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How To Register a Business Name in the UK: A Comprehensive Guide

  • Published: 7 December 2023
  • 9 min read
  • Starting a Company
How To Register a Business Name in the UK: A Comprehensive Guide
  • Author Gabi Bellairs-Lombard

    Gabi Bellairs-Lombard

    Business Writer

    Gabi is a content writer who is passionate about creating content that inspires. Her work history lies in writing compelling website copy, now specialising in product marketing copy. Gabi's priority when writing content is ensuring that the words make an impact on the readers. For Osome, she is the voice of our products and features. You'll find her making complex business finance and accounting topics easy to understand for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

When starting a new venture, choosing and registering a business name may seem like a minor detail. However, it plays a crucial role in establishing your brand identity and ensuring legal compliance.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of how to register a business name in the UK, covering the different business structures and the steps involved in securing your chosen name.

Key Takeaways

  • Choose a unique business name and check its availability before registering with Companies House.
  • Appoint a company director, outline the share structure and obtain a certificate of incorporation to ensure legal compliance.
  • Protect your business name by registering it as a trademark, purchasing domain names and setting up social media profiles.

What Is a Business Name?

A business name is a distinct trading appellation and the officially registered name of a sole trader business or a limited company. Both legal and branding considerations make the registration of a business name a key step, and it is typically done through the Companies House register in the UK.

Fees for company formation vary, but it’s not expensive. To find out more about Company incorporation and registration fees with Companies House, it’s worth checking the gov.uk website.

Incorporating your business requires providing information about persons of significant control, such as:

  • Their name
  • Date of birth
  • Nationality
  • Country of residence
  • Service address
  • Home address
  • The extent of control they exercise over the company

Understanding Different Business Structures

Three primary business structures exist in the UK: sole traders, limited companies, and business partnerships. Each structure has its own set of responsibilities and requirements when registering a business name.

However, the most popular business structure in the UK, especially among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), is the Private Limited Company (Ltd).

We’ll explore these structures in detail to guide your choice that best suits your needs.

Three primary business structures in the UK

Sole Traders

A sole trader business is where an individual runs their business independently, and is held accountable for its operations and losses.

As a sole trader choosing a business name, avoid any names that are identical or similar to those of a competitor, as well as any that could be deemed offensive. You should also not include ‘limited’, ‘Ltd’, ‘limited liability partnership’, ‘LLP’, ‘public limited company’ or ‘plc’.

Companies House and the trade mark register can be consulted to determine the availability of a name for a sole trader business. You may operate under your own name or create a trademarked name that is appropriate for the business.

Once you have chosen a fitting name, you should register with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for a self-assessment tax return.

Limited Companies

Limited companies are a separate legal entity that provides protection of personal assets and tax efficiency. Every limited company must have at least one shareholder

When registering a limited company, you’ll need to specify the number of shares desired for the company along with the class and price of each share. Different individuals can possess varying degrees of responsibility and proprietorship of the organisation.

Ensure, prior to registering a limited company, that a unique and suitable name has been selected and is available for registration. This will help avoid any legal issues with other registered companies and facilitate a smooth registration process for your limited company.

Business Partnerships

A business partnership is a legally binding agreement between two or more entities that outlines shared ownership and operation of a business. In a partnership, the partners must appoint a designated nominated partner who is obligated to submit the partnership’s tax returns and register the partnership for Self Assessment with HMRC.

Form SA401 is required to register as a partner in a business partnership. Including all partners’ names in the submission of official paperwork is crucial. This will ensure that ownership is properly documented and filed.

When registering with a nominated partner, you can either register as a Partnership or as a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP). An LLP is similar to a Partnership, except that the partner’s liability is limited to the amount of money they invest in the business.

Steps To Register a Business Name

Having covered the different types of business structures, we will now explore the step-by-step process of registering your business name in the UK. This will include choosing a company name, checking name availability, deciding on an official company address and more.

Steps to register your business name

1 Choose a Company Name

Considerations such as the type of business you own and your branding strategy are vital when selecting a company name. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Avoid words such as Ltd, Limited, limited liability partnership, LLP, plc, or public limited company if they don’t accurately represent the status of your business.
  • Avoid punctuation, special characters, or words commonly used in UK company names.
  • Steer clear of sensitive words or terms that could be deemed offensive or suggest a connection with government or local authorities.

Companies House provides a compilation of sensitive words that are not allowed in a corporate title. If you wish to use a sensitive word in your company name, you must contact the relevant government body for permission. Using a sensitive word without authorisation may result in the rejection of your submission by Companies House.

2 Check Name Availability

Verifying that the chosen name is not already taken or is too similar to an existing company’s name is a must before registering your business name. You can use our Company Name Availability Checker, a tool that helps you determine if a company name is available or not.

Checking name availability helps prevent potential legal issues with other businesses and ensure that your chosen name is unique and suitable for your business. This step is crucial in establishing a strong brand identity and avoiding confusion in the marketplace.

