How to register an escort business in Washington

Washington. You produce more apples than the pie-slinging New England states. You’ve given us Jimi Hendrix, Bing Crosby and enough (amazing) coffee to caffeinate a jet plane into motion. You’re misty-eyed and retain the romance of a wild-westerner in city clothes. A rough stone, smoothed.

That’s you, Washington.

Washington is a diverse and welcoming state in which to register your small escort business, and in this article you’ll find clear step-by-step advice on how to do just that. For more information on why it’s vitally important to register your business, refer to our article Don’t get busted for tax evasion: Why registering your escort business is the only option.

Step one: Define and describe your business

There are several kinds of business structures applicable for registering your escort business with the government, and picking the right one for you is important. For example, someone working completely as an independent escort and someone who wants to run an agency would file for different types of businesses. Ask yourself these questions to define what your business is / will be and under which structure you should register:

  • How do I define my work? What is it, in essence, that I serve? Do I supply the connections between escorts and clients, or am I myself the escort and am providing the company?
  • Am I the only one who will benefit monetarily from my business? If not, who else will and why are they collecting profits?
  • Am I the only one who will manage my business – schedule clients, hire drivers etc.? If not, will it be another owner doing this or someone I employ?
  • Will I be hiring regular employees to take calls, set up appointments, manage any office work on a regular basis etc., or will I maintain my business by myself?
  • Will I be hiring independent consultants (freelance escorts) and, if so, how do I expect to manage and pay them?
  • Who will fund costs such as buying advertisements in newspapers, renting an office or the cost of running a website?
  • Would I ever want to brand my business name or logo?
  • Who will be responsible for my business if I run into debt? Is this just me?
  • Will I ever want to sell my business?

Write the answers to these questions down and your business model will start to take shape for you.

Another step in articulating your business is to write a one-sentence summary of what the business actually does. As an escort you’re registering a service you provide, rather than a product that you sell, and this service will need to be articulated. Having this readily on hand will save you time when filling out various forms. Make this unique to you from the questions you’ve answered above, along the lines of “We provide company to our clients in a social setting”.

For information on what terms you legally can and cannot use, refer to our article The fine legal line between escort and prostitute: some strategies for an escort to stay out of trouble.

Step two: Choose your business structure

Once you have a handle of what your business is and how it will be run, it’s time to pick out a business model. Below are four quick definitions of what it means to be one of the four business models that make sense for an escorting service: a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a corporation and an LLC.

  • Sole Proprietorship: One person owns and operates the business, and is responsible for all profits and losses. Legally, there is no difference between your business and you. If you are just starting out and/or will be working and managing and collecting your fees alone, this is what you want.
  • Partnership: Two or more people own and are responsible for the business. If you have a small group of close friends who will share contacts and the actual time spent with clients or will work with one person as a manager and you as the only escort, this is what you should choose. However, as you are equally responsible for losses and this structure requires more paperwork, it can be a risky investment.
  • Corporation: The business is a legal entity owned by shareholders. While the shareholders may invest money and collect in profits, they are not responsible for losses or claiming personal bankruptcy if the business claims it. This model requires much more paperwork, and most likely the addition of an accountant and possibly a business lawyer as well. A corporation is definitely the way to go if you have been in business for a few years, juggle many consultants and clients, and want to expand and legitimize your work on a higher platform. If that’s not you, don’t become a corporation.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC): An LLC provides the liability insurance of a corporation with the tax efficiencies of a sole proprietorship or partnership. One or more owners are referred to as members. The taxes of the business are filed with the income taxes of the members, but they are not responsible for (most) company losses. If you have a small company involving a few close friends and want to expand to having a separate bank account and records slightly more independent than your own, an LLC is for you.

For specifications on these structures within Washington State, visit the Washington Secretary of State » Corporations Division.

Step three: Create your name

Let’s pretend your name is “Jane Doe”. First, decide whether you simply want to call your business your name — “Jane Doe” — or take on a DBA name (‘doing business as’ name, also called an ‘assumed name’ or ‘trade name’).

With a sole proprietorship or partnership, you have the option of using your own name as your business name, and won’t be required to register your business name in Alaska. If you’re a corporation or LLC, you will have to take on a DBA name. If you’re required to or simply want to take on a DBA, have fun picking your company name.

Do you want to be brassy and devil-may-care? Pick something as straightforward as “Jane Doe Escort Service”. Want to be flirty and funny? “Jane Doe—The Company Company”. Feel like being a little more discreet and want to stay out of the limelight? Try something demure, like “Jane Doe Social Consulting”. Your name can be as simple or as flashy as you’d like, just make sure it’s honest to what you want your business to be. And keep in mind that escorting is a controversial issue in the United States. Do you want to push the envelope of acceptability or maintain a low profile?

Make sure the DBA name is not already being used in Washington. You’ll have wasted time and money if you apply to register the name and it’s already been taken. A simple internet search and comb through the yellow pages will take care of this. Also know that you shouldn’t do business with a DBA name until the registration has been approved.

For some helpful advice on picking out a business name, visit Business.gov.

Step four: Register your business / business name

Sole Proprietorship:

In Washington you are not required to register your sole proprietorship escort business as a separate business entity: because the business is you, it is not recognized as a separate business and you’ll file your business information along with your own personal taxes. You are also not required to register your business name if it is your name.

But if you take on a DBA name, you’ll have to file a Master Business Registration form with the Washington State Department of Licensing. There is a $15 filing fee for this form plus $5 per each name you register. Specifications on what names need to be filed and forms can be found at the Washington State Department of Licensing » Trademark Registration.

For more information on if taking on a DBA is a good choice for your business, refer to our article Do I want to be a sole proprietor?

