There are so many different types of addresses that you can set up for a business, and it is a topic that causes a great deal of confusion for many startups. A business address and shipping address are not the same thing. Each one serves a different purpose, and not all businesses need them.
The majority of businesses require a correspondence address where their customers and contacts can send letters, invoices and other communications. This is usually referred to as a ‘business address’. It is not necessarily where the business is based, nor does it have to be the same as the shipping, trading, or registered office address of the business, but it can be.
A shipping address is where you choose to have packages delivered. This could be product returns from customers, as well as collections and deliveries from suppliers, manufacturers and service providers. Not all businesses need one because they may not receive any mail other than letters and regular post. A shipping address does not have to be the same as your business, trading, or registered office address, although it can of course be.
What is a business address?
It is a general contact address that you will provide to clients and customers, suppliers, service providers, manufacturers, banks, shareholders and investors, members of the public and other third parties. It will also serve as your invoice and billing address.
Your business address can be any type of address in any country, so you have a lot of options, including:
- A private residence
- The registered office of your limited company or LLP
- The place where your business operates or trades from
- Your shipping/customer returns address
- The service address of a company director, secretary or LLP member
- The contact address of the company secretary
- A mail forwarding service or professional business address
- A PO Box
You should choose a location that is occupied or accessed on a regular basis by whoever deals with the types of mail you will receive there. It is commonplace to use an address where the business is situated. Some Companies and LLPs use the same location as their registered office. However, if you work from your own home or use a private residence as your registered office/trading address, you may prefer to use a non-residential business address, because it will create a better impression.
Mail forwarding and professional business addresses are becoming more and more popular. This is most likely due to the fact that more people are setting up small businesses in their homes, so there is an increased need for business address services. A lot of business startups cannot afford to rent dedicated premises, so they base themselves at home and set up a professional mail forwarding service with a third-party provider like a company formation agent, virtual office provider, company secretarial firm or accountant, Royal Mail, or companies like Mail Boxes Etc.
Can I have more than one business address?
You can have as many as you need or want. For example, if you have a chain of shops or restaurants, you can have one for each place. If you have shops or offices in the UK and abroad, you can have business addresses in all of the countries where you operate. By creating a local or national presence for your business, you are enabling customers and other third parties in these particular areas to contact you at a convenient place.
Even if you have no trading locations in a certain place, you can still set up a business address if you are trying to establish a presence in that area. For example, if your company is based in Scotland, but you would like to create a presence and target a certain market in England or overseas, you can set up a business address in your preferred location in England or overseas. People are often more likely to buy products or services from a business if they believe it is located in the same city or country in which they reside.
Do I need to give my business address details to HMRC or Companies House?
There is no need to provide this information for HMRC or Companies House. HMRC only requires your trading address for contact purposes. This address may or may not be the same as your business address. Companies House only requires your registered office and director’s service address details for official contact purposes. Again, these may or may not be the same as your business address.
What is a shipping address?
It is the location where a business chooses to receive deliveries. This could include any of the following:
- Delivery of goods from suppliers
- Customer product returns
- Delivery of products from manufacturers
- Delivery of office supplies and equipment
- Return of undelivered parcels
- Courier pick-up address
Your business may not have any need for a shipping address if you do not sell products or receive any large, non-letter items. In such cases, you will only require a business address for receiving regular mail. However, if you sell physical items to customers online, by mail or via the telephone, you will need to provide them with a shipping address to enable them to return or exchange goods by post. Likewise, you will need one to receive deliveries of materials, equipment, manufactured products and all of their necessary supplies to produce, package and sell your goods.
Many businesses use their trading location as a shipping address. This makes the most sense if you have a shop, office, studio, warehouse or some other type of business premises where you produce, store or sell your products, but you can also use the services of a third party for receiving returns and other parcels.
Can I use the same address as a business address and shipping address?
You can use the same address as both a business and shipping address, as long as you can physically receive parcels and large deliveries at that location. If you use a PO Box or mail forwarding service as your business address, you will not be able to use it as a shipping address because:
- There will be no one to receive and sign for parcels at your PO Box.
- The delivery person will be unable to leave parcels in your PO Box. It is for regular mail only.
- Mail forwarding services generally only accept regular mail. They are not suitable for the purpose of receiving and forwarding parcels and deliveries.
However, some business address providers do also provide shipping address services so you may be able to find one that offers both types. This would allow you to make your business and shipping address the same.
Is a shipping address the same as a customer returns address?
These are essentially the same thing. Your shipping address is where you will receive deliveries and also where your customers will return products to you for a refund, exchange, repair or replacement. If you sell products online, by mail or via the telephone, you must provide a shipping address for your customers and abide by the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. You can find out more about your legal obligations here.
However, you may wish to use one address for customer returns and another for receiving deliveries and arranging courier collections. Perhaps you need materials, equipment, machinery and other supplies delivered to your home, studio or factory, but you would like customer returns to be received at your head office, shop, warehouse, distribution centre or some other alternate location. It depends on how your business operates and what is the most logical solution.
Can I have more than one shipping address?
You can also have as many shipping addresses as you like. If you have multiple stores throughout the UK and/or overseas, you can set up different shipping addresses in various locations. This will allow customers to return items to the most convenient place. Likewise, you may need to receive deliveries from suppliers and manufacturers at different locations if you produce or sell products from more than one place.
Regardless of how many shipping addresses you have, you should clearly state the full postal details on your website, order forms, invoices and receipts to enable your customers and other contacts to easily find this information.