What is a Business License?

You’re ready to keep running your small business successfully this year. But have you considered you may need a license? While every state in the United States has slightly different rules regarding business licenses, we’re going to look specifically at the laws and regulations in Virginia. In Virginia, business license applications have different due dates depending on which county you are in. If you’re curious to learn more about the laws in your state head on over the Small Business Administration website to find your state. A business license is any form of license or permit that a state, county, or other governing body requires a business to have if they are planning to operate within the specified area.

Does your business need one?

The question of whether your business needs a business license or not depends on both your state and your county. However, the typical reason you would need a business license regardless of where you operate include if you operate a brick-and-mortar store, if you are selling goods of any kind, or if you provide services that require a license (such as medical care or operate in the food industry). Lawyers, those in the medical field, education, food and beverage, and other industries have certifications, specific licenses, or other requirements that you need to meet at the State level while operating your business. In short – if you plan to operate a business in Virginia, check with your local government to see if you need a business license.

Business License versus Professional License

There’s a difference between a business license and a professional license. A business license is from the city or county your business is in and it allows you to conduct business. There may be other filings you need to complete as a business but the most important one is holding a business license. These are renewed annually.

A professional license is something that is required by the state or a governing agency to hold yourself out as a worker in that specific profession. Examples are teachers holding a teaching license from the state, lawyers holding a license to practice law from the Bar, CPAs have to be certified by the state Board of Accountancy, etc. There are also other types of licenses mentioned above, such as a liquor license or ones that food establishments need. In most of these cases if you are also running your own business, you will need both your professional license from the state as well as your business license from the county/city.

State Level vs. County Level

Since Virginia doesn’t have state-level regulation on business licensing, each county and city has their own regulations. Counties have different guidelines regarding which businesses need to hold a license. In Prince William County businesses are required to apply for a business license if they expect to make $500,000 or more in annual gross receipts. But they also encourage all businesses to apply for a license since the process can help make sure you’re in compliance with other requirements in Prince William. In Fairfax County all business owners – regardless of their estimated gross receipts – need to apply for a business license. You can find information on your county’s rules by checking out their government website and searching for “business license”.

How to apply

In Virginia business license are run through the Commissioners of the Revenue Association in each county or city area. You can learn more and apply on your specific county website. While each application has slightly different requirements typically you’ll need a similar set of information when applying. It would include:

  • Your Federal Employment Id number or Social Security number
  • A description of what your business does
  • The legal business name
  • Your business’s start date
  • The number of employees you have and expected annual sales
  • The business address and contact information
  • Your (the owner’s) contact information
  • If you have a business sales tax number
  • Estimated gross revenue for the upcoming year

This isn’t a complete list for all counties, but it covers most of what you’ll need to get the application process started. Your county website will have a full list of what information you’ll need to provide when applying.

Need Help?

As a small business owner, you already juggle a lot. If you still have questions or need help in the process of getting a business license reach out to us today or by phone at (703) 912-7862, or schedule a meeting!

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