How to Start a Business in the Virgin Islands:
In the U.S. Virgin Islands, most businesses must be registered with the Lieutenant Governor’s Office Division of Corporations and Trademarks. All businesses must obtain a business license and register with the local Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), as taxes must be paid to the BIR instead of the IRS.
Form your business.
Review formation options in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The U.S. Virgin Islands offer seven ways of forming your business. Review these closely and pick the one that fits your business best.
Name your business.
Once you have decided on a business name, you must check its availability. If your preferred business name is available, you can go ahead and reserve or register your business name using the online filing system "Catalyst." You will have to create an account to access the online services.
If you need help finding a business name, be sure to check out NameSnack's free business name generator.
Create an account to access the online system, Catalyst.
Select "Register a Trade Name" in the menu below "I would like to..."
Complete the online form, upload any supporting documents, and click "Submit."
Provide your electronic signature and click "Submit."
Review and submit your application and pay the applicable fee.
Get an employer identification number.
Nearly all businesses will need to register for federal taxes by applying for an employer identification number.
Register your business in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
While sole proprietorships and general partnerships do not have to file formal business formation documents with the territory, they must register a trade name if they intend on operating under a fictitious business name.
All other business entities must be registered with the Office of the Lieutenant Governor Division of Corporations and Trademarks. This can be done online using the Catalyst online filing application and can cost between $150.00 and $300.00.
Log in to the Catalyst system or create an account to gain access to the online filing services.
Once you're logged in, click "Online Services" above your account dashboard and open the drop-down menu.
Click on "Form a New Business."
In the menu to the right, select the entity type you want to register.
Another menu will open to the right. Click on the relevant link to form or register your business entity.
Follow the prompts, complete the online forms, and upload the required documentation.
After completing the electronic signature and reviewing your application, click "Submit."
Obtain necessary permits and certifications.
In order to obtain a business license, which every business operating in the U.S. Virgin Islands must have, you may need to have other permits, clearances, or board certifications in order to get your business license.
Depending on the type of business, you may need to submit a review by the Department of Health. Only certain professions must be certified by their respective board. Navigate to the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs board certifications directory to find out if you need a board certification for your profession.
Apply for a U.S. Virgin Islands business license.
Every business operating in the U.S. Virgin Islands must obtain a business license from the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLCA). Ensure that you have all the necessary certifications, clearances, and permits before submitting your business license application.
- Certificate of Trade Name/Partnership and Corporation Registration.
- Tax clearance letter.*
- Police records check.*
- Review by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources for zoning compliance.*
- Review by the Fire Service for fire code compliance.
- Review by the Department of Health, depending on the type of license needed.
- Board certification, depending on the type of business/profession.
*Review will be conducted on the applicant's behalf by the DLCA Division of Licensing.
Navigate to the DLCA website and log in or create an account by selecting the relevant button below "Apply For License" on the right side of the page.
Once you're logged in to your account, scroll to the bottom of the page and click "Apply for New License."
Follow the prompts, complete the online forms, and submit your business license application.
Determine your tax obligations.
Contact the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
Contact the U.S. Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to determine your tax obligations and filing requirements, and register as a taxpayer.
Contact details for the BIR’s St. Thomas office:
6115 Estate Smith Bay Ste 225 St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands 00802 Telephone: (340) 715-1040
Contact details for the BIR’s St. John office:
P. O. Box 8305 St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands 00831 Telephone: (340) 777-1446
Contact details for the BIR’s St. Croix office:
Leroy A. Quinn Government Finance Center 4008 Estate Diamond, Plot 7B Christiansted, U.S. Virgin Islands 00820 Telephone: (340) 773-1040
Visit the BIR website and download the tax structure booklet and tax calendar for additional guidance.
Pay income tax.
The income tax laws applicable in the U.S. are mirrored in the U.S. Virgin Islands. As a result of the mirrored taxing structure, the income tax provisions of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are, with certain limitations, generally applicable to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
This also allows taxpayers to use many of the IRS forms to file their taxes with BIR, including Form 1120 to file corporate income tax returns.
Submit withholding tax deposits.
The procedures regarding the withholding and remittance of income taxes, Social Security Taxes (FICA), and Federal Unemployment Taxes (FUTA) in the U.S. Virgin Islands are the same as in the U.S. However, while income taxes withheld from wages are submitted to the BIR, FICA and FUTA are remitted to the IRS Center in Philadelphia, PA 19255.
Pay excise tax.
If you manufacture or import goods, merchandise, or commodities for sale or other business purposes in the U.S. Virgin Islands, you will have to pay excise tax on these.
Registered taxpayers can file their excise tax returns online by visiting the Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue.
Enter you email address and a password. Click "Register."
Follow the prompts to create your account and access the online services.
Hire employees and comply with labor laws.
Report new hires.
Submit a new hire reporting form to the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Labor within 20 days of the date of hire.
Obtain mandatory insurance.
All employers in the U.S. Virgin Islands who employ one or more employees must obtain workers' compensation insurance.
Submit quarterly reports.
Employers must register with the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Labor Unemployment Insurance Division and submit quarterly wage and contribution reports. The necessary forms are mailed to employers well ahead of the due dates.
Display workplace posters.
Federal and U.S. Virgin Islands law requires employers to display certain workplace posters. Contact the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Labor and visit the U.S. Department of Labor website to obtain the mandatory posters.
Virgin Islands Business Types:
1. Sole proprietorship.
A sole proprietorship is the easiest way to form a business. Sole proprietorships do not have to file formal formation documents, but must register their trade name should they want to operate under a fictitious business name. While this is the simplest formation option, it does come with risk, as the business owner is not protected from liability.
2. General partnership.
A general partnership is similar to a sole proprietorship in that it is as easy to form and does not protect the partners from liabilities. However, instead of the business being owned and operated by one individual, a partnership may offer a little more stability as there are more people to support the business in terms of funding and management.
3. Limited partnership.
Limited partnerships are similar to a general partnership but differ in that at least one partner must be a limited partner and at least one a general partner. A limited partner is only liable up to the amount they invested in the company while the general partner has unlimited liability.
4. Limited liability partnership.
In a limited liability partnership, some or all of the partners have limited liabilities, meaning that they are only liable for the amount they invested in the business venture and are not liable for the actions of another partner.
5. Limited liability limited partnership.
The U.S. Virgin Islands also allow limited liability limited partnerships, which are similar to limited partnerships in that they consist of general partners, but differ in that the potential liability of the general partner(s) are reduced as this can be transferred to an external insurer.
6. Limited liability company.
A limited liability company is a hybrid business structure between a partnership and a corporation, which has the characteristics of a partnership when it comes to management and taxation, as well as those of a corporation when it comes to liability, affording the owners protection from the business's debts or liabilities.
A corporation is a formal legal structure and the most complex way to organize a business. It is authorized to act as a single entity and is recognized as such by law. It affords the owners, referred to as shareholders, protection from liability and is usually managed by a board of directors elected by the shareholders.
Virgin Islands Registration and Business Fees:
Name reservation for trade names, corporations, LPs, LLPs, and LLLPs
$30.00 for 30 days
Name reservation for LLCs and LLC trade names
$50.00 for 120 days
Trade name registration fees for sole proprietorships, general partnerships, corporation trade names, and LP/LLP/LLLP trade names
Trade name registration fees for LLC trade names
Renewal of trade names
Certificate of Good Standing
Certificate of Fact (Evidence of Existence)
Certificate of Limited Partnership
LLP — Statement of Qualification
LLLP — Statement of Qualification
LLC — Articles of Organization
Corporation — Articles of Incorporation