Starting a Business in West Virginia: 8 Essential Steps

Charleston, West Virginia, USA skyline over the river

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Swyft Filings is committed to providing accurate, reliable information to help you make informed decisions for your business. That's why our content is written and edited by professional editors, writers, and subject matter experts. Learn more about how Swyft Filings works, our editorial team and standards, what our customers think of us, and more on our trust page.

Maria Sanchez
Written by Maria Sanchez
Written byMaria Sanchez
Updated November 08, 2023
Edited by Carlos Serrano
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The path to becoming your own boss is easier than you think. If you crave independence and have thought of starting a business in West Virginia, you must follow these steps to go from a solid business idea to a fully incorporated company. 

Start Operating in West Virginia: Key Points

  • State law is particular about choosing a business name, so follow their guidance closely.

  • Every business in West Virginia needs a business registration certificate issued by the state.

  • There are four main business structures and one tax classification to choose from.

Set the Stage for Business Success

Easily start your business and remain compliant with our all-in-one tools, guiding you well past the initial setup with the right support and documents.

Start Your Business Journey

Ready to Start a West Virginia Business?

With the correct information readily available, setting up a business in West Virginia is within your reach. We make it easy for new business owners to jump in. 

Whether this is your first small business or you’re a seasoned entrepreneur, anyone ready to start can do so after breaking it down into steps. A third-party service can make things even easier, supporting business formation from start to finish. Our professionals are trained to handle the paperwork for you, starting at $0 state fees, so you can focus on running the business.

1. Choose a Business Idea

The very first step in making your entrepreneurial dreams a reality is to have a solid business idea. You might have one in mind already, but if you don’t, it’s time to get brainstorming. Don’t get bogged down by trying to come up with a completely new business idea – think of a product or service that solves a need that can be marketed to a specific customer demographic.

To start a business in West Virginia – or anywhere – you must have a vision. You can turn a passion or hobby into a way to make money, a common way entrepreneurs have started. For example, if you care about the environment, you could create an eco-friendly business. For recent college grads, play on the skills you already have and try to monetize them, like social media.

If you’re having trouble thinking of something, there are plenty of ways to find inspiration, like:

  • Look for problems around you and start thinking about how you could offer products or services to solve them.

  • Keep up with trends and anticipate any future problems that might need solving.

  • Not every idea needs to be new – think of a great product or service and ways you could improve it. It’s okay to build off an idea that’s already working.

  • Get people together who have similar interests as you for a brainstorming session.

2. Draft a West Virginia Business Plan

Before starting the business formation process, it’s essential to set a game plan. This is where your business plan comes into play. Essentially a roadmap to starting a new business, it gets you thinking about the details of every stage. Not only does it increase your chances of success when you start operating in West Virginia, but it can also help bring in investors or potential business partners.[1]

What makes a good business plan? There’s no one-size-fits-all template. The most important thing to focus on is ensuring it fits your business needs. Think of what you want to accomplish and consider your plan as the road map that outlines how you can get there. You can choose from a detailed, traditional plan or a high-level, lean startup plan.[1]

Business plan type

Traditional Business Plan

Lean Startup Plan

At a glance

More common

Each section requires detail

Requires more work upfront

Can be pretty lengthy

Less common

Summarizes key elements

Can take as little as one hour

Typically, only one page


Executive summary Company description

Market analysis

Organization and management

Service or product

Marketing plan and sales

Funding request

Financial projections


Key partnerships

Key activities

Key resources

Value proposition

Customer relationships

Customer segments


Cost structure

Revenue streams

Making the road map for your new business does require some essential pieces of information. Each section is important because this document gets entrepreneurs to think about how they would want to structure, run, and eventually grow their businesses. Without one, owners may risk having a failed business venture because of a lack of careful planning, investment, or business partnership.[1]

3. Select a Business Name

A good business name fits your product, is easy for customers to remember, and is true to your brand. But beyond finding a unique name that sticks, you must also ensure it follows state and federal laws. For example, state law requires your business entity’s name to be different and distinguishable from any other name used in the state, ensuring you are operating legally.[2]

According to the state’s online business portal, “One of the most common reasons for rejection of business filings is that the proposed name of the company is already used in West Virginia.”[2] To avoid rejection or legal trouble, you can confirm your name isn’t already in use by doing a business search with the West Virginia Secretary of State or our Free Business Name Search.

