City of Alexandria, VA
Tax Guide for New Businesses
Please note that this guide is only a summary of issues of interest to new businesses. Where necessary, links are provided to complete and accurate information on the taxes covered by this guide.
About the City of Alexandria
The City of Alexandria is an independent, full-service City located on the west bank of the Potomac River. The City retains sole local governmental taxing power within its boundaries and is autonomous from any county, town or other political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The City adopted the Council-Manager form of government in 1922. The governing body of the City is the City Council, which formulates policies for the administration of the City. The City Council is composed of a mayor and six council members elected at-large for a three-year term. The Mayor is chosen on a separate ballot. City Council appoints the City Manager who serves as the City’s Chief Executive Officer. The City Manager has appointment and removal authority over department heads and other employees of the City and is responsible for implementing the policies established by the City Council.
The City provides a comprehensive range of municipal services including: education, health, welfare, housing and human services programs; public safety and administration of justice; community development, recreation, libraries, consumer assistance, cultural and historic activities; and transportation, environmental services and planning.
The City extends the privilege to engage in a commercial enterprise by issuing a business license. Persons without a business license may not lawfully engage in business. The license, which is often referred to as a permit or certificate of eligibility, must be renewed annually. Businesses, professionals, and occupations that meet all qualifications and legal requirements are eligible to obtain licenses upon application and payment of the license tax.
Any person or organization starting a business in Virginia must register with the State prior to opening the business. Registration can be completed online or by filing Form R-1 with the Virginia Department of Taxation. Businesses located in the City of Alexandria that collect sales tax must ensure that the Business Locality Code (or FIPS Code) on their R-1 is 51510. To ensure that the business is being registered in the correct jurisdiction, a business owner can look up the business' FIPS Code here or follow the instructions below.
Businesses with the following zip codes are located entirely in the City of Alexandria:
The 22302, 22304, 22311, and 22312 zip codes are shared between Fairfax County and the City of Alexandria. The 22206 zip code is shared between Arlington County and the City of Alexandria. Any business located in the 22302, 22304, 22311, 22312, or 22206 zip code may verify its locality via the United States Postal Service website by entering the business address and clicking on "Mailing Industry Information."
Filing Procedure for New Businesses
NOTE: The procedures below apply to all for-profit businesses operating in the City. Procedures for non-profit organizations, including those with some taxable activities, differ slightly from these general procedures and can be found in the Licensing and Tax Guide for Non-Profit Organizations.
Obtaining a business license in Alexandria is generally a three-step process:
Step 1: Registering the business entity.
a. Registration of a Corporation or a Limited Partnership
Step 2: Visiting the Permit Center.
In an effort to improve the business license application process, the City has created a Permit Center where applicants can obtain the approvals and registrations needed by most businesses.
The following can be obtained at the Permit Center:
Additional information is available at:
Step 3: Submitting the completed application with tax payment and all necessary approvals and documentation.
NOTE: The assessed business license tax must be paid before a business license will be issued. The Permit Center accepts payment of the $50 license fee by check only. If a higher business license tax is assessed or if the licensee wishes to pay by other methods, the license tax may be paid at the Treasury Division in Room 1510 or at the payment kiosk in Room 1700. The Treasury Division accepts cash, check, money order or Discover Card. The payment kiosk accepts payments by check, Visa, MasterCard, or Discover Card.
Business license applications submitted by mail must include payment of the business license tax. The business license application, payment (by check or money order), and any other required documentation may be mailed to:
Returned checks are subject to a $35 fee in accordance with state law.
Persons seeking a permit to act as solicitors, canvassers, or peddlers within the City must follow certain specific procedures before doing business in the City.
Any person starting a business without a license shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and unless otherwise specifically provided by law, shall on conviction thereof be fined not less than $5 nor more than $500 for each separate offense. After 30 days, the penalty assessed increases to $10 or 10 percent of the amount of the license tax, whichever is greater. The penalty shall be assessed and paid along with the license tax and shall become a part of the license tax. (City Code Section 9-1-14)
Every person beginning a business, profession, or occupation is required to estimate the gross receipts he/she will receive between the date of beginning business and the end of the current license year (December 31). The current year's license tax is computed on that estimate. If estimated gross receipts are $2 million or greater, the estimated license tax is adjusted at the end of the tax year to reflect the business' actual gross receipts.
In the first year of operation: A business has no tax liability if its estimated gross receipts are less than $100,000. However, the business must still register with the Permit Center. The minimum annual license tax is $50 for businesses with estimated gross receipts of at least $100,000 but less than $1,999,999. Businesses with estimated gross receipts of $2,000,000 or more are assessed a percentage of their gross receipts.
Note: This tax schedule does not apply to the following business tax categories: renting by owners of residential or commercial property, contractors, wholesale merchants, amusements, public utilities, and regulatory activities. (Information on regulatory licenses can be found below.)
A more detailed explanation of this tax, including information on tax rates, is available on the Business License Tax page. Examples of Business Tax calculations can be found at How Business Tax is Calculated.
The license tax for the following types of businesses and/or business activities are not based on gross receipts as described above and instead pay the flat license tax listed.
Businesses Licensed by the State Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission to Manufacture, Bottle or Sell Alcoholic Beverages
Businesses Manufacturing, Bottling or Selling Beverages of Not More Than 3.2% Alcohol
Carnivals, Circuses, Menageries, Side Shows, Tent Shows, Rodeos, Animal Shows, Festivals, Fiestas, etc.
