How to Register a Business Name in the UK

Registering a business name in the UK is like getting an official stamp as evidence of your existence in the market. It provides you with a permanent piece of evidence that backs up your plans and helps you open new opportunities with vendors, retailers, banks, and other stakeholders who can help bring your product to market.

Suppose you don’t wish to register the business as a Limited Company or LLP (limited liability partnership). In that case, setting up a Sole Trader company should be enough for you. However, there are several ways to establish your business, depending on your specific needs legally.

One option is to register as a sole proprietor or partner and be responsible for all debts, including personal assets equally.

Another option is to set up a limited company where you’re responsible for the debts but not liable for the full extent – such as your personal assets.

Choose your business name in the UK associated with your business structure

Register a business name as a Limited Company

If you are registering with the Companies House and your business is a limited company, your name will have to include either the word ‘limited’ or ‘Ltd.’

Similar rules apply if your proposed company registration is based in Wales. Non-trading companies don’t need these suffixes but must still operate under a specific designation of Limited Company.

If you’re eligible to register online, we highly recommend doing so as it cuts down on costs by allowing you to pay any mandatory fees, such as corporation tax at Companies House, at the same time.

Register a business name as a sole trader

Sole traders don’t have to register with Companies House and don’t need to pay the various fees that come with it. However, you still must register for VAT and self-assessment tax returns with HMRC. Make sure you can continue trading after the first month of your business running by registering your business as a sole trader.

You cannot choose an invalid company structure under which you fall – including ‘limited,’ ‘Ltd’ (trading style), LLP, or an ‘Integrated Business’ in the UK – as it would bring your authority into question.

Register a business name as a Partnership

Partners must agree on language and trademark regulations. When applying, one partner must be designated to submit tax returns. The rules are definite in what you can and cannot place on trademarks, so be sure to speak with an expert as soon as possible.

register a business name uk

Choose your business name in the UK associated with the other elements

Even though you haven’t started registration yet, it’s essential to be prepared, as ushering in a new business can take many steps. Still, an important one is choosing the right business name in the UK.

Before you begin, make sure that the name you have chosen isn’t already registered or trademarked by anyone else, and check if a business name is available for free. Companies House has a business name checker UK search tool called the Company name availability checker.

Enter your desired company title, and the system will determine whether it’s still available and provide you with a checklist of information needed from you before registering your business name.

‘Same As’ Names

Ensure that you’re not copying another company’s name when choosing your business name. Suppose you intend to use a word that already exists in the company register. In that case, you must make it clear by adding special characters or other distinctive characteristics, such as:

  • By using unique features, for example, using a ‘+’ instead of “and.”
  • Use of punctuation
  • A character or word commonly used in UK business names.
  • A comment or character that resembles or holds a similar meaning to an existing name already registered

The only other situation where your company’s name could be listed in this category is when your small business is part of that company, known as a “franchise.”

‘Too Like’ Names

If two companies have a word-for-word similar name, you might have to do a bit of work to decide where or how your company will be unique. In this case, you want your company’s name to be different enough so it can register as its entity.

HMRC’s example is: ‘Easy Electrics For You Ltd’ and ‘EZ Electrix 4U Ltd.’ These would be considered ‘too like.’

Offensive Language

If your company name contains offensive language, Companies House will not register it. Swear words, sectarian words, and discriminatory language are unlikely choices for most business owners. If you want to stand out from the crowd, choose one with a clever pun or play on words. When filing for registration at Companies House, however, it’s a good idea to get a professional’s opinion so you don’t run into any problems you don’t need to.

‘Sensitive’ Words

When registering a business name in the UK, it’s important to remember that there are certain words and phrases you aren’t allowed to use according to the (Sensitive Words) Regulations 2014.’

The best thing to do is get in touch with the government agency in question and ask them for permission. They will be more than happy to approve your request if you prove that you’re not trying anything out of line.

For example, to be recognised as an insurance company in the UK, you need to apply for a license with The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). There are some restrictions on terms that you must note if you want your business up and running.

One part of the legislation is applied equally throughout England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland. However, some words or phrases have different definitions depending on your business in Great Britain, so working with experts is always recommended.

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Other Regulated Words and Expressions

To register a business in the United Kingdom, one must fulfil specific legal formalities. You can’t use words or phrases in a company name without getting written permission and putting proof of that with your company registration.

