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Washington Cleaning Business Start-up Laws

This article provides three key state business start-up 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 start-up 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 in person or online 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 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.

Do Your Own Search Online For Business Names

Google Search for Crystal Clean Maid Service example
Google Search example for a (very popular!) cleaning business name.

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.

Name Registration Details

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

Name registration, business licensing and tax registration are all handled by the Washington State Department of Revenue (DOR).

According to Washington state law, married couples can be considered sole proprietors.

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.

Name Rights

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.

Not Sure Where To Begin?

Set up your brand new house cleaning business step by step with a:

Get Started Checklist

Business License Registration

All businesses in Washington must be licensed by the state.

Registering a trade name and a business license are done on the same Department of Revenue form.

Residential house cleaning businesses should check with the local city or county clerk’s office for additional licensing requirements.

Washington state also provides an online Business Licensing Service portal. Clicking or tapping on the “Get Licensing Requirements” button leads to the Business Licensing Wizard.

A customized list of links and phone numbers to federal, state, county and city licensing and tax agencies is included on the Business Licensing Wizard guide sheet.

Washington State’s UBI Number

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.

Related: Get more details about licensing your cleaning business

General Partner Licensing

In Washington state, a general partnership is created when two or more owners (usually not married couples) 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.

How An EIN Helps

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.

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.

Residential house cleaning services are taxable in Washington state. Cleaning businesses must collect and send sales taxes to the Department of Revenue.

State Estimated Tax

Washington has no personal income tax or self-employment income tax.

Sole proprietors and general partners do not have to file estimated self-employment income taxes in Washington similar to the way self-employment taxes are paid to the federal government.

Related: Get a deeper understanding of cleaning business taxes

Washington State’s Business & Occupation (B&O) 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..

State Partnership Tax

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/business-taxes

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

Kent Business License: https://www.kentwa.gov/pay-and-apply/apply-for-a-business-license

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

Seattle Business License: https://www.seattle.gov/city-finance/business-taxes-and-licenses/business-licenses#how

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

2 Comments

  1. I was wondering if you know the requirements on hiring new staff. We have folks here that love to clean, but I have heard that hiring them directly is not a good idea and to hire them as a 1099 employee. Any guidance on hiring?

    1. Hi Sean,

      The decision whether to hire W-2 employees vs. 1099 contractors comes down to control.

      With employees you have more control over their work and how they interact with your customers. With independent contractors, you have far less control.

      You have to pay for more control over employees by contributing to taxes, worker’s comp insurance and paying overtime, etc.

      There are pros and cons to hiring employees vs. working with contractors. An article that explains the difference can be found here.

      Sean, only you can make the decision about whether to accept the trade-offs that come with employees vs. independent contractors.

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