West Virginia Business License

Written by: Mary Gerardine

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West Virginia Business License

Starting a business in West Virginia? One of the major steps you’ll need to take involves obtaining a business license.

This article provides an in-depth look into West Virginia business licenses, highlighting the key factors to consider when determining which licenses and permits you need, the step-by-step process for acquiring them, and the associated costs.

Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur or an established business owner looking to expand into the “Mountain State,” this guide will help you navigate the licensing process with ease.

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Do I Need a Business License in West Virginia

In West Virginia, businesses are required to obtain various licenses and permits at the local, state, and federal levels. Here’s a general breakdown:

Type of Business

Below, we’ve detailed common ways in which your business type can dictate the licenses you’ll be required to obtain, as well as specific examples of these:

  • Business Registration Certificate: Before starting any business activities, you must register your business with the West Virginia Tax Division and obtain a sales tax license — known as a business registration certificate. If your business involves profit-making activities, including the sale of tangible personal property or services to others, you must adhere to this requirement. Keep in mind that each business location requires its own registration
  • Occupational/Professional Certifications, Licenses, or Permits: Certain professions require certifications, licenses, or permits from the West Virginia Division of Labor. This includes businesses involved in general construction/contracting, elevator servicing/installation, and the management of amusement rides and attractions, among others
  • Professional Licenses: From accountants to veterinarians, certain professionals need a professional license to conduct business in West Virginia. The West Virginia Secretary of State requires an eligibility verification from the relevant state licensing board, verifying a professional’s eligibility to conduct business within the state
  • Building and Zoning Permits: New business sites and updates to current buildings might fall under state building regulations and local zoning rules. Zoning regulations can differ widely between locations so check with your local municipality to determine if your business will need any of these permits
  • Hazardous Waste Permits: The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection issues permits to ensure businesses handle, store, and dispose of dangerous waste correctly

However, this is not the only factor influencing the exact combination of licenses you’ll need — the location of your business within West Virginia plays an important role as well.

Location

In this section, we’ve provided a succinct overview of the potential licenses and permits that your business may need due to local, state, and federal requirements:

  • Local: Your business may need local licenses and permits, depending on the city or county in which it operates. One example of a local business license in West Virginia is the municipal business license required by the city of Huntington. Any entity that requires a business registration certificate also must obtain this municipal business license in order to operate within Huntington’s city limits
  • State: While West Virginia doesn’t have a general business license at the state level, businesses must obtain business registration certificates from the West Virginia Tax Division before conducting any business activity. Every business engaged in any form of sales activity within the state needs to file for this registration
  • Federal: Federal agencies regulate these industry-specific licenses. If a business in West Virginia plans to sell alcoholic beverages, for example, it’ll need a license from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Similarly, businesses involved in the transportation of goods or people across state lines will need a license from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

Since the exact permits and licenses your business will need are entirely unique to your situation, you’ll have to conduct thorough research into your own local, state, and federal regulations to smoothly launch your business.

Alternatively, many entrepreneurs opt to leverage the expertise of third-party services to handle this on their behalf.

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How to Get a Business License in West Virginia

In order to get your business license(s) in West Virginia, you will need to complete the following steps:

  • Form Your Business
  • Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Apply for the Required Licenses and Permits

Let’s take a look at each step in more detail below.

Step 1: Form Your Business

Before setting out to obtain a business license in West Virginia, it’s pivotal that you first choose an appropriate structure for your business. Sole proprietorships, general partnerships, and corporations are all common choices, however it’s often seen as the most advantageous for small businesses in West Virginia to register as a Limited Liability Company (LLC). Here are a few reasons for why:

  • Limited Liability: Members are protected from personal liability for business debts, safeguarding personal assets
  • Tax Benefits: LLCs typically enjoy a pass-through tax treatment, avoiding the double taxation that corporations are subjected to
  • Management Flexibility: LLCs allow for flexibility in management structure, either being member-managed or manager-managed based on the preferences outlined in the certificate of formation
  • Ease of Formation: With the West Virginia Secretary of State providing forms that meet the minimum state law requirements and the option to file online, setting up an LLC is relatively straightforward

Many small business owners opt to avoid the tricky process of forming an LLC by instead leveraging the help of third-party LLC formation services.