For example, some limited companies cannot include specific terms related to certain professional sports bodies within their name as this could be deemed misleading to customers and clients.

Get your business name right while registering

Companies House must receive absolute responses based on the correct information that is legally appropriate to complete your filing. Failure to submit proper documentation can result in criminal charges. So don’t take any chances; always make sure you follow legal regulations.

Not only do you need to make sure you’ve got the correct name and structure in place, but you also must consider how your trade name might affect the overall techniques employed by your newly established business.

Changing your trade name isn’t something you worry about because it will mean going through the process at the registered government agencies. Still, it also means anything carrying your trade name will have to go through the change process too.

Being thorough when it comes to relaying details of your company structure will be key moving forward in getting started.

For more information, contact our team today OR book your free consultation!

Register with Companies House or HMRC

Registering your limited company with the Companies House is essential to recognition as a legitimate business. The Intellectual Property Office will only deal with registered companies. Having a registered trademark will prevent confusion between you and another entity of a similar name. It’s advised that you apply for both trademarks and limited company registration.

It is best to get in touch with one of our small business and limited company accountants to learn more about what’s involved in registering with Companies House or HMRC

Register your official business address in the UK

You can use your home address as your company address. But remember, your address will be publicly available. So, it will be wise to consider switching the address after a while.

You could register with an accountant’s office, rent some space in a co-working facility or employees’ association, or use any number of online platforms that provide virtual office services. You will need to create an account with the Companies House website to register on their database legally.

Choose a standard industrial classification code for your business in the UK.

First, you’ll want to choose what kind of business activity you’re pursuing. The state and federal governments will determine your tax rate based on your business activity regarding taxes.

They do that by defining all kinds of professional economic activities (manufacturing, agriculture, accounting services, and more) and assigning each business type five-digit numbers.

For example, if your business is related to publishing services and books, you would be assigned SIC Code 58110.

There’s a resource page on the Companies House website where you can search and find all the possible SIC codes.

The cost associated with registering a business name in the UK

The prices of starting a business may vary depending on your chosen method. Registering online with the Companies House is more inexpensive than registering by post.

Companies House Online costs £12, and applications are usually processed within 24 hours. It costs £40 to apply by post and takes 8-10 days.

Same-day registration is an option, but it costs £100 and requires applying by 3 pm to process the same application day; otherwise, there will be a delay.

You’re probably not aware of this, but many things can go wrong when registering a business name in the UK. So, it is best to consult with one of our accountants to get free advice on registering a business name.

What happens if you don’t register your business?

You won’t be able to pay your taxes.

The tax authorities are notorious for turning a blind eye to errors on your behalf. Still, you will be in serious trouble when it comes to fraud. So, make sure you secure your business and apply for all the proper licenses for your business that require these certifications. 

If not, you must pay a massive penalty to the tax authorities for not registering your business that generates revenue.

You will not be able to establish a bank account in the name of your business.

Suppose you don’t open a separate bank account for your business. In that case, the authorities will pounce and ask where this money is coming from. Even the bank tends to catch on eventually. So, they’re going to recommend that you open a separate bank account for your business activities which, of course, will be under the name of your company.

You won’t be entitled to your work.

Unfortunately, as a business owner, it can be challenging to prevent copycats (no pun intended) from stealing your ideas, designs, and work foundation. So, it is necessary to register your business name even before you make any public announcements.

There have been many cases where companies have gotten their hard work stolen by a rival and yet cannot claim anything because they had not registered their business with the HMRC or Companies House.

You won’t be able to hire anyone.

When your business starts generating revenue, you may wish to expand your products or services. You may want to hire new staff members. However, this is impossible to do if you have not registered a business name yet. 

Suppose you’re serious about investing in your business and gaining an advantage over other companies. In that case, it is recommended that you register your business.

You could be in trouble and be liable for more than you expect

Suppose any corporation finds you competing with them. In that case, even if you have a strong market presence and fan base, they can use your unsanctioned business as a weapon by suing you in any regard. 

At some point, you will be found guilty of running an unregistered business and will have to pay the penalty (set by HMRC). You will be entitled to such a penalty because you don’t have limited liability like corporations who register their business name.

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