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Washington Small Business Law

Owning a small business can often involve more responsibilities and risks for the owner(s). You not only have to manage your employees and their welfare with the company—you also have tax obligations that could strain your budget and business growth. If you’re not prepared for the consequences of business errors and accidents, your small business may not survive against your competitors.

For business owners in Tacoma, Seattle or Spokane, it’s important to understand state and federal laws and know how to proceed when a legal issue develops. LawInfo has the Washington small business law information you need from business taxes to insurance.

Washington Business Taxes

An advantage to doing business in Washington is not having to pay state personal or corporate income taxes. You or your business will still be responsible for paying state business taxes, though. There are three main types of business taxes in Washington:

  • Retail sales tax—This tax is collected from customers for the sale of goods within the state. Washington charges a state sales tax rate of 6.5 percent in 2017. Local governments can add an additional 0.5 to 3.1 percent sales tax.
  • Use tax—This tax is collected from customers for the use of goods within Washington that were purchased and charged a sales tax outside of the state. The use tax rate is the same as the retail sales tax rate.
  • Business and occupation (B&O) tax—This tax is collected on your business’s gross receipts from sources like gross business income, the market value of your products, etc. Your B&O tax rate will vary depending on your business classification. For example, the B&O tax rate for retail businesses is 0.471 percent in 2017.

In addition to these business taxes, you or your business may be liable for local taxes or special taxes.

Washington Business Insurance Policies

Your small business probably can’t afford to be liable for mistakes or accidents like an employee getting injured on the job or a miscalculation in a sales contract. Business insurance can help mitigate the costs of liability.

The type of insurance you’ll need depends on what your business is liable for. If you’re the owner of a sole proprietorship with no other employees, for example, you might not need worker’s compensation insurance. If you operate your business out of your primary residence, you could protect yourself from business-related property damage by adding a business liability rider to your homeowner’s insurance policy.

A commercial general liability insurance policy can protect you from a wide range of liabilities, including personal injury. There are also specialized policies like product liability insurance that offer more protection from specific types of liability.

First Steps to Starting a Small Business in Washington

If this is your first time creating a small business, you’re probably wondering how to start the process. There are many local and state resources available in Washington to help you with the process, but what are the first steps? Washington’s BusinessHub web page provides some guidance, but in general, the first steps to starting a small business are:

  1. Make a business plan.
  2. Choose a legal structure for your business.
  3. Choose and register your business name.
  4. Find a location that suits your business’s needs and get information on the required safety and zoning codes.
  5. Seek financing if you’re unable to self-finance your business.
  6. Register for federal, state and local taxes, licenses and permits.
  7. Register your new and original business products, services or inventions as intellectual property using trademarks, servicemarks, copyrights or patents.