West Virginia Department of Commerce Securing a Business License

Recent Pages: Business License

Securing a Business License

Going Into Business in West Virginia


GETTING YOUR BUSINESS OFF TO A GOOD START depends on you. That means filing with the proper federal, state and local agencies.

Choosing the form of business is a big decision which will affect how the business is owned and operated, who will be liable for the debts and obligations of the business, who will have a right to the assets of the business and your tax status. The legal forms a business can have were reviewed and compared in Chapter 4: Deciding on a Legal Structure. Once that decision is made, you can begin your business registration.

There are three simple steps in registering your business.

1. File with the Secretary of State — www.sos.wv.gov.
2. Register with the state tax and employer agencies.
3. File copies with your local city or county agencies.

Filing your business information can be done in two ways: through an online registration method or by submitting completed forms to the various federal and state agencies. The online method uses the interactive Web site, www.business4wv.com.

The Business4WV system automates and streamlines the complex process of new business registration. The system allows new businesses to complete and track their basic registration utilizing a single Web site instead of coordinating independently with the Secretary of State, State Tax Department, Bureau of Employment Programs (Unemployment Compensation) and the private insurance providers for workers compensation. Business4WV simplifies business registration by collecting customer information through a dynamic online interview. As the interview proceeds, the responses of you, the business owner, drive the process — dynamically eliminating irrelevant questions and collecting only required and essential information. Business4WV also provides a coordinated back-office processing center where agency personnel review each registration application and interact with you, the owner, through a messaging center to quickly resolve problems with a filing. The registration moves through each agency’s review process employing custom-designed workflow and provides constant visibility of the status of the application to the customer and other involved agencies. Upon acceptance by an agency, data are transferred to the agency’s internal database systems.

To learn more about Business4WV, go to www.business4wv.com and begin learning about this vital resource for the West Virginia entrepreneur. You also can contact your local SBDC office or call the Business Ask Me! Line toll free at (888) 982-7232.

Step 1: Organization
Step 2: Registration
Frequent Asked Questions
Step 3: Local Liscensing


Filing with the Secretary of State
If you decide to file your business registration by submitting individual forms to the various agencies, you begin by registering with the Secretary of State.

If the business has employees or is a corporation, association, limited liability company, limited partnership or limited liability partnership, you will need to obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN), which is assigned by the Internal Revenue Service. To request the SS-4 forms to obtain a taxpayer FEIN identification number from the Internal Revenue Service, call 800-829-4933 or visit the IRS Web site at www.irs.gov. If you are starting a sole proprietorship or a general partnership, you do not have to file with the Secretary of State or get an FEIN.

Once you obtain your FEIN, you must first file organization papers with the Secretary of State whether you are based inside or outside of the state. Obtain the correct form to organize the business, or have your attorney or accountant prepare the filings. To obtain forms, call (304) 558-8000, or visit the Secretary of State’s Web site at www.sos.wv.gov. The forms are downloadable and there are helpful links to get information and ask questions.

Choose a business name and make sure it is available before your filings are prepared. If you are forming a corporation, association, limited liability company, limited partnership or limited liability partnership, you must use a name that is distinguishable from any other name that is registered or reserved with the West Virginia Secretary of State by any other company.

You can file to reserve your business name on the Secretary of State’s Web site or at any of the walkin tax offices. A registration specialist will help you obtain a seven-calendar day or 120-calendar day hold on an available name. Upon completion and approval of all forms required by the Secretary of State’s Office, you will receive a control number which must be entered on your business registration application with the West Virginia Tax Department. The registration application will not be processed without this control number.

back to top


Filing with Tax and Employer Agencies
Every person or company intending to do business in this state, including every individual who is selfemployed or hires employees, must obtain a business registration certificate from the West Virginia State Tax Department. Certain types of exclusions are individuals in the employ of their son, daughter or spouse or a child under 18 in the employ of the child’s father or mother.

File a Business Registration Certificate (Form WV/BUS-APP) with the West Virginia State Tax Department. This is a permit to conduct business in the state and must be displayed at all times at the place of business. A separate certificate is required for each fixed business location from which property or services are offered for sale or lease or at which customer accounts may be opened, closed or serviced.

