Doing Business in Seattle

Frequently Asked Questions

Financial Support

Community Lenders

Seattle has several community lenders that offer small business loans with greater flexibility than provided under conventional bank financing.


Business Impact Northwest (BINW)
BINW provides entrepreneurs access to capital and business assistance. As a Preferred Lender for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), BINW can work with businesses towards achieving their lending goals from $2,500 to $250,000. BINW also provides free one-on-one business coaching as well as various workshops, courses, and seminars. BINW focuses on start-up and established businesses with an emphasis on women, minority and veteran-owned businesses. Contact 206-324-4330.


Craft3
Craft3 is a non-profit community development financial institution that provides loans to individuals, organizations, and businesses that promote the Craft3 triple bottom line mission and commitment to economic, ecological, and family resilience. The organization offers an array of capital products, including small business start-up, working capital, acquisition and expansion loans, commercial real estate and tenant improvement loans, loans to non-profits providing essential services, land conservation, and energy efficiency loans. They provide a wide variety of term loans ranging in size from $50,000 to $750,000. Contact 888-231-2170.


Mercy Corps Northwest
Mercy Corps Northwest is the U.S. economic development office of Mercy Corps, an international relief and development agency. Mercy Corps Northwest is an SBA Intermediary Microlender. They provide financing to small business owners who may not qualify for traditional loans. Loans range from $500 to $20,000 for startups, and up to $50,000 for existing businesses. Contact 206-547-5212.


Rainier Valley Community Development Fund (RVDCF)
The RVCDF provides loans products designed to support local residents, businesses and developers expand and invest in the Rainier Valley. Loans are limited to businesses and properties located within their service area in South East Seattle. Loans range from $50,000 - $2,000,000 and have payment terms and interest rates that are very flexible. Contact 206-722-5280.


The Alliance of Angels is a regionally-focused group of individual investors and representatives of investment corporations that acts as a "matchmaker" for young technology companies and interested investors. Call 206-389-7258 or visit allianceofangels.com.

Licensing, Permits, and Taxes

Everyone doing business in the City of Seattle must obtain and annually renew a business license. If you're doing business at several locations in the City, you'll need a separate license for each venue.

Get a business license application or renew your license on the City's Licenses page. In addition, some businesses have separate regulatory requirements. Find out if there are any additional requirements for your business.

For personalized service, call 206-684-8484 or email tax@seattle.gov.

King County does not require a general business license. However, if a business is located in unincorporated King County (e.g. White Center) and engages in regulated activity, a King County business license is required.

However, all businesses operating in the state of Washington must obtain a Washington State Master Business License to register their business for state tax purposes.

Find out when and how to register a trade name with the state of Washington

To get a building permit, contact the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) - the agency charged with developing, administering and enforcing standards for land use, design, construction and housing within the city limits.

First, you'll want to find out relevant policies and codes related to environmental protection, development, housing and community standards. Get information about permits from SDCI or call 206-684-8850.

While filming in Seattle, you may need to obtain a Master Film Permit for the use of city streets, sidewalks and public parking. Find out about permits issued through the Office of Film + Music or call 206-684-8504.

Anyone doing business within the Seattle city limits whose business generates income above a certain level will have to pay a city business tax. The Guide to Seattle's Business License & Taxes provides answers to many questions. However, to find out about your specific circumstances, consult the Seattle Municipal Code, your tax advisor or both. Pay close attention to these sections of the Seattle Municipal Code:

  • 5.40 - Admission Taxes
  • 5.45 - Business License taxes
  • 5.52 - Gambling Taxes
  • 5.60 - Sales and Use Taxes


Washington State does not have a corporate tax; however, there is a state Business & Occupation Tax. In addition, new and existing manufacturers, research and development firms and certain high technology companies in Washington can benefit from several tax incentives. Learn more about state taxes and tax incentive programs on the Dept. of Revenue website or call 1-800-647-7706.

For extensive information about state tax laws, business owners' rights and responsibilities, and to access state tax forms, contact the Department of Revenue at 800-647-7706.

Doing Business with the City

Seattle's Contracting Services Division has extensive information online about public works and consultant contracting. See current Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and Invitations to Bid (ITBs) and learn about the City's Online Business Directory.

The Washington State Office of Minority and Women's Business Enterprises (OMWBE) promotes the participation in public contracting and procurement of businesses owned and controlled by minorities, women and others who may be socially and economically disadvantaged. Get more information on becoming certified as a Minority or Women's Business Enterprise on OMWBE's website or call 360-753-9693.

The City defines Women- and Minority-Owned Businesses differently than does the state - learn more.

Technical Assistance

Economic Development Council of Seattle & King County provides free customized assistance to businesses expanding or relocating into King County. It also offers demographic and economic information, permit troubleshooting, financing information, help with site selection, workforce training referrals and details on local taxes and incentives. Phone: 206-389-8650.

Choose Washington provides information about business development, business assistance and international trade. The ChooseWashington team works with businesses seeking to grow and expand.

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DO YOUR RESEARCH

Explore our Business Decision Engine to learn about zoning, transportation, community facilities, and other opportunities that may affect how you chose to locate or expand your business.

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DATA AT YOUR FINGERTIPS

Explore our Business Decision Engine to learn about local industry trends, workforce, customers, key location factors, and much more.

Visit our Data page on this website for statistics and trends in Seattle's economy.

The Seattle Public Library's Business Information Service offers tools and databases related to all aspects of business including demographics, market research and financial information. Use their "Ask a Business Question" feature or call 206-386-4636.

The Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) compiles information on market profiles, including demographics, employment, trend indicators and housing in Seattle's downtown core. Phone: 206-623-0340.

