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How to Start a Business in West Virginia

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96 percent of West Virginia’s companies are small businesses. Though West Virginia has ranked relatively low in comparison to other states for its entrepreneurial and tax climate, there have been several efforts in the past few years to spur more innovation and entrepreneurship throughout West Virginia communities. One such effort is the West Virginia Growth Investment company, an investment fund formed to invest the capital resources in and around West Virginia. Additionally, the state’s close proximity to larger markets like Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia is also a positive. West Virginia is often considered one of the more scenic states in the nation, and many of the sights in “The Mountain State” center around its natural outdoor beauty.

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General resources for starting a business in West Virginia

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Fun facts about starting a business in West Virginia

Famous business founded in West Virginia Mister Bee Potato Chips

Mister Bee Potato Chips is a brand of potato chips produced since 1951 and founded in Parkersburg, West Virginia. The company was founded as a small local business and grew to a million dollar enterprise by 1972. It has remained family-owned throughout its existence. Mister Bee offers only direct-to-store delivery, which they believe guarantees freshness.

Famous businessperson born in West Virginia Clarence Wayland Watson

Clarence Wayland Watson (1864-1940) was a coal mining businessman born in Fairmount, West Virginia. Watson organized several coal companies that became the Consolidation Coal and Mining Companies in West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky.

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Which type of legal structure is best for my business in West Virginia?

We strongly recommend you incorporate, but you must consider the tax, legal, and liability implications carefully before deciding on the best legal structure for your business.

Here are five steps to help you determine the best legal structure:

Click one of the buttons below to learn more about the different types of business legal structures and how to start them in the state of West Virginia.
LLC (Limited Liability Company)
A limited liability company (LLC) is a unique business entity that combines the taxation benefits of a partnership or sole proprietorship with the limited liability status of corporations. The owners of an LLC are referred to as “members,” and can range from one to several.

Steps to starting an LLC in West Virginia:

  • Step 1 — Name your LLC.
  • Step 2 — File Articles of Organization.
  • Step 3 — Appoint a Registered Agent.
  • Step 4 — Prepare an Operating Agreement.
  • Step 5 — Comply with any publication requirements.
  • Step 6 — Comply with other tax and regulatory requirements.
  • Step 7 — File Annual Reports.
  • Step 8 — egister foreign LLCs doing business in West Virginia.

For help forming your LLC in West Virginia we recommend CorpNet (they have fees for their service).
Alternatively visit the West Virginia Secretary of State website.

Other West Virginia resources for LLCs:

Business Name Database: Search for the availability of your LLC name here.
File your “Application for Name Reservation” here.
File your “Articles of Organization” here.
File your Annual Reports here.

West Virginia Business Licensing Guide: Check this site for licensing requirements for your business.

IRS EIN Online: Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your LLC here. If your LLC has more than one member, you must get an EIN, even if you have no employees.
Business for West Virginia: Every business in West Virginia must register with the West Virginia State Tax Department.

Sole Proprietorship
Popular among individual self contractors or business owners, a sole proprietorship is a business entity that is owned and run by one person, and in which there is no legal distinction between the owner and the business. The owner is in direct control of all elements and is legally accountable for all profits, debts, losses, and liabilities.

Steps to starting Sole Proprietorship in West Virginia:

  • Step 1 — Choose a business name for your sole proprietorship.
  • Step 2 — File a trade name.
  • Step 3 — Obtain licenses, permits, and zoning clearance.
  • Step 4 — Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

For help forming your sole proprietorship in West Virginia we recommend CorpNet (they have fees for their service).
Or, visit the West Virginia Secretary of State website.

Other West Virginia resources for Sole Proprietorship:

Business Name Search: Search for the availability of your business name here. A sole proprietor may use his or her given name, or an assumed business name.
File your trade name here.

U.S. Patent & Trademark Office: Federal database for existing trademark registrations. Click on the “TESS” link to conduct a search.

West Virginia Business Licensing Guide: Check this site for licensing requirements for your business.

IRS EIN Online: Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your sole proprietorship here, if you will hire employees.

Business for West Virginia: Every business in West Virginia must register with the West Virginia State Tax Department.

Partnership
In a partnership, two or more people share ownership. Each partner contributes to all aspects of the business, including money, property, labor, or skill. In return, each partner shares in the profits and losses of the business. There doesn’t have to be a written agreement to form the partnership.

Steps to starting Partnership in West Virginia:

  • Step 1 — Choose a name for your partnership.
  • Step 2 — File a trade name.
  • Step 3 — Create a partnership agreement.
  • Step 4 — Obtain licenses, permits, and zoning clearance.
  • Step 5 — Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

For help forming your sole proprietorship in West Virginia we recommend CorpNet (they have fees for their service).
Or, visit the West Virginia Secretary of State website.