Contractors also must have a copy of their Business Registration Certificate available at each of their construction sites until the work at that site is completed. The State Tax Department has simplified the process of licensing a business in West Virginia. There is a single application to register with all of the state agencies. To get a licensing application, call the State Tax Department at (800) 982-8297 or go to the Tax Department Web site. Click on Business Registration and follow the directions.

Many businesses perform work that is regulated. The work you do may require one or more special licenses or permits. For example, if you indicate on the business license registration form that you are doing construction-related work, the Contractor’s Licensing Board will send you an application form.

Other licenses are listed on the application. Review the list carefully to determine if you need licenses or permits for the type of business you will operate. If you perform a specialized service which you believe might require a license but don’t find it listed, call the agency most likely to handle that service to inquire. Call the Secretary of State’s office or visit the Secretary of State’s Web site at www.sos.wv.gov to find a list of businesses requiring additional licensing by the state, county and municipal agencies.

If you are registering a new business, reopening an old business, or purchasing an existing business, in whole or in part, state law requires employers to obtain workers’ compensation coverage for its employees in case of workplace injury. If you employ even one person in West Virginia, except in very rare circumstances, you are required by law to obtain coverage. Failure to obtain and maintain proper Workers’ Compensation Insurance coverage will subject you to a number of consequences, including the following:
  • Administrative fines by the Insurance Commissioner up to $10,000.
  • Loss of immunity against civil liability (you may be sued by your employee).
  • Immediate revocation of business license and permits.
  • Business may be enjoined from continuing operation.
  • Business and personal liability for all workers’ compensation claims paid plus attorneys’ fees.

Employers must apply directly to a private carrier for this insurance coverage. For information regarding available insurers, contact the Office of the West Virginia Insurance Commissioner. The information is below. Current application for workers’ compensation insurance and other business licenses and permits applicable to your business may be accessed via the Internet at www.business4wv.com.

  Offices of the Insurance Commissioner
Employer Coverage Unit
1124 Smith St.
PO Box 50540
Charleston, West Virginia 25305-1682
(304) 558-6279

back to top


Who is required to register?

Any person who is engaging in any business activity in the state of West Virginia must register with the West Virginia Tax Department.

Are all businesses required to obtain a West Virginia Business Registration Certificate?
  No. Persons engaged in the following activities are not required to register if they engage solely in these activities.
  1, Judicial sales directed by law or court order.
  2. Sales for delinquent taxes of real or personal property.
  3. The conduct of a charitable raffle licensed under West Virginia Code § 47-20 or charitable raffle licensed under West Virginia Code § 47-21.
  4. The conduct of a horse or dog race meeting by any racing association licensed under West Virginia Code § 19-23.
  5. The operation or maintenance of the pari-mutual system of wagering during the conduct of a licensed horse or dog race meeting.
  6. The sale of any commodity during the conduct of a licensed horse or dog race meeting.
  7. The services of owners, trainers or jockeys which are essential to the effective conduct of a licensed horse or dog race meeting.
  8. Occasional or casual sales of property or services by persons not engaged in a business activity.

  Additionally, any person engaging in a business activity who:
  1, Is not required by law to collect or withhold a tax.
  2. Does not claim exemption from payment of the West Virginia Consumers Sales and Service Tax or Use Tax.
  3. Had a gross income from business activity of $4,000 dollars or less from operations in all states during the Income Tax year most recently completed is also not required to obtain a Business Registration Certificate. .
  In order to claim this exemption from registration, all three conditions must be met.

In order to claim this exemption from registration, all three conditions must be met.

What is the fee for obtaining a Business Registration Certificate?
  The fee for obtaining a Business Registration Certificate is $30. A separate certificate is required for each fixed business location from which property or services are offered for sale or lease or at which customer accounts may be opened, closed or serviced. The Business Registration fee cannot be prorated.

Must everyone pay the $30 Business Registration Fee?
  No. Any person who is engaging in any business activity in this State is required to obtain a Businesses Registration Certificate, but is not required to pay the $30 Business Registration Fee if they meet one of the following conditions:
  1, An organization which qualifies, or would qualify, for exemption from federal income taxes under section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended.
  2. This state, or a political subdivision thereof, selling tangible personal property, admissions or services when those activities compete with or may compete with the activities of another person.
  3. The United States, or any agency or instrumentally thereof, which is exempt from taxation by the states.
  4. A person engaged in the business of agriculture or farming.
  5. A foreign retailer, who is not engaging in a business in this state, who volunteers to collect and remit use tax on sales to West Virginia customers.
  6. An out-of-state company that does not have nexus in West Virginia and employs a West Virginia resident.
  7. A West Virginia private household employing domestic help.

