Starting a Business Step 3: Get Legal

Select a Structure

Every business needs a legal structure. Examples include: Sole Proprietorship, General Partnership, Limited Partnership, Limited Liability Company, Corporation, or Non-Profit. Please consult with business advisors to determine which structure is in your best interest, and register your business as appropriate.

  • Sole Proprietorships and General Partnerships are registered at the Circuit Court.
  • Limited Partnerships, Limited Liability Companies, Corporations and Non-Profits must be registered through the State Corporation Commission. Franchises also may need to be registered with the State Corporation Commission.

For any questions about any state requirements, visit Virginia’s Business One-Stop.

Register Trade Name or Fictitious Name

If your business operates under a trade name or a fictitious name, that name must be registered in the Circuit Court in each jurisdiction in which you do business. Businesses using the name that is registered with the SCC are not required to file a trade name certificate at the county level. 

Get Your Professional Licenses

Business, Professional and Occupational License (BPOL)

All businesses in Fairfax Countyincluding home-based businessesmust have a business license called a Business, Professional and Occupational License (BPOL).

Businesses located in the cities of Fairfax, and Falls Church, and the towns of Clifton, Herndon, and Vienna (except construction contractors) are not subject to Fairfax County's BPOL tax, but you should contact those jurisdictions for business license requirements.

  • Businesses located in the towns of Clifton, Herndon and Vienna secure a business license from the appropriate town, but pay Business Tangible Property Tax to Fairfax County.

Deadlines

Register your business and secure your license from the Department of Tax Administration (DTA) within 75 days of beginning operations in Fairfax County. Failure to register within 75 days will result in a 10% late filing penalty. You can file online, by mail, or in person. Beginning operations can be thought of as when you register your business with the State Corporation Commission or the Circuit Court, or when you sign a lease for commercial space.

Business owners must renew their BPOL License each year. Both filing and payment are due by March 1. Failure to register within 75 days will result in a 10% late filing penalty. Businesses registered with DTA in the previous year will receive a renewal application in the mail in January.

BPOL is an annual tax, based on the gross receipts of your business. You do not have to pay BPOL taxes until the company gross receipts are greater than $10,000 within a calendar year, but you should not wait to reach that threshold before you get your BPOL license.

BPOL Tips

  • If you apply in person for BPOL, ask for a temporary BPOL certificate that will be given to you while you wait – this is helpful if you need to arrange business checking accounts and for other paperwork. If you apply by mail, the process can take 4-6 weeks.
  • If your business is home-based, you do not need to fill out the information about rent on the BPOL application.
  • BPOL requirements for construction contractors are different than for other businesses. Contact the Department of Tax Administration for details.

Business-Specific Licenses & Permits

Depending on your business type, there may be other Fairfax County permits, licenses or taxes required.