Other West Virginia resources for Partnership:

Business Name Search: Search for the availability of your business name here. A partnership may use the surnames of the individual partners, or a fictitious business name.
File your trade name here.

U.S. Patent & Trademark Office: Federal database for existing trademark registrations. Click on the “TESS” link to conduct a search.

West Virginia Business Licensing Guide: Check this site for licensing requirements for your business.

IRS EIN Online: Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your partnership here. Partnerships are required to have an EIN, whether or not they have employees.

Business for West Virginia: Every business in West Virginia must register with the West Virginia State Tax Department.

S Corporation
An S corporation (sometimes referred to as an S Corp), is a special type of corporation created through an IRS tax election. A business electing to incorporate with S corporation status has its business income taxed only once, similar to how sole proprietorships and partnerships are taxed. By electing to become an S corporation, a small business can gain the legal advantages available to businesses with a corporate structure, as well as the tax advantages available to partnership firms.

Steps to starting S Corporation in West Virginia:

  • Step 1 — Name your corporation.
  • Step 2 — File Articles of Incorporation.
  • Step 3 — Find a registered agent.
  • Step 4 — Set up a corporate records book.
  • Step 5 — Prepare corporate bylaws.
  • Step 6 — Appoint initial corporate directors.
  • Step 7 — Hold your first Board of Directors meeting.
  • Step 8 — Issue stock.
  • Step 9 — Comply with West Virginia Annual Report requirements.
  • Step 10 — Comply with other tax and regulatory requirements.
  • Step 11 — Register foreign corporations doing business in West Virginia.

For help forming your sole proprietorship in West Virginia we recommend CorpNet (they have fees for their service).
Or, visit the West Virginia Secretary of State website.

Other West Virginia resources for S Corporation:

Business Name Search: Search for the availability of your corporate name here.
File your “Name Reservation” here.
File your “Articles of Incorporation” here.
File your Annual Report here.

West Virginia Business Licensing Guide: Check this site for licensing requirements for your business.

IRS EIN Online: Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your business here.

IRS S corporations: Specific instructions for your tax requirements as an S corp.

Business for West Virginia: Every corporation in West Virginia must register with the West Virginia State Tax Department.

C Corporation
A C corporation (or C corp for short), under United States federal income tax law, refers to any corporation that is taxed separately from its owners. A C corporation is distinguished from an S corporation, which generally is not taxed separately. However, C corporations have greater tax planning flexibility and can shield shareholders from direct tax liability.

Steps to starting C Corporation in West Virginia:

  • Step 1 — Name your business.
  • Step 2 — File Articles of Incorporation.
  • Step 3 — Appoint a registered agent.
  • Step 4 — Set up a corporate records book.
  • Step 5 — Prepare corporate bylaws.
  • Step 6 — Appoint initial corporate directors.
  • Step 7 — Hold your first Board of Directors meeting.
  • Step 8 — Issue stock.
  • Step 9 — Comply with West Virginia Annual Report requirements.
  • Step 10 — Comply with other tax and regulatory requirements.
  • Step 11 — Register foreign corporations doing business in West Virginia.

For help forming your sole proprietorship in West Virginia we recommend CorpNet (they have fees for their service).
Or, visit the West Virginia Secretary of State website.

Other West Virginia resources for C Corporation:

Business Name Search: Search for the availability of your corporate name here.
File your “Name Reservation” here.
File your “Articles of Incorporation” here.
File your Annual Report here.

West Virginia Business Licensing Guide: Check this site for licensing requirements for your business.

IRS EIN Online: Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your corporation here.

Business for West Virginia: Every business in West Virginia must register with the West Virginia State Tax Department.

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Why choose West Virginia for my business?

  • 1

    WV Growth
    “West Virginia Growth Investment, LLC (the “LLC”), is a new investment fund formed to pool and invest the capital resources of sophisticated and accredited investors in and around West Virginia (the "Region"). The LLC’s objective is to provide both favorable investment returns to Investors, and to promote small business and economic development in the Region.”

  • 2

    West Virginia Small Business Development Center
    “The West Virginia Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is a statewide network that provides essential information for successfully starting, expanding and growing a business. SBDC programs are designed to provide high-quality business and economic development assistance to promote growth, expansion, innovation, increased productivity and management improvement.”

  • 3

    West Virginia Economic Development Authority
    Links to business loans, venture capital, and grants available in the state.

  • 4

    West Virginia Tax Credits
    Tax credits available in the state.

  • 5

    West Virginia Prime
    “The West Virginia Program Recognizing Innovation, Management, and Entrepreneurial leadership (WV PRIME) is an initiative started by a multidisciplinary group of professors at West Virginia University to stimulate and inspire budding West Virginia entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams, and to give them the tools they need to start and operate a successful business.”

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