The Miracle of the Internet: Forming a Corporation from your Couch

By Jason Giesler, Law Library Intern

By moving to electronic filing systems, state and federal agencies have made it much easier to start a business. People start businesses for a variety of reasons, ranging from tax planning to limiting liability. Though the internet has made starting a business quite easy, those with questions about planning and business structure should seek the advice from an attorney before proceeding!

In order to start a business in Washington, one will first want to visit the Secretary of State Corporations page. The site includes access to electronic applications for forming all types of business entities. Fees vary depending on the type of organization that you are forming. Naming your business is important as certain words and phrases are not allowed in particular business names. For example, under RCW 23b.04.10, corporations cannot include words like bank or trust in their name. Luckily, the Secretary of State includes a search engine that allows you to check the availability of business names in the early stages of the application process.

After forming  a business, it is important to be properly licensed. The Department of Licensing (DOL) business licensing page now allows you to conveniently license your business by completing the Master Business Application online. To complete the application, you must be prepared with a great deal of personal information and you must also have a business bank account. In addition to licensing with the state, the  application allows you to obtain municipal business licenses for the cities in which you intend to operate. Finally, if you are planning a specialized business, the DOL site includes applications for a number of specialized businesses, ranging from cigarette wholesalers to limousine services.

After forming your corporation and registering with the state, you may finally want to register with the IRS. Conveniently, the IRS now allows you to complete the application for a Federal Tax Identification Number (or Employer Identification Number) online. The federal application asks for a bit of cursory information about your business and requires you to enter some personal information. Be careful not to make mistakes, as the application contains no summary page that allows you to correct them. In the event that you do submit an application with a typo, you can call the service and amend the application several weeks after you submit it!

Thus, the internet has made it quite easy to create and license a business with the state and federal governments. Again, if you have questions about business planning, BE SURE to consult an attorney!

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