Different structures – like those for sole proprietors, general partnerships, associations, and joint ventures – must also be checked for name availability. There is plenty of guidance on selecting a business name so you can start operating legally. Under West Virginia law, the Secretary of State distinguishes business names by running them through various tests.[3] For example:

Existing name

Proposed name



Capital Letters, Inc.

Capital Letters, Inc.


Not noticeably different

Squash Farm

Squash Pharm


Similar sounding

Squash Farm

Squash Pharmaceuticals


At least a one-word difference

Apple Sauce

Apple Sauces


Pluralized word

Apple Sauce Co.

Apple Slice Co.


At least a one-word difference

Smiley Towing

Smiley’s Towing


A possessive version of a word

Smiley Towing

Towing by Smiley


Word-order difference

Greater Products

Greatest Products


Variation of a root word, tense, or number

Once you get the naming restrictions down, perform a name search, and check availability, you’re good to go. If you have a great idea but aren’t ready to register and start your business in West Virginia, you can file a name reservation. This holds your original name for up to 120 days after paying a filing fee of $15.00. This gives you some time to prepare your business registration.[4]

A black woman working with colleague processing paperwork with a laptop in textile factory

4. Choose a Business Structure

There are four main types of business structures for your business formation. Each one has its pros and cons when it comes to profitability, general liability, management style, tax treatment, and more. If you want to ensure everything is filed correctly when forming your entity, consider using a third-party service. We can help you with five different business types.

The four main business structures are:

  1. Limited Liability Company (LLC)

  2. C Corporation

  3. Doing Business As (DBA)

  4. Nonprofit

Business owners can also consider filing for an S corporation. Unlike the other business structures, be careful to note an S corp is a type of tax classification recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). S corps are a type of pass-through entity, meaning that these businesses pass corporate income, losses, deductions, and more to their shareholders to file on their tax returns.[5]

At a glance, here are some ways you can differentiate them. This way, you know what you’re getting into when you take your local business closer to incorporation.[6]


C Corp

S Corp



Limited liability protection






Flexibility in management






Ease of ownership changes






Type of taxation

Pass-through taxation

Double taxation

Pass-through taxation

Pass-through taxation

Pass-through taxation

State formation fees






Ongoing compliance fees






5. File Business Formation Documents

Specific business structures can require different documents, and some forms are even required by state law, while others are not. Failure to file your documents properly could result in the IRS or Secretary of State rejecting your request for incorporation, among other risks that come with failing to file.

Not all types of businesses are allowed to operate in the same way in West Virginia. For example, vendors with a business location outside of the state that transport and make taxable sales of property – known as transient vendors – need to apply for a special license and pay specific fees.[7]

However, every individual or business entity that engages in business activity in West Virginia must apply for and obtain a West Virginia business registration certificate from the State Tax Department, which costs $30.00.[7] You can file an application through the Business for West Virginia online portal or by filing a New Business Registration Application with the tax commissioner.

There are several primary forms for registering a business in West Virginia. If forming an LLC, you must file Articles of Incorporation with the Business & Licensing Division. The filing fee is $100.00, which is waived for veteran-owned organizations. If you have already filed this and want to amend something, you must fill out an amendment form and pay an additional $25.00.

This will include your business entity’s details, such as:

  • The name of the West Virginia LLC

  • The address of the principal office

  • The name and address of your West Virginia registered agent

  • A valid e-mail address

  • A domain name or website address (if any)

  • Whether or not you operate more than one business in West Virginia

  • The name/s and address/es of the business owner/s

  • If it’s an at-will or term company

  • If it’s a member- or manager-managed LLC[8]

Registering an LLC requires business owners to have a registered agent to accept Service of Process.[8] Swyft Filings’ registered agent service can help you find a professional West Virginia agent. Even if you’re not forming an LLC, Swyft Filings can help with other business types, like S corps, C corps, and even nonprofits, to help make sure that all of your filing is done correctly.

Failing to file the correct paperwork can lead to rejection or delays in your business formation, but other cons come with not documenting your entity’s governance and internal operations. For example, consider drafting an Operating Agreement to act as a useful legal document to establish who has ownership over the company.

