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How do you register a business in the UK?

Are you wondering how to register a business in the UK? One option for entrepreneurs in the country or abroad is to set up a limited company.

How do you register a business in the UK?

Setting up a limited company is a practical, sensible decision for many entrepreneurs. Because a limited company is a business entity that is legally distinct or separate from its owner, or owners, you have limited liability if the business is sued or fails. Your liability will be limited to the face value of your share in the company, so your personal assets are protected – even in the worst-case scenario. 

Here's your step-by-step guide to setting up a business in the UK from abroad. 

Types of limited companies in the UK 

There are two different types of limited companies in the UK: private limited companies (Ltd) and public limited companies (Plc). Start-ups and small businesses tend to register private limited companies because they don’t have a minimum share capital requirement. Public limited companies, on the other hand, call for a minimum of two directors, two shareholders, a company secretary and a minimum share capital of £50,000. 

Private limited company 

Public limited company 


  • Separate legal entity to the owners. 

  • Limited liability. 


  • Separate legal entity to the owners. 

  • Limited liability. 

  • Can sell shares publicly. 


  • Must hold AGM. 

  • Must disclose financial information annually. 

  • Cannot sell shares publicly. 


  • Must hold AGM. 

  • Must disclose financial information annually. 

Did you know? 

Unlike sole traders, limited companies aren’t required to pay income tax or direct national insurance. Their tax, known as Corporation Tax, is based on business profits minus salaries and allowable expenses. 

How do you register a business in the UK? 

Here’s how to set up a business in the UK from abroad in six easy-to-follow steps. 

Step 1: Choose the company name 

The company name you choose should be unique (not similar to an existing registered company) and available for registration. It can’t imply you’re regulated or approved by a regulatory body if you’re not, and it also can’t be offensive. You can check existing company names via the Companies House register or the Intellectual Property Office. 

Ultimately, the name you choose is important because it represents your business, its offerings and the brand value you bring to the table. This means it should be easy to remember and relatable. 

Top tip 

Make sure a suitable domain name for your company is available before proceeding with the registration process. Ideally, this should match your business name. 

Step 2: Choose the director(s) and secretaries 

When you register your limited company in the UK, you’ll need to provide the names of the directors and secretaries who will be actively involved with your business.  

Directors are responsible for managing the company’s legal changes, finances, annual returns and other affairs. To register a private limited company, you’ll need to have at least one director, while a public limited company will need a minimum of two directors on the board. 

Secretaries represent directors during official business proceedings or board meetings. They can be lawyers, accountants or other professionals capable of providing consultation services to the company. 

Step 3: Decide on the shareholders 

A limited company requires at least one shareholder – and the director of the company can also be the sole shareholder. Of course, you can have more than one shareholder: for example, you could choose to divide the shares among the directors, although not necessarily equally.  

If a shareholder owns more than 25 percent of a company’s shares, they’re known as a “person with significant control” or PSC. 

Did you know? 

A big benefit of registering your company in the UK is that the business can have 100% foreign ownership. 

Step 4: Get the documents ready 

You’ll need to submit the following documents to Companies House to register your limited company: 

  • Memorandum of Association: This is a legal document that lists the company’s name, its purpose, owner, business model and the names of the director(s), shareholder(s), and managers. 

  • Articles of Association: This is also a legal document and contains the rules about the way the company will be run, as agreed upon by the directors, company secretary and shareholders. It clarifies the responsibilities of the directors, rules about business operations, how profits will be divided among shareholders and the responsibilities and rights of shareholders – like voting rights, for example. 

  • Form IN01: This document contains information about the company’s capital, resources, compliance procedures, guarantee and proposed officers. 

Step 5: Choose how you want to register the company 

You can either register your limited company yourself or partner with an experienced Companies House formation agent. Formation agents can prepare and file paperwork on your behalf, so you can focus on innovation, marketing and other aspects of your business.  

Important: If you’re registering a UK branch of your existing overseas company rather than a completely new limited company, you’ll need to file form OS IN01 and pay a £20 registration fee.  

Did you know? 

The UK is number 8 out of 190 countries on the World Bank Ease of Doing Business index. 

Step 6: Register your company 

Now, all that's left to be done is to register your business with Companies House with an address in England, Scotland or Wales, along with proof of identity. At the moment, the cost to register a business in the UK is £12, but this may change in 2024. If it does, we’ll update this article accordingly. 

If you file by post, you should receive a confirmation from Companies House within a week and the Company Formation Certificate within 8 to 12 days. If you file your application online, you should receive confirmation and a certificate within 24 hours. 

Did you know? 

If you’re planning to do business in Scotland, you could get help from Scottish Development International

A note about UK corporation tax and VAT 

Soon after you begin trading, you’ll need to register for corporation tax. If your company reaches the £85,000 turnover threshold at any point, you’ll also need to register for – and pay – VAT. 

Choosing the right financial partner 

One of the biggest challenges of setting up a business in the UK from abroad is finding the right financial partner. If you’re having trouble opening a business account at a traditional bank or plan to make regular international payments and collections, Interpolitan Money can help. 

At Interpolitan, we blend cutting-edge technology with truly personal service to deliver a comprehensive alternative banking solution. When our clients need assistance, they receive one-on-one attention from a dedicated account manager. We tailor our products and services to meet your needs and offer FX risk management solutions to help you hedge against currency fluctuations. 

With Interpolitan, you can: 

  • Open an account in as little as 7–10 days. 

  • Get a unique IBAN for secure domestic and cross-border transactions. 

  • Pay in more than 55 currencies. 

  • Do business with partners in over 160 countries. 

  • Access 24/7 support via phone and email. 

If you want more flexibility and the ability to pay, collect and hold funds in different currencies, maybe it’s time to consider Interpolitan? Click here to find out more or open an account today.

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