How do I Register?
  You can register online at www.business4wv.com or complete the Application for Registration Certificate (Form WV/BUS-APP).

How do I obtain this application?
  This application can be obtained by writing the West Virginia State Tax Department in care of the Taxpayer Services Division, P.O Box 3784, Charleston, West Virginia 25337-3784 or by calling the automated form ordering system at (304) 344-2068 or 1-800-422-2075.

The application can also be obtained in person at any of our offices located in the following cities:

Beckley Regional Office
Suite 109 407 Neville St.
Beckley West Virginia 25801
Telephone: (304) 256-6764

Charleston Office
1206 Quarrier St.
Charleston West Virginia 25301
Telephone: (304) 558-3333 or
Toll-free 1-800-WVA-TAXS

Martinsburg Regional Office
397 Mid Atlantic Parkway Suite 2
Martinsburg West Virginia 25401
Telephone: (304) 267-0022

Parkersburg Regional Office
400 5th St.
Parkersburg West Virginia 26101
Telephone: (304) 420-4570
Clarksburg Regional Office
Huntington Bank Building
Suite 201
230 West Pike St.
Clarksburg West Virginia 26301
Telephone: (304) 627-2109

Huntington Regional Office
2699 Park Ave. Suite 230
Huntington West Virginia 25704
Telephone: (304) 528-5568

Wheeling Regional Office
40 14th St.
Wheeling West Virginia 26003
Telephone: (304) 238-1152

What happens after I have completed the application and mailed it to the West Virginia State Tax Department?
  Upon receipt of your Application for Registration Certificate, we will determine what tax return forms you should receive by reviewing the application. After we receive your completed application, you will receive your West Virginia Business Registration Certificate. Tax reporting forms are computer addressed and will be mailed to you prior to their due dates.

What do I do with the West Virginia Business Registration Certificate?
  The Business Registration Certificate must be posted conspicuously in the place where you are conducting business. Businesses that sell tangible personal property or services from or out of one or more vehicles must carry a copy of their Business Registration Certificate in each vehicle and publicly display it while business is conducted from or out of the vehicle.

Any person engaging in any contracting business or activity must have a copy of their Business Registration Certificate available at each construction site in West Virginia until their work is complete at that site.

How long is my Business Registration Certificate valid?
  As of July 1, 2010, business registration is permanent; businesses will not have to renew their registration. However, to reinstate a revoked or suspended business license, a fee of $100 will be collected as a penalty on or after July 1, 2010.

What if I don’t obtain a Business Registration Certificate before commencing business?
  Engaging in business within the state of West Virginia without obtaining a Business Registration Certificate when required by law is a serious offense and could subject you to penalties of up to $100 a day for each day you continue to operate your business without a license.

The Tax Department provides a consolidated view of taxpayer accounts. This will be implemented over a five phase process. To protect taxpayer confidential identification number(s), an account number is assigned to each tax type that the taxpayer is responsible for filing. The tax account number is eight digits, specific to each individual tax type (account) and will be on all documentation issued from the department.

This unique tax ID number allows the Tax Department to effectively monitor accounts and advise taxpayers of their account activity. All documents requesting payment have a payment voucher on the bottom of each notice that can be cut off for easy remittance.

You can use the Internet to safely and securely e-file certain West Virginia tax returns. To begin using on-line filing applications for businesses, you must first complete Form WV/ EFT-5 On-line Electronic Funds Transfer Application. Once you have registered for Electronic Funds Transfers, you may begin to file many business taxes on-line. For more information, go to the MyTaxes Web site.
You can now file the following taxes online:

  • Consumer Sales and Service Tax
  • Direct Pay Consumers Sales and Use Tax
  • Use Tax
  • (Combined) Sales and Use Tax
  • Special District Excise Tax
  • Corporation Net Income / Business Franchise Taxes
  • On-line Estimated Tax Payment
  • On-line Tentative Tax Return
  • Withholding Tax
  • Employer’s Return of West Virginia Income Tax

