Registering a Business in the DMV: What’s Different?

Posted by Michael E. Lyons | Jul 23, 2019

If you run a business, whether you're the sole employee or the leader of a growing corporation, you need to register your business with the government. This ensures that all of your business dealings are legal and properly filed for tax purposes, payroll, insurance, and other legal considerations. Patriots Law Group has helped many business owners start, grow, and support their businesses from day one — and we're excited to do the same for you.

One of the first questions our clients ask is, “How do I register my business in my state?” 

In most states, including Maryland, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Virginia, the process for registering your business follows four similar steps:

  1. Choose your business structure.
  2. Register your business and its trade name. 
  3. Obtain your relevant tax numbers. 
  4. Obtain any necessary licenses. 
  5. Celebrate your first day in business! 

(That last step isn't necessarily critical — but you should definitely celebrate when you've finished registration and are officially in business!)

Here's how the process differs from state to state:

Washington, D.C.

In D.C., business operations are managed by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA). The DCRA is responsible for issuing registrations, licenses, and permits. Most business structures (excluding sole proprietorships and non-profit organizations, unless you want to register a trade name) must register with the DCRA's Corporations Division, following the same typical process for business registration:

  1. Choose your Business Structure.
  2. Register your business online through the DCRA's Corporations Division CorpOnline Web Portal. While sole proprietorships can technically operate without registering, you need to register in order to obtain a business tax number.
  3. Apply for your Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN), a.k.a. a Tax Identification Number. This can be done:
    1. online through the IRS's portal,
    2. over the phone by calling 1-800-829-4933, OR
    3. by faxing or mailing IRS Form SS-4 (Application for Employer Identification Number).
  1. Obtain any necessary permits, like
    1. A Certificate of Occupancy (or Home Occupation Permit for home-based businesses) to cover your business's operations in its chosen location. Both applications may be filed online. For example, you will need a Certificate of Occupancy if you rent out office space for your marketing business, or a Home Occupation Permit if you run your business from your personal D.C. residence.
    2. Building permits, Plats of Survey, an alcohol license, or other permits.
  2. Celebrate


The State of Maryland offers an excellent resource for business owners called Maryland Business Express, an online resource center that covers everything from business planning to registration, management, and growth. Like D.C., Maryland follows four basic steps, plus an additional fifth for business insurance:

  1. Choose your business structure and register with the State. There is a handy online application for this.
  2. Obtain your FEIN/TIN from the IRS, following the same steps above.
  3. Apply for Maryland tax and insurance accounts. This step is a little different, because Maryland has various requirements for business taxes, unemployment insurance, workers' compensation, and more.
  4. Obtain any necessary licenses or permits. Maryland offers the Maryland OneStop portal for licensing and permits.
  5. Purchase business insurance. While business insurance is not technically a legal requirement, the State of Maryland strongly recommends insurance for a wide range of coverage, including liability insurance, health insurance, and workers' compensation insurance. If you're not sure what kind of insurance you might need, it's a good idea to speak with an experienced business attorney.
  6. Celebrate! 


Like Maryland, Virginia offers a one-stop online resources for business owners, called (cleverly) Business One Stop. This is where you can follow the online steps for business registration:

  1. Choose your business structure. 
  2. Register your business and trade name. You can do this through Business One Stop's Online Business Registration system.
  3. Obtain your FEIN/TIN from the IRS, following the same steps as above. 
  4. Obtain any necessary licenses or permits. Virginia offers excellent resources to find out if your business needs a particular permit, as well as to apply for them.
  5. Celebrate! 

When it comes down to it…

The world of business registration can seem complicated — and it is! But that doesn't mean you need to spend hours researching your business's registration requirement. At Patriots Law Group, we're here to help. We've used our years of business litigation experience to assist our clients through every stage of the business formation process. If you are considering starting a new company, or have already been working with clients in an unofficial capacity, it's time to get started. Give us a call at (301) 952-9000 to schedule a consultation.

DISCLAIMER:  The information above is for general informational purposes only.  No attorney-client relationship is intended or created by this information.  Each individual situation is different and therefore a formal in-person consultation is necessary before any specific advice may be relied upon as appropriate and accurate for a given situation. Please call Patriots Law Group at 301-952-9000 to set up a consultation if you wish to obtain specific legal advice you may rely upon. We serve clients anywhere in the world, with in-person consultations available at our Suitland, MD office — right next to Andrews Air Force Base — for clients in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. 

About the Author

Michael E. Lyons

“As a veteran, I bring my core values of service, integrity, and excellence to every client, every case, every time.” Background: Michael E. Lyons (“Mike”) handles cases in Maryland and Washington D.C. fr...