how to get a business license spokane

How to Get a Business License in Spokane


Starting a business in Spokane is an exciting venture, but before you can officially operate, you’ll need to obtain a business license. A business license is a legal requirement that grants you the authority to conduct business activities within the city. It ensures that your business complies with local regulations, protects public health and safety, and contributes to the overall economic growth of the community.

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process of obtaining a business license in Spokane. We will cover everything from understanding what a business license is to determining the specific license requirements for your business type. We’ll also provide step-by-step instructions on preparing the required documents and submitting your application.

Whether you’re starting a new business or expanding an existing one, obtaining a business license is a crucial step in establishing your legitimacy and credibility as a business owner. By following the guidelines outlined in this guide, you’ll be well-equipped to navigate the process and ensure compliance with local laws and regulations.

Table of Contents

To help you navigate through this comprehensive guide, here is an overview of the topics we will cover:

  1. Understanding Business Licenses
  2. What is a Business License?
  3. Why Do You Need a Business License?
  4. Types of Business Licenses

  5. Determining License Requirements

  6. Researching Local Laws and Regulations
  7. Identifying the Specific License Needed
  8. Checking for Additional Permits or Certifications

  9. Preparing the Required Documents

  10. Business Information and Registration
  11. Proof of Identity and Residency
  12. Financial and Tax Documentation
  13. Additional Supporting Documents

  14. Submitting the Application and Fees

  15. Completing the Application Form
  16. Calculating and Paying the Required Fees
  17. Submitting the Application

Now, let’s dive into the details of each section and explore the process of obtaining a business license in Spokane.

Understanding Business Licenses

Before delving into the process of obtaining a business license in Spokane, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of what a business license is and why it is necessary for operating a business within the city. In this section, we will explore these key aspects and also discuss the different types of business licenses that exist.

What is a Business License?

A business license is a legal document or permit that grants permission to individuals or entities to engage in commercial activities within a specific jurisdiction, such as Spokane. It is a way for local government authorities to regulate businesses, ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations, and protect the interests of the public.

Obtaining a business license serves as proof that your business has met certain requirements and is authorized to operate within the city. It not only establishes your legitimacy as a business owner but also helps in building trust with customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders.

Why Do You Need a Business License?

There are several reasons why obtaining a business license is crucial for operating a business in Spokane. Let’s explore some of the key reasons:

  1. Legal Compliance: Acquiring a business license ensures that your business conforms to the local laws and regulations set forth by the government. It demonstrates your commitment to operating within the legal framework and protects you from potential penalties or legal issues.

  2. Public Health and Safety: Certain businesses, such as restaurants, bars, and healthcare facilities, require specific licenses to ensure compliance with health and safety regulations. These licenses help maintain the well-being of the public and ensure that businesses adhere to necessary standards.

  3. Consumer Protection: A business license often signifies that your business has met certain quality standards and has obtained necessary certifications. This reassures customers that they are dealing with a legitimate and trustworthy establishment.

  4. Tax Compliance: In many jurisdictions, including Spokane, obtaining a business license is linked to tax registration. It enables you to fulfill your tax obligations, such as collecting and remitting sales tax, ensuring proper accounting, and reporting business income.

  5. Access to Permits and Resources: Having a business license may be a prerequisite for obtaining additional permits or accessing resources offered by the city or other organizations. These resources can include grants, loans, or business development programs that can support your growth and success.

Types of Business Licenses

In Spokane, there are various types of business licenses, each catering to specific business activities and industries. It’s important to understand the different types so that you can determine which one is applicable to your business. Here are some common types of business licenses you may come across:

  1. General Business License: This is the most common type of license that covers a wide range of businesses, including retail stores, service providers, consultants, and more.

  2. Professional License: Certain professions, such as doctors, lawyers, architects, and accountants, require specialized licenses to ensure that practitioners meet specific educational and professional standards.

  3. Occupational License: If your business involves a specific occupation or trade, such as plumbing, electrical work, or cosmetology, you may need an occupational license to ensure that you possess the required skills and qualifications.

  4. Specialized Licenses: Depending on your business activities, you may need specialized licenses for specific industries, such as food service permits for restaurants, liquor licenses for bars, or childcare licenses for daycare centers.

Understanding the different types of business licenses will help you determine the specific license you need for your business. It’s important to research and identify the appropriate license to ensure compliance with the local regulations governing your industry.

Now that we have a solid understanding of business licenses and their significance, let’s move on to the next section, where we’ll explore how to determine the license requirements for your business in Spokane.

Determining License Requirements

Determining the license requirements for your business is a crucial step in the process of obtaining a business license in Spokane. Each business type may have specific licensing requirements based on the nature of the activities involved. In this section, we will guide you through the process of researching local laws and regulations, identifying the specific license needed, and checking for additional permits or certifications.

Researching Local Laws and Regulations

Before proceeding with the license application, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the local laws and regulations that govern businesses in Spokane. These regulations may vary depending on the type of business, location, and other factors. Conducting thorough research will ensure that you understand the legal requirements and avoid any potential compliance issues.

