Getting a new business off the ground is hard work. Even the “simple” initial steps like forming the legal business entity can feel complex. Fortunately, this guide is here to help show you how to start an LLC in West Virginia.
Limited liability companies (LLCs) are popular in West Virginia – and nationwide – because of the liability protection they offer. The owners of an LLC will have their personal assets shielded from liability risk, should their business ever be sued. Plus, they tend to be a bit simpler to maintain compared to a corporation or S-corp.
If you’ve decided to start a WV LLC, this guide breaks down all the steps needed to start a limited liability company in West Virginia.
1. Consider utilizing an LLC formation service
The first decision you will need to make is whether or not to use a professional business formation service. Using a service is optional, but it is worth considering as it can save you a lot of time and effort.
Services like Incfile, Northwest Registered Agent, and ZenBusiness all offer LLC formation services to entrepreneurs. Essentially, this means that they help with the formation process, by providing detailed guidance and dedicated support. They work with the WV Secretary of State to handle the paperwork, so they are essentially a middleman between you and the WV government.
Each service has different packages and plans available. You can expect to pay as little as $50 for the basics, up to several hundred for a more feature-rich plan.
If you choose to not use a service, you will simply need to do more of the work yourself. The steps below explain what you’ll need to tackle.
Check out our roundup of the Best LLC Services
2. Name your new company
Selecting a name for your new business is the next step. This will be the formal name for your LLC, and will generally also be the primary name that you do business as. Because of this, it’s important to choose wisely and select a name that is relevant and memorable.
It’s not just about choosing a catchy name, though. It will also need to meet certain requirements set out by the WV government. For instance, the name must contain “LLC”, “L.L.C.”, “limited liability company”, etc. It also cannot contain any restricted words, which include government-related phrases, and words related to regulated industries like finance.
Last but not least, the name must be unique – meaning that it’s not already taken by another West Virginia business. You can conduct a Business Name Search on the West Virginia Secretary of State website to confirm availability.
Once you have a name selected, you can move on to the next step.
Using a Trade Name in West Virginia
West Virginia allows businesses to use “trade names”, otherwise known as “doing business as” or DBA names. These are secondary names that the business can legally operate under, allowing for more flexibility in branding and marketing. Trade names are added to existing LLC registrations – so you must complete the remaining steps before registering a trade name.
You must register a trade name before using it. This can be done online here with the Secretary of State.
3. Appoint an Agent of Process
An Agent of Process is required for every West Virginia LLC. The Agent of Process is responsible for receiving important documents on behalf of the business. Most importantly, they receive notice of lawsuits, should the business ever be sued.
In most states, the Agent of Process is called a Registered Agent. These terms are interchangeable; West Virginia simply uses the “Agent of Process” terminology.
Anyone who is a resident of West Virginia may be an Agent of Process in the state. This means that you can appoint yourself or an employee as your agent.
Alternatively, you can use a professional service to serve as your agent. This offers some benefits, as you will know everything will be handled correctly, and you won’t have to publicly post your mailing address.
Check out our roundup of the Best Registered Agent Services
4. File LLC Articles of Organization
The West Virginia LLC Articles of Organization must be filed with the Secretary of State in order to form a WV LLC. This process can be completed online or through the mail. There is a $100 filing fee, payable to the Secretary of State. WV waives this filing fee for veterans. There is are also optional fees for expedited service; $25 for 24-hour service, $250 for 2-hour service, and $500 for 1-hour service.
To file online – File online with the WV One Stop Business Portal. Pay the $100 filing fee online.
To file by mail – Download and fill out the West Virginia Articles of Organization of Limited Liability Company. Include a check or money order for $100, made payable to the West Virginia Secretary of State. You can also pay by credit card using the e-Payment Authorization form, which is attached to the Articles of Organization. Mail the documents to one of the Business Processing centers listed in the document, or submit it via fax or email.
Once submitted, you will simply need to wait for WV to process everything. If you do not pay for expedited processing, expect this process to take up to 5-7 business days or longer.
5. Create an operating agreement
Note: This step is optional, but recommended.
West Virginia does not require an operating agreement for LLCs in the state. However, you should likely still create one, as this is an important document for most businesses.
The operating agreement establishes how your business will be run. It also lays out the primary responsibilities – and rights – of each LLC member or owner. As such, it’s a particularly important document for multi-member LLCs and any businesses that have multiple owners.
You can create an operating agreement using a template. Services like ZenBusiness include an operating agreement with their LLC formation packages. You could also hire an attorney, although this could be costly.
6. Apply for business licenses & permits
Businesses may also be required to apply for various business licenses and/or permits before they can operate legally. This is in addition to the actual LLC formation process, which establishes your company as a legal entity, but does not necessarily license it to do business in all jurisdictions.
Business licensing needs will vary depending on the type of business, its industry, and its location. There are varying requirements on each level of government: Federal, state, and local county/city governments. Because so much depends on the type of business, you will need to research the specific requirements for your company.
On the federal level, most permitting requirements are for highly regulated industries, like agriculture and aviation.
On the state level, certain industries will require statewide permits. You can see a list on the Occupational, Professional and Special Licenses and Permits page of the WV One Stop Business Portal. You will also need to register for tax accounts, such as employer tax accounts and employee tax withholding accounts.
On the county or city level, most businesses will need to apply for a general-purpose business license. Check with your county clerk and/or city government for details. If you plan to operate in multiple locations, check the details in each relevant jurisdiction.
7. Apply for an EIN
Most businesses will need to apply for an Employer Identification Number or EIN. This is a federal tax identification number issued by the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). Since it’s a federal requirement, it has nothing to do with West Virginia – but WV limited liability companies should still apply for one.
An EIN is required for several important business activities, including hiring employees and opening a business checking account. Fortunately, it’s very easy to apply for one (and free).
Simply fill out this application on the IRS website to apply for an EIN. In most cases, the ID number will be issued immediately.
8. Open a business checking account
It’s very important to keep your business’s financial records as clean and simple as possible. The best way to do this is to use a separate bank account for your business while continuing to use existing accounts for personal transactions. That way, your bookkeeping efforts will be clean and simple.
To do this, you’ll need to open a new account for your business – and then use it exclusively for business transactions. Most financial institutions, from large banks to credit unions, offer business accounts. It’s just a matter of finding the right one for your business.
While looking for an account, be sure to ask the bank what their requirements are. At a minimum, most will ask you to bring in a business license, EIN, and a small opening deposit to fund the account – but there may be other requirements.
At this time, it’s a good idea to also start researching other financial products for your company, including business insurance, credit cards, etc.
9. Keep your business in good standing
Long after your business is formed, you will need to complete certain ongoing tasks to keep compliant with government requirements. This includes routine tasks like filing tax returns, annual reports, etc. as well as renewing permits/licenses.
There are different requirements for each level of government (local, state, federal), as well as for different types of businesses. As such, you will need to do some research to determine all the requirements for your particular business.
In general, there are a handful of requirements that most (or all) businesses will need to handle. This includes:
- West Virginia Annual Report – Due every year by July 1st for all WV LLCs.
- West Virginia sales tax returns
- West Virginia employer tax/payroll tax returns
- Federal business tax returns
- Federal income tax returns
- Federal employer tax returns
- Local city/county government tax returns
- Permit renewals for business permits, employee professional licenses, etc.
- License renewals for business licenses, specialty licenses, etc.
In addition to these, you will likely face other requirements, but this varies depending on the business and its location(s). You will need to do some digging to find out all the requirements, and then make a list and set calendar reminders for key due dates.