Regulatory Requirements

Learn more about the federal and state licenses and permits you’ll need to obtain to run your business legally.
City License & PermitsState License & PermitsFederal License & Permits

Agents in the Commissioner of the Revenue's office interview applicants to determine a business's industry classification and whether it is required to collect and submit additional taxes, such as meals tax. These additional taxes are referred to as trustee taxes, which may be subject to monthly or quarterly filing, depending on the type. The type and necessary accounts are determined and set up during the application process. ​Monthly or quarterly filings of trustee taxes are submitted to the City Treasurer. To ensure compliance with state and local tax laws, certain classifications require additional licenses, permits, or documentation, and some documentation may need to be submitted annually.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​§ 58.1-3700.1. Definition of Business
"Business" means a course of dealing which requires the time, attention, and labor of the person so engaged for the purpose of earning a livelihood or profit. It implies a continuous and regular course of dealing, rather than an irregular or isolated transaction. A person may be engaged in more than one business. The following acts shall create a rebuttable presumption that a person is engaged in a business: (i) advertising or otherwise holding oneself out to the public as being engaged in a particular business or (ii) filing tax returns, schedules, and documents that are required only of persons engaged in a trade or business.​

Organizations: All organizations must register with the commissioner's office; however, some manufacturing, farms, and nonprofit entities may qualify as tax-exempt. Additionally, some organizations hosting less than three events per year may be exempt from certain taxes. Events of this kind are still required to register with the commissioner's office and are referred to as community events.​


The commissioner's office business license division must be notified of any changes to information since the filing of the original application, or if the business fails or closes.

There is not a general business license that the state of Virginia requires to conduct business in the commonwealth; however, it does require certain occupations and professions to obtain licensing through licensing boards. Licensing boards are managed by the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation and include professionals such as auctioneers, barbers, home inspectors, engineers, and real estate agents, to name a few. Licensing through these boards varies by profession but normally involves meeting certain education standards and successfully passing an administered examination. If your occupation is one that is covered by a licensing board, then all licensing and certification must be completed prior to your business opening.​​

If your business activities are supervised and regulated by a federal agency, such as selling alcohol, firearms, commercial fishing, etc., then you may need to obtain a federal license or permit. Here is a brief list of business activities that require these forms and information on how to apply.

In addition, you can also discover which general business permits, licenses, and registrations are required by your state, county, or city.


If you import or transport animals, animal products, biologics, biotechnology, or plants across state lines, you’ll need to apply for a permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Alcoholic Beverages

If you manufacture, wholesale, import, or sell alcoholic beverages at a retail location, you'll need to register your business and obtain certain federal permits (for tax purposes) with the U.S. Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). The website has a number of online tools that make this process straightforward. If you're just starting a business in this trade, read the bureau's New Visitors Guide, which offers helpful information for small business owners. Remember, you'll also need to contact your local Alcohol Beverage Control Board for business permitting and licensing information.


Does your business involve the operation of aircraft; the transportation of goods or people via air; or aircraft maintenance? If so, you’ll need to apply for one or more of the following licenses and certificates from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA):

  • ​​FAA licenses and certificates - Get licensing information for airmen, aircraft, airports, airlines, and medical aviation services.
  • Pilot licenses and training requirements
  • Aircraft mechanic licenses

​Firearms, Ammunition, and Explosives

Businesses that manufacture, deal with, and import firearms, ammunition, and explosives must comply with the Gun Control Act’s licensing requirements. The act is administered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Refer to the following resources from the ATF to make sure your business is properly licensed:

  • ​Firearms Industry Guide – Includes information on obtaining and renewing a federal firearms license, importing firearms and ammunition, and more.
  • Explosives Industry Guide – Find out how to get a federal explosives license.
  • How to Become a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL)
  • How to Become a Federal Explosives Licensee (FEL)

Fish and Wildlife

If your business is engaged in any wildlife-related activity, including the import/export of wildlife and derivative products, you must obtain an appropriate permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Commercial Fisheries

Commercial fishing businesses are required to obtain a license for fishing activities from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Fisheries Service. This guide includes quick links to permit applications and information.

Maritime Transportation

If you provide ocean transportation or facilitate the shipment of cargo by sea, you’ll need to apply for a license from the Federal Maritime Commission.

Mining and Drilling

Businesses involved in the drilling for natural gas, oil, or other mineral resources on federal lands may be required to obtain a drilling permit from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

Nuclear Energy

Producers of commercial nuclear energy and fuel cycle facilities as well as businesses involved in the distribution and disposal of nuclear materials must apply for a license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Radio and Television Broadcasting

If your business broadcasts information by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable, you may be required to obtain a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).​

Transportation and Logistics

​If you operate an oversize or overweight vehicle, you’ll need to abide by the U.S. Department of Transportation, which offers guidelines on maximum weight. Permits for oversize/overweight vehicles are issued by your state government.

Page Last Updated: May 20, 2022