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West Virginia Business License Basics

West Virginia Business License Basics

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West Virginia Business License Basics

Starting a small business in West Virginia often means registering with several federal, state, and local agencies. Let’s review common West Virginia business license registrations so your business starts off right.

Related: Guide to starting a business in West Virginia

Setting Up the Business

Before you can apply for business licenses, you should first establish the business structure. This decision impacts your legal responsibilities, taxes, and how much personal liability you might face. Here’s a brief explanation of each type of entity:

Sole proprietorship: This is the simplest form of business structure, where one person owns and runs everything. There’s no separation between the owner and the business, meaning the owner is personally responsible for all debts and legal actions against the business. Taxes are straightforward as the owner reports business income on their personal tax return.

General partnership: Similar to a sole proprietorship, but with two or more people running the business. Partners share profits and losses, and like sole proprietors, they are personally responsible for the business’s debts and legal issues. Partnerships also don’t pay taxes as a separate entity; instead, each partner includes their share of profits or losses in their personal tax filings.

Corporation: A corporation is a more complex entity that is separate from its owners, providing personal liability protection. Owners, known as shareholders, are not personally responsible for the corporation’s debts or legal problems. Corporations can raise money by selling stock and are taxed separately from their owners. This entity requires more requirements, like having board meetings and record-keeping.

Limited Liability Company (LLC): An LLC blends elements of sole proprietorships, partnerships, and corporations. Owners (members) have limited personal liability for business debts and actions. Like sole proprietorships and partnerships, an LLC can pass income directly to owners to avoid double taxation, a common issue with corporations. This structure offers flexibility in management and less strict requirements than a corporation.

What Licenses Do West Virginia Businesses Need?

With the business structure out of the way, we can begin looking at the different types of registrations businesses in West Virginia may need. There isn’t a standard business license, as requirements vary depending on where the business is located and what it does. Here is a general overview of the different registrations your business may need.

General West Virginia Business Licenses

There is no general state of West Virginia business license; however, many cities require businesses to be licensed. Rules for business registration vary depending on location and the business’s activities. Below are a few cities that have licensing requirements. 

  • Charleston: All new businesses starting or operating in Charleston’s city limits will need to fill out the Business Registration Application from the Charleston Office of the City Collector. Businesses operating out of a physical location will be required to have the building inspected by the Planning and Zoning Department, Building Department, and the Fire Department.
  • Huntington: A Municipal Business License is required before starting a business or operating in Huntington’s city limits.  The Business License Application is available through the Huntington Finance Division. Businesses selling alcohol, video lottery, tattoo parlors, body piercing, and mobile food vendors have additional requirements. 
  • Parkersburg: To get a business license in Parkersburg, the business location has to be approved by the Zoning Office and an inspection from the Code Department and Fire Inspector.  After approval, the business can obtain a Certificate of Occupancy and Business License.
Take the guesswork out of figuring out what licenses and permits are required to start your business with license research packages from Bizee and LegalZoom.

For as little as $99, you can save a lot of time and know your business is in compliance with local, state, and federal requirements. 

Trade Name Registration

While not a business license, it’s common for sole proprietorships and partnerships operating under a name that is different from the full name of the owner(s) to register for a Trade Name (also known as a Doing Business As or DBA) with the County Clerk’s Office in the county where the business is located.

Building & Zoning Permits

  • Zoning: Depending on the business’s location, it’s important to verify whether it needs an occupancy permit or has specific zoning regulations to follow. Depending on city requirements, home-based businesses may need to apply for a home occupation permit.
  • Building Permit: If a facility is being constructed or renovated, a building permit may be needed from the city or county building and planning department.
  • Signage Permit: Some municipalities require a permit before adding signage.

Business Registration Certificate

Any person or business engaging in business activity in West Virginia must obtain a Business Registration Certificate (sometimes known as a Business License) with the West Virginia State Tax Department before starting any business activities.  This certificate is used to register for a West Virginia Sales Tax Permit.

Certificate of Exemption

Businesses purchasing merchandise to resell will usually want to obtain a West Virginia Certificate of Exemption to not pay state sales tax on merchandise being resold to customers.

Professional License

A variety of professions in the state are regulated and need to be registered before offering certain services.  A few common occupations that require licensing in West Virginia include; accountants, cosmetologists, landscapers, massage therapists, and many more.   Additional information, fees, and licensing requirements for professions in West Virginia are available from the West Virginia Association of Licensing Boards.

In addition to professional licenses from the Association of Licensing Boards, businesses in various industries such as food establishments and daycares also require licensing.

Contractor’s License

A contractor’s license is needed for all businesses and individuals to work on any building project valued above $2,500. To get a license, a test is needed depending on the specialty, in addition to a Business & Law exam.  Contact the West Virginia Division of Labor for more information.

Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Many businesses will need to register with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for an EIN (also referred to as a FEIN, Federal Employer Identification Number, or Federal Tax ID Number). The EIN is the business equivalent of a Social Security Number for an individual. Corporations, Limited Liability Companies, partnerships, and sole proprietorships with employees will all need to register for one. Sole Proprietorships without employees can use the owner’s Social Security Number.

There is no cost for an EIN, and it only takes a few minutes to get.

Learn how to apply for an EIN

Next Steps

These are some of the most common business licenses a new business in West Virginia will need to register for. While it’s a good start, there are so many different licenses that may be needed, so be sure to double-check with the City Hall, Chamber of Commerce, and/or Economic Development office in your area before opening your doors.

Author

  • Greg Bouhl

    With over two decades as an entrepreneur, educator, and business advisor, Greg Bouhl has worked with over 2,000 entrepreneurs to help them start and grow their businesses. Fed up with clients finding and acting on inaccurate and outdated information online, Greg launched StartUp101.com to be a trusted resource for people starting a business.

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West Virginia Business License Basics

West Virginia Business License Basics

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