The UK has worked hard to make starting your own company easy, and this includes incorporating your business as a limited company.
We’ve provided a list of 5 items you’ll need to bring to the party before you begin the company formation process. There are other things you will need, but don’t worry, you will pick these up along the way, as part of the online company registration process.
What you need to form a limited company
1. A company name
One of the most exciting aspects of company formation is choosing a company name. There are some rules that Companies House imposes regarding what you can name your company:
- First, your company name needs to be unique. It can’t be in use by any other registered company, and it can’t be deemed too similar to an existing company name, either. To see if the name you’d like to use is already taken, use our company name search tool.
- You aren’t allowed to use offensive words, and you need to be wary of using sensitive words. You’re not allowed to suggest any connection to the government or any public authority, nor can you use any words otherwise protected, unless you have express permission from the relevant authority. Companies House provides a list of all such words, together with the requirements for their usage, which can be found here.
- Finally, your company name will be limited to 200 characters, and needs to end either with the word “limited” or its abbreviation “LTD” (although some exemptions do exist).
2. Registered office address
Your company’s registered office address is its legal headquarters – its ‘home’ in the eyes of the law – and every registered company in the UK must have one.
This is the address that will be used for all the government’s official correspondence with your company, as well as for storing your company registers ready for inspections (unless an alternative address is provided). There are several rules surrounding the type of address you can use, including:
- It must be in the jurisdiction (England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland) in which you’re incorporating your company. Whilst you are free to change your registered office at any point after incorporation, you cannot change the jurisdiction your company has been registered in
- It must be a physical address
- You cannot use a PO Box number or DX number
It’s important to note that your company’s registered office address will be made publicly available on the register of companies.
3. A service address
All company directors, secretaries, subscribers, PSCs, and LLP members need to provide a service address when incorporating a company. Like the Registered Office, the service address is the official contact address when HMRC or Companies House needs to contact you with regards your role in the company.
The following rules apply to a service address:
- It can be anywhere in the UK or overseas
- It must be a physical address
- You cannot use a PO Box number or DX number
- Your service address can be the same as your registered office address
- You are only allowed to use one service address at a time, but you can change your service address at any time
Just like your registered office address, the service address of members will be displayed on the public register.
4. A director
To form a limited company, you will need to appoint at least one natural (human) company director. It is his/her responsibility to make decisions on behalf of the company and oversee day-to-day operations. Almost anyone is allowed to be a company director, the only restrictions being:
- You cannot be under the age of 16
- You cannot be an undischarged bankrupt
- You cannot be a disqualified director whose term of disqualification isn’t yet expired
- You cannot be the auditor of the company
Directors aren’t fixed – new ones can be appointed and old ones can be removed as necessary following incorporation, in accordance with the company’s articles.
5. A member
You’ll also need at least one shareholder (or member) – someone who will own the company. The vast majority of companies are private companies limited by shares, whose purpose is to make a profit and distribute it to the owners or shareholders.
The director and shareholder can be the same person, so if you are forming a company on your own, you can use your name for both positions.
Where the company is to be limited by guarantee, the members (also known as guarantors) agree to ‘guarantee’ a certain amount of money to pay into the company, should it ever experience financial difficulty.
The five items mentioned above are the things you need to get the company formation process started. There are of course other matters to consider when incorporating a company, but these are supplied for you by your company formation agent, as part of their online registration service – so you don’t need to worry about sourcing them yourself:
Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code – A SIC code identifies the sort of business your company will undertake and is used for information purposes by a number of third parties including government agencies. Your company needs to submit at least one of these codes on incorporation. Quality Company Formations (and other formation agents) supply a SIC code finder, making it easy for you to choose the required SIC code or codes.
Memorandum and articles of association – these two documents make up the foundation of your company’s constitution, and is required on incorporation.
The Memorandum is a declaration by the company’s first shareholder or shareholders agreeing to form a company.
The Articles of Association outlines the basic rules and governance of the company (such as how decisions are to be made and what powers are granted to the directors). Under the Companies Act 2006, companies can use the ‘Model Articles’ which is a basic set of Articles you can use if you do not have your own.
After incorporation, the Memorandum becomes a historical document and can never be changed, but your Articles can be amended with the agreement of the shareholders.
Company type – A company limited by shares is the most frequently used company type in the UK and the go-to choice for most businesses; however, when you reach the incorporation stage, you may find it appropriate to form a different company type. Examples of other company types include limited by guarantee (often used by non-profit organisations), limited liability partnership, and public limited company. You cannot change a company type following incorporation.
Persons of Significant Control (PSC) Register – Almost all companies registered in the UK are required to report their PSC register on incorporation, and any changes that occur thereafter. The PSC register documents the individuals and relevant corporate entities who have control over a company.
Why choose company formation?
Company formation is the process of registering a business as a limited company through Companies House. Companies House is the official registrar of companies for the UK.
By forming (or ‘incorporating’) a limited company, you will be turning your new business into an independent entity in the eyes of the law. This means your company officially transforms into its own legal entity, which is crucial to your own personal financial wellbeing,
If your business turns out to be an unsuccessful venture, a limited company structure creates a crucial separation between your own finances, assets, and contracts and those of the business. As the owner of your new limited company, you can only be held financially liable, in almost every circumstance, for the amount up to the nominal value of the shares you have in that company.
This is called ‘limited liability.’
It’s also worth pointing out there are several different types of limited companies in the UK – although most private limited companies are limited by shares.
This means that ownership of the company is divided between a predefined number of shares, but more shares can be added or indeed taken away at a later point (provided the appropriate authorisation is given by the shareholders or directors, in accordance with the company’s articles).
Just to be clear: it is not a legal requirement to form a limited company in the UK.
You are free to do business as a sole trader. But if you choose this route, any finances or assets you own will be considered fair game in the eyes of the law, if your business goes under. That’s why so many business owners choose to play it safe by forming a limited company – and because the process of forming a company is so fast and affordable, it’s an easy decision for most individuals to make.
Quality Company Formations provides a range of company formation packages, including several different types of company structure, to suit most requirements. Check out our company formation packages for options and prices.