There are over five million companies registered in the UK and 500,000 new are incorporated each year. Will yours be the next one? If you’re here, you’re probably wondering how to register a company in the UK. 

It might seem like a daunting process but registering your small business is one of the first and most important steps in your business journey. It’s also a legal requirement and you can’t start trading before doing so. You’ll need to provide Companies House with information such as your name and business structure.

Registering your business has other benefits too like protecting you from financial liabilities which would ultimately fall to you if the company incurred any debts. We’ll cover even more benefits throughout this guide. 

This guide will walk you through how to register a company in the UK so you can quickly get your business up and running.

What is a limited company? 

Before you go through this article, you need to know if registering as a limited company is right for you. 

A limited company is a business ‘limited by shares’ or ‘limited by guarantee’. That means the business owners are only legally responsible for the shares they own in the company. 

The below categories are company formations. The main differences between these company types are: 

  • Companies limited by shares have shareholders
  • Companies limited by guarantee have guarantors
  • Companies registered as limited by shares are allowed to keep profits they make after tax
  • Companies limited by guarantee must reinvest all their earnings back into the company in some way (that’s why these businesses are sometimes referred to as ‘not-for-profit’)

What type of business you are willl determine if a limited by shares or limited by guarantee company is best for you. 

Something else for you to consider is if you want to register as a public or private limited company. The only difference between these two types is a matter of ownership: 

  • A private limited company is owned by a small group of people, such as family members or investors
  • A public limited company has unlimited shareholders and shares can be traded on a stock exchange 

Keep the above information in mind when it comes to registering your company. 

For the rest of this article, we’ll provide steps on how to register a limited by shares company (ones that can retain profit after taxes) as they are the most common type of limited company. If you would instead like to register as a company by limited guarantee, more information about the key differences is available here.  

Limited companies are legally and financially separate from the people who own them – this is one of the biggest advantages for limited companies. This is known as ‘limited liability’ which is a type of legal structure which limits the financial loss of assets or investment by a shareholder. 

This is beneficial to you as a business as it gives investors security when investing into your company, removing any reluctancy or hesitation as they know their share is safe. So if businesses struggle to finance their debts, owners aren’t liable. However, there is more of an administrative burden on companies as they operate.  

And that’s a brief summary on the essential information you need to know about limited companies before registering your company. But if you’d like to find out more about business structure options, read our article Sole Trader or Limited Company for further guidance and support. 

How to register a limited company 

To set up your limited company, you should follow the five steps below:

Step 1: Choose a name 

Choosing a business name can be a fun step in the registering process. Once you have chosen your name, visit the Companies House website and they will let you know if the name is okay to use. Companies House is a government agency which registers all UK companies. You can also use a third party service to register your limited company. But as Companies House is the official government agency, it’s best to recommend registering with them.  

But remember, there are some guidelines to follow when choosing your company name. Your company name must be unique, end in ‘Ltd.’ or ‘Limited’ and can’t include offensive or sensitive terms. 

Unique names 

You can’t use a name that somebody else has. Finding an available name might take some time. Make sure you have some back-ups and apply quickly to make sure you get the one you want!

Offensive and sensitive terms 

‘No offensive words’ is self-explanatory, but ‘sensitive terms’ can be confusing at first as the meaning is a bit vague. Companies House won’t allow names of businesses to include protected terms like ‘Accredited’ or suggest relationships with governments unless you have permission. 

For example, the name ‘Accredited Government Accountants Ltd.’ wouldn’t be accepted by Companies House.

Step 2: Choose a company formation

Next on the ‘how to register a limited company’ checklist is choosing a company formation. As previously mentioned in the ‘what is a limited company’ section, there are a few different types of company formations to pick from.

For a limited company, these options include: 

  • Public limited company
  • Private limited by shares
  • Private limited by guarantee
  • Limited liability partnership 

Remember, the company formation determines how you run your business. So make sure to pick the right one.

Step 3: Choose the people involved 

Not only do you need to know how to register a limited company, but you also need to know who to involve and why. 

Once you have chosen a company name and formation, you need to register those involved with your company. Limited companies must choose a director and register any additional shareholders involved in the business. For anyone involved in the business as an owner or shareholder, you need to confirm three of the following:

  • Town of birth
  • Mother’s maiden name
  • Father’s first name
  • Telephone number
  • National Insurance number
  • Passport number

Choosing a director 

Limited companies must appoint a director who is responsible for the company’s operations and legal compliance. Make sure you’re aware of the full responsibilities and requirements of company directors before you declare them. 

If you’re setting up your business on your own, you can be both the director and only shareholder disclosed. 

As companies grow, some appoint a company secretary who helps the director manage their responsibilities. Company secretaries also have to meet requirements, however it’s important to note that private limited companies don’t need a secretary. The company’s director is still legally responsible regardless of who performs the company’s duties. 

Listing shareholders 

If you’ve registered yourself as the company’s director, you can also be its sole shareholder. As you expand the company, you need to declare any additional shareholders.

No matter how many shareholders there are, you need tpo declare the structure of your company’s shares and their values. There are different types of shares and each company will have different arrangements with their investors, which is why it’s essential to clarify what your company has arranged. 

Similarly, companies must disclose people with significant control (PSC). These are people who own or control the company via either owning more than 25% of company shares or voting rights within a company. Because of this, companies have more than one PSC. 

Step 4: Preparing registration documents 

In order to register a company, you need to draft two important documents before you register: a ‘memorandum of association’ and ‘articles of association’. 

All company shareholders need to sign a ‘memorandum of association’ to indicate that they agree to form the company. If you register your company via Companies House online, your company’s memorandum of association is generated automatically from the details you provide. You can also register by post, you can do so with this template.

