How to Start a Business (Limited Company)

8 steps to set up your limited company 

These steps will ensure you are compliant and correctly set up with the UK government as a limited company. You can operate as a sole trader which just requires you to register differently with HRMC.

1. Decide if forming a limited company is right got you 

Advantages of setting up as a limited company include; limitation of personal liability, professional status, beneficial tax efficiency and planning. However, drawbacks include; needing to do a more administration, publish your personal details publicly and you will have legal accounting requirements as a limited company. If you are looking to commit to a full-time, more professional venture that you will invest substantial time and effort in growing forming a limited company is a great option.

2. Register your business 

There are several steps to registering your business officially with the government, for advice and help with the process you can use a formation agent. They will save you time, money and stress so you can get to the fun part of running your new company! National Business Register have over 35 years experience forming companies, read more about their services here. You will need to decide on the name of your company, who and how many directors you will have and how many shares each director will have.

3. Employing someone as a limited business 

You will need to pay income tax and National Insurance contributions for each employee so will need to set up a PAYE. This government resource is a good directory for what you will need to cover if you have employees, it also takes you to details regarding your tax self assessment form – get bookmarking!
In terms of employment law – know your basics. A great site for basic legal documents is Rocket Lawyer.
ACAS is a goldmine of informative articles on everything from employment law to workplace Covid advice.
If you’re looking to contact a solicitor our accredited partners, Thursfields have the experience and legal expertise to guide you throughout the life cycle of your business. Read more here.

4. Get an accountant 

It is advisable you get an accountant as a limited business. You are legally required to submit yearly accounts to HRMC alongside your self-assessment forms and Confirmation Statements. Ask friends, fellow business owners and find out more about our accredited accounting partner, Stewart Associates, here.
Remember to keep organised and maintain detailed financial records of everything to do with your business. It may be boring and the last thing you want to do at the end of a busy day but future you (and your accountant!) will love you for doing it. Download your accounting software to your phone to keep organised even on the go.

5. Do you need to register for VAT? 

If your businesses turnover exceeds £85,000 per annum you have to be VAT registered, register here. If you are under this threshold registering is an extra process however it does mean you can claim VAT back on goods and services you use for your business. If you are setting up as a limited company you are probably quite serious about making a go of your business so if you don’t register for VAT (which gives you the ability to claim VAT back on items purchased for your business) you are effectively paying 20% more than you should for anything that includes VAT (which is most things). Just remember to keep those receipts!

6. Understand your tax 

Tax is one of the main factors that sway people to form a limited business. As a sole trader you can pay between 20%-45% tax on your profits whereas a director of a limited company will pay 19%. However don’t go mad spending 81% of your profits, there are other costs, especially with employees (see point 3) limited companies are responsible for. This is where having an accountant comes in really handy. Also having accounting software such as Xero, QuickBooks or Sage will keep things organised on the go.

7. What insurance do I need? 

There are legal requirements for insurance but this decision is also influenced by the type of business