Washington DC Business Facts
As of 2019, there were a total of 23,993 employers in Washington D.C. Otherwise known as the Capital of the Free World, DC is a major hub for many government employees. It is also home to many businesses in the private sector. Some thriving industries in Washington DC are finance, education, and scientific research. The District of Columbia has a favorable business environment for telecommunications companies, service industries, computer firms, and information firms.
Major Companies Headquartered in Washington DC
Some of the major companies headquartered in Washington DC are Lockheed Martin, Danaher, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, and Marriott International.
Various financial incentives are available to attract more businesses. Some examples are low property and income taxes and a secured affordable place. The city also offers credits to technology companies.
There are 3 top options: a DBA, a Corporation, or an LLC. Click here for help choosing your business structure and to learn about business entity types.
“Doing Business As” or “Fictitious Business Name” or “Trade Name” – often used as an operating name to simplify the legal name or differentiate from other businesses with similar names. DBAs are also used to manage multiple businesses under one LLC or Corporation.
Example: Bob Horchak Automotive and Auction Ventures LLC could register a DBA like Bob’s Auto Shop for his repair business and Bob’s Auto Auctions for his car auction, without having to form two separate LLCs or Corporations.
“Corporation” or “Corp” – a separate entity that provides liability protection to its owners. This business structure includes shareholders, directors, and officers. Corporations are more complex than DBAs, but it’s the ideal business structure for profit-earning companies. Some professions are required to form a “Professional Corporation” or PC (doctors, lawyers, architects, etc.).
“Limited Liability Company” – a separate entity that provides liability protection to its owners, and is also easier to manage and taxed less than a Corporation. Because of these features, the LLC has taken first place in popularity over both DBA and Corporation business structures.
Choosing a business name is easier said than done – many legal and business problems can arise from choosing the wrong name (you can always change it later, but it’s easier in the long haul to get it right the first time). Before you search names in the Washington D.C. databases, we highly recommend taking the following steps:
Start with the Basics
Think of a name that is unique, easy to understand and pronounce, and would be relevant over time (“DVD World” is not timeless). Say your business name out loud: “Thanks for calling XYZ” and decide if you like what you hear. Here are some tips on business identity, including logos and trademarks.
Search the Web for Your Proposed Name
Search Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo as a “first sweep” for any potential conflicts, especially in your state or local jurisdiction.
NOTE: It is very important for a Nationwide or International company to have a unique business name, especially if the name is not trademarked. See below.
Run a Trademark Search
Visit the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO): A trademark search is the best way to determine if you’ll have conflicts with your business name. There’s an art to trademark searches and specialists charge a handsome price for a thorough search. But in our experience, you can usually clear a name yourself if you’re able to use Google at a fairly advanced level.
TIP: Search misspellings, plurals, variations of spelling, sound-alikes, and other versions of your chosen name to be sure it’s not already registered. Make sure your company name choice is available by searching the Washington DC’s Secretary of State’s business entity database.
Corporations must have unique names that cannot be confused with other corporations. Corporate names may have the following approved designations:
|• Co.||• Company|
|• Corp.||• Corporation|
|• Inc.||• Incorporated|
|• Limited||• Ltd.|
Some phrases and words in corporate names are “restricted” in the District of Columbia, and they require special approval by the District. Examples of these words include:
LLC: File Your Articles of Organization and Hold an Organizational Meeting
File Form LLC-1 (Articles of Organization) with the Washington DC Secretary of State LLC Division.
Once the articles are filed and approved, organize your LLC by holding an Organizational Meeting. You’ll need the filed articles and your Operating Agreement to conduct the meeting. This also applies to 1-person LLCs. contributions from the members, issues Member Certificates, adopts the company Operating Agreement, and more.
Corporations: Files Articles of Incorporation and Hold and Organization Meeting
File the “Articles of Incorporation” with the Washington DC Secretary of State. Hold an Organizational Meeting to properly organize the corporation, take contributions from the shareholders, elect directors and officers, issues stock, adopts the Corporate Bylaws, and more.
DBA: Submit Your Trade Name Registration
Fill out the Trade Name application via this site or by completing paper form TN-1.
