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How to Open a Company in UK in 7 Simple Steps

The United Kingdom has one of the best business environments in the world for starting and operating a company. Between April 2022 to April  2023, over 800,000 businesses were started in the UK. This shows the country has policies that make it easy to begin a new business. Opening a company in the UK gives you benefits like limited liability, tax incentives, credibility and access to funding. This guide will explain the key steps to register your own company in the UK in a simple language that is easy to understand.

Source: Unsplash

Choosing Your Business Type

The first step is deciding what kind of business structure matches your goals and needs. The most common types of companies in the UK are:

  • Sole traders – owned and operated by one person. They have complete control but also unlimited liability for debts.
  • Partnerships – owned by 2 or more people who share control and responsibility. General partners have unlimited liability like sole traders.
  • Limited Liability Partnerships (LLP) – partners have limited liability and more flexibility than old partnerships.
  • Private limited company – separate legal entity that limits liability for shareholders. Most common for small businesses.

Each structure has pros and cons to think about when starting a company. Consider things like ownership, control, taxes, paperwork and personal assets at risk. Sole traders have lots of control but are personally responsible for all debts. Partnerships split control and liability. Limited companies limit liability but require more admin.

Registering a UK Business Name

After picking a business structure, you need to select a unique name for your company. General rules for UK business names are:

  • Must end in ‘Limited’, ‘Ltd’, ‘Private Limited Company’ or ‘plc’ for limited companies. These labels show liability is limited.
  • Cannot have words like ‘authority’ or ‘government’ without special permission. They imply government backing.
  • No offensive or obscene words are allowed.
  • Should be distinct from existing names to prevent confusion. Adding location or service can help.

Some examples of good business names in the UK are Pret A Manger, Virgin Atlantic, Innocent Drinks. Check name availability by searching the Companies House database.

Selecting an Official Business Address

Your company needs a registered office address located in the United Kingdom. This can be:

  • Your home address if you’re a sole trader. Easiest option when starting out.
  • Leased office space. Gives a more professional image.
  • A virtual office with mail forwarding. Good for online businesses.

The address will be available to the public, so consider privacy. Get permission if using someone else’s address.

Obtain a Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Code

SIC codes classify businesses by their primary economic activity. Accurate code is important for company registration, tax filings and licensing applications..

Search the SIC code database on the UK Government website to find the most relevant 5-digit code for your company. For example, a clothing retailer would fall under SIC Code 47190.

Registration with Companies House

Once you have a name, address and SIC code – it’s time to register your company with Companies House officially. This government agency maintains registrations for UK limited companies.

The process involves submitting formation documents like:

  • Memorandum and Articles of Association – company objectives, operations.
  • Form IN01 – contains company name, address, directors, shareholders, share capital details.

 At the end, you’ll get a Certificate of Incorporation, allowing you to operate as a UK company legally.

Source: Unsplash

Tax Registration

The next step in setting up a company in the UK is registering your new business with His Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to comply with your tax obligations under the law. Companies are required to register for several key taxes:

Corporation Tax Registration for Limited Companies

If you form a limited company, you must register for Corporation Tax. This tax is paid on the profits your company makes. The current Corporation Tax rate in the UK is 19% for profits up to £50,000. Any profits above £50,000 are taxed at 25%. As a new limited company, you must register for Corporation Tax within three months of starting operations. This ensures you pay your taxes on time and avoid penalties.

VAT registration

If your business turnover exceeds £150,000 per year, you must register for Value Added Tax (VAT) in the UK. VAT is charged on most goods and services. The standard VAT rate is currently 20%. Some goods like basic food items, books and children’s clothing have a reduced VAT rate of 5%. VAT-registered business add the amount of tax to most products and services soldpay it to HMRC. You can also reclaim VAT paid on business expenses. 

PAYE

If hiring employees, you must register for Pay As You Earn (PAYE) with HMRC. If you’re an employer, you deduct Income Tax and National Insurance from your employees’ pay and pay amount dedicated to HMRC.  PAYE rates vary depending on each employee’s salary level. Setting up PAYE ensures you correctly handle employee taxes.

Registering for major taxes like Corporation Tax, VAT and PAYE ensures you meet all tax duties and avoid non-compliance penalties from HMRC..

Additional Steps to Consider

Here are some final steps recommended for new businesses:

  • Open a separate business bank account. Don’t mix business and personal money. Makes accounting easier.
  • Look into business insurance. Covers risks like property damage, lawsuits, employee injuries. Gives peace of mind.
  • Get permits and licences needed for your industry. Varies by business type. Research local requirements.
  • Create systems for bookkeeping and accounting. Keeps finances organised. Needed for taxes and filings.
  • Learn rules for legal compliance. Follow regulations on safety, employment, data protection, contracts.

To Conclude – How to Register a Company in UK

The steps covered in this guide make starting a business in the UK pretty straightforward – choosing a structure, business name, address, licences, taxes and more. The quick and easy registration process makes the UK a great choice for launching a new company.

Connecting with company formation expert Chern & Co can provide personalised help getting your UK business off the ground. We will guide you through all the start-up steps and ensure you are legally compliant.

Can a Foreigner Register a Company in the UK?

Yes, foreign nationals who are not UK residents can register companies in the UK. There are two main options:

  • Becoming the sole director and shareholder of a new UK company as a foreigner. This involves getting a Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number from HMRC to handle your UK tax duties.
  • Jointly starting a new UK business with at least one local director who lives in the UK. The local director deals with compliance and paperwork while you inject investment as a foreign partner.

In both cases, foreigners need to provide proof of identity and address to register UK company.

How Long Does it Take to Open a Company in the UK?

It typically takes less than 24 hours to officially incorporate a new company in the UK after submitting all the required registration documents online through the Companies House website.

The quick turnaround time makes registering a new business in the UK very efficient. However, the full process of starting a company takes longer when you factor in steps like choosing a name, address, business structure, opening a bank account, and registering for taxes.

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