How to Open a Business in Spokane Washington

Opening a business in Spokane, Washington takes a little more than simply getting a business license and “going for it.”

The Washington Corporation’s Act may (and likely will) apply to all businesses operating within the state. Not all regulations apply to all businesses but there are many requirements that are simply standard for most.
We have outlined most of the requirements in a comprehensive list below, but it is important that you research your industry to ensure you have met all the requirements and you are in full compliance. Some of the items below are not necessarily a regulation, but they are a good business practice (i.e. getting a business plan).

First, a business owner wants to visit and study the Access Washington website.  This state resource has a lot of very good information about how to plan, start, and market a business.

Second, before you open a business in Spokane (or anywhere in Washington), you want to ensure that you can actually use the name you picked for your operation. The last thing you want to have happen is to have marketing materials printed ready for distribution and it turns out the name is actually taken. To do a search of business names, you can call the state at (360) 725-0377, Option 5, or you can do a business and/or corporation search on the Secretary of State Website.

Third, you want to decide what type of structure you want to set for your business. It is a good idea to talk to an attorney to help you figure out what type of structure is best for you. An attorney can help you draft and submit the original paperwork required to be properly form. You could create a Sole Proprietorship, a Limited Liability Company, A Corporation, or Non Profit. Again, it is critical that you talk to an attorney to determine what is the best structure for your business.

Fourth, after you have an idea of what kind of business structure you will follow, you will need to obtain a Tax Identification Number (TIN) and/or Employer Identification Number (EIN). You could call the IRS at 1-800-829-4933 or apply for the number online. You are encouraged to talk to an accountant regarding your possible tax liability and how your taxes will be paid to the state and the IRS.

Fifth, apply and obtain the proper state business licenses. First, you will need a “Master” license. With this Master license, you will get your Unique Business Identifier number (UBI number); which is often required by local banks to allow you to open a checking account (you can contact the DOL at 360-664-1400). They may also require the TIN or EIN explained above. The Master license application is also used to:

  • Apply for a UBI No.
  • Open/Reopen a Business
  • Change Ownership
  • Open a New Location
  • Change Location
  • Add a License to an Existing Location
  • Register a Trade Name (doing business as)
  • Change a Trade Name
  • Hire Employees
  • Obtain Minor Work Permits
  • Obtain Optional Insurance Coverage for the Owner
  • Hire Persons to Work in or Around the Home
  • Obtain Some State and City Licenses

Sixth, apply and obtain the proper city licenses. Spokane and Spokane Valley have different licensing requirements. Often, a business will want to obtain licenses on both cities so they can conduct business without restriction.

It depends on the type of business, of course; however, if your business is mobile or the possibility of doing business across the city (i.e. photographer, contractor, appraiser, realtor, etc.), it is very important to be properly licensed in both locales so you are ready to do business legally in both areas. Note: some areas outside city limits do not require a city license (only a state license). Ensure that you will be in full compliance.

Typically, you may obtain the proper city licenses by choosing which cities you will need in the master application.

Seventh, if you will hire employees (or when you hire an employee), you must complete form I-9 and W-4. Form I-9 will ensure that you comply with USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services of the Department of Home Land Security) regulations. It shows the U.S. government that you are hiring individuals that are either citizens of the United States or otherwise have a proper employment permit.

The USCIS website noted above can be a little confusing (at least it was for me), the enrollment and submission links are to the right.

These are all “preliminary” steps to your first day on the job as business owner. Get the proper team of advisers early to help you succeed. You should have an accountant, a lawyer, and a banker willing to answer your questions when you need them!