How to Obtain a Business License for a General Business

How to Obtain a City of Norfolk Business License for General Business License from the Commissioner of the Revenue.

Business Address Approval by the City Planning Department

To get a Norfolk business license, you must have a definite place of business in the City of Norfolk. A definite place of business can be an office, a store, or other location where business is conducted, goods are made and/or stored and sold, or where services are rendered. 

Zoning Laws

However, some zoning laws may not allow a business from operating in certain locations. For this reason, all business addresses, when applying for a new business license, must be approved by the Zoning Department. A lease or some type of written documentation must be presented for this approval. If you are attempting to use your residence as your business address and you do not own the property, a letter from the property owner or leasing agent authorizing you to use that location for your business must be submitted to zoning. There is a $15 fee charged for zoning to approve all addresses. 

For more information, please contact the City Planning Department at 757-664-4752.

Register a Trade Name, Fictitious Name, DBA, etc.

Any person, partnership, limited liability partnership, limited liability company, or corporation using a name, which does not identify the owner of the business, must register that name in the Norfolk Circuit Court. Registering this name does not prevent your business name from being used by any other business. It is done to assist the public by giving information as to the person with which it deals with The Circuit Court will charge a $10 fee to register this name. For further information, contact the Circuit Court at 757-664-4580.

Cost of the Business License

The cost of the business license is based upon your estimate of total gross receipts from the day the business opens, through December 31 of the same year. If the estimate is less than $100,000, the license will cost $50, which is the minimum fee. If, however, the estimate is greater than $100,000, a tax rate will be applied to your estimate. There are different rates for different types of businesses:

  • Contractors (local and out-of-town) - 16 cents per one hundred dollars of gross
  • Retail operations and Restaurants - 20 cents per one hundred dollars
  • Repair, Personal and Business Services - 36 cents per one hundred dollars
  • Financial, Real Estate and Professional Services - 58 cents per one hundred dollars

Wholesale businesses pay their business license based on gross purchases at a rate of 15 cents per one hundred dollars plus $50. Wholesale businesses do not fall into the $100,000 threshold mentioned above.

Business Tangible Property Tax

All property (such as machinery, tools, equipment, computers, or office furniture and fixtures, etc.) used in the operation of your business, and is located in Norfolk as of January 1 of each year, is taxed by the City of Norfolk as business tangible property. A form will be mailed to your business which will ask you to send in a list of all your property, informing us of its description, its purchase date, and its original cost. 

The City of Norfolk will assess the property at 40% of the original cost and the assessment will be taxed at the rate of 4.33%. The payment for the tax is due by June 5th of each year. 

If we do not receive a list of your equipment, our office is required by law to statutorily assess the property by using the best information we have available to us (such as prior lists submitted and/or industry standards). 

What You Need to Bring with You if You Apply in Person

When applying in person, please allow at least one hour to complete the application process. To help your application process go faster, be sure to bring these important documents with you:

  • Estimate of gross receipts through December 31st
  • Federal Tax ID number from the IRS (visit the Internal Renevue Service website to obtain online)
  • If your business is a corporation, LLC, LLP, etc, please bring a copy of your certificate issued by the Virginia State Corporation Commission. For more information, go to the SCC website.
  • Lease of business location or other written documentation
  • Identification (Picture ID)

Methods of payment accepted by the Norfolk City Treasurer

  • Cash
  • Check (advisable to bring separate checks for each step mentioned above)
  • Credit Card (most major card companies accepted)
  • Debit Card (card must display either a MasterCard or Visa logo)

Additional Questions

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Business Tax Team at 757-664-7886.