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Step 2: Obtain an EIN

The second step you’ll need to complete before applying for your business license is to obtain your EIN. This is a unique nine-digit number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to businesses in the United States so that their financial transactions can be identified and tracked.

An EIN is often necessitated when applying for various permits and licenses as it allows local and state governments to ensure your business is operating within the confines of the law. You can obtain it in a number of ways:

  • Online: You can apply for your EIN on the IRS’s official website by using the EIN Assistant. You should be granted your EIN shortly after completing this application
  • By Fax/Mail: After completing Form SS-4, you can apply for an EIN by submitting it to the IRS via mail or fax
  • By Phone: International applicants and businesses located outside US Territories are required to call the IRS at (267) 941-1099 to obtain their EIN — which they should receive during this call

Note: If you are a sole proprietor, you will be able to use your Social Security Number (SSN) instead (as long as you do not have employees).

Step 3: Apply for Licenses and Permits

After settling on the appropriate structure for your business and initiating the application for your EIN, the next step is to focus on securing the necessary licenses and permits to operate legally within your locale and industry.

  • Local Licenses: Each city or county in West Virginia has its own specific requirements for business licenses. Check with your local city or county clerk’s office or the local government website to understand the specific licensing requirements for your business type and location. Once you determine the local requirements, you’ll need the necessary application forms from your local government office
  • Statewide Licenses: You can apply using a business registration form either online via the West Virginia One Stop Business Portal or by submitting Form WV BUS-APP to the West Virginia Tax Commissioner. Each business location within the state requires a separate business registration certificate so you’ll need to apply separately for each business name or site
  • Federal Licenses: While the federal government doesn’t mandate licenses for general business operations, if your business falls under any government-regulated category, such as agriculture, fishing, firearms, and alcohol sales, it may be required to obtain additional federal licenses or permits

Note: For a list of West Virginia municipality websites, visit the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Municipal Contacts page.

Step 4: Renewal of Licenses and Permits

The state of West Virginia considers a business registration certificate permanent until there’s a change in the business’s legal name, location, or ownership.

Therefore, there’s no set duration for renewing the certificate. If any changes do occur, however, you’ll need to update or renew your registration. Keep in mind that there’s no renewal fee required to update your business registration certificate.

The renewal frequency can vary for local licenses and permits based on your specific city or county. The city of Huntington, for example, distributes municipal business license renewal notices around the first of June each year with all of its local business licenses expiring on June 30.

Check with your local government offices to find out your business’s license renewal and fee schedules.

Alternatively, you can use a third-party service or a professional attorney for this process. This can be a good choice if you want to ensure that you avoid potential fines, as well as if you want to be as time-efficient as possible.

If you’re interested in finding out more about this process, see our article on How to Get a Business License.

How Much is a Business License in West Virginia

In West Virginia, you must pay a one-time fee of $30 to obtain a business registration certificate.

Yet, the cost of a local business license in West Virginia can vary based on your city or county. In the cities of Huntington and Charleston, for example, businesses with a storefront or physical location must purchase a business license for $20 each year.

Some licenses also may involve costs beyond the initial fee, such as renewal fees, inspection fees, or additional permits. Understanding these associated costs can help you avoid unexpected business expenses in the future.

West Virginia Business License FAQ

How much is a business License in West Virginia?

West Virginia business license cost is $30. The business license is called a business registration certificate and is essential for businesses to operate legally within the state. However, you might need to pay additional fees for other specific licenses or permits based on the nature of your business and location.

Does West Virginia have a business license?

West Virginia doesn’t have a general business license, but the state does require businesses to obtain a business registration certificate from the West Virginia Tax Division to operate legally. This certificate serves as the state’s sales tax license. See our How to Get a Business License article for more information.

How long does it take to get a business license in West Virginia?

The time it takes to get a West Virginia business license depends on the volume of license applications it must file. First, determine your business structure because licensing requirements depend on your chosen type of business entity. File the necessary documents and pay the associated fees. Once approved, you’ll receive your business registration certificate within five to 10 business days.

Do you need a business license to sell online in West Virginia?

If you’re selling goods or services online, you must obtain a West Virginia business registration certificate from the West Virginia State Tax Department. This applies to both physical and online businesses. Remote sellers also must collect sales or use tax once they reach $100,000 in sales. Ensuring compliance with this requirement is important to avoid legal complications.

For all related articles, have a look at our How to Get a Business License page.