Conducting Business in WA State

Washington State has much to offer the entrepreneur and established business.  Besides enjoying a quality of life with four distinct seasons, the state offers numerous economic advantages for doing business.

Business Structure
Choosing the right business presence for your organization is the first step in conducting business in Washington State.  Choices include:

  1. Liaison Office — office only for displays, storage, data collection or advertising.
  2. Branch Office — requires certificate of authority and taxes.
  3. Subsidiary — separate legal business owned by Canadian parent.
  4. Joint Venture — can be contract only or jointly owned company.
  5. Licensing — granting rights to use intellectual property under use guidelines.
  6. Distributorship — buys and resells goods or services (often with value added).

The best business structures are either a "C" corporation or a limited liability company (LLC) if ownership is foreign.  Only US citizens may start "S" election corporations.  It is important to understand the basic legal implications when choosing the type of business organization, especially when considering limitation of liabilities, tax minimization, license fees and other reporting requirements.

Please contact us for a full copy of Legal Structures in Washington State. 


Washington State offers various tax savings to those who choose to live and work in the state.  Specifically, there is no state: 

  • Corporate Tax
  • Personal Income Tax
  • Inventory Tax
  • Unitary Tax
  • Interest, Dividends, or Capital Gains Tax

New and existing manufacturers, research and development firms, and certain high-tech companies can benefit from a number of targeted tax incentives which encourage the preservation and creation of more jobs in Washington State.  These incentives are typically intended to encourage the creation and preservation of family-wage jobs, especially in areas with high unemployment within the state.  Working with an experienced local tax expert can ensure that Washington State businesses understand what they need to know about filing and paying federal and state taxes, how to avoid the most common tax reporting errors and what each taxing agency expects from each business.

Banking and Finance

The state of Washington is a full-service regional financial center for all aspects of US and international financial transactions.  Both US and foreign banks located in this state offer a full range of banking and financing services for foreign companies doing business in Washington State.  Washington also has a strong network of private investors, venture capitalists, talented executives who moved out of large corporations in the area, and an infrastructure for doing private financings, Initial Public Offerings, and public company compliance work.

Intellectual Property

Washington is a strong State for identification, registration, protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights from its trade associations to its state and federal court systems.  Often the information or data you wish to share can be protected under US Federal laws (e.g. patents, trademarks, and copyrights) or under Washington State trade secret laws.  The key is to know what you have first, then determine if it can be protected by simple contract wording in your license, joint venture or funding documents, or if registration would be a stronger protection.  Avoid franchising unless needed, since it requires registration and approval of the franchise "securities" in each of the 50 states.

Website Development

Many websites are based in, develop by, or hosted through the State of Washington.  A variety of legal issues can arise in developing and operating a website.  Websites can expose an organization to potential liabilities for violations of state and federal law, and, in some cases, international law.  As the area of Internet law expands and changes rapidly, it is important for business operating a website to work closely with a business attorney in the state where the website is set up to ensure the legality of the website and the protection of the business organization. 

As with any jurisdiction, it is best to identify and confer with or have available cost effective expertise in accounting, payroll and tax, legal and insurance.  A registered agent should be selected in Washington for service of process and annual license renewal to avoid accidental loss of such key documents at the place of business.

Helpful Websites

Some websites have been set up that may prove useful when conducting business in Washington State:

  • Secretary of State                       
  • Small Business Administration      
  • Department of Licensing              
  • US Export Assistance Center        
  • Tourism                                      

We hope you find this information helpful and would be happy to discuss any of the above at your convenience. 




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Pacific Northwest Law Group
16141 Cleveland Street,
Suite C109
Redmond, WA 98052

Phone: (425)867-0512
Fax: (425)883-4616