3 Decide on the Official Company Address

The selection of an official business address is a key step, as it will be the address used for all official communication and documents associated with the business. You have several options for selecting an official company address, such as registering an address with Companies House, or purchasing a certified service address from a reliable business formation agent.

Consideration of the legal requirements and privacy implications is crucial when selecting a service address. You should opt for a physical location in the UK for your company’s official address.

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4 Choose an SIC Code

A Standard Industrial Classification code is a representation of your business activity. Selecting an appropriate SIC code is important when registering your business name as it helps identify the nature of your business.

To select an appropriate SIC for your business, start by examining the overview screen for the company on the register. Companies House will request that you provide at least one code that describes the economic activities of your business. You can also utilise an SIC Code Lookup Tool to help you choose the most suitable code for your business activities.

5 Appoint a Company Director

Your company must have at least one director. The director is the individual responsible for overseeing all aspects of the business, and are also legally obligated to ensure reports and company accounts are prepared. Company directors must be aged 16 or over and not disqualified from being a director.

It’s a requirement that each director provides two addresses. If the service address is the same as the company address, an alternative residential address must also be provided.

To finalise the appointment of a corporate director, attach a letter of consent that confirms the individual’s agreement to serve as a director to the application form.

6 Outline a Company Share Structure

Outlining your company’s share structure includes:

  • Determining the quantity, type, and cost of shares (you need to register your business name to get this information)
  • Specifying the extent of ownership and control among shareholders in the company

The statement of capital is a document that outlines the share responsibility of a limited company, including the number of shares of each type and their cumulative value. There is no upper limit of shares a company can possess, but it is important to carefully consider the distribution of shares to ensure a fair and balanced ownership structure of the company.

7 Get a Certificate of Incorporation

Proof of your company’s legal registration comes in the form of a certificate of incorporation. You can access this via the Companies House website by searching for your company name or number, selecting filing history, and scrolling to the bottom of the page to locate the filing that states ‘Incorporation’.

A certificate of incorporation serves as essential proof of your company’s legal existence and compliance with regulations. It provides a solid foundation for your business and allows you to operate with confidence.

8 Pay the Company Formation Fees

Depending on the application method, the cost of registering a business name in the UK varies on the application method. Online company registration, for example, costs £12. You can pay the company formation fee by debit or credit card.

Payment can be made online via the Companies House website or through an approved company formation service provider. Be sure to factor in these fees when planning your business registration and budget accordingly.

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Registering with Companies House

Companies House is the UK’s registrar of companies, responsible for registering business names. To register your business name with Companies House, you must provide certain information. This includes the official SIC code and business address.

Registering with Companies House ensures your business is recognised and compliant with UK regulations, while also protecting your business name and solidifying your brand identity in the marketplace.

Protecting Your Business Name

One way to protect your business name is by registering it as a trademark. Complete a trademark application form and submit it to the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) along with the relevant documents and fees – this will help you get the process started.

Protecting a business name

Other measures to secure your business name include purchasing the domain name, creating social media profiles, and setting up a Google Business Profile. By taking these steps, you can ensure that your business name remains unique and associated exclusively with your company.

Summary

In conclusion, registering your business name in the UK is a critical step in establishing your brand identity and ensuring legal compliance. By understanding the different business structures, following the step-by-step registration process, and protecting your business name, you can lay a strong foundation for your company’s success.

Afraid of missing an important step while setting up your business? Osome’s team of experts can help you navigate through the process. Visit our webpage to find out more about what we can do to help, so that you can focus your time on running your business.

Author Gabi Bellairs-Lombard
Gabi Bellairs-LombardBusiness Writer

Gabi is a content writer who is passionate about creating content that inspires. Her work history lies in writing compelling website copy, now specialising in product marketing copy. Gabi's priority when writing content is ensuring that the words make an impact on the readers. For Osome, she is the voice of our products and features. You'll find her making complex business finance and accounting topics easy to understand for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

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FAQ

  • What is the difference between a sole trader, limited company, and business partnership?

    A sole trader is an individual who operates and is responsible for their own business, while a limited company is a legally distinct entity with protection of personal assets and tax efficiency. Setting up as a sole trader is relatively straightforward, with minimal legal and administrative requirements. Finally, a business partnership is a legally binding agreement between two or more entities that share ownership and operations of a business.

  • How do I choose an appropriate business name?

    When choosing an appropriate business name for your company, consider the type of business, your branding strategy and uniqueness. Additionally, ensure to avoid sensitive words or terms that could be deemed offensive to customers.

  • How can I check if my desired business name is available?

    To check if your desired business name is available, use the Company Name Availability Checker or consult Companies House and the trade mark register.

  • What is a SIC code and why is it important for registering my business name?

    A SIC code is an important element when registering a business name, as it identifies the nature of the business activity. Choosing the correct SIC is vital for successfully completing the company registration.

  • How much does it cost to register a business name in the UK?

    It costs £12 to register a business name in the UK through online company registration. You can find out more about the different costs when registering a business on the gov.uk website.

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