Landscape companies working in the state of Washington provide a variety of services including lawn and hedge maintenance, seasonal planting and detailed landscape design. These services can be seasonal, long-term or negotiated on a by-job basis. Not every landscape business will need the same type of permits and licenses from Washington state agencies. This makes it important for Washington landscape business owners to be thorough about starting their business. Assistance from state agencies is available for those starting new businesses in Washington.
Choose a business trade name. The Washington Department of Licensing suggests searching the following sites to verify the uniqueness of a trade name before settling on a permanent name: state of Washington Department of Licensing, office of the secretary of otate and the Department of Revenue (see Resources).
File a master business application with the Department of Licensing. Applications can be found online at the Department of Licensing website and require details about your business structure, liability insurance and business locations (see Resources). The application will be used to assign the business with a state UBI, or unified business identifier.
Check for further state licensing requirements. If the landscaping company will offer the services of a landscape architect, then the architect will be required to have a state license to practice. Businesses offering lawn maintenance and simple planting advice and design will likely not need a license. Find out what the state requires by contacting the Licensing Department (see Resources).
Contact the city and county in which the business will be located and inquire about required business licenses and permits. Each city and county in Washington has its own requirements for business signage, licenses and zoning. Business property may need to be reported to the county tax assessor. Multiple locations will mean contacting multiple cities and counties.
Obtain state minor work permits if hiring anyone under the age of 18 years. The master business application includes an area for obtaining the permit at the time of initiating the business. Contact the Washington state Department of Labor and Industries if you require a permit at a later point in time (see Resources).
Obtain liability, unemployment and workers' compensation insurance. The Washington State Employment Security Department helps business owners register for unemployment insurance. The Department of Labor and Industries helps business owners understand workers' compensation insurance and workplace rights such as minimum and overtime pay and mandatory break time during a work day.
Learn about Washington state sales and use taxes. Sales tax is charged on products and services that are sold to a customer. The use tax is paid on items that are leased or purchased without the sales tax being paid. Because landscaping businesses often lease equipment, it is important for the business owner to understand how the sales and use taxes apply to them. Contact the Washington state Department of Revenue for more information.
Obtain an employer identification number from the Internal Revenue Service. Known as an EIN, the number is necessary if the company will be hiring employees or using a business structure other than a sole proprietorship. Visit the IRS website at www.IRS.gov to find out how to file for an EIN. The process is free and can be completed online.
The Washington State Licensing Department offers a free, online Personalized Business Licensing Guide. The user selects the type of business and the location by city, and the software returns a list of important items to consider specific to the particular business type and its location.