Partnership:

In Washington you are not required to register your general partnership as a separate business entity. However, it is highly recommended that you draft a statement of partnership or partnership agreement. This document will safeguard the details you’ve outlined within the partnership should you come into conflict with a partner down the road.

You are also not required to register your business name if it is the collected names of the partners. But if you take on a DBA name, you’ll have to file a Master Business Registration form with the Washington State Department of Licensing. There is a $15 filing fee for this form plus $5 per each name you register.

Corporation:

To register your escort corporation in Washington you’ll need to file your Articles of Incorporation with the Washington Secretary of State. You’ll include information on the amount of shares for the corporation, the incorporating persons and a $180 filing fee (plus other possible applicable fees depending on the amount of shares in your corporation). Because of the intricate information required when starting a corporation, it is highly recommended that you seek advice from a business lawyer and accountant. You can find this form or file online at the Washington Secretary of State » Corporations Division.

Registering your Articles of Incorporation will register your business name, so you do not have to do this separately. However, if you plan to operate under any name other than what you put on this registration, you’ll have to file a Master Business Registration form with the Washington State Department of Licensing. There is a $15 filing fee for this form plus $5 per each name you register.

LLC:

To register your escort business LLC in Washington, you’ll need to file a Charter of Formation with the Washington Secretary of State. The form includes basic information about the members and managers of the LLC, and requires a $180 filing fee. You can find this form and file online at the Washington Secretary of State » Corporation Division.

Registering your Charter of Formation will register your business name, so you do not have to do this separately. However, if you plan to operate under any name other than what you put on this registration, you’ll have to file a Master Business Registration form with the Washington State Department of Licensing. There is a $15 filing fee for this form plus $5 per each name you register.

For more information on the fastest and easiest way to register your business, go to the Washington Secretary of State Corporations Division.

Step five: Get an Employer Tax Identification Number (EIN)

If you are a sole proprietor in Washington, your EIN will be your own social security number, whether you do or do not register a DBA/trade name. But if you are a partnership, corporation or LLC or say YES to any of the following questions, you’ll have to apply for a new EIN.

  • Do you have employees? This means anyone you pay regularly, such as a personal assistant, office manager, driver etc.
  • Do you plan to open a bank account solely for the business? Will you be collecting money from clients and then using that money to pay escort or other employees (if you have any employees, you should have a separate bank account for this)?
  • Do you operate your business as a corporation or a partnership?
  • Do you file any of these tax returns: Employment, Excise, Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms? If you hire employees, you’ll need to pay employment taxes. Other than that, as an escort service this answer is most likely no.
  • Do you withhold taxes on income, other than wages, paid to a non-resident alien? Are any of your employees non-Americans?
  • Do you have a Keogh plan? (A retirement plan you set up for yourself in the business)
  • Are you involved with any of the following types of organizations? (I’m going to save you an explanation of what all of these mean, because you’ll most likely know if your business is involved with such, and the answer is probably no.)
    • Trusts, except certain grantor-owned revocable trusts, IRAs, Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Returns
    • Estates
    • Real estate mortgage investment conduits
    • Non-profit organizations
    • Farmers’ cooperatives
    • Plan administrators

All application processes require only basic information: your legal name and contact information, a name and description of your business, the type of entity, your social security number, employees etc. And there is no fee.

  1. Online: This is the currently preferred way to obtain your EIN, and you’ll get the results immediately as soon as your business is approved without needing to fill out a separate SS-4. You have 15-minutes to complete the form. Go to IRS.gov to apply for an online EIN.
  2. By Mail: Fill out an SS-4 form, which you can obtain on IRS.gov. and mail to Internal Revenue Service, Attn: EIN Operations, Philadelphia, PA 19255. It takes about 4 weeks to get the EIN once your application has been processed.
  3. By Fax: Fill out and fax an SS-4 form to (859) 669-5760. If you include your fax number on the form, they’ll fax your EIN within 4 business days.
  4. By Phone: Call toll-free (800) 829-4933, 7am-10pm, Monday—Friday. An assignor will take your information over the phone and then directly process the application and give you your EIN.

Step six: Register for your federal and Washington state taxes

There are a few basic types of taxes small businesses in Washington may register for.

  1. Individual Income Tax: If you’re a sole proprietor or LLC, you’ll file your business profits/losses in a Schedule EZ form that will go along with your personal income tax 1040 form. For more information go toIRS.gov.
  2. Business Taxes: The tax situation on corporations in Washington State is a bit tricky in regards to the escort world. In general, you do not have to pay business taxes in Washington. But there is a business and occupation tax that does include the entertainment field. It is highly recommended that you ask a business lawyer in your city for advice on if you need to pay this tax for your business.
  3. Unemployment Insurance: All businesses with employees pay unemployment insurance to safeguard the state’s unemployed. More information can be found at the Washington State Employment Security Department.
  4. Withholding Taxes: Employers must withhold taxes from employees for their personal income taxes on a federal level. More information can be found at IRS.gov.
  5. Workers Compensation: If you have employees, you’ll have to pay Workers’ Compensation. Resources for employers can be found at the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.
  6. Self-Employment Taxes: If you own and operate your business and are not paid as an employee, you’ll need to file your own self-employment taxes for social security and Medicaid. This is particularly true for sole proprietorships, general partnerships and LLCs. You can find this Schedule C / 1040 form and get more information at IRS.gov. Get more information at IRS.gov.

Step seven: Get necessary licenses and permits

There is no escort license or “general business license” in Washington, but some cities may require you have a general permit for your escort business. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the Washington State Department of Licensing and run your city through the IRS’s Permit Me tool to get more information about specific filing in your area.

For more information about registering an escort business in Washington, consider the following online destinations:

Please note: Skipthegames.com is not a legal service, nor are we tax advisors or accountants. We do offer you what we consider our best advice, but if at all in doubt, please consult a professional.