Start Your Own Business in West Virginia: Seven Steps You Need to Take

From licenses and permits to taxes and insurance, learn what you need to do to start a business in West Virginia.



Here’s an overview of the key steps you’ll need to take to start your own business in West Virginia.

Step 1. Decide on a Legal Structure

The most common legal structures for a small business are:

  • sole proprietorship
  • partnership
  • limited liability company (LLC), and
  • corporation

There also are special versions of some of these structures, such as limited partnerships and S corporations. You’ll want to consider which business entity structure offers the type of liability protection you want and the best tax, financing, and financial benefits for you and your business. Check  Choose Your Business Structure  on Nolo’s website for more information on how to choose the best ownership structure for your business.

Step 2. Choose a Name

For LLCs and corporations, you will need to check that your name is distinguishable from the names of other business entities already on file with the West Virginia Secretary of State (SOS). You can check for available names by doing a  business organization search  on the SOS website. You can  reserve an available name  for 120 days by filing an Application for Name Reservation. There are certain name requirements for LLCs and corporations (like including a word such as “LLC” for LLCs or “Company” for corporations). See  How to Form an LLC in West Virginiaand  How to Form a Corporation in West Virginia  for more information.

Is your business a sole proprietorship or partnership that uses a business name that is different from the legal name of the business owner (for a sole proprietorship) or surnames of the individual partners (for a partnership)? If so, you must file an  Application for Trade Name (DBA)  with the SOS.

If you plan on doing business online, you may want to register your business name as a domain name. See  Choose and Register a Domain Name  for more information. In addition, to avoid trademark infringement issues, you should do a federal and state trademark check to make sure the name you want to use is not the same as or too similar to a name already in use. See  How to Do a Trademark Search  for more information.

Step 3. Create Your Business Entity

  • Sole proprietorship:  To establish a sole proprietorship in West Virginia, you don’t need to file any organizational documents with the state. For more information, see  How to Establish a Sole Proprietorship in West Virginia.
  • Partnership:  To create a general partnership in West Virginia, you don’t need to file any organizational documents with the state. Although not legally required, all partnerships should have a written partnership agreement. The partnership agreement can be very helpful if there is ever a dispute among the partners. For more information, see  How to Form a Partnership in West Virginia.  To form a  limited liability partnership  (often used by professionals), you must file a Statement of Registration with the West Virginia SOS. For more information, see  How to Form a Limited Liability Partnership in West Virginia.
  • LLCs:  To create an LLC in West Virginia, you must file  Articles of Organization  with the West Virginia SOS. You will also need to appoint a  registered agent  in West Virginia for service of process (also known in West Virginia as an “agent for service of process”). In addition, while not required by law, you also should prepare an  operating agreement  to establish the basic rules about how your LLC will operate. The operating agreement is not filed with the state. For more information, see  How to Form an LLC in West Virginia  andHow to Form a Professional LLC in West Virginia  (for professionals).
  • Corporations:  To create a corporation in West Virginia, you must file  Articles of Incorporation  with the West Virginia SOS. You will also need to appoint a  registered agent  in West Virginia for service of process (also known in West Virginia as an “agent for service of process”). Although not legally required, you also should prepare  bylaws  to establish your corporation’s internal operating rules. Bylaws are not filed with the state.  S Corporations  must also file IRS Form 2553,  Election by a Small Business Corporation,  with the IRS. For more information, see  How to Form a Corporation in West Virginia.

Step 4. Licenses and Permits

Tax Registration.  If you will be selling goods in West Virginia, you must register with the State Tax Department (STD) to collect sales tax. If your business will have employees, you must register with the STD for employer withholding taxes. You can register for both types of tax, as well as many other business taxes, using  Form WV/BUS-APP, which combines all the primary state business tax registration forms.

EIN.  If your business has employees or is taxed separately from you, you must obtain a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. Even if you are not required to obtain an EIN, there are often business reasons for doing so. Banks often require an EIN to open an account in the business’s name and other companies you do business with may require an EIN to process payments. You can get an EIN by completing an online application on the IRS website. There is no filing fee.

Regulatory licenses and permits.  These cover areas such as:

  • health and safety
  • the environment
  • building and construction; and
  • specific industries or services.

Different state licenses and permits are issued by different agencies. One place to go for more information is theApply for Licenses/Permits  section of the business4wv.com. Clicking on the option for “Regulatory Licenses & Permits -- By Category” will give you a list of many of the available regulatory licenses. You should also check theBusiness Assistance  section of the Department of Commerce website and the  Licensing and Registrationssection of the SOS website. For information about local licenses and permits, check the websites for any cities or counties where you will do business.

Professional and occupational licenses.  These cover people who work in various fields. Go to the  Apply for Licenses/Permits  section of the business4wv.com website for more details. Click on the option for “Professional and Occupational Licenses -- By Category,” which will give you a list of the available licenses. Be aware that you may need to do a further click on “Professional Services” (or “Medical,” or “Legal”) before you’ll see the profession or occupation you want.

Step 5. Business Location and Zoning

You’ll need to pick a location for your business and check local zoning regulations. That includes if you work from home. You may be able to find zoning regulations for your town or city by checking  municode.com.

Step 6. Taxes and Reporting

West Virginia taxes every kind of business. See  West Virginia State Business Income Tax  for more information on state business taxes in West Virginia.

Sole proprietorships.  Pay state taxes on business income as part of their personal state income tax returns (Form IT-140).

Partnerships.  Partners pay state taxes on partnership income on personal tax returns. In addition, West Virginia partnerships also must file  Form SPF-100,  West Virginia Income Tax Return S Corporation & Partnership (Pass-Through Entity). West Virginia partnerships are subject to the state’s business franchise tax.

LLCs.  Members pay state taxes on their share of LLC income on personal tax returns. In addition, LLCs themselves have to file an additional state tax form. The specific form used will depend on how the LLC is classified for federal tax purposes. West Virginia LLCs are subject to the state’s business franchise tax. West Virginia LLCs also are required to file an annual report. See  West Virginia LLC Annual Filing Requirements  for more information.

Corporations.  Shareholders must pay states taxes on their dividends from the corporation. A shareholder-employee with a salary also must pay state income tax on his or her personal state tax return. Moreover, the corporation itself is subject to West Virginia business franchise tax and  state corporation taxes. And, finally, corporations must file an  annual report  with the West Virginia SOS.

If you have employees, you must also deal with state  employer taxes.

And, apart from West Virginia taxes, there are always federal income and employer taxes. Check IRS Publications 334,  Tax Guide for Small Business, and 583,  Taxpayers Starting a Business, available at irs.gov.

Step 7. Insurance

Insurance is a good idea for most kinds of business. While insurance often is regulated at the state level, the types of business insurance available are usually similar across the fifty states. Check  Obtaining Business Insurance  for more information.

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