West Virginia has changed several areas of taxation that entrepreneurs should be aware of. For complete, current information on these and other tax responsibilities, please go to the Tax Department Web site, www.wvtax.gov or speak with your accountant. You can get information on those changes in Chapter 13, Reporting Taxes: State, Local and Federal Taxes.

back to top


In addition to state licensing, many cities, counties and municipalities throughout West Virginia have additional registration requirements that may affect your business. Contact the local mayor’s office and the county assessor’s office in the location in which you have an interest for information on local or county taxes and licensing that may be needed for your business. Corporations, limited liability companies, limited partnerships and limited liability partnerships organized through the Secretary of State must also file copies of their state forms with the local county clerks’ office where they are located. You can also call the Secretary of State’s office or visit the Secretary of State’s Web site at www.sos.wv.gov to find a list of businesses requiring additional licensing by the state, county and municipal agencies.

For more information on registering your business, go to the West Virginia Tax Department Web site at www.wvtax.gov or call toll free 1-800-982-8297 or go to the Small Business Development Center Web site at http://wvsbdc.wvcommerce.org/wvsbdc/default.aspx or call the Business “Ask ME!” Line toll free at 888-982-7232.

The following pages have a listing of the state and federal regulatory agencies that most commonly affect small to medium-sized businesses. If you believe that your proposed business may be subject to regulations imposed by these agencies, you will need to contact that particular licensing agency for additional assistance.

State Agencies

Alcohol Beverage Control Administration
The Alcohol Beverage Control Administration licenses and regulates businesses and events that involve the distribution or sale of alcoholic beverages.

  Alcoholic Beverage Control Administration
322 70th St., SE
Charleston, WV 25304-2900
(304) 558- 2481
Toll Free: (800) 642-8208

Department of Agriculture
The Department of Agriculture licenses and oversees businesses involved in the manufacture, distribution or sale of agricultural products.

  Regulatory and Environmental Affairs Division
Department of Agriculture

State Capitol Complex
Building 1, Room E-28
Charleston, WV 25305-0170
(304) 558-2208

Department of Health and Human Resources

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources regulates businesses involved in environmental and health care facilities and services. Businesses concerned with environmental health should contact:

  Office of Environmental Health Services
Department of Health and Human Resources

Bureau of Public Health
350 Capitol Street Room 3130
Charleston, WV 25301-3713
(304) 558- 2981

Businesses concerned with child/adult day care, health facilities or health-related services should contact:

  Health Facility Licensure Department of Health and Human Resources
Bureau of Public Health

408 Leon Sullivan Way
Charleston, WV 25301
(304) 558-0050

Department of Environmental Protection

West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection regulates business activities that may impact air, land or water resources. Certain activities or quantities of air emissions may require a pre-construction permit. If your business will vent or release anything to the atmosphere, contact the Division of Air Quality to discuss potential permitting needs.

Because you must obtain a permit prior to construction, it is recommended that you submit an application at least three to six months in advance.

  Division of Air Quality
Department of Environmental Protection

601 57th St., SE
Charleston, WV 25304-2345
(304) 926-0475

Building a facility in many situations requires a storm water construction permit from the Division of Water and Waste Management. A separate permit also is required if the intended facility will discharge any liquids to the surface or underground, have materials stored outside, or if the establishment will be conducting certain kinds of activities. If hazardous waste generation, collection, transportation, treatment, storage or disposal is a part of your business plan — a permit may be required. This division also administers permits dealing with solid waste issues.

  Division of Water and Waste Management
Department of Environmental Protection

601 57th St., SE
Charleston, WV 25304-2345
(304) 926-0495

Division of Forestry

The Forestry Division regulates the buying and selling of ginseng to ensure the protection of this endangered species. The division also licenses timber buyers, log buyers and loggers along with providing training and certification for the certified logger program in accordance with the Logging Sediment Control Act of 1992. The division also promotes and aids small businesses involved in forest industries by publishing a series of directories with information on forest products suppliers and distributors.

  Division of Forestry
Department of Commerce

1900 Kanawha Boulevard, East
Charleston, WV 25305-0180
(304) 558-2788

Division of Labor

The Weights and Measures Section of the Division of Labor regulates the measurement of items sold by weight or volume at the point of sale. Businesses that sell items by the pound or ton are subject to regulation.