A company’s ‘articles of association’ is a set of rules that are agreed by the director, secretary and shareholders to indicate how they will run the company. You can write your own or use templates available online. 

Think of articles of association as a user’s manual for your company, it’ll include details such as your company’s purpose, share structure and supply information regarding shareholder meetings. You can either write your own and upload them to Companies House or use a standard template known as ‘model articles’. 

Community interest companies (CIC or ‘social enterprises’) need different articles of association, so make to not use model articles if you’re setting up a CIC. 

Keeping trading records to be compliant 

You’ll need to keep your company documents safe, sometimes for as long as six years in order to stay compliant with government legislation once you’ve registered your company.

This will include: 

  • Records about the company, e.g. people, debts, loans, votes and resolutions, transactions and assets.
  • Register of the PSC.
  • Accounting records, e.g. financial records, money spent and received, assets owned, debts, stock, stock takings and who you bought and sold to and from (unless you’re a retail business). 

Every receipt, invoice, contract and delivery note matters. You need to keep all company documents safe and secure, ready for your Corporation Tax or you could face a £3,000 fine by HMRC.

Corporation Tax (also known as company tax) is the tax you pay annually on your company’s income. 

If your company documents are stolen or lost, you need to either recreate them or tell your Corporation of Tax office. This incident will need to be included in your Company Tax Return. If you keep your documents at a different address from your registered office address, you should always tell. Companies House.

You will also need to keep legal documents safe and up to date in compliance with the Company Act 2006. Statutory books contain information relating to who the directors, secretaries, PSCs and shareholders. These documents act as evidence of your company’s set up and history so need to be public and readily available.

Countingup has years of experience in helping limited companies manage their finances, which you can find out more about here

Your registered office 

As well as knowing how to register a limited company and what company documents to keep, you’ll also need to have a registered office address, also known as a RO. 

You’ll need a registered office address when you come to register your limited company as this is where all written communication will be sent. You can have your mail sent to a third party agent who can offer a mail forwarding service for an agreed fee, but they must send you all your mail, if not, or if you choose not to receive certain letters, you may be breaking the law. 

There are lots of benefits to having a registered office address, these include: 

  • Distinction between home and work – if you register your home address as your business address, you’ll be receiving both personal and business mail. Keep a work-life balance by keeping the two separate.
  • More privacy – people often check Google Maps to see where a business is located, therefore, you may not want people being able to look up where you live.
  • Better Business Image – it’ll look more corporate and professional to have a registered office address as it highlights the business’ success, which in turn could lead to more sales. 

Step 5: Register your company 

This is the final step of our ‘how to register a limited company’ guide. As previously mentioned, you’ll need to use Companies House registration service and you’ll also be registered for Corporation Tax at the same time. 

When your limited company is successfully registered, you’ll receive a certificate of incorporation to confirm that the company legally exists. The certificate of incorporation will be set to your registered office address, so make sure all details are correct. 

To start this final step and receive your certificate of incorporation, you’ll need to register yourself and/or the people involved with your company, you’ll need to confirm three of the following details for each person: 

  • Town of birth 
  • Mother’s maiden name 
  • Father’s first name 
  • Telephone number 
  • National Insurance number 
  • Passport number 

Business owners will often ask, ‘how much money is required to register a company in the UK?’

If you register your company with Companies House, it will cost £50 from 1st May. Same-day incorporation is £78.

Once you’ve submitted your application for your business registration, things tend to move quickly. Whilst most government processes are still suffering from long wait times caused by the pandemic, registering a company isn’t affected. Typically, it can take as little as 24 hours for your company to become fully registered and ready to start trading. 

When you come to register your company, you’ll need your Government Gateway ID and password. Government Gateway ID is a 12-digit code that allows you to access the UK Government’s digital services. You can visit the Government Gateway portal here to set up your ID and password here. It’s as simple as that. 

Remember, even if you have a personal Government Gateway ID and password, you can’t use this, and you’ll need to set up a company account. 

You can also register you company via post by filling out an IN01 form. However, expect a longer wait time of around eight to ten days and cost £40 which needs to be paid by cheque to Companies House. 

And there you have it, that’s how to register a limited company, but the journey doesn’t stop there. 

Upon successful registration, the company will be issued a unique registration number by Companies House, which is a crucial identifier for conducting business activities in the UK. This registration number will be used for various purposes, including tax filings, opening bank accounts, and entering into contracts. 

Make business admin simple from the start 

As you can see from this guide, establishing a business is a process from the start; it’s an exciting time, but the challenges you face along the way can be intimidating if you’ve never encountered them before. But Countingup can help. 

What is Countingup? 

Since its formation in 2017, Countingup has helped over 50,000 UK businesses save time and money through improved and simplified accounting processes. Countingup is an award-winning business current account (e-money) that’s built with small limited companies and sole traders in mind. The two-in-one app Countingup has created simplifies bookkeeping and taxes, providing you with a helping hand to keep on top of your business’ financial records. 

The app works by automating expense categorisation and prompts you to take photos of receipts to store as records when you make a purchase.  

Here’s some other features your business could benefit from when you download the Countingup app today: 

  • Account opening in minutes 
  • Receive a contactless card, account number and sort code 
  • Invoicing and billing 
  • Real-time profit and loss 
  • Tax estimate 
  • Easily share with your accountant 
  • First-class, UK-based, helpful support team 

Simply enter your mobile number on our website and we’ll send you the link to the app, quick and simple. 

This takes the weight off your shoulders, and you can be safe in the knowledge that your company’s sensitive financial data is securely managed with Countingup. Take a look at what our customers have to say on Trustpilot about our business account and app. 

Start your business on the right track. Find out more about how Countingup can help here and download the Countingup app today.