Registering my web design business with Stafford County was at once more complicated than I would have thought, and easier than I would have thought. This is my experience of what I had to do to register/license (though they don’t do licenses) with the county for my Fredericksburg-based business.
What I Had to Do
First things first – I had to do all of it in person. I know! I was all over Stafford’s website, on the phone, and even had some email back and forth with their very lovely representatives (I mean that sincerely! They were extremely kind and helpful!), but at the end of the day they want a person to come down there and take care of setting up a business in Stafford County in-person. The part that I hated, was I had to do it during the work day. There are no weekend hours or even after hours when it comes to registering your business. The lady I first spoke with said she envisioned it taking an hour, well, it was closer to 2, but that’s still not bad for all I had to do! And – it was a lot. I was moving most of the time I was there. Basically they give you a list and you have to visit the offices on that list, pay some fees, bring back confirmation you’ve paid those fees to some offices, and then move throughout the complex until you’ve met with everyone you’re supposed to meet with.
Step 1: Start at the website
I know, I know, I just told you nothing is online, and it’s not, but they put the pieces to get the ball rolling on their website. What you’re going to find is that in Step 1 they are going to ask you to get in touch with Marjorie Radle (Missie) at the Department of Economic Development. She’s great, super friendly, and she’ll try to get you in touch with anyone who could help you out.
For example, she connected me with Allison Webb with the Commissioner of the Revenue who sent me the Business Registration form and the Business Filing forms. Both of which go with your last stop when you go to the Courthouse Complex in person. They basically register your business name with the county and tell them what assets you have so they know what to tax you on come November.
Step 2: Go to the Courthouse Complex
The real name of this place is the George L. Gordon Stafford County Government Center, and it’s located at 1300 Courthouse Road, Stafford, Virginia, 22554. To get to the parking, drive behind the courthouse and there’s a little side entrance which takes you back to a massive parking lot.
Once you’ve got yourself parked, LEAVE YOUR CELL PHONE IN THE CAR. Don’t do what I did and walk all the 5-miles to the door to read the “no cell phones allowed” sign and then have to hike it all the way back to your car and back up to the buildings. Now you can bring it into the first stop, but you can’t leave it anywhere and you’re not allowed to have it in the courthouse. So save yourself the steps!
Step 3: Visit the Department of Economic Development
It’s the door directly behind the red phone booth. You can’t miss it. There are three flags and then this phone booth right next to the parking lot. This is where you’ll meet Missie in person! And she’ll give you all this free stuff. Don’t forget to grab a free post it notepad and stylus pen. 🙂
In the folder she will walk you through all the steps of where to go to register your business, who to talk to, etc. You will think you know what you’re supposed to do, because while it is clear, you will promptly forget it the moment you leave. Just get yourself to stop #2 and you’ll be set. You don’t have to come back to this office again unless you have a question.
Step 4: Talk to the Community Development Service Center
From Missie’s office, you go out the door, turn left, walk up the stairs, then go all the way to the top, enter through the doors on the right side of the building directly in front of you. (Side note, the court house is to the right of you in its own building.) Once you’re inside there’s a long hallway, just walk down it until you see the open doors for the center.
When it’s your turn they will ask you what type of business you’re registering for. On your right will be two turnable form towers and you’ll have to get the one they mentioned. Then you’ll head over to the table next to the open doors and fill it out. Once you’re all set you’ll go back to the clerk and wait for them to enter in all that information. Once that’s done they will send you down the hall to pay your fees. Mine was $160.
Step 5: Visit the Treasury Office (also a DMV!)
This one’s a bit tricky because there are two Treasury offices. You want the one where you go out the center doors, turn right, go to the end of the hall and turn LEFT. Do not turn right because there’s a Treasury office, so you must be in the right place, because you’d be wrong. 😀 Turn left and go down until you see the DMV/Treasury collections office. That’s where you want to be.
Now there wasn’t a line here for me, but they have a ton of open windows so I imagine the wait is always pretty manageable. The DMV side also does county payments, and they took mine. I paid, they gave me a receipt, which I took back down the hall to Step 4’s Community Development Service Center.
Step 6: Go back to the Community Development Service Center
Hand the clerk the receipt you were sent to get, let them punch in a few more things on the keyboard and they will give you a receipt. With this in hand they will send you on your way to your next stop.
Step 7: Circuit Court
You have to go to the courthouse to register your business name with the county. They call it a Certificate of Assumed or Fictitious Name. A week or so later you’ll get an actual certificate in the mail. So to get to it you go out the center doors, turn left, go out those first doors you went in when you climbed the stairs and turn left. That’s the courthouse. Go on in and be prepared to go through a security station with metal detectors. The guards are very helpful and will show you which doors to go through (back and to the left). Once you go through you’ll see two windows. Either will be able to help you. The fee is $10, and the form is pretty painless to fill out. They might send you to the back room to type it up on legal paper. You’ll have to put the legal paper into the printer FYI. It’s super easy, they have it hanging on the wall, and you just feed it in before you hit print.
You bring back the printed paper, they notarize it (what the fee is for) after checking your ID, then you pay and you’re on your way to the last stop.
Step 8: Commissioner of Revenue
This is where you go to pay your taxes, or rather sign up to be billed for them. To get there you go back like you’re going to treasury again, but go further, hop on the elevators you come across and go up to the second floor (this is what I remember so I’m sorry if I’m a little off here. It’s a bit hazy.). There you’ll find the office with extremely high counters. Seriously. I’m 5’4” and I had to stand on tippy toes look at the lady who helped me out.
Here you register your newly named business with the county so they can bill you on your business’ assets. In my case, that amounts to a computer, a printer, and two monitors. They will give you two forms to fill out – one for basic who you are information, and one for declaring your assets. Now, since I was without my phone, I did not recall exactly how much I spent on my computer and monitors. So the kind lady there gave me an email address to scan in my forms and mail them back to her. Which I did and she sent a confirmation, and let me know they’d send a bill in November (due December 5th) for the year’s property taxes.
Step 9: Go try to find your car
And now… you’re done. Whew! I completely get why they have you come in and do it in person. I’m sure there’s the issue of fraud, but you can’t get around needing to be guided through the litany of forms. There were a ton of different types of permits, and individualized questions that needed to be answered. That doesn’t mean I don’t think they could eventually put it all online, but just that I see how it could get confusing very fast.
So I hope that helped you figure out how to register your business here in Stafford County/Fredericksburg. Again, no licenses, just taxes.
And if you ever have a need for help with your website or online marketing needs, please keep us in mind!