When drafting your Operating Agreement, you could include:

  • Names of business members

  • Percentage of members’ ownership, as well as voting rights

  • Distribution of profits and losses, in addition to buyout and sell-out rules

  • A brief explanation of members’ responsibilities and management styles

  • A description of the business structure[9]

It’s essential to get the paperwork right. These documents act as the foundation for your entity, and some are legally required. To ensure your filing is done correctly and efficiently per state and federal laws, consider using a third-party service or business resource like Swyft Filings. We handle the paperwork so you can focus on running your business.

6. Apply for West Virginia Business Licenses and Permits

Before you start operating in West Virginia, make sure you have the necessary licenses and permits to do so. Without them, you could risk doing business illegally. Every state has its requirements, and unlike some other states, there is no single West Virginia business license used across the state. Instead, some occupations require specific certifications, licenses, or permits to proceed.[10]

According to the West Virginia Division of Labor, occupations like general construction or contracting businesses require specific certifications, licenses, or permits.[10]

In addition, other jobs require professional licenses, which are different from the Division of Labor licenses listed above. If your business provides professional services, the Secretary of State requires you to prove this via a Verification of Eligibility from a state licensing board. This confirms that you’re qualified and have the credentials to register your business.[10]

These professions (with links to their state licensing boards) are:

Additionally, there are special licenses and permits. Some cases, like those involving construction or the sale of vehicles, lottery tickets, and alcoholic beverages, might require you to get special licenses or permits through other state agencies when registering your business. Also, some cities and counties require a local business license or permit to operate legally within that specific area.[10]

On top of all this, business owners must ensure they’re filing their annual report with the Secretary of State, meet due dates for filing taxes with the state tax department, and follow state guidance and publications.[10] If this sounds like a lot of work, try using our Business Licenses and Permits service for support. We’re here to help lessen the administrative burden on you.

Senior businesswoman is doing paperwork in her stock factory

7. File and Report Business Taxes

Once your entity is up and running, ensure you take the proper steps to maintain it in the post-formation period. For example, every business owner in West Virginia must file and report their business taxes, from Charleston to Huntington and every city in between. The West Virginia Tax Division has an online portal with a page specifically for businesses.

Each state has its own set of laws and regulations. The West Virginia State Tax Department website is the best and most reliable place to check state-specific taxes and rates. For example, you can check the different sales and use tax rates for each municipality.[11] West Virginia also has a unique sales tax holiday every year in August, where certain items are exempt from tax.[12]

The online portal offers valuable resources and tools to help business owners abide by state laws, like a tax calendar, which highlights important dates throughout the year, and a tax calculator, which helps taxpayers calculate interest and additional payments to tax following West Virginia tax liabilities. If you need assistance, you can book an appointment online for walk-in services at regional offices.

Beyond state-wide taxes, the IRS is another helpful resource that offers more information on what taxes business owners are obligated to pay, how they can pay them, and what’s needed for each type of business. In general, there are five types of business taxes on the federal level:

  1. Income tax - all companies except for partnerships must file this

  2. Estimated taxes

  3. Self-employment tax - for individuals who work for themselves

  4. Employment taxes - for companies that hire employees

  5. Excise tax - taxes on goods or services at the time they’re purchased[13]

The West Virginia Tax Division offers helpful information on corporate income tax and pass-through entities on the state level. Business owners can also easily access their taxes electronically through the online portal MyTaxes, which allows them to view, file, and pay online. Most businesses can file and make debit payments online; however, some tax accounts are excluded from e-filing.[14]

Paying taxes is a legal obligation on both the state and federal levels. Failing to pay taxes – and on time according to every deadline – can lead to your business being terminated early or falling into legal trouble with the IRS. Be sure to file your taxes promptly to stay in good standing.

8. Open a Business Bank Account

To get a business bank account, business owners need an Employer Identification Number (EIN). We can help you get one here. This is similar to your social security number (SSN), which the IRS uses to identify you or your business when you file taxes annually. On top of allowing owners to get a business credit card, they can also open a business account and apply for licenses.

Another thing you can do with a business bank account and EIN is open a new line of credit with a credit card solely for business expenses. Unfortunately, almost half of all small businesses in the United States use personal credit cards to make business-related purchases.[15] This can make things messy when it comes time to file taxes, but also when organizing business expenses.

