dcra

Config
DCRA
Menu Button

Business Licensing FAQs

Business Licensing

I want to apply for a Basic Business License. What are the requirements?
Each licensing group/category has different document, inspection and/or investigation requirements. However, there are five basic requirements for ALL licensed business activities which must be satisfied prior to submitting a Basic Business License application:

  • You must have a valid Federal Employee Identification Number (FEIN) or Social Security Number (SSN);
  • You must register your tax number with the Office of Tax and Revenue (My Tax.dc.gov);
  • If your business operates from a location in Washington, DC, you must have a Certificate of Occupancy for a commercial premise address or a Home Occupation Permit if you work out of your home;
  • You must submit a Clean Hands Self-Certification form attesting that you do not owe more than $100.00 to the DC government. If you apply via the DC Business Center, a separate form is not required; and
  • If you are a corporation, partnership or limited liability company (domestic or foreign), you must be registered and in good standing with the Corporations Division. You must also have a Registered Agent.

How do I apply for a Basic Business License?
There are three (3) ways to apply for a Basic Business License (BBL):

Online. You may apply for a BBL and pay with a major credit/debit card via at My DC Business Center (mybusiness.dc.gov) Some categories are available for immediate printing.*  

Via Mail. You may obtain the required forms online, via mail or from the Business License Center. You may mail your complete application and payment in the form of a check or money order. Please submit all requirements including the associated fee in one envelope. Make check or money order payable to “DC Treasurer.” Mail complete application and payment to:

DC Government Wholesale Lockbox 91360
Washington, DC 20090

In-Person. You may apply for a BBL License in-person and pay with cash, check, money order or a major credit/debit card by visiting the DCRA, Business License Center, 1100 4th Street, SW, 2nd Floor, Washington, DC 20024. Forms are available in the Business License Center. No appointments are required. Applications are processed on a first-come, first-served basis.

How do I obtain a copy of my Business License?
In order to get a copy of your Basic Business License (BBL), submit a Duplicate Request Form and the associated $6.60 fee payable to D.C. Treasurer.

How do I learn if a company has a Basic Business License (BBL)?
A Basic Business License (BBL) and associated public license information can be verified by using the Business License Verification tool. Also, a BBL can be verified by calling the Business Licensing Division at (202) 442-4311.

My Basic Business License (BBL) will expire soon and I have not received a renewal notice. What should I do?
All renewals are mailed to the license holder no less 30 days prior to the expiration date. If you have not received your renewal notice, contact the Business Licensing Division at (202) 442-4311 prior to the expiration date to avoid the assessment of late fees/penalties for failure to renew in a timely manner.

If your billing address has changed since your last renewal, please notify to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory by submitting a Notice of Billing Address Change.

I have not received a renewal notice yet and my license has expired. What do I do?
Contact the Business Licensing Division at (202) 442-4311 to obtain your renewal bill. Visit My DC Business Center to renew your license with the details provided on your Renewal Bill.

If a Basic Business License is not renewed within 6 months from the date of expiration, a new application along with supporting documentation must be submitted if you wish to continue to conduct a given business activity in the District. Late fees and penalties are applicable. Upon receipt of your renewal notice, mail or walk-in documents with applicable fees. Licenses that have been expired for more than 6 months from the date of expiration cannot be renewed online.

I sent in my renewal application and payment, but it was returned with a Deficiency Notice. It says I didn't pay, but I have my cancelled check. Now what?
Most likely, the payment submitted was incorrect or insufficient. Please check the total cost of your license, which includes the application, endorsement, license category, and 10% technology fees. The outstanding (balance) amount is detailed on the Deficiency Notice.

To renew your license:

  • make check or money order payable to D.C. Treasurer
  • include a copy of the cancelled check to show proof of previous payment
  • include all contents of your returned renewal application
  • Mail to: Business Licensing Division, 1100 4th Street, SW, 4th Floor, Washington, DC 20024.

If you have questions regarding your Deficiency Notice, contact the Business Licensing Division at (202) 442-4311.

Do I need to re-submit the same forms and documents for my renewal as I did for my initial application?
Please refer to your renewal application instruction sheet as renewal requirements vary according to the category of licensure. Some Basic Business Licenses (BBL) require the same documentation as the initial application; other BBLs require only a Clean Hands Self-Certification and payment.

Detailed instructions along with the renewal bill are mailed to the billing address on record no later than 30 days prior to the date of expiration.

If you need additional assistance contact the Business Licensing Division at (202) 442-4311.

I received a notice to renew my Basic Business License. What do I need to do?
If you received a notice to renew your Basic Business License (BBL), review the Renewal Bill and Instructions and do the following:

  • Complete the required forms detailed on the Renewal Instructions
  • Attach any required supporting documentation (if applicable)
  • Review the Renewal Bill to determine the associated fees
  • Make check or money order payable to "DC Treasurer"
  • Include late fees (if applicable)

If renewing by mail, please submit both the renewal requirements and payment in one envelope. If your license is eligible for Online Renewal, your Renewal Bill will contain a 6-Digit pin number. If so, you may renew online instead of renewing by mail or in-person.  

When will I incur late fees?
Late fees are incurred after a license has expired. A $250.00 late fee is applicable the day following the expiration date. The maximum late fee of $500.00 is applicable 31 days after the expiration date.