NOTE: A trade name or fictitious name is used in business that excludes the full legal name of business owners. Your trade name differs from your corporate name. Your business may possess one corporate name and as many trade names as you wish. The decision to use the trade name is up to the organization or the individual customer. If a trade name is used, then the business owner is required to register.
The Washington Secretary of State could take anywhere from 2-3 business days for e-filing to 3 to 5 days for mail filings to process the paperwork. This may increase during peak periods.
IMPORTANT: A Registered Agent is required for every Washington Corporations and LLC. The chosen registered agent must have a physical street address in Washington. A professional Registered Agent who will provide their address and forward any important documents to you. This is convenient if you have to move since you won’t have to file forms or pay fees (just update your address with your agent).
TIP: Check our order form to see how long Washington DC is currently taking to process regular and expedited orders.
Your EIN is like your Social Security Number for your company. It’s required for Corporations and LLCs and is optional for DBAs unless you have employees (then it’s required). If you are a DBA and don’t obtain an EIN you will be forced to use your Social Security Number on many documents so obtaining the EIN is recommended to prevent identity theft.
TIP: We will obtain your EIN for you if we form your company.
You’ll need to keep business and personal finances separate by opening a business bank and credit accounts. Learn more about how to build your business credit profile. Corporations and LLCs are required to operate these types of accounts, but they position your company for favorable loans and lines of credit. Call your preferred bank and ask how to open a business bank account. Typically you’ll need the following documents:
Top 5 Major Banks in Washington DC
Click here to view a list of our recommended banks in our Vendor Network.
TIP: Our business formation service includes a free banking solution.
Set up your Accounting and Record-keeping system and learn about the taxes your new company is responsible for paying.
Company documents generally are required to be kept for 3 years, including a list of all owners and addresses, copies of all formation documents, financial statements, annual reports, amendments, or changes to the company. All Tax and Corporate Filings should be kept for at least 3 years. View our “Accounting & Financial Management” section for help with setting up an accounting system and purchasing accounting software.
Now that you’ve registered your business name you need to obtain a business license for your company – this authorizes your company to do business in your city or county. Typically this also involves registering for state taxes and permits (the city may require them as part of the business licensing process).
Click here to explore our Business License Compliance Package.
If you intend to hire yourself or others as a full or part-time employee of your company, then you may have to register with the appropriate State Agencies or obtain Workers Compensation Insurance or Unemployment Insurance (or both). View our “Employees & Payroll” section for help with hiring employees and processing payroll.
Review our list of recommended Payroll Providers in our Vendor Network.
There are many types of insurance for businesses but they are usually packaged as “General Business Insurance” or a “Business Owner’s Policy”. This can cover everything from product liability to company vehicles. A decent policy can run as little as $300/year and offers a great extra level of protection.
Click here to view our list of insurance providers in our Vendor Network.
Prepare the business as if someone needed to take it over and run it for you. Set up a routine to process orders, pay bills, pay employees, pay taxes, maintain your permits, etc. Basically, try to make the operational aspect of the business as automated and efficient as possible so you can concentrate on growing your business. View our “Manage Your Company” section for help with systemizing and automating your business.
Now that you’ve set up the company for success, you need to get the word out. Create a marketing plan for your products and services that targets your ideal customer. View our “Marketing & Sales” section for help for more information.
DBA: Your Fictitious Business Name should be valid for 5 years (unless you change the company name or other information listed on the FBN) at which point you’ll need to renew it with the county.
LLC: Washington corporations are required to file a Periodic Report with the Washington Secretary of State biennially on or before April 1, in addition to general taxation. Information on your business’ taxes can be found here. Depending on the nature of your business, you may also need to periodically renew operating permits.
Corporation: Your business must keep corporate records at its principal place of business. Once every two years by April 1, an officer of your corporation must file an annual report. LLCs and Corporations will pay a filing cost of $300.
Click here to view our MyCompanyWorks Premium™ service which can automate most or your ongoing compliance tasks.
Washington DC Startup Resources
Washington DC Legal Statutes
Washington DC Chambers of Commerce
Washington DC Angel Investors
Washington DC Business News
Business Planning and Economic Development
Whether you’re just starting your business or just need small business management, MyCompanyWorks Premium™ includes annual reporting and compliance in your state, status monitoring, forms, storage, and top-notch support from our experienced and friendly team.
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