How to Get a DC Basic Business License
Washington DC Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs
Basic Business License Application and Requirements
What do I need to do to start a business in the District of Columbia?
- First, decide on the type of business structure. If necessary, register your business with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), Corporations Division.
- The next step is to apply for a DC Basic Business License. You must meet several requirements before you submit your DC Basic Business License Application to the DCRA Business License Division.
Do you need a DC Basic Business License?
Almost all DC businesses need to get a business license from the DCRA Business License Division. Most DC businesses just need to get a Basic Business License. Certain types of activities require a specific license endorsement on the DC Basic Business License.
The big exception to the DC business license requirement is for professionals. In most cases, if the principals of a DC business are licensed professionals, then the DC business license is not required. If you have a business tax id number, but think you are exempt from the DC basic business license requirement, you have to complete an Exemption Request Certificate form, which is available on the DCRA website.
Who needs an additional endorsement on their Washington DC business license?
If you provide certain goods or services, you will need an endorsement on your DC basic business license. If you have multiple business activities, you may need multiple endorsements. There are 14 categories of business license endorsements and each one has subcategories. Each endorsement subcategory will have its own requirements in addition the requirements for a DC Basic Business License.
- Employment Services
- Environmental Materials
- General Sales
- General Service and Repair
- Housing: Residential
- Housing: Transient
- Inspected Sales and Services
- Motor Vehicle Sales, Service, and Repair
- Public Health: Food
- Public Health: Funeral Establishments
- Public Health: Pharmacy/Pharmaceuticals
- Public Health: Public Accommodations
How do you apply for a business license in DC?
Mail or drop off a DC Basic Business License Application (BBL-EZ) form with the DCRA Business License Division. If you mail the application, include a check or money order payable to “DC Treasurer”. If you submit it in person, you can pay by cash, check, money order, or credit card.
Wells Fargo Bank
7175 Columbia Gateway Drive
Columbia, MD 21046
Business License Center at DCRA
1100 4th Street SW
Washington, DC 20024
Phone: (202) 442-4311
You can apply for some DC business licenses on the DCRA Business License Division website (see link below). From the Business License Division homepage, just click the link to “Apply for your Basic Business License” and follow the prompts.
How much does the Washington DC business license cost?
There are a lot of fees you have to pay to get your Washington DC business license. You have to pay all the fees, even if you want a general business license without any specific endorsements.
First, all applicants have to pay a $70 application fee plus an additional $25 fee per endorsement.
Applicants also have to pay a category license fee that varies depending on their business activities.
Finally, once you add up all the other fees, you have tack on a “technology fee” that equals 10 percent of the total. This is an additional fee that the DCRA came up with to pay for “enhanced technological capabilities” for all licensing/permitting/registration services.
So to the DC Basic Business License fees look like this:
Application fee: $70
Endorsement fee: $25 each
License fee: Varies
Technology fee: 10 percent of total
How do you know if you need a DC General Business License endorsement?
The idea of a DC General Basic Business License is a little confusing. But it is better if you think of it as a catch-all endorsement for DC business licenses that don’t require a specific endorsement.
The general business classification applies to all businesses that have a tax identification number, perform a business activity that does not require another DC basic business license endorsement, and are not licensed professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc.)
So even when you don’t need an endorsement, you need an endorsement… The Washington DC business license you need really depends on your businesses activities. Retail and office type businesses will probably just require a General Business License. However businesses such as restaurants and industry will need a specialized license, which means they will have to apply for a Basic Business License with a different endorsement.
When you apply for a general business license, you have to pay the following fees to the DCRA:
Application fee: $70
General endorsement fee: $25
License fee: $200
Technology fee: $29.50 (10 percent of sub-total)
Total fees: $324.50
Do you need a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) to get a Washington DC business license?
Yes. You need a FEIN if you want to get a Washington DC business license. You can contact the IRS directly to get this number. You can even get your FEIN online.
Do you need to register with the Office of Tax and Revenue to get a Washington DC business license?
Yes. You need to file a Combined Business Tax Registration Application, FR-500 form with the DC Office of Tax and Revenue if you want to get your Washington DC business license. You can send them the paper form or you can register online (see link below). Then the office will send you confirmation of your tax registration. When you submit your Washington DC business license application, you will need to include a copy of your tax registration.
Do you need a DC Certificate of Occupancy to get a Washington DC business license?
If you have a business premise located in DC and the premise does not already have a DC Certificate of Occupancy, you will need to get one. If you lease space, your building may already have a certificate so you wouldn’t need a new one. Likewise, if you do not have a business location in DC, you do not need a certificate of occupancy. If you work from home, you will need to apply for a Home Occupation Permit from the DCRA instead.
You can download the Application for Certificate of Occupancy on the DCRA website. You have to submit the completed application to the DCRA Permit Center in person. You can’t mail the application. The DCRA will take about 30 days to process the application and issue a certificate of occupancy. You don’t have to attach the actual certificate to your DC business license application. You just need to write the DC Certificate of Occupancy number and issue date on the DC business license application.
For information on DC certificates of occupancy and home occupation permits, you can contact the DCRA Permit Operations Customer Service center at (202) 442-4589.
Do you need a Clean Hands Certification to get a Washington DC business license?
Yes. Applicants must complete the portion of the BBL-EZ application attesting that they do not owe more than $100 to the DC government. This means if you have more than $100 in outstanding fines, parking tickets, taxes, etc., you can’t get a Washington DC business license.
What professions/occupations do not need a DC Basic Business License?
Certain professionals are governed by the DCRA Occupational and Professional Licensing Division so they do not need to have a DCRA business license. The professional licenses come from various DC boards/agencies.
Most businesses whose principals are licensed by one of the following boards do not need a DC Basic Business License to start a business in DC. For instance, a DC Bar licensed attorney would not need a DCRA business license to open a practice in DC. However, there are a few business professional licenses that go together. For example, you need a funeral director’s license to get a funeral establishment business license.
- The DC Bar
- Department of Health
- Board of Accountancy
- Board of industrial trades
- Board of Barber and Cosmetology
- Board of Funeral Directors
- Board of Architecture and Interior Design
- Boxing and Wrestling Commission
- Board of Professional Engineering
- Real Estate Commission
- Board of Education
- Notary public
- Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking
- Department of Transportation/Department of Public Works
- Public Service Commission
- Office of Cable Television
Remember that if you have a business tax id number, but think you are exempt from the DC basic business license requirement, you still have to complete an Exemption Request Certificate form and submit it to the DCRA.
When do you need to renew your DC business license with the DCRA?
The DC basic business license expires two years after it is issued. So you will need to renew your business license every other year. If you have kept your address up to date with the DCRA Business License Division, you will receive a renewal notice and invoice in the mail. Just follow the instructions on the notice to renew your Washington DC business license.
If you don’t get a renewal notice and you think your license is about to expire, contact the DCRA Business License Division at (202) 442-4311.
Many DC business licenses can be renewed online. If your renewal bill has a six-digit PIN number, you can use that to renew your business license on the DCRA website.
DCRA business licensing: http://dcra.dc.gov/node/539512
DCRA professional licensing: http://dcra.dc.gov/service/get-professional-license
DC office of tax and revenue: http://otr.cfo.dc.gov