In the UK, registering a business involves registering a limited company, a limited liability partnership or a registering as a “sole trader.” Whichever form of business you choose, the act of registering it with the government involves registering with the Inland Revenue.
Types of business
A registered limited liability company has a name that ends in “Limited,” or “Ltd.” for short. A limited liability partnership's name has to be followed by the letters “LLT” at the end of its name. Sole traders do not have any letters to indicate their status.
All limited companies have to have paperwork deposited at Companies House. One of the requirements of the documentation held on a company is that it has a registered office. The address of this office must be a physical address, but it does not have to belong to the business. It could be the address of the solicitor who acts for the company, or of its managing director. The stipulations attached by Companies House to the use of PO Boxes makes it effectively impossible to use them as the registered office. This is because the PO Box must have a street address and Post Code associated with it and that address cannot be the address of the Post Office.
A limited liability partnership also has to be registered with Companies house, the same as a limited company. Companies House imposes the same conditions on registered offices for LLPs as they do for companies.
There is no necessity to register the existence of a sole trading business, beyond registering with HM Revenue and Customs, which is a step that also applies to companies and partnerships. The sole trader does not have to operate under his own name, but can create a trade name, without registering and start in business looking like a company.
Registering for tax
HM Revenue and Customs treats sole traders and partners in an LLP the same, in that they must register as a personal tax payer, with special notes denoting their employment status. HMRC calls this status “Self-Assessment.” That means you do not have an employer to send in a tax return on your behalf. Registering for self-assessment requires that you submit both your personal address and your business address, which can be the same but cannot be a PO Box. Companies must register with HMRC for Corporation Tax. This process requires the address from which the company operates, which cannot be a PO Box.
Register for VAT
Any business has to register with the Customs section of HMRC for VAT purposes if they made sales of more than £77,000 in the last year. The VAT office does not allow businesses to register with a PO Box as its business address.
- Companies House: Registered Office (RO) Address FAQs
- Complete Formations: Using PO Boxes When Forming a Company
- Company Wizard: Limited Liability Partnerships - FAQs
- Startups: Registering as a Sole Trader
- HM Revenue and Customs: Register for Self Assessment
- Gov.UK: Set up a private limited company
- HM Revenue and Customs: How and when to register for VAT
- HM Revenue and Customs: FAQ: Form VAT 1