A business address and a shipping address are not necessarily the same thing. Each one serves a different purpose, and not all businesses need them. However, it’s important to understand the purpose of these types of addresses to determine whether one of both may be required when running your business.
The majority of businesses require a correspondence address where their customers and contacts can send letters, invoices, and other communications. This type of address 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 a business chooses to have packages delivered, such as product returns from customers, deliveries from suppliers and service providers, and collections by couriers.
Not all businesses require a shipping address because they may not send or 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 be.
What is a business address?
A business address 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 company
- 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 whomever deals with the types of mail you will receive there. It is commonplace to use an address where the business is situated. For convenience, some companies 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 commercial (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 this type of service.
A lot of business startups cannot afford to rent commercial premises, so they base themselves at home and set up a professional business address 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?
A shipping address and a customer returns address 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. GOV.UK provides guidance on your legal obligation to accept returns and give refunds.
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 have as many shipping addresses as you like. If you have multiple premises 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.