Slot Machine Operators
Fortune Tellers, Phrenologists, etc.
Every fortuneteller, clairvoyant, phrenologist, spirit medium, chiromancer, astrologist, hypnotist or palmist operating in the City shall pay for the privilege an annual license tax of $1,000, and this license tax shall not be prorated.
Massage Parlor Operators
Every person operating a massage parlor, as defined by Alexandria City Code Section 11-4-1, shall pay an annual license tax of $5,000. Before any license shall be issued, the applicant must produce evidence that he or she has obtained a permit under the provisions of Alexandria City Code Section 11-4-7.
Every person engaged in the business of an itenerant vendor within the City shall pay an annual license tax of $500.
The City assesses property taxes on business tangible personal property, real estate and motor vehicles.
The City levies a tax each calendar year on all tangible property used in a business, profession or occupation. Business tangible property includes furniture, fixtures and equipment, including but not limited to desks, typewriters, personal computers, movable partitions, drapes, cabinets and chairs. In addition, all manufacturers, mining, processing or reprocessing companies, television or radio broadcasting companies, dairy, and dry cleaning or laundry businesses located in the City must pay a property tax on machinery and tools used in their business.
The Business Personal Property Tax is levied as a percentage of the assessed value of the property, based on the tax rate set by the City Council on or around May 5 each year. In the third week of March, the Finance Department mails property tax returns to all businesses licensed in the City that began operating prior to January 2 of the current year. Business Personal Property Tax returns are due May 1 (or the next business day if May 1 falls on a weekend or holiday). Business Personal Property Tax bills based on these returns are mailed in mid-August with a due date of October 5 (or the next business day if October 5 falls on a weekend or holiday).
Commercial property is assessed at 100 percent of the estimated fair market value as of January 1 of each year. For information on real estate assessment procedures, Board of Equalization and Assessment Review and the appeals process, please visit the Department of Real Estate Assessments. Real estate taxes are calculated by multiplying the property's assessed value by the real estate tax rate. Real estate taxes are billed and payable in two installments. The first tax bill is mailed in May and is due by June 15 (or the next business day if June 15 falls on a weekend or holiday). The second tax bill is mailed in October and is due by November 15 (or the next business day if November 15 falls on a weekend or holiday).
All motor vehicles normally parked, stored, or garaged (having situs) in the City of Alexandria, including vehicles with out-of-state plates, must be registered for the City's annual personal property tax and display a City windshield decal. All motor vehicles registered to a City address with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles must also be registered with the City, even vehicles normally parked, stored, or garaged in another state. New businesses have 30 days to register their vehicles with the City and obtain a City decal. The annual personal property tax bill is mailed in August and must be paid by October 5 (or the next business day if October 5 falls on a weekend or holiday). Payments on newly registered vehicles are due within 30 days of the billing date.
Business License Tax
Businesses that begin after January 1 must file the application and pay taxes immediately. Payments for new businesses may be submitted in person at City Hall. The Permit Center accepts payment of the $50 license fee by check only. If a higher business license tax is assessed or if the licensee wishes to pay by other methods, the license tax may be paid at the Treasury Division in Room 1510 or at the payment kiosk in Room 1700. The Treasury Division accepts cash, check, money order or Discover Card. The payment kiosk accepts payments by check, Visa, MasterCard, or Discover Card. The business license application, tax payment (by check or money order), and supporting documentation may also be mailed.
Please note that returned checks are subject to a $35 fee in accordance with state law.
Business Personal Property Tax
Business personal property tax bills are mailed to property owners in late August or early September. Payment is due by October 5 (or the following business day if October 5 falls on a weekend). Any business owner wishing to pay by mail should write the account number on a check or money order and send it with the bill stub to:
City of Alexandria Business Personal Property
Payments should not be mailed to any other address. Returned checks are subject to a $35 fee in accordance with state law. Information on all other payment methods, including paying by credit card or eCheck, is available on the Six Easy Ways to Pay page.
Real Estate Tax
Real estate tax payments (by check or money order), if not made by the taxpayer’s bank or mortgage company, may be mailed with the bill stub to:
Any property owner wishing to pay by check or money order should write the account number in the memo field. Returned checks are subject to a $35 fee in accordance with state law.
Through the Automatic Bank Debit Program, taxpayers may register to make real estate tax payments monthly or have the lump sum of the tax amount due automatically debited on each of the two tax due dates. This program has proven to be popular with those who prefer making monthly payments and with those who may travel a great deal and may either forget the bill or be out of town when the tax payment falls due. (Example: preauthorized monthly payment schedule).
Information on all other payment methods, including paying by debit/credit card or eCheck, is available on the Six Easy Ways to Pay page.
Personal Property (Vehicle) Tax
Personal property tax payments (by check or money order) may be mailed with the bill stub to:
Any vehicle owner wishing to pay by check or money order should write the account number in the memo field. Returned checks are subject to a $35 fee in accordance with state law.
Information on all other payment methods, including paying by debit/credit card or eCheck, is available on the Six Easy Ways to Pay page.
All Other Business-Related Taxes and Fees
Each business-related tax or fee will have its own filing and payment requirements. Information on paying all other business-related taxes can be found by visiting the Alexandria Tax Guide and clicking on the appropriate tax type.
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