Virginia Business License Requirements

Do You Need a License?

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Starting a business in Virginia takes advance preparation. First, you have to investigate the necessary steps before you open your doors (or website) to greet future customers.

Do you need a license to start a home-based business in Virginia? What if it's all done on the Internet? Do you still need a license? In a word, probably. 

Whenever you earn money, two entities always want to know about it: the federal government and your state tax agency. Business licenses in Virginia are hinged to the state's business tax, called a "license tax." Depending on the nature of your business, this might be a flat fee or a percentage of your gross profits. The Commonwealth of Virginia requires that most businesses obtain a license or permit issued by the Commonwealth. You might even need other licenses or permits that are required by your local government.

Richmond, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach all require local licenses. Most licenses must be renewed yearly. 

A Licensing Exception 

Virginia does not require that sole proprietors obtain business licenses. If you report your business income on your personal tax return and you haven't taken steps to form some other type of business entity, such as a corporation or a limited liability company, you're most likely a sole proprietor. This is the case whether you work out of your home or in a home office and whether you pay employees.

But if you operate your business under any name other than your own, you must file a fictitious name certificate with the Clerk of the Circuit Court that serves your county or municipality. 

How to Determine Your Licensing Requirements

Virginia doesn't have one single license that applies to all businesses, but the following resources can help you determine your licensing requirements:

  • Guide to Business Licenses and Permits: These tools and resources can help you figure out your licensing requirements.
  • Virginia Business Portal: This is a gateway to all government-to-business services, as well as legal requirements including taxes, licenses and much more.
  • Whether you're just starting a business or you're growing one, Virginia's business resources website provides tools and resources to help you plan, start or expand your enterprise. 

When you've determined what requirements apply to you, Virginia's Business One Stop provides online registration for a multitude of licenses. But it's always a good idea to consult with a local attorney before you get started.

An attorney can also help you determine whether you might want to consider incorporating or otherwise setting up a separate business entity from yourself. An attorney can also advise you if you can just as easily do business as a sole proprietor, in which case you'll avoid many licensing requirements.