Though late fees do not continue to accrue after the maximum $500.00 late fee has been assessed, penalty fees do continue to accrue for every 2-year period a license is not maintained. If you will cease the licensed business activity in the District, please provide written notification:

  • Via Mail: Business Licensing Division, 1100 4th Street, SW, 4th Floor, Washington, DC 20024
  • In-Person: Business License Center, 1100 4th Street, SW, 2nd Floor, Washington, DC 20024


How often are Basic Business Licenses renewed?
All Basic Business Licenses (BBL) are valid for two (2) or four (4) years unless otherwise specified.

I have several businesses; can I apply for just one license?
No. If you are conducting the same business activity, but from different locations in the District of Columbia, a Basic Business License (BBL) is required for each location. Additionally, if multiple business activities are being conducted as the same location, a BBL may be required for each business activity if they are distinct in nature.

What is the difference between a General Business License and a Basic Business License?
A General Business License is a type of Basic Business License. Typically, a General Business license is issued to such businesses as retail stores, online retail stores, consultants, tutors, tax preparers (no CPAs), and a number of other businesses, that do not fall under an existing licensing category or which are not regulated by an existing national or local board or commission.

I already have a Basic Business License; do I also need to apply for a General Business License?
If you already have a current Basic Business License (BBL) specific to the activities of your business, it is unlikely that additional licensure is required. However, it is recommended that you contact the Business Licensing Division, (202) 442-4311, 1100 4th Street, SW, 2nd Floor, Washington, DC 20024, to determine if additional licensure is required.

I mailed in my application; my check was cashed, but I have not received 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 application/license, please contact the Business Licensing Division at (202) 442-4311. Please have the following information ready:

  • Tax Identification Number
  • Company's Name
  • Premise Address
  • Mailing Date of Application
  • Date Check Cashed

Upon receipt of said information, a review of the Business Licensing Division's records will be conducted and a response with findings will be provided within forty-eight (48) business hours.

I sent in all the information required for my Basic Business License application and received a Deficiency Notice. What does this mean?
If you received a Deficiency Notice in response to your application, it means that the requirements for the category of licensure you applied for were not met. The Deficiency Notice indicates what requirements are outstanding and what actions you need to take in order for your application to be processed.

I already have a Certificate of Authority to operate a business in the District of Columbia; why do I need another license?
If you have already registered your business, the District of Columbia Government acknowledges your organization's intent to operate in the District. In some cases, a business activity requires additional regulation by another District of Columbia Government agency or another division within the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. To learn if your organization requires a Basic Business License, contact the Business Licensing Division, (202) 442-4311, 1100 4th Street, SW, 2nd Floor, Washington, DC 20024.

I have clients in the District, but I don't have an office there. Do I still need to apply for a Basic Business License (BBL)?
If you are conducting business to or from the District, a Basic Business License may be required depending upon the business activity being conducted. Please review the directory to locate the applicable business category, based on the primary business activity conducted, to determine the requirements for licensure. You may contact the Business Licensing Division at (202) 442-4311 to describe your business activity to learn if a license is required.

I am a sub-contractor and am only here for one contract; do I need to get a Basic Business License?
Yes, you are required to obtain a Basic Business License (BBL) (i.e., General Contractor/Construction Manager, Home Improvement Contractor or Home Improvement Salesperson); the licensure of the contractor for whom you are working is not valid for your contracting business.

To learn which category of licensure is required, contact the Business Licensing Division, (202) 442-4311, 1100 4th Street, SW, 2nd Floor, Washington, DC 20024.

I do freelance work on the side of my regular job; do I need a Basic Business License?
Whether or not a person/company requires a Basic Business License depends on the business activity conducted in the District.

Please review the directory to locate the applicable business category, based on the primary business activity conducted, to determine the requirements for licensure. You may contact the Business Licensing Division, (202) 442-4311, to learn if a license is required.

I want to rent my single family home in the District; do I need a license?
Yes, you are required to obtain a Basic Business License for the One Family Rental category.

Is a Basic Business License required for an owner seeking to sell his or her own property?
No, a Basic Business License (BBL) is not required for an owner to sell his or her own property. However, if a real estate broker, etc., assists in the sale of the property, the broker is required to be licensed through the Occupational and Professional Licensing Division, (202) 442-4320, 1100 4th Street, SW, 5th Floor, Washington, DC 20024.

I'm a consultant, not a business. I file my earnings on my personal tax forms, but I was told I still need a Basic Business License. Why?
Yes, you do need a Basic Business License for the General Business category if you are receiving revenue for the services you provide as a Consultant.

What kind of license do I need?
What kind of license you need depends on the business activity conducted in the District.

Contact the Business Licensing Division, (202) 442-4311, 1100 4th Street, SW, 2nd Floor, Washington, DC 20024 to learn what kind of license you need. You may also review the BBL directory to determine the applicable business category, based on the primary business activity conducted in the District.

How do I pay for my Basic Business License (BBL)?
You can pay for your Basic Business License (BBL) with cash, check, money order, or credit card. Please make your check or money order payable to the D.C. Treasurer. If paying by credit card.

How much will my Basic Business License cost?
Basic Business License (BBL) fees vary according to the business activity. The BBL fee includes an application, endorsement, license category and a 10% technology fee.

How do I apply for a refund from the Business Licensing Division?
You may apply for a refund from the Business Licensing Division ONLINE. Please note that application fee and the associated technology fee are non-refundable.