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How to Incorporate in Washington DC

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Bizee can take care of all your corporation formation paperwork — and we’ll do it for free. Just pay the required Washington DC state fee ($99).

Learn how to form a DC Corporation yourself

Read our DIY guide to Washington DC incorporation, with information on Registered Agents, naming rules, business licenses and more.

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Why Incorporate in Washington DC?

Within the District of Columbia, business owners can take advantage of various incentives, provided your corporation meets the specific criteria.

For example, Washington DC offers an Apprenticeship Program that provides information, guidance and assistance to businesses in developing and implementing customized apprenticeship programs that meet industry-specific hiring and training needs. Employers may be able to receive up to $5,000 for the cost of training WIOA-eligible employees by being on the Eligibility Training Provider List (ETPL), and free technical assistance is offered to employers to develop the required apprenticeship standards.

For most entrepreneurs looking to start a larger business, creating a Washington DC corporation may be the best choice. As a corporation, your business is able to buy and trade stock, and when it comes to excess profits, corporations offer more flexibility than a limited liability company (LLC). A corporation is allowed to pass income and losses to its shareholders, who report taxes on an individual tax return at ordinary levels.

Is an LLC Better Than a Corporation?

It all depends on what you want to achieve. Limited liability companies are usually better for smaller businesses. An LLC is easier to set up, and you receive many of the same benefits as a corporation, but with less regulation.Learn more about forming a Washington DC LLC so you can decide which business entity is right for you.

Benefits of Forming a Washington DC C Corp

  • The strongest form of liability protection possible by insulating your personal assets and finances from business debts, obligations, damages, bankruptcy or other liabilities

  • Several options to create, buy, sell or transfer stock, including publicly

  • The ability to issue more than one type of stock

  • The ability to sell stock to investors inside and outside the U.S.

  • The ability to raise more funds by issuing more stock

Benefits of Forming a Washington DC S Corp

It offers several advantages similar to those provided by a C Corp including, but not limited to:

  • Options for creating, transferring and selling stock, though not as many as a C Corp

  • The capacity for up to 100 shareholders

  • Simpler rules than those that apply to C Corporations

  • Easy transfer of ownership simply by selling your stock

  • The possibility of saving money by allowing you to pay less self-employment tax

In this guide, you’ll find information on naming your corporation, getting a Registered Agent, the fees you’ll need to pay, business taxes and much more. We also cover what you'll need to register your corporation and how you'll interact with the Washington DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

Start a Business in Washington DC Checklist

To help you along the way, use our Starting a Business checklist to keep track of everything you need to do to get your business up and running.

How to Form a Washington DC Corporation Yourself in 6 Steps

What is a Corporation?

Step 1: Choose a Unique Business Name and Complete a State Corporation Search

Every Washington DC business must have a unique name that hasn't already been claimed by another business in the state. If you’re having trouble coming up with a name, try using our Business Name Generator to gather ideas. You'll need to follow a few naming rules, which you can read about in detail on the Washington DC Corporation Names page.

Once you’ve chosen a name, you’ll need to make sure it’s available in Washington DC. To learn whether another company in the state is using your desired business name, use our tool to do a Washington DC entity search.You can also carry out a name search on the DC Business Center website. You'll need to log in to the state's CorpOnline portal to take advantage of this service.

We can Check Washington DC Corporation Name Availability for You

Use Bizee's Business Name Search Tool
Business Name Search Tool

Step 2: Provide an Official Business Address for your Corporation

Every Washington DC corporation must have a designated address. This could be the address of your home (if you’re running the company from your residence), a building where your office is located or any physical address of your preference. The address can be outside the state of Washington DC and can be a P.O. Box.

You may also be able to use a virtual mailbox for your business address. This can be especially helpful if you run a home-based business and don't want your home address published as part of your business public record.

Step 3: Assign a Registered Agent

Someone who receives official correspondence and is responsible for filing reports with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) is known as a Registered Agent. Every Washington DC corporation is required to have a Registered Agent.

You can fill this position yourself, assign another manager in your business or use a Registered Agent service. If your Registered Agent in Washington DC is a person, they must have a physical street address in Washington DC and must be present during business hours to receive important documents on behalf of your company. You'll appoint your Registered Agent when you file your Washington DC Articles of Incorporation to create your business with the DCRA.

All of Bizee’s business formation packages include Registered Agent service. It’s free for the first year and just $119 per year after that. You can also access a digital dashboard to view any document we've received on your behalf.

Step 4: File Your Articles of Incorporation with the Washington DC DCRA

Once you've gathered all the information for your corporation, you’ll need to file a form with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to receive your Washington DC Articles of Incorporation. This will officially create your business.

Here’s what is typically included:
  • Your business name and type
  • Registered Agent's name and address
  • Names and addresses of directors
  • The corporation’s capital structure (number of shares to be issued, who owns them, pricing, etc.)
  • Your corporation's purpose, which is the Washington DC default "for the transaction of any and all lawful business for which a for-profit corporation may be organized" under Washington DC code
  • The organizer's name and address

Your Articles of Incorporation can be filed online via the state's digital portal. You can also mail the form to the Office of the DCRA, or Bizee can file it on your behalf. The Washington DC corporation filing fee is $220.

File by Mail

Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs

Corporations Division

PO Box 92300

Washington, DC 20090

You only need to file your Washington DC Articles of Incorporation once, but every other year after, you'll also need to file a biennial report. The first report must be filed within the first year of registration by April 1st and every two years thereafter. You can do this by logging in to the CorpOnline portal and completing the filing. The fee for the biennial report is $300. Bizee can remind you about this biennially, or we can do it for you if you have us handle the paperwork.