  Weights and Measures Section
Department of Commerce

Division of Labor
570 MacCorkle Ave., West
St. Albans, WV 25177
(304) 722-0602

The Wage and Hour Section of the Division of Labor establishes minimum wage standards and payment of overtime for hourly employees

In addition, the division requires that newly established businesses prone to industry layoffs, such as construction firms, post a Wage Bond with the state to ensure that employees of those businesses are paid for hours worked.

  Wage and Hour Section
Department of Commerce

Division of Labor
State Capitol Complex
Building 6, Room B749
Charleston, WV 25305
(304) 558-7890

The Contractor Licensing Board regulates all independent contractors who perform work on construction projects of $1,000 or more in West Virginia. The board is charged with ensuring that anyone performing construction contracting work is skilled and that he or she conforms to established bidding and construction practices. Construction contractors operating in the state must file an application with the Division of Labor to verify that they are registered with the West Virginia Tax Department, Workers’ Compensation and Unemployment Insurance, if applicable. New contractors filing after Oct. 1, 1991, also must take a competency test to certify their skill in performing contracting work. An annual $90 fee is required for all licensed contractors. A contractor is defined as anyone who offers to or submits a bid to construct, alter, repair, improve, move or demolish any building, road or structure in exchange for wages or other compensation if that individual is not performing the work as an employee of another and the work performed will be valued at $2,500 or more.

Contractors subject to licensing:
Electrical contractor.
General building contractor.
General engineering contractor.
Heating, ventilating and cooling contractor.
Multifamily building contractor.
Piping contractor.
Plumbing contractor.
Residential building contractor.
Specialty contractor.

To obtain more information, including an application for a Contractors License, contact:

  Contractor Licensing Board
Department of Commerce

Division of Labor
1900 Kanawha Boulevard, East
Charleston, WV 25305
(304) 558-7890

Division of Natural Resources

The Division of Natural Resources oversees the issuance of permits for business activities that potentially impact wildlife and the environment. The division’s primary focus is wildlife protection and law enforcement through conservation officers.

  Public Information Officer
Department of Commerce
Division of Natural Resources

324 Fourth Ave
South Charleston, WV 25303
(304) 558-2784

Public Service Commission
The Transportation Administration and the Transportation Enforcement Divisions of the Public Service Commission continue to work closely to accomplish the mission of each respective division.

The Motor Carrier Section enforces economic regulations (limited to transportation of passengers, household goods movers and solid waste for rates, territory and registration as it relates to intrastate carriers, and also third party towing for rates only on tows requested by anyone other than the owner or driver of the vehicle). The Motor Carrier Section is responsible for issuing permits and certificates, maintaining insurance records and other administrative operations.

The Safety Enforcement Section enforces economic regulations (limited to the transportation of passengers, household good movers and solid waste for rates, territory and registration, and also third party towing for rates only on tows requested by anyone other than the owner or driver of the vehicle). This section also enforces safety regulations (adopted the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations) over interstate and intrastate commercial motor vehicles (private and for-hire).

The Weight Enforcement Officers perform weight and oversize inspections of the commercial motor vehicles operated on all state maintained highways. Inspections are performed on a daily basis in the enforcement officer’s assigned work area and at regional road check sites in coordination with Transportation Enforcement inspectors.

  WV Public Service Commission
201 Brooks Street
Charleston, WV 25301
Toll Free: (800) 344-5113
(304) 340-0810

Secretary of State

The Secretary of State administers the formation and dissolution of all corporations, limited partnerships, trusts and limited liability companies in West Virginia. This office also maintains copies of rules and regulations of other state licensing agencies to which your business may be subject.

  Secretary of State
State Capitol Complex
Building 1, Suite 157-K
Charleston, WV 25305-0770
(304) 558-6000
Corporations Division
(304) 558-8000

Federal Agencies
U.S. Department of Transportation,
Office of Motor Carriers

The U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Motor Carriers enforces federal motor carrier safety regulations and hazardous material regulations for businesses that operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce. Any business owner who operates a delivery van or truck may be subject to regulation.

  Office of Motor Carriers
U.S. Department of Transportation
700 Washington St., East
Geary Plaza, Suite 205
Charleston, WV 25301
(304) 347-5935

back to top