SPUG: being a licensed business in the State of Washington Was:: It's in the pod...

Fred Morris m3047 at inwa.net
Sun Jan 13 17:08:22 PST 2008

Somebody wrote me a note and asked for three or four paragraphs on being a 
licensed business in the State of Washington and how to verify that kind of 

This covers the State of Washington, so federal registration requirements are 
omitted, and I assume you're a consultant.

You register with the State of Washington, and that gets you a UBI number. 
Most cities have some sort of licensing, so you register with them and they 
give you another number and a city business license. You fill out a property 
tax affidavit for your business property and file it with your county 
government. If you have employees, you will also be filing with Labor and 
Industries and paying unemployment taxes and industrial insurance. NOTE: 
payroll services run around $20/check/employee but they can be worth it in 
terms of the paperwork hassles, especially if you only pay once or twice a 
month. If you have a good relationship with a staffing service, they may also 
be willing to be the middleman.

You can check whether some outfit is licensed in the State here:

There are also links on there to other resources as well as FAQs. NOTE: they 
talk about construction a lot, because that's one of the industries where 
fraud is highest and consequences (risk of employees getting injured, or burn 
your house down, etc.) are also high; but it doesn't just apply to 

If a business is licensed in the City of Seattle, you can check their license 
status here:

Other cities may have similar on-line tools, or you may have to contact the 
City Clerk. Unincorporated areas may not require a business license.

Just because someone is licensed doesn't mean they're not an employee. It has 
to do with what they bring to the job (tools, expertise, etc.), your level of 
direction and control, as well as whether or not they have gone to the 
trouble to establish themselves as a business. That's unavoidably fuzzy 
between industries, but one good rule of thumb is that if someone has an 
employee who does substantially the same work as you are doing under the same 
conditions then you need to be an employee of someone... even if you're an 
LLC or corp. you'd probably better be paying L&I and worker's comp on 
yourself under these circumstances: I insist that people pay me on a W-2 if 
this is the case, "contract to hire" isn't going to fly and puts both them 
and you at risk. 

If you are an employee somewhere and some "contractor" is sitting in the chair 
next to you doing substantially the same thing you might want to check out 
their licensing and worker's comp status.

That's what I know...


Fred Morris, Fred Morris Consulting

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