Having a credit card for business spending is helpful for several reasons, like:

  • It helps separate personal spending from professional

  • It helps build credit, which allows companies to expand

  • It can help individual business owners develop their credit

Take Your First Steps Toward Small Business Ownership

Ready to start operating in West Virginia? Following these eight steps can help you go from idea to incorporation. Whatever your business needs, we can help business formation go easier. From drafting a plan to filing the necessary documents to reporting your business taxes, we’ve got you covered – no matter what business structure (or tax classification) you choose.

Your Dream, Our Mission: Partnering for Success
  • Your Perfect Fit: Whether you're looking at a simple LLC or a dedicated nonprofit, we'll help you identify the best structure for your dream business.

  • Continued Support: Your entrepreneurial journey doesn’t stop at formation. Our key management services help ensure your business thrives. 

  • Tailored Affordability: Get value-packed options suited to your business needs, starting at just $0 + state fees.

Begin Your Business Journey

Frequently Asked Questions

Is West Virginia a good place to start a business?

Yes, but note its stricter business naming guidelines and additional certifications, licenses, or permits required for certain professions. We can help with every step of business formation to make sure you’re following all the rules.

How much does it cost to start operating in West Virginia?

This depends on you and your business needs. Also, depending on what business structure (or tax classification) you choose, you will need to pay different fees. At a bare minimum, it costs $30.00 to obtain a West Virginia business registration certificate from the State Tax Department, which every business needs to operate in the state.

Can I start a business in West Virginia without a business plan?

While it’s not required by law, we highly suggest you draft a solid plan before starting any business venture. This helps entrepreneurs think out the details of every stage, acting like a roadmap to success. Without a business plan, owners could risk a failed entity or miss out on partnership or funding opportunities.

What does West Virginia require to start a business?

To get your business off the ground, register a unique name following West Virginia’s detailed naming guidance, file the required business formation documents for your particular business structure (or tax classification), and obtain a business registration certificate from the State Tax Department. LLCs also need a registered agent in the state to accept due process.

What is the process for starting a business in West Virginia?

The business formation process starts with a solid idea, a business plan laying out the details, and a registered name that abides by state guidelines. There are more steps to incorporation, like choosing a business structure, filing the required documents, and applying for licenses, permits, and certifications.

Why are most LLCs in Delaware?

Delaware is a popular place for entrepreneurs to go for several reasons. More than two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies are registered in the state, likely because the state’s General Corporation law is “the most advanced and flexible business formation statute in the nation.”[16]


  1. U.S. Small Business Administration. “Write Your Business Plan.” Accessed August 6, 2023.

  2. WV One Stop Business Portal. “Name Availability and Requirements.” Accessed August 6, 2023.

  3. West Virginia Secretary of State. “Guidance for Selecting Business Organization Names in West Virginia.” Accessed August 6, 2023.

  4. West Virginia Secretary of State. “Application for Name Reservation.” Accessed August 6, 2023.

  5. Internal Revenue Service. “S Corporations.” Accessed August 7, 2023.

  6. Swyft Filings. “Choose The Right Business Type.” Accessed August 7, 2023.

  7. West Virginia Tax Division. “Business Registration.” Accessed August 7, 2023.

  8. West Virginia Secretary of State. “West Virginia Articles of Organization of Limited Liability Company.” Accessed August 7, 2023.

  9. U.S. Small Business Administration. “Basic Information About Operating Agreements.” Accessed August 7, 2023.

  10. WV One Stop Business Portal. “Occupational, Professional, and Special Licenses and Permits.” Accessed August 7, 2023.

  11. West Virginia Tax Division. “Municipal Sales and Use Tax.” Accessed August 7, 2023.

  12. West Virginia Tax Division. “Sales Tax Holidays Questions & Answers.” Accessed August 7, 2023.

  13. Internal Revenue Service. “Business Taxes.” Accessed August 7, 2023.

  14. West Virginia Tax Division. “Electronic Filing for Businesses.” Accessed August 7, 2023.

  15. Small Business Administration. “10 Stats That Explain Why Business Credit is Important for Small Business.” Accessed August 7, 2023.

  16. Delaware Division of Corporations. “About the Division of Corporations.” Accessed Aug 7, 2023.

Originally published on November 08, 2023, and last edited on November 08, 2023.
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