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How to register a business name

If you are ready to start making your business dreams a reality by setting up your own limited liability company, then registering your company name is the first step to take.

To start a limited company in the UK, you must register a business name through Companies House.

Registering a business name isn’t rocket science, but it can feel pretty daunting if you haven’t done it before. But don’t worry – we have compiled this article to guide you through each step of the process.

How much does it cost?

Before you start your application to register for a business name, it is important to know how much it will cost you. Thankfully, to set up a private limited company online, it costs just £12 in administration fees (which can be paid by PayPal, debit, or credit card).

If you choose to make a postal application (using form IN01), the cost is considerably higher – £40 – and payable by cheque.

8 steps to registering business names

In order to register a business name with Companies House, you’ll first need to create an account (email address, name and password) and then all you have to do is follow these eight steps.

  • 1. Check the company name you want isn't already taken

    Before you can register a limited company, you must choose a company name. While you generally have quite a lot of freedom when it comes to business name registering, there are a few requirements and restrictions, such as ensuring the name you want isn’t already taken.

    Understandably, you cannot name a company exactly the same (or similar to) the name of another registered company. Companies House will consider a name to be too similar if it is likely to confuse the public. If you had a strong legitimate case for naming your company similar to that belonging to another business, you could consider seeking permission from the business in question and Companies House.

    In order to check that your chosen name is available before beginning the form, you can use the free company name availability checker provided by Companies House. You may be fortunate enough to get your first choice of name, but – if the name you were proposing is already taken – you will have to make alterations to it until you find one that is available.

    It is important to note that business name you register does not have to be the name you trade with. You can still trade under a separate business name, even after you have registered your company.

    The last part of choosing your company name is to decide whether you would like to end it with ‘Limited’ or ‘LLC’. Just name sure you don’t add it into the name form too, or your application will be rejected.

    For the full rules and regulations around company names, you can look at the Companies Act 2006 and Limited Liability Partnership and Business Regulations 2014.

  • 2. Decide on an official company address

    Once you have your name sorted, the next stage is to decide upon your official company address. Your official company address needs to be a UK postal address where you can receive official notifications

    While it can be tempting to use your home address if you don’t have a business premises, it is important to know that this would make your private home address public knowledge as it would appear on the Companies House public register.

    If possible, we therefore recommend registering your company to a PO Box or even your accountant’s office.

  • 3. Choose a SIC code for your company

    Following that, you will need to find the correct SIC code for your business purposes. SIC stands for Standard Industrial Classification (of Economic Activities).

    To choose the relevant SIC code for your company, you will need to explore the different business activities listed and make your way through the dropdown sections until you find the right trade description for you. 

    For example, if you are setting up a company for you to trade under as an electrician, you will select ‘Section F – Construction’ from the first list, which will then take you to another where you can find ‘Electrical installation’. Beside the business activity, there will be a 5-digit code; your SIC code. If you can’t find your specific business activity listed, you can choose ‘other’ (e.g. Other specialised construction activities).

    You can add up to 4 different trading activities per company.

  • 4. Appoint a Company Director(s)

    The director of your company is the person who will be legally responsible for the business; running it and managing the completion of company accounts and reports.

    It is most likely that you will be appointing yourself as Company Director, but if – for some reason you aren’t – ensure that the other person is over 16, is not disqualified from being a director and has consented to act in the role.

    When appointing a company director or directors (for you can have more than one), you must be able to provide two addresses – one official business address and a residential address (which will not appear on the public register). If you have decided to use your home address to register your company under, you will need to register an additional address at this stage.  

  • 5. Outline a company share structure

    Now this is where it starts to get a little trickier, and where you will probably be very grateful that you’re not attempting this process alone.

    Limited liability companies must be formed with a number of shares. To register your business name, you will need to specify how many shares you will have, which class of shares they will be, and how much they will cost.

    The minimum requirement is one share and there is no maximum number of shares that you can create. You can apply any value to an individual share. In addition, you can also attribute different rights to the holders of different shares regarding voting, dividends and distributions.

    If that all sounds very complicated, don’t worry because we have broken it down for you.

    • In the simplest terms, a share is a portion of your company and share is owned by one or more people (known as shareholders).
    • If you own a share, you own part of the company and you are entitled to benefit from the profits. Both the percentage of ownership and entitlement to profit dividends are dependent upon how many shares there are in the company.
    • When you register your business, you have to choose how many shares to issue, their value and what rights the shareholders will have.
    • For a small business which you are setting up alone, ordinary class shares will be sufficient (it has no special rights or restrictions), so don’t worry too much about the other classes of shares.
    • If you’re setting up a company independently (with you as the director and sole shareholder), then it is probably sensible to create just one share (for yourself) and give it a low value (such as £1). This gives you full control of the business and profits.
    • If, at a later date, you wish to bring in more shareholders to buy shares, then you can change the number of shares later (as well as the price, class and rights of existing shares).
  • 6. Choose your company shareholders or Persons of Significant Control

    While shareholders are people with special voting rights in your company and an entitlement to a share in the profits. In contrast, a person with significant control (PSC) is someone who owns or controls your company.

    In order to register your business name, you must name your PSC(s) on your registration form. If your business is small, this is likely to be you, though it can be someone else or more than one person associated with your company. If you are not going to be the PSC for your company, you must obtain the consent of the person who will be.

    To identify a PSC, you will need to provide these details:

    • name
    • date of birth
    • nationality
    • country of residence
    • correspondence address – the ‘service address’
    • home address (this won’t be public)
    • the date they became a PSC of the company (can be the current date)
    • the date you entered them into your PSC register (can be the current date)
    • all natures of control which apply

    If you wish to change your PSC(s) at any point, all you have to do is record the changes with Companies House within 14 days of updating your company PSC register.

  • 7. Sign a statement of compliance

    Since registering a business name is a legal exercise, you will need to declare that you have been compliant with all of Companies House’s rules and regulations, and that you have read and agreed to the conditions of the Memorandum of Association.

  • 8. Pay a company formation fee

    Once you have completed your registration form online, you will be redirected to pay the £12 formation charge.

What happens once a company name is approved?

Congratulations on successfully registering your business name.

Once you have submitted your form, Companies House will usually approve (or reject) your application within 24 hours and notify you of this via email. You will then start to receive official correspondence for your company via your registered business address.

And what do you need to do next?

  • You must register your company for corporation tax within three months of trading.
  • Set up a business bank account.
  • Start keeping your business books.

How To Register a Company Name FAQs

  • How do I register name of a business?

    When registering the name of a business, the first thing you need to do is check the company name isn’t already taken with a company name availability checker. Once you have decided on a company name which isn’t in use, you are required to provide certain details by completing an online registration form with Companies House, or use a company formations agent if you don’t want to go through the process of registering a limited company.

  • How much does it cost to register business name?

    The formation charge for registering a limited company name on the Companies House website is £12. The postal application cost is £40. A company can only have one registered business name but can have multiple trading names as required. There are also other costs to consider after registering a business name, such as registering for corporation tax within the first three months of trading.

  • Who can register a business name?

    You can register your business name as a sole trader, limited company, or as a partnership. There are no restrictions on non-UK residents registering a business name or being a company director, shareholder or secretary for the business.

  • Where to register business name?

    To register a limited company name in the UK, you need to make an application and submit this to Companies House. The easiest and cheapest method of submitting this application, is via the Companies House website. Once you have had your application approved your company name is protected by law so no other business can use it.

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