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Doing business in the UK: Starting a company from abroad

Learn why the UK is a great destination for business and how to register a company from abroad.

Doing business in the UK: Starting a company from abroad

If you’re searching for a new business location for your overseas company, London is officially the place to be. According to a survey by CEOWORLD Magazine, it's been the best financial destination in the world for two years in a row (2022 and 2023).  

Good infrastructure, stable regulatory and political environments, attractive tax laws and abundant opportunities for trade and growth have tipped the scale consistently in London’s favour. In 2022, the UK was named the third most important country for business growth in a PwC report.  

So, how do you register your business in the UK from abroad? Read on...

Is the UK a good place to do business? 

In short, yes. The UK is the second largest economy in Europe; better still, English is a popular language for international trade and business, making communication effortless. The UK also has a business-friendly environment, which is excellent for those looking to expand into nearby countries, plus a supportive legal system to help you set up, grow and scale your business. 


Finally, the country is ideally located to give easy access to the EU. It’s connected to France via the Eurostar, while flights are also cost effective and readily available. In fact, the UK has the largest air transport network in Europe. 

Can a non-resident start a business in the UK? 

Both resident and non-resident business owner looking to expand or launch a start-up can do business in the UK. However, it can be tricky to navigate the regulatory framework associated with finances, payroll management, taxation and accounting standards.  

Later, we'll take you through starting a business in the UK in three steps, from writing a business plan to registering with Companies House. We'll also talk about compliance requirements, including KYC and GDPR.

Four advantages of doing business in the UK

There are numerous advantages of registering a business in the UK from abroad, which we’ll examine one by one below. 


1. Attractive corporate tax rates 

The UK has a corporate taxation rate of 25% – much lower than many European nations. In fact, the country has the lowest average corporation tax in the G20 and the joint lowest statutory corporate tax rate among the G7 economies. Additionally, the UK holds the world’s largest tax treaty network, covering over 100 countries. These help lower taxes on interests and royalties significantly. 


2. Intellectual property protections 

Understanding a country's general principles and stance on intellectual property is crucial for foreign business owners and enterprises. Thankfully, the UK has excellent intellectual property standards.

The country is also a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and participates in multiple intellectual property agreements. A business’ assets (for individual-owned and multi-owner enterprises) remain its own until legally assigned to another party. 


3. A welcoming environment for entrepreneurs 

As of September 2022, there were 44 unicorn companies based in the UK. A full 25 of them joined the club in 2021, representing the largest global concentration of unicorn designation in a year in any country.  

One of the reasons for the UK’s abundance of unicorns is its nurturing business environment, which provides ample opportunity for enterprises to start and scale.  


4. Robust regulatory oversight 

The country's superior regulatory oversight ensures companies enjoy a fair, level playing field while reducing business expenses. As a result, businesses perform on par with (or better than) the competition in other regions and deliver higher quality products and services while adhering to ethical and security standards. 

Other advantages of doing business in the UK:

  • Being the sixth largest economy in the world, the UK is also among the top investment destinations for the US. As a result, UK-registered businesses gain exposure to global markets. 

  • Government initiatives like “Business Impact Target” and “Cutting Red Tape” make doing business in the UK significantly easier. Consequently, businesses that set up base in the UK enjoy fewer restrictive bureaucratic processes and regulations. 

  • Since Brexit, the UK has built a strong and unified global trade network and relationships with multiple nations, creating diverse opportunities for business owners. 

  • The UK offers highly competitive business visa programmes that are more accessible than those of most developed nations. 

How do I register a business in the UK from overseas? 


Step 1: Write a business plan 

To register a business in the UK from abroad, prepare a high-level business plan covering your current and upcoming business structure, method of operation, product, services and processes. If you haven’t written a formal business plan before, a free online template could help you get started.  

Step 2: Register a property in the UK 

You’ll also need a business address in the UK, which can be a property you rent or own. Registering a business location in the UK is a multi-step process, which can vary based on the type of property and how you intend to use it.  

Step 3: Register with Companies House 

It’s essential to register your company with Companies House as soon as you intend to do business in the UK. For this, you need to fill the OS IN01 form and include details like your company name, registration office (if already registered in your country of residence) and company structure. 

If you haven’t yet decided which structure to pursue in the UK, our guide to different types of companies in the UK could help. For more information about registering an overseas property or setting up a business, see this comprehensive GOV.UK guide to registering an overseas company.   

Doing business in the UK: Things to consider 


KYC regulations 

The EU and UK have strong Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations – things like native identity proof and local address proof, for example. Because of this, it can be time-consuming and complex for foreign entrepreneurs and business owners to open business accounts in the UK.  

That’s where alternative accounts come in. Interpolitan Money, for instance, can help you open a business account with a local IBAN in just 7–10 days. You can use your new account to make payments to staff, clients and companies in the UK and more than 160 other countries. 


GDPR and data protection 

Privacy and consumer protection laws in the EU are exemplary. It’s important to learn about GDPR and follow changes in the law to make sure you stay above board and compliant at all times. You can learn more about GDPR and other data protection principles at the Information Commissioner’s Office website


Taxes and other employer obligations 

If you run a company in and employ people in the UK, it’s vital to stick to employer obligations, whether your employees are UK citizens or foreign nationals. 

One of the most important things you’ll need to do is integrate Pay as You Earn (PAYE) into your payroll to ensure taxes and National Insurance are paid properly. You’ll also need to develop a pension scheme or apply for NEST pension auto-enrolment at the minimum employee and employer contribution rates. 

Doing business in the UK with Interpolitan 

Ample development opportunities and a nurturing environment make the UK a great place to expand into. If you prepare a comprehensive business plan, register with Companies House and set up a business account, you’ll begin your time in the UK on solid ground. 

Opening an Interpolitan alternative bank account can help reduce your time to market in new regions, which can be convenient for your customers. You’ll be able to transact in over 55 currencies across the world, track analytics, and much more. Best of all, because Interpolitan is regulated by the FCA, you can rest assured that every transaction is compliant. 

Interpolitan delivers flexible and comprehensive alternative banking solutions by blending cutting-edge technology with personalised service. Learn more about us, or open an account today. 

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