To begin, you can visit the official website of the City of Spokane or contact the local government offices responsible for issuing business licenses. These resources will provide you with valuable information about the licensing process, necessary permits, and any specific regulations or restrictions that may apply to your business.

Another valuable resource is the Spokane Municipal Code, which contains the laws and regulations specific to the city. It is important to review the relevant sections of the code that pertain to your business activities to ensure compliance.

Additionally, consider seeking guidance from business associations, industry-specific organizations, or professional consultants who can provide insights into the specific requirements for your business type. These sources can offer valuable advice and help you navigate the complexities of the licensing process.

Identifying the Specific License Needed

Once you have a good understanding of the local laws and regulations, you can proceed with identifying the specific license needed for your business in Spokane. This step involves determining the category and type of license that aligns with your business activities.

To assist you in this process, the City of Spokane provides resources such as license checklists and guides that outline the different license categories and subcategories. These resources will help you narrow down the options and select the appropriate license for your business.

Consider the following factors when identifying the specific license needed:

  1. Nature of Business Activities: Evaluate the core activities of your business and determine which license category best aligns with those activities. For example, if you are running a restaurant, you may need a food service permit in addition to the general business license.

  2. Industry-specific Requirements: Certain industries have specific licensing requirements due to the nature of the products or services offered. Research industry-specific regulations and determine if any additional licenses or permits are necessary. For instance, contractors may require a separate contractor’s license.

  3. Location-specific Regulations: Take into account any location-specific regulations that may affect your license requirements. Different areas within Spokane may have specific zoning restrictions or additional permits needed for certain types of businesses.

By carefully considering these factors and consulting the resources provided by the City of Spokane, you can accurately identify the specific license required for your business.

Checking for Additional Permits or Certifications

In addition to the general business license, some businesses may require additional permits or certifications to operate legally in Spokane. These permits are often industry-specific and ensure that businesses comply with specialized regulations related to health, safety, or environmental considerations. It’s essential to check if your business falls into any of these categories and requires additional permits.

For example, if you plan to serve alcoholic beverages in your establishment, you will need to obtain a liquor license from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. Similarly, businesses involved in construction or renovation projects may need building permits or specialized licenses to ensure compliance with building codes.

To determine if your business requires any additional permits or certifications, consult the appropriate government agencies or regulatory bodies related to your industry. These organizations will provide you with the necessary information and guidance on obtaining the required permits.

It’s important to note that failure to obtain all the necessary permits and certifications can result in penalties, fines, or even closure of your business. Taking the time to research and comply with these requirements will ensure that you start your business on the right foot and operate within the legal framework.

In the next section, we will discuss the process of preparing the required documents for your business license application in Spokane.

Preparing the Required Documents

Once you have determined the license requirements for your business in Spokane, it’s time to gather and prepare the necessary documents for your license application. The specific documents needed may vary depending on the type of business and the licensing requirements. In this section, we will guide you through the process of preparing the required documents, ensuring that you have all the necessary information at hand.

Business Information and Registration

The first set of documents you’ll need to prepare are those related to your business information and registration. These documents establish the legal identity of your business and provide important details required for the license application. Here are some key documents to consider:

  1. Business Registration Documents: If you haven’t already registered your business, you may need to provide registration documents such as a Certificate of Formation (for LLCs), Articles of Incorporation (for corporations), or a Doing Business As (DBA) registration certificate (for sole proprietorships).

  2. Business Plan: While not always required, having a well-prepared business plan can demonstrate your understanding of your business objectives, target market, financial projections, and overall strategy. It can be valuable in showcasing your business’s potential to regulators.

  3. Proof of Ownership or Lease: If you own the property where your business operates, provide proof of ownership, such as property deeds or mortgage documents. If you lease the premises, include a copy of the lease agreement or rental contract.

  4. Certificate of Good Standing: If your business is registered as a corporation or LLC, you may need to obtain a Certificate of Good Standing from the Secretary of State. This document verifies that your business is in compliance with state requirements.

Proof of Identity and Residency

To establish your identity and residency, certain documents will be required. These documents help verify that you are legally authorized to operate a business in Spokane. Here are some typical documents to consider:

  1. Government-issued Identification: Provide a copy of your valid government-issued identification, such as a driver’s license, passport, or state ID card. This document confirms your identity as the owner or representative of the business.

  2. Proof of Residency: If you are a resident of Spokane, provide proof of residency, such as a utility bill, lease agreement, or voter registration card. This document confirms that you are a resident of the city and eligible to operate a business there.

  3. Employer Identification Number (EIN): If your business is structured as a partnership, LLC, or corporation, you will need to obtain an EIN from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Include a copy of the EIN confirmation letter with your application.

Financial and Tax Documentation

To ensure compliance with financial and tax regulations, you will need to provide certain financial and tax-related documents. These documents demonstrate your financial stability and ability to meet your tax obligations. Here are some common documents to consider:

  1. Financial Statements: Prepare financial statements, including balance sheets, profit and loss statements, and cash flow statements. These statements provide an overview of your business’s financial health and stability.

