A simple guide on how to open a company? So you have this great idea for a company – you’ve done the market research and laid the groundwork. You know what you are going to offer with your company, where you will be based and even have ideas about a website and marketing. But before you get ahead of yourself you need to open the company and register it. Here we go through the steps needed to do this.
Every company is registered with Companies House, the UK’s register of companies and an executive agency under the government. It falls under the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and exists to register and incorporate all the companies in the UK. This ranges from limited companies to small and even inactive ones and any company registered with Companies House is required to submit annual financial statements along with company returns, which are public record.
The process for registering a company is now a lot easier than it once was as there are two methods to choose from to complete the task. The first is to do it yourself and use the online registration service offered by the government website. The second one is to use a formation agent to do it all for you, reducing the stress involved with the legal language that is integral to forming a company.
Type of company
The first thing you need to know is what kind of company will you be registering. As a sole trader, there is no difference between you and the business – you, essentially, are the business. This also means that if something goes wrong with the business, you as an individual are liable. Sole traders don’t have to register with Companies House, just with HMRC but they can if they want to safeguard their company name.
A limited company is one that is owned by its shareholders and is run by a director. Now the shareholders could be you and you alone and you could also be the director. But as the business expands and grows, others could invest in the business and become shareholders. If there was a failure of the business, each shareholder would be responsible for the share of the debt in accordance with how many shares they hold – this is called limited liability. In addition to having shareholders, a limited company is a legal entity in its own right with its own articles of association. These are rules by which the company is managed and are legally bindings.
Opening a company
Once you have decided if you are going to be a limited company or not, then you are ready to move to the actual registration process. Firstly, the name of your company must be selected. While this might sound more about marketing than anything, you cannot use a name already in use by another company registered with company house. There are also some words and expressions that cannot be used in your company name, for example ‘Queen’. If you are setting up a limited company, then either ‘Limited’ or the abbreviation ‘Ltd’ must also feature in the name.
Next up is the registered office of the business. This can be anywhere in the UK that you have permission to use. It doesn’t have to be the business premises as these may change but it must be somewhere that you can access to receive any official mail sent to you at this address. Some people use their account’s address with their permission or their home address. Remember this address is viewable by the general public, so you may not want your home address to feature.
You can form a company with one director – yourself – and you need to list yourself accordingly with Companies House. Corporate appointments, where another company acts as a director, is fine but there must be one name as a director. The information required for this person is:
• Full name
• Date of birth
• Service address (usually the registered office)
• Residential address (this bit doesn’t go on the public register so home addresses can be used)
A company also only needs one shareholder to register and this can be the same person as the director – again, you. The information needed for the shareholder on the registration is a little different. They need to declare:
• Full name
• Service address
• Town of birth
• Eye colour
• Phone number
• Number of shares held
• Currency of shares
• Value of shares
Finally, the Memorandum and Articles of Association need to be submitted. These are the rules about how the company is run and can be made up yourself, with legal assistance, or taken from a number of pre-prepared versions available online.
Companies House charges from £15 to register your company which you can do directly. Alternatively, you can use a formation agent (such as Your Company Formations) to take the hassle out of the job for you. Get in touch today for more information, or to let us guide you through the process for setting up your company. Allow us to handle all the legal stuff on your behalf.