The Puget Sound Regional Council is a regional data center that provides a variety of economic, demographic, geographic and transportation data to its member cities, counties, businesses and other interested parties. Phone: 206-464-7090.

The Economic Development Council of Seattle & King County provides data about the King County economy. Phone: 206-389-8650.

Business Impact NW, a nonprofit economic development organization, provides individualized business counseling and financial assistance to many businesses that might otherwise have difficulty obtaining such resources. Phone: 206-324-4330.

Greater Seattle SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping small businesses by providing no-fee mentoring and business counseling and low-cost workshops. Phone: 206-553-7320.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers small business loans. Its Seattle District Office houses a Business Enterprise Center (BEC) with an extensive resource library and the Seattle Chapter of SCORE. The BEC offers a one-stop location where current and future small business owners can receive assistance and advice. Phone: 206-553-7310.

University of Washington Foster School of Business Consulting and Business Development Center assists small businesses and nonprofit organizations in underserved communities to grow, create and retain jobs and contribute to the region's economy. Phone: 206-543-9327.

There are a number of product development outfits that help Washington companies overcome the technical challenges of product development. Here are a few examples:

Life Science Washington (LSW) is an independent, non-profit 501(c)(6) trade association serving the life sciences industry in the state of Washington. LSW supports and grows Washington state life sciences through advocacy, collaboration and investment. As the center of influence for Washington state life sciences, LSW advocates for positive public policy and private investment, bringing together research institutions, investors and entrepreneurs to grow the economic sector, and create healthier communities. Visit their website.

Workforce Resources 

Seattle Jobs Initiative (SJI) helps low-income people find and maintain living wage jobs. Local employers actively participate in SJI, ensuring that training programs are relevant to on-the-job requirements. Phone: 206-628-6975.


The Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County (WDC) facilitates job placement and training programs that equip adults with the skills and resources they need to attain living wage jobs. The WDC also offers education, training, employment and support services for youth. Phone: 206-448-0474.

"Foreign" non-Citizens with Temporary Work Visas:  The following links/resources address legal definitions and issues relating to the hiring of "foreign" non-citizen workers who are living temporarily in the United States under one of the temporary visa categories that permit and authorize employment.

Visit the U.S. Department of Labor website for information about foreign labor certification programs.

Visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website for information about petitioning on behalf of an employee for a different immigration classification.

Asylees and Refugees:  Immigrants who are granted asylum or refugee status have employment authorization as a direct result of their immigration status. Download Employment Rights and Resources for Refugees and Asylees (PDF).

Legal Permanent Residents: Holding a Green Card - officially known as a Permanent Resident Card (PDF, 6.77 MB (PDF, 6.77 MB) - provides government authorization for immigrants to work permanently in the United States


What is the City's role in immigration enforcement?

City employees do not ask about immigration status. Passed in 2003, Seattle Ordinance 121063 instructs all City employees to refrain from inquiring about the immigration status of any person, except police officers where they have a reasonable suspicion of a felony criminal law violation or have knowledge that a person has been previously deported. The full ordinance is here: Seattle Ordinance 121063.

The Seattle Office for Civil Rights offers free training to businesses and the general public on anti-discrimination laws. To schedule training or for more information, contact SOCR at 206-684-4500.

SOCR's website also includes information for business owners on how to respond to a discrimination complaint.

Environmental Programs

King County offers a Brownfields Program that provides technical and financial assistance to help small businesses and property owners assess contamination and develop cleanup plans that enable contaminated property to be redeveloped and become productive. In addition, you can find pollution prevention resources such as free second containment by visiting EnviroStars.org, putting your address in the map, and viewing a list of rebates/resources. Phone: 206-477-5268.

Seattle's Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE) supports sustainable building in the private sector.

Seattle Public Utilities' Green Business Program can help your business conserve resources and reduce construction waste. Phone: 206-343-8505.

Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections offers permitting incentives for green building projects. For more information, email dpdprioritygreen@seattle.gov, call the Priority Green Program Manager at 206-684-7744, or call the Sustainable Systems Advisor at 206-233-7194.

Utilities, Conservation and Infrastructure

Seattle Public Utilities collects garbage and bills customers on a combined utilities bill. Private recycling companies provide commercial recycling services to most Seattle businesses. For referrals to private providers and help with setting up commercial recycling services, contact the Resource Venture at 206-343-8505 or visit their website.

Small businesses that generate 96 gallons of garbage or less each week (approximately equivalent to three standard 32-gallon garbage cans) may qualify for free recycling through Seattle Public Utilities. For more information about Small Business Recycling, call 206-684-7665 or visit SPU's Commercial Recycling webpage.

Seattle City Light provides electricity to Seattle businesses through energy efficiency programs and services that have been nationally and internationally recognized for innovation and excellence. The utility offers financial incentives and technical assistance to help businesses reduce electricity use and costs. Find more information on the Business Conservation Services section of their website, or call 206-684-3254.

As a special feature, Seattle City Light offers Energy Smart Services, a one-stop service to major commercial, industrial, government and wholesale customers dealing with complex or unique issues. Email an Energy Advisor or call 206-684-3800 for more information.

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) provides all natural gas services to Seattle businesses. The utility offers incentive funding for commercial and industrial natural gas customers who install cost-effective, energy-efficient modifications to existing systems.

Large commercial and industrial customers are eligible to purchase natural gas from third-party suppliers rather than bundled service from PSE. Learn more about PSE's programs for businesses. For general information, please call 888-225-5773.

You can find current information about Seattle area traffic on Washington State Department of Transportation's website or by phone at 1-800-695-7623.