Let Bizee Handle All the Washington DC Corporation Formation Paperwork for You for $0 + the State Fee

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What are the fees and requirements to incorporate in Washington DC?

State Fee


State Filling Time

3 Weeks

Expedited Filing Time

3 Business Days

*Note: the fee starts at $220 for corporations. If you have more than $100,000 in authorized capital, the price will increase from there.

Annual Report



Due Date

Initial report must be filed within the first year of registration by April 1st and then every two years thereafter.

Filing Fee


Step 5: Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service

You'll need an EIN to identify your business to the IRS. You use this number when filing and paying taxes, when submitting payroll information and payments for your employees and for opening a business bank account. You can obtain one directly from the IRS, or Bizee can get one for you as part of the Washington DC corporation formation process.

Step 6: Write Bylaws

Bylaws are a set of rules that govern how a corporation will be run, and detail how many directors the corporation will have, whether the board of directors will have annual meetings and what the voting requirements are, among other things.

Some states require companies to create bylaws — including Washington DC. However, you're not legally required to file them with the state. Regardless of state legalities, it’s always a good idea to write them to protect your business from any future changes and events.

Washington DC Corporation Types

C Corporation

When you file to start a corporation, by default, it's a C Corp. This is the choice for large businesses that will trade shares in the stock market.

A Washington DC C Corp will offer you several liability protections, but it will also be required to adhere to numerous strict rules and regulations. It will also likely have a substantial amount of administrative overhead and won't enjoy as many tax advantages as other corporation types.

Learn more about C Corporations.

S Corporation

Technically, an S Corporation isn't a business entity the way LLCs and C Corporations are. It's a tax filing status. An LLC or a C Corporation can be an S Corporation. It's just a matter of filing a form with the IRS.

The main reason to file as an S Corp is to save money on self-employment taxes. To get an idea of how much money you might save, use our S Corp Tax Calculator.

If you want your Washington DC C Corp to be treated as a Washington DC S Corp, file the IRS Election by a Small Business Corporation form, also known as Form 2553 or an S Corp Election form.Consult with your tax advisor or accountant to determine whether this is your best option.

Learn more about S Corporations.

Compare S Corp vs. C Corp to learn the benefits and drawbacks of both, and decide which one will best suit your needs.

Professional Corporation

Some states, including Washington DC, allow certain occupations to form Professional Corporations. The Code of the District of Columbia defines this as:

"...a corporation organized under this chapter solely for the specific purposes provided under this chapter and which has, as its shareholders, only individuals who themselves are duly licensed to render the same professional service as the corporation. “Professional service” means any type of personal service to the public which may be lawfully rendered only pursuant to a license."

Per the Code of the District of Columbia, Title 29, Chapter 5, § 29–502, a few of the professions permitted to form a Washington DC Professional Corporation include, but may not be limited to:

  • Accountants
  • Attorneys
  • Architects
  • Health professionals
  • Professional engineers

Check with the Washington DC DCRA to confirm whether your business should and can be a Professional Corporation.

Foreign Corporation

If your business operates in another state and you want to expand into Washington DC — or vice versa — you’ll need to form a Foreign Corporation.

Learn more about Washington DC Foreign Corporation registration.

Nonprofit Corporation

Charitable organizations can incorporate as nonprofit corporations. This means all the profits they generate are donated to the organization supported by the charity, minus administrative costs.

A nonprofit corporation is also exempt from federal and state taxes, allowing more of the profit to benefit the charity.

Note: Everything in this guide applies to for-profit corporations, and mostly to C Corps and S Corps. Items listed as requirements for forming a corporation may or may not also apply to nonprofits.

Limited Liability Company

Depending on the kind of business you wish to start, or your personal circumstances and goals, an LLC may be a better option. For example, you may not need the options to buy and sell stock. Or you may simply want to build a small business with a few employees or even just yourself.

A Washington DC LLC is usually a better option for a smaller business. It's easier to set up, but it still offers you certain advantages you would get from a corporation. You can even have your LLC treated as an S Corporation for tax purposes to save you money.Regardless of which direction you decide to go, we can help you with your Washington DC business registration.

Learn more about limited liability companies.

Sole Proprietorship or Partnership

These are the simplest types of businesses to set up. That's because there's no real setup to do. If you don't choose to form a separate business entity, by default, you'll have either a sole proprietorship (just you) or a partnership (you and one or more other people).

Neither of these options provide you with any special benefits or liability protections and can leave your personal assets vulnerable. For these reasons, we don't recommend them.

Compare business entity types to decide which one is best for you.

Helpful Resources from the District of Columbia

More Information in This Guide


Washington DC Corporation Names

How to search the state business registry and find the right name. Includes information on naming rules, trade names, reserving a corporation name and more.


Washington DC Registered Agents

How to appoint, change and search for Registered Agents. Also includes the duties they fulfill and the rules they’re required to follow.


Washington DC Incorporation Fees

Details the various fees you’ll need to pay, as well as the state and federal requirements you’ll need to meet. Includes details about Employer Identification Numbers (EINs), state and federal business licenses, biennial reports and more.


Washington DC Corporation Taxes

Covers the various taxes you’ll have to pay to the state and federal governments. Includes details about state taxes such as income, sales and franchise, and federal taxes such as income and self-employment.

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