How to get a District of Columbia Basic Business License (Including Special Endorsements)

The first step is to decide on the type of business structure which best suits your interest. The best form will probably require you to register with the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), Corporations Division. Your choices of forms will include

  • Sole Proprietorship (Not Recommended)
  • Partnerships
  • Closed Corporations
  • Public Corporations
  • Subchapter S Corporations
  • Limited Liability Companies (LLC)
  • Professional Limited Liability Companies (PLLC)

At the Law Offices of Paul D. Hunt, we will guide you through the process of corporate formation with an ease that is based on our familiarity and experience with the process.

The next step is to apply for a Washington DC Basic Business License. The requirements can be tedious and if mismanaged, things can appear to be unending if you are not assisted by a lawyer trained in the process. Please call us before you submit your DC Basic Business License Application to the DCRA Business License Division to make sure you will not get caught up in a confusing process that causes delays in getting your business started.

Do you need a Basic Washington DC Business License?

Almost all DC businesses need to get a business license from the DCRA Business License Division. Most businesses just need to get a Basic Business License. Certain types of activities require a specific license endorsement on the DC Basic Business License.

The big exception to the DC business license requirement is for professionals. In most cases, if the principals of a Washington DC business is a licensed professional, then the DC business license is not required. If you have a business tax id number, but think you are exempt from the DC basic business license requirement, you have to complete an Exemption Request Certificate form, which is available on the DCRA website.

The DCRA website lists the following categories of businesses that need a license under District of Columbia law.

  • Employment Services
  • Entertainment
  • Environmental Materials
  • Food License
  • Funeral Establishments
  • General Sales
  • General Service and Repair
  • Housing: Residential
  • Housing: Transient
  • Inspected Sales and Services
  • Manufacturing
  • Motor Vehicle Sales, Service, and Repair
  • Pharmacy/Pharmaceuticals
  • Public Accommodations
  • Tobacco License (Retail and Smoke Exemption)

Apply for a Washington DC Basic Business License

Mr. Hunt will work with your personally to carry you through all the steps that are needed for a basic business license in the District of Columbia.  The District of Columbia Consumer Protection Act provides some of the harshest penalties in the country if they do not carry the correct license in the District of Columbia. As with the other license the requirements will include:

  • Certificate of Occupancy (We can refer you to virtual business spaces)
  • Basic Business License Application
  • Corporate or other Form Approved and Registered Agent Appointed
  • Clean Hands Form
  • Form Contract on Company Letterhead
  • Bonding (not for all businesses)
  • Insurance where required
  • Combined Tax Registration form
  • Two Passport Photos
  • Police clearance from home jurisdiction of applicant
  • Other Particular requirements or endorsements for particular licenses such as Home Improvement Salesperson Designation
  • Letter or for endorsements needed by businesses operating in the area of food services.

The DCRA is centrally located and at the Law Offices of Paul D. Hunt we will personally physically file all documents that are needed to get your license and will continue to follow-up with DC government until you receive your license. There will be no need to constantly interact and have confusing dialogue with government officials. We will get things done for you so that you can get started with the real day to day operations of your business as quickly and efficiently as possible. DCRA is located at

Business License Center at DCRA
1100 4th Street SW
2nd Floor
Washington, DC 20024
Phone: (202) 442-4311


A home improvement contractors must possess both a valid Home Improvement Contractor’s and Home Improvement Salesperson’s license or face having to return all money taken on a job if taken prior to the completion of all work on the project.

How do you know if you need a DC General Business License endorsement?

The idea of a DC General Basic Business License is a little confusing. It is better if you think of it as a catch-all endorsement for DC business licenses that don’t require a specific endorsement.  The general business classification applies to all businesses that have a tax identification number, perform a business activity that does not require another DC basic business license endorsement, and are not licensed professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc.)

So even when you don’t need an endorsement, you will need an endorsement.

The Washington DC business license you need really depends on your businesses activities. Retail and office type businesses will probably just require a General Business License. However businesses such as restaurants, home improvement contractors and industry will need a specialized license.  This means they will have to apply for a Basic Business License with a different endorsement.

The DCRA website also states in a FAQ for persons inquiring about a basic business license in the District of Columbia:

Do you need a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) to get a Washington DC business license?

Yes. You need a FEIN if you want to get a Washington DC business license. You can contact the IRS directly to get this number. You can even get your FEIN online.

Do you need to register with the Office of Tax and Revenue to get a Washington DC business license?

Yes. You need to file a Combined Business Tax Registration Application, FR-500 form with the DC Office of Tax and Revenue if you want to get your Washington DC business license. You can send them the paper form or you can register online. Then the office will send you confirmation of your tax registration. When you submit your Washington DC business license application, you will need to include a copy of your tax registration.

Do you need a DC Certificate of Occupancy to get a Washington DC business license?

If you have a business premise located in DC and the premise does not already have a DC Certificate of Occupancy, you will need to get one. If you lease space, your building may already have a certificate so you wouldn’t need a new one. Likewise, if you do not have a business location in DC, you do not need a certificate of occupancy. If you work from home, you will need to apply for a Home Occupation Permit from the DCRA instead.

Do you need a Clean Hands Certification to get a Washington DC business license?

Yes. Applicants must complete the portion of the BBL-EZ application attesting that they do not owe more than $100 to the DC government. This means if you have more than $100 in outstanding fines, parking tickets, taxes, etc., you can not get a Washington DC business license.

When do you need to renew your DC business license with the DCRA?

The DC basic business license expires two years after it is issued. So you will need to renew your business license every other year. If you have kept your address up-to-date with the DCRA Business License Division, you will receive a renewal notice and invoice in the mail.

Do you need to list a DC registered agent on the DCRA Basic Business License Application?

All businesses obtaining their Washington DC business license will need to appoint a registered (or resident) agent with a physical address in the District of Columbia.  The registered agent can accept documents such as service of process or official notices for the business. We supply the business license application form, pre-signed and populated correctly in your online account with our DC registered agent info on it. In order to register a corporation, LLC, partnership, sole proprietorship or DBA with the DCRA Corporations Division, you will need to list your DC registered agent.

All domestic or foreign corporations, LLCs, and partnerships will need to list their DC registered agent on the DCRA Basic Business License Application. All sole proprietors who do not reside in DC need to list a DC registered agent on the Basic Business License Application as well.

Below is a list of Business Licensing Categories offered by The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA).

  • Beauty & Grooming Services
  • Charitable Services
  • Elevator/Conveyors
  • Employee/Independent Salesperson Licenses
  • Employment Services
  • Entertainment Services
  • Flammable Product Sales & Services
  • Food Services
  • General Sales/Services Business
  • Health Services
  • Lodging
  • Rental Housing
  • Regulated Businesses

Need a Washington DC Business License?

Washington DC Attorney Paul Hunt

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