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About Business Licensing

How can I file for a Basic Business License?

There are three ways to file for a new Basic Business License:

  1. Apply for a Basic Business License (BBL) online.
  2. Mail-In Application - Business License applications can be downloaded from each license fact sheet. For General Business Licenses, you can complete the BBL EZ Form or BBL EZ Form en Español.
  3. Walk into Business License Center. Obtain and complete forms, pay and pick-up your forms at the Business License Center at DCRA (1100 4th Street, SW, 2nd Floor, Washington, DC 20024).

How often are licenses renewed?

All Basic Business Licenses are valid for two years.

Where can I get a copy of the Basic Business License application?

All forms, including applications, can be downloaded here.

I have several businesses; can I apply for just one license?

No. If you have separate businesses, at separate locations, you cannot get one license for all. Licenses are issued by location; and to one license name.
Exception: If your licensed business is using a "Trade Name" and the business license and Certificate of Occupancy cover the same type of business, then you may license it accordingly. However, you MUST register the Trade Name at the same time.

I have several business activities; can I apply for just one license?

Yes. If you are applying to license a business which has several activities, you may combine all activities on one application. You MUST, however, provide all the appropriate documentation required for each activity. Requirements may differ from one business activity to the next. Fact sheets are available for each activity to ensure you are attaching the appropriate documentation and/or acquiring inspections and/or approvals correctly.

I currently hold a Basic Business License; do I also need to apply for a new license with a General Business endorsement?

Probably not. If you already have a current and correct Basic Business License for specialized business activities, you likely do not need to apply for a new Basic Business License with a General Business endorsement. If your current license includes any endorsements except the following, you do not need to apply for a General Business license

  • Elevator
  • Retail Cigarette
  • Patent Medicine
  • Food Product
  • Vending Machine

I lost my Basic Business License. How can I get a copy?

You must first obtain a “REQUEST FOR DUPLICATE BUSINESS LICENSE/RECEIPT” form from DCRA’s Business License Center or download the form here. Finally, submit the report at the Business License Center with a $6.60 duplicate license fee.

I sent in my application; my check was cashed, but I did not receive my license yet. Why?

There could be a number of reasons why your license has not yet been issued. For information about the status of your license please call the Basic Business License office at (202) 442-4400 and hit "4", and have the following information ready: your name; the company name; address; and telephone number; the date you mailed the application; and the date your check was cashed. We will look into our records to see what the status of your license is. We will call you within 48 hours with our findings.

I sent in all the information required and received a Deficiency Notice. What does this mean?

It could mean a number of things. For example, something may not have been indicated on your application; required documents not attached; or payment received may have been in the wrong amount. The deficiency notice should indicate what actions are required to process your application.

I already have a Certificate of Authority to operate a business in the District; why another license?

A Certificate of Authority, or Certificate of Registration, issued by the Corporations Division is not a basic business license. It simply means that you have registered your corporation with the District and that your corporation is recognized accordingly.

I have clients in the District, but I don't have an office there, would I still need to apply for a Basic Business License?

If you are conducting business in the District, are registered with the Office of Tax and Revenue to do business in the District, and are not otherwise licensed, you are required to have a Basic Business License.

I am a sub-contractor and am only here for one contract; do I need to get a Basic Business License?

If you are a sub-contractor, and the firm you are contracting with is properly licensed to do business in the District, you are required to get your own; you would not fall under the contractor's license.

I'm employed but I do some freelance work on the side; do I need a Basic Business License?

If you are conducting business in the District, are registered with the Office of Tax and Revenue to do business in the District, and are not otherwise licensed, you are required to have a Basic Business License.

I own a single family dwelling rental unit in the District; do I need a license?

Yes. Get a One Family Rental license.

Is a business license required for an owner of a real property seeking to sell his/her/its property?

No. Although any real estate broker, etc. assisting in the sale is required to be a licensed real estate professional in the District of Columbia.

I'm a consultant, not a business, and I file my earnings on my Personal Tax form but I was told I still need a Basic Business License, why?

Unless you are registered as a business with the Office of Tax and Revenue, and have a Business Tax ID number (also referred to as a Federal Employer Identification Number), you are not required to obtain a Basic Business License.

What kind of license do I need?

This depends on your business activity. Most retail and office operations will require a General Business License, but DCRA also issues specialized license categories for food establishments, industry, and specific services. Please refer to our list of license categories for complete information.

I already have a Basic Business License; do I need a general business license?

If you already have a business license, you are most likely exempt from obtaining a General Business License. The exceptions are Basic Business Licenses in the following categories:

  • Elevator
  • Retail Cigarette
  • Patent Medicine
  • Food Product
  • Vending Machine

If your Basic Business License only authorizes one or more of the five categories above, you must obtain a General Business License.