Article: Business Licenses – What Artists Need to Know
State Business Licenses
- All individual artists living in Washington State who gross over $12,000 a year from art-making activities or generate income from the retail sale of their art must obtain a business license from the state. However, any Washington state artist regardless of their income as an artist can still obtain a business license.
- To obtain a business license from the state you must fill out a four-page Master Business Application. Contact the Washington State Department of Licensing Master License Service to receive an application and information on starting a new business. The application fee is $19. Or apply online: www.bls.dor.wa.gov.
- A Unified Business Identifier number, or UBI number, is assigned after you complete your application. This number is used by state agencies involved in business regulation, taxation and registration.
- The nine-digit UBI number also allows you to purchase items (materials, supplies, etc.), that will be incorporated into an artwork for resale, without paying retail sales tax. The UBI number is your resale number. The UBI number also makes it possible for you to purchase products/materials from companies that only serve wholesale clients.
- Any artist who charges retail sales tax when selling their artwork must obtain a business license. If you are selling your artwork to a retail consumer or client you must charge sales tax. When you sell to a wholesale client (someone who resells your work) you do not charge sales tax.
- Sales tax registration and all other necessary state registrations and licenses including trade name registration are included in the Master Business Application. There is no fee for tax registration.
- An artist’s trade name or “doing business as” name must be registered with the Washington Department of Licensing when you apply for a business license. A trade name is any name used in the course of business that does not include the full legal name of the owner of the business. There is a $5 fee for each name you register. This registration does not provide protection of the name. Federal and/or state trademark registration is required in providing name protection.
- To see if a trade name you wish to use is already registered, check the Washington Department of Licensing’s trade name search online at http://www.bls.dor.wa.gov/tradename.aspx. You can also search this database by mail. The cost is $4 to search up to 3 names. To request a search by mail, send a letter with your return address, a list of the names you want to research, and a check or money order to pay the fee to:
Business Licensing Service
State of Washington
PO Box 9034
Olympia, WA 98507-9034
- Questions? The State of Washington Business Licensing Service has a great website full of information at www.bls.dor.wa.gov/. You can also call 1-800-451-7985 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Washington State Department of Licensing website provides contact information for proper licensing with state and local governments based on your business activity. After entering information about the business you are starting, you will be able to print a sheet of referrals. You will also be able to download some of the application forms you will need or request that they be mailed to you. INFO: www.dol.wa.gov/business/.
City and County Business Licenses
- City business licenses may be required for business activity within the city limits of any city. You should contact any incorporated city in which you will be conducting your business to determine if a license is required. Contact information can also be found on the WALI website.
- Seattle – The license is issued by the city for a calendar year and must be renewed every year by Dec. 31. INFO: 206/684-8484 or www.seattle.gov/business-license-tax
- Spokane– INFO: 509/625-6070 or www.spokanecity.org
- Ellensburg– INFO: 509/962-7204 or www.ci.ellensburg.wa.us/
- Yakima– INFO: 509/575-6121 or www.ci.yakima.wa.us/services/codes/licensing
- Bellingham– INFO: 360/676-6900 or www.cob.org/services/business/pages/business-registration.aspx
- Everett– INFO: 425/257-8610 or https://www.everettwa.gov/761/Starting-a-Business
- Olympia– INFO: 360/753-8327 or olympiawa.gov/businesses.aspx
- Tacoma– INFO: 253/591-5252 or http://www.cityoftacoma.org/business
- Vancouver– INFO: 360/487-8410 or http://www.cityofvancouver.us/fms/page/business-and-special-licenses
Most cities will prorate a business license fee based on the time of year purchased.
Counties may also issue business licenses to businesses that are not located within incorporated city limits. Again, you should contact any county in which you will be conducting your business to determine if a license is required.
For information on how to obtain a city or county business license, look under the City and/or County Government Pages in your telephone book. Locate “business” under the heading of “licenses” for information. The Washington State Department of Licensing website also provides this information.