How to Form a Corporation in West Virginia

To establish a corporation in West Virginia, here's everything you need to know.

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To form a corporation in West Virginia, you need to take the steps set forth below. To find out what’s required to form a corporation in any other state, see Nolo’s 50-State Guide to Forming a Corporation.

1. Choose a Corporate Name

Your corporation's name must contain one of the following words or an abbreviation of one of the following: “corporation,” “incorporated,” “limited,” or “company.”

Your corporation's name must be distinguishable from the names of other business entities already on file with the West Virginia Secretary of State. Names may be checked for availability at the West Virginia Secretary of State business name database.

You may reserve a name for 120 days by filing an Application for Name Reservation with the West Virginia Secretary of State. The reservation must be filed by mail. The filing fee is $15.

2. Prepare and File Articles of Incorporation

Your corporation is legally created by filing Articles of Incorporation with the West Virginia Secretary of State. The articles must include: the corporate name and address; the name and address of agent for service of process; the nature of your business; the number of shares the corporation is authorized to issue; the name and address of each incorporator; the number of acres of land the corporation holds or expects to hold in West Virginia. If your corporation holds more than 10,000 acres of land, you must submit a fee of 5¢ for each acre over 10,000. 

The articles may be filed online at the Business4wv website, or by postal mail. The filing fee is $50.

3. Appoint a Registered Agent

Every West Virginia corporation must have an agent for service of process in the state. This is an individual or corporation that agrees to accept legal papers on the corporation's behalf if it is sued. A registered agent may be an individual who resides in West Virginia, or a corporation or limited liability company authorized to do business in West Virginia. The registered agent must have a physical street address in West Virginia. The agent should agree to accept service of process on your corporation's behalf prior to designation.

4. Set Up a Corporate Records Book

Set up a corporate records book in which you keep all of your corporation's important papers, including minutes of director and shareholder meetings, stock certificates, and stock certificate stubs. Keep your corporate records book at the principal office of your corporation. You can use a three-ring binder as the corporate records book or you can order a special corporate records kit through a corporate kit supplier.

5. Prepare Corporate Bylaws

Bylaws are an internal corporate document that set out the basic ground rules for operating your corporation. They are not filed with the state. Your corporation is not legally required to have corporate bylaws, but you should adopt them because they (1) establish your corporation's operating rules, and (2) help show banks, creditors, the IRS, and others that your corporation is legitimate. For corporate bylaw forms, see Nolo’s website or Incorporate Your Business, by Anthony Mancuso (Nolo). Corporate kits also typically contain sample bylaws.

6. Appoint Initial Corporate Directors

The incorporator—the person who signed the articles—must appoint the initial corporate directors who will serve on the board until the first annual meeting of shareholders (when the board members who will serve for the next term are elected by the shareholders).  The incorporator must fill in an “Incorporator’s Statement” showing the names and addresses of the initial directors. The incorporator must sign the statement and place a copy in the corporate records book.  The statement need not be filed with the state. For a sample Incorporators Statement, see Incorporate Your Business, by Anthony Mancuso (Nolo).

7. Hold Your First Board of Directors Meeting

The first meeting of the  corporation's board of directors should be held at which the directors can appoint corporate officers, adopt bylaws, select a corporate bank, authorize issuance of shares of stock, set the corporation's fiscal year, and adopt an official stock certificate form and corporate seal. The directors' actions must be recorded in corporate minutes prepared by the incorporator or any of the directors. Additionally, if the corporation will be an S corporation, the directors should approve the election of S corporation status. It is usually necessary to prepare the minutes over one or two weeks, and then send them to all the directors for their signature. For corporate meeting minute forms, see Nolo’s website or refer to Incorporate Your Business, by Anthony Mancuso (Nolo).

8. Issue Stock

Issue stock to each shareholder. Although not legally required in most states, small corporations usually issue paper stock certificates. Enter each shareholder's name and contact information in the corporation’s stock transfer ledger. A share of stock in your corporation is classified as a security under state and federal securities laws that regulate the offer and sale of corporate stock.

However, the federal government and all states exempt most small corporations from these laws. For example, federal law exempts "private offerings:" a non-advertised sale to a limited number of people (generally 35 or fewer); most states have enacted their own versions of this SEC exemption. Visit your state securities office website for information about your state's securities laws. Links to all such offices can be found at the Contact Your Regulator web page of the North American Securities Administrators Association.

9. Comply with West Virginia Annual Report Requirements

Every domestic and foreign corporation transacting business in West Virginia must file an annual report with the Secretary of State and pay a $25 filing fee. The report must be filed by June 30 of each year. Annual Report notification is mailed or emailed by the Secretary of State in January of each year The report should be filed online at the Business4wv website.

10. Comply With Other Tax and Regulatory Requirements

Additional tax and regulatory requirements apply to your corporation. These include:

EIN: Your corporation must obtain a federal employer identification number (EIN). You may obtain an EIN by completing an online application on the IRS website. There is no filing fee.

S Corporation Filing: If the corporation wants to elect S corporation status for tax purposes, it must submit Form 2553 Election by a Small Business Corporation (signed by all the shareholders). The election should be filed within two months and 15 days after the beginning of the corporation's first tax year. See the IRS S Corporation Fact Sheet for details.

West Virginia Business Registration Certificate: Every business in West Virginia must register with the West Virginia State Tax Department and pay a $30 fee before commencing business activities in the state. This includes domestic and foreign corporations. To register with the West Virginia State Tax Department, you must complete the Application for Registration Certificate (Form WV/BUS-APP)  and return it to: West Virginia State Tax Department, PO Box 11425, Charleston, West Virginia 25339-1425. A copy of the form is contained in the booklet West Virginia Office of Business Registration Applications and Instructions for Business Startup. You may also register online at the West Virginia business4wv website.

Business Licenses: Depending on its type of business and where it is located, your corporation may need to obtain other local and state business licenses. For details, consult the booklet West Virginia Office of Business Registration Applications and Instructions for Business Startup.

11. Foreign Corporations Doing Business in West Virginia

All corporations organized outside of West Virginia must register with the West Virginia Secretary of State to do business in West Virginia. Foreign corporations must appoint a registered agent for service of process physically located in West Virginia. To register, file an Application for Certificate of Authority. The application must be accompanied by an original  certificate of good standing or existence from the Secretary of State or similar official of the foreign corporation's home state. The application may be filed online at the Business4WV website, or by postal mail. The filing fee is $100 .

Before filing, make sure the corporation's name is available in West Virginia by checking the West Virginia business name database.  If the name is not available, attach a resolution of the board of directors adopting an available fictitious name for use in transacting business in West Virginia.

by: , J.D.

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