Washington Cleaning Business Start-up Laws

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This article provides three key state business startup requirements for self-employed sole proprietors and general partners who run residential house cleaning businesses. Information from the Secretary of State, the Washington State Department of Revenue and selected city and county government sources were used to research this article.

Be aware that sole proprietor and general partner startup requirements in this state are always changing. Some requirements even vary from county to county.  It is important that you call or visit your local county or city government to find out local requirements for residential house cleaning businesses and home-based businesses. This article is not intended to be exhaustive or a substitute for qualified legal or tax advice.

Business Name Registration

Sole proprietors (married couples can be considered sole proprietors) and general partners must register a Trade Name or DBA (“doing business as” name) for their business with the state of Washington.

Sole proprietors and general partners who want a business name that does not include the owner(s) full names (for example, Janice Smith’s Cleaning Service or Martha Harris’ and Tom Graham’s Maid Service) need to find out whether the name they want to use is available in the state. Start with a statewide corporate business name search to avoid legal problems and customer confusion.

Then do an online search for names similar to the one you plan to use. For example, if you want to use the name, Crystal Clean Maid Service, do simple Google searches for “Crystal Clean Maid Service+Washington” plus Crystal Clean Maid Service+your county” and “Crystal Clean Maid Service+your town or city”. Search beyond the first page of results. Go at least five pages deep into the search results to see if the name you want or similar names are being used in your state, county or city.

It is also possible to request a search by mail, send a letter with your return address and a list of the names you want to research to:
Business Licensing Service
 State of Washington, 
PO Box 9034
  Olympia, WA 98507-9034.

In the State of Washington, registering a Trade Name does not guarantee a business sole rights to the use of that name. Other businesses in the state may also register the same Trade Name. Registered businesses are expected to legally defend their Trade Names. The right to use a Trade Name belongs to the one who first uses it in connection with their business.

Business License Registration

All businesses in Washington must be licensed by the state. Residential house cleaning businesses should check with the local city or county clerk’s office for additional licensing requirements. Registering a trade name and a business license are done on the same form.

Washington state provides an online Business Licensing Service portal that will create a customized list of links and phone numbers to agencies for new businesses. Federal, state, county and city licensing and tax information is included on the Business Licensing Wizard guide sheet.

The Unified Business Identifier (UBI) number will be assigned upon receipt of a completed Business License Application. A UBI number is a nine-digit number that registers you with several state agencies and allows you to do business in Washington State. A UBI number is sometimes called a tax registration number, a business registration number or a business license number.

In Washington state, a general partnership is created when two or more owners (usually not a married couple) form an oral or written agreement to start a business together. General partners are not required to file any documents with the Secretary of State. It is advisable for general partners to file a Trade Name or DBA with the state. A written partnership agreement drawn up by a lawyer is important for both or all partners. Partnership agreements do not have to be filed with the state.

Sole proprietors and general partners may apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS even if they do not plan to hire employees. Getting an EIN may make it easier to open a bank account and reduce your risk of identity theft. You can apply for an EIN online. In addition, some business registration forms will require a NAICS business classification number for the house cleaning industry.

Business Tax Registration

Register through the My DOR Secure Access Washington (SAW) online portal.

Residential house cleaning services are taxable in Washington state. Cleaning businesses must collect and send sales taxes to the Department of Revenue. Once sole proprietors and general partners register for a business license, they will get a letter from the Department of Revenue with a UBI number and instructions on how often to file taxes.

Washington has no personal income tax. Sole proprietors and general partners do not pay a personal state income tax. Business owners are responsible for paying the state’s business and occupation (B&O) tax. The B&O tax is a gross receipts tax on sales or income of business conducted in Washington. The state’s B&O tax is reported on the excise tax return. Businesses file tax returns either monthly, quarterly, or annually based on estimated gross income and type of business. Get more information about B&O tax requirements by calling the Washington State Department of Revenue at (360) 705-6705, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m..

Washington general partnerships that file a Federal partnership information Form 1065, will need to file income information on their state Business and Occupation (B&O) tax return. Get more information from a CPA or qualified tax preparer about how your partnership should handle this return.

Selected State of Washington City Licenses

Bellevue Business License: https://bellevuewa.gov/city-government/departments/finance/doing-business-with-bellevue/business-licenses

Everett Business License: https://everettwa.gov/175/Business-License

Kent Business License: https://www.kentwa.gov/doing-business/city-taxes/business-licenses

Renton Business License: https://www.rentonwa.gov/cms/one.aspx?pageId=9824882

Seattle Business License: https://www.seattle.gov/business-licenses-and-taxes/business-licenses

Spokane Business License: https://my.spokanecity.org/business/doing-business/licenses/

Tacoma Business License: https://www.cityoftacoma.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=169&pageId=123454

Vancouver Business License: https://www.cityofvancouver.us/fms/page/business-and-special-licenses

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