Clean Hands Certificate Basics

Posted by Gennine Cooper
April 4, 2017

A clean hands certificate doesn’t sound like much like something a business would need, but it is—and it’s particularly relevant to organizations seeking to do business in Washington, D.C.

What is a clean hands certificate?

A clean hands certificate is required with any application for a license or permit in the District of Columbia, including a basic business license. It’s used in the business license application and requires the entity and/or its owners to attest to the fact that they do not owe the District more than $100. Issued by the Office of Tax & Revenue (OTR), the clean hands certificate is an actual certificate to go with the business license application. A business must have filed the FR 500 Combined Registration Application and received a “Notice of Tax Registration” before the OTR will issue the clean hands certificate.  Different from good standing, this certificate does not attest to tax returns  filed and usually is used just as supporting documentation.

If an applicant for a license or permit has failed to file District tax returns, they are also subject to the Clean Hands Law (DC Official Code §§47-2861 through 47-2866) and will be denied the license or permit. The OTR Collection Division receives clean hands certifications from various District agencies.

clean hands certificate paperwork

What is owed to the Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs (the District’s equivalent to the Secretary of State) is totally separate. DCRA governs the business entities and has a two-year report filing requirement. Good standing certificates, as it relates to the standing of the entity and fulfillment of the requirements of maintaining a business in DC, are issued by DCRA.  If a business is not in good standing with DCRA, its authority to do business may be revoked.

To learn more about a clean hands certificate or any other request from the District of Columbia, Federal Agencies and Embassies or for help in general, contact Incserv’s Deirdre Davis-Washington and her team at 202-386-7575 or

 Nothing herein is intended to constitute legal advice on any subject or to create an attorney-client relationship. The materials presented here are in summary form. To be certain of their applicability and use for specific situations, consult an attorney.