  2. Tax Identification Number: Include your business’s tax identification number, such as a Social Security Number (SSN) or an EIN. This will be used to track your tax liabilities and ensure accurate reporting.

  3. Sales Tax Permit: If your business involves selling taxable goods or services, you may need to obtain a Sales Tax Permit from the Washington State Department of Revenue. Include a copy of the permit with your application.

  4. Previous Year’s Tax Returns: Depending on the nature of your business and licensing requirements, you may be asked to provide copies of your previous year’s tax returns. This helps assess your tax compliance history.

Additional Supporting Documents

In addition to the above-mentioned documents, you may need to include additional supporting documents based on the specific requirements of your business and industry. Here are some examples:

  1. Professional Licenses and Certifications: If your business requires specific professional licenses or certifications, such as for healthcare professionals or contractors, include copies of these licenses or certifications.

  2. Insurance Certificates: If your business requires insurance coverage, such as general liability insurance or worker’s compensation insurance, include copies of the insurance certificates.

  3. Permit Applications: If you are applying for additional permits or certifications, include copies of the permit applications along with your business license application.

  4. References or Letters of Recommendation: In some cases, you may be required to provide references or letters of recommendation from clients, suppliers, or other business partners to demonstrate your credibility and competence.

It’s important to carefully review the licensing requirements and instructions provided by the City of Spokane to ensure you gather all the necessary documents. Keep in mind that missing or incomplete documentation can delay the processing of your application or result in its rejection.

In the next section, we will discuss the process of submitting your application and paying the required fees for your business license in Spokane.

Submitting the Application and Fees

Once you have gathered and prepared all the required documents for your business license application in Spokane, it’s time to submit your application and pay the necessary fees. In this section, we will guide you through the process of completing the application form, calculating and submitting the fees, and ensuring a smooth submission of your application.

Completing the Application Form

The application form is a crucial component of your business license application. It provides the necessary information about your business and allows the city authorities to process your application efficiently. Follow these steps to complete the application form:

  1. Download the Application Form: Visit the official website of the City of Spokane or the licensing department’s page to find and download the business license application form. Ensure that you have the latest version of the form.

  2. Provide Business Information: Fill out the form with accurate and up-to-date information about your business, including its legal name, address, contact details, and ownership structure. Provide details about the nature of your business activities and the specific license you are applying for.

  3. Attach Supporting Documents: Attach all the required supporting documents to the application form. Make sure that the documents are well-organized and properly labeled for easy reference.

  4. Review and Verify: Before submitting the application, review all the information provided to ensure its accuracy and completeness. Double-check that all required fields have been filled out and that the supporting documents are in order.

Calculating and Paying the Required Fees

Along with the application, you will need to pay the required fees for your business license. The fees may vary depending on factors such as the type of business, license category, and the duration of the license. Follow these steps to calculate and pay the fees:

  1. Fee Schedule: Refer to the fee schedule provided by the City of Spokane or the licensing department to determine the applicable fees for your business license. The fee schedule will outline the different fee categories and the corresponding amounts.

  2. Calculate the Total Fees: Based on the fee schedule, calculate the total amount of fees payable for your business license. Take into account any additional permits or certifications that may have separate fees.

  3. Accepted Payment Methods: Find out the accepted payment methods for the license fees. The City of Spokane may accept payments in the form of cash, check, credit card, or electronic payment methods. Ensure that you have the necessary means to make the payment.

  4. Submit the Payment: Make the payment for the license fees as per the instructions provided by the licensing department. Include the payment along with your application form and supporting documents. If paying by check, make it payable to the appropriate authority and include the check with your application.

Submitting the Application

Once you have completed the application form, attached the required documents, and made the necessary payment, it’s time to submit your application. Follow these steps to ensure a smooth submission:

  1. Make Copies: Before submitting your application, make copies of the completed application form, supporting documents, and payment receipt. These copies will serve as your records and can be useful for reference in case of any discrepancies or follow-ups.

  2. Submit in Person or by Mail: Determine whether the licensing department requires applications to be submitted in person or by mail. If in-person submission is required, visit the designated office during the specified hours and submit your application. If mailing is allowed, ensure that you have the correct mailing address and sufficient postage.

  3. Keep Track of Submission: Maintain a record of the date and method of submission. If submitting in person, ask for a receipt or acknowledgment of your application. If mailing, consider using a trackable delivery method to ensure that your application reaches its destination.

Application Processing and Approval

After submitting your application, the licensing department will review the documents and process your application. The processing time may vary depending on the workload and the complexity of your application. During this time, it’s important to keep track of any communication from the licensing department and promptly respond to any requests for additional information or clarification.

Once your application is approved, you will receive your business license. Display the license prominently at your place of business as required by the regulations. Your business license will specify the duration of its validity, renewal requirements, and any specific conditions or restrictions applicable to your business.

In conclusion, submitting the application and paying the required fees is the final step in obtaining your business license in Spokane. By following the instructions provided by the licensing department and ensuring the accuracy and completeness of your application, you increase the likelihood of a successful outcome.

Now that you understand the process of submitting the application and fees, let’s move on to the conclusion of this comprehensive guide on how to get a business license in Spokane.