In today's fast-paced and competitive business landscape, having a firm grasp on your business expenses is more crucial than ever.
If you’re an entrepreneur getting ready to incorporate a company in the UK, you’re in the right place.
Starting a business can be difficult and confusing so, to help you understand the legal process behind it, in this guide we’ll look at the requirements, documents and processes to incorporate a company in the UK.
Between other information, we'll answer the key question: how much does it cost to incorporate a company in the UK? Including how Wise Business can help you when starting a business in the UK.
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Incorporating a company is the official process taken to register your business with the government, so it becomes a different legal entity to the owner or owners.
The process you follow to incorporate your company will vary depending on the legal business structure you choose - but you’ll need to register in order to pay taxes, comply with employment regulations, and trade legally in the UK.
|💡 Read more: What is incorporation of a company in the UK|
Before we move on, let’s look at a few definitions of business incorporation terms:
- Business registration: The process of registering your company with the government - in the UK, this means registering with Companies House.
- Formation of a company: Similar to business registration, the formation of a company involves the end to end process of legally registering your business and getting ready to trade.
- Business name registration: As part of the process of registering your business, you’ll need to choose an available business name, and register it - rules apply about the type of name you can choose.
- Registered office address: All UK companies need a registered office in the UK, which can not be a PO Box.
- Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code: Used by the UK government to classify the type of work a business does - you may need to pick one or more SIC codes to describe your business when you register it.
|💡 Read more: How to start a business in the United Kingdom|
In the UK there are 3 key legal business structure options¹ - when you register your UK business you’ll need to pick the one which suits you best:
- Sole traders: The most straightforward way to register your UK business - often used by single person businesses and micro-companies. Your personal and business finances are not treated as separate under this structure.
- Limited companies: Here you’ll have more reporting and management responsibilities compared to a sole trader business entity - but your personal and business finances are viewed as separate in the eyes of the law.
- Partnerships: In a partnership you’ll share the responsibility for any debts incurred by your business with one or more other people, and agree how to split profits - this is the easiest way to set up a business with more than one person.
There’s no single best legal business structure - the one that’s right for you will depend on your situation. If you’re unsure, take professional advice so you’re confident you’re making the right choices.
The requirements - and the documents you need to provide - to register your UK business can be different for each type of legal business structure. Here’s a brief overview:
To register as a sole trader you need to tell HMRC you want to pay tax through a self assessment. For this all you need is your personal and contact information, your National Insurance number, and the business name you’ve selected².
As a sole trader, your responsibilities include:
- Keeping records of your cash flow and expenses
- Filing a tax self assessment annually
- Paying tax and National Insurance contributions
- You may also need to register for VAT, based on your business turnover and activity
To register a partnership you’ll need to choose a name and a nominated partner, who is responsible for maintaining legal records. You’ll then have to register with HMRC, which can be done online on the UK government website. You may also need to register for VAT depending on your business type and turnover³.
To incorporate a limited company, the process is a little more involved - which means people also often choose to use an agent, like Wise Business, to support this process. That said, you can incorporate your limited company without help if you’d prefer.
Limited companies are limited by shares or by guarantee, and can be registered with the following documents and information⁴:
- Memorandum and Articles of Association
- Registered business address
- SIC code
- Business name
- Names of director, shareholders and a company secretary if you choose one
You’ll also need to register for corporation tax, which can usually be done at the same time as incorporating your company.
The cost of incorporating your UK business will depend on the business entity type, and whether you’re setting it up yourself, or via an agent or intermediary.
The basic costs if you register your UK business yourself are:
- Sole trader - there may be no fee, if you’re able to register for self assessment online⁵
- Limited partnership - Companies House fee of 20 GBP⁶
- Limited liability partnership - applications completed online by third party software, fees vary⁷
- Limited company - Companies House fee of 12 GBP⁸
It’s worth noting, however, that there may be other fees to pay. For example, if you need to engage an agent to support you, or seek professional or legal advice when drawing up the required business paperwork.
How long it takes to incorporate a company in the UK varies quite a lot, based on the legal business structure you register:
If you’re registering for self assessment as a sole trader, you’ll need to receive a Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR), which will come in about 10 days if you request it to be posted to you, but can arrive far faster if you arrange your application in the HMRC app.⁵
If you’re registering for a limited liability partnership, this usually only takes about 24 hours.¹⁰ Limited partnerships take a bit longer - you’ll need to mail in your fee by cheque, and your partnership may be registered around 5 days after it’s received.⁹
It usually takes under 24 hours for your limited company to be registered with Companies House, once you submit all the required paperwork.
About to set up your limited UK company? Make life easier - so you focus less on the admin, and more on connecting with customers - with Wise Business.
With the Wise Business UK company formation service, Wise can support you from choosing and registering a powerful business name, to registering with Companies House, setting up a handy Wise Business account - and starting to trade. The service is available for single director and single shareholder companies, limited by shares - and can mean your business is set up in anything from a couple of hours to a couple of days.
As well as registering your company, you’ll get a Wise Business account, to hold and exchange 40+ currencies with the mid-market exchange rate, and linked debit and expense cards for easy spending. Get local bank details to get paid fee free from 30+ countries, and send payments to suppliers, contractors and staff in 80+ countries, with the mid-market rate and low, transparent fees every time.
If you’re about to register your new UK business you’re in for an exciting ride. Use this guide to start your research, and don’t forget to check out Wise Business as an end to end partner when setting up a UK business, including getting a flexible, low cost business account.
- Gov.uk - setting up a business
- Gov.uk - set up as a sole trader
- Gov.uk - setting up a partnership
- Gov.uk - set up a limited company
- Gov.uk - register for self assessment
- Gov.uk - limited partnership
- Gov.uk - limited liability partnership
- Gov.uk - register a limited company
- Gov.uk - set up and run a limited partnership
- Gov.uk - Set up and run a limited liability partnership
Sources last checked: 23/02/2023
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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