fee to create your LLC, with a guarantee that your filing will be accepted. DC charges $220 to amend your articles of organization, so the low cost of a formation company may be worth it. 
Yes, you can. An LLC, in District of Columbia terms, can be organized for any legal purpose, whether for profit or not for profit. Whatever charitable aims your business has, they can be pursued by forming an LLC using our guide.
Copyright © 2022 MarketWatch, Inc. All rights reserved.
By using this site you agree to the
Subscriber Agreement & Terms of Use, Privacy Notice, and Cookie Notice.
Form your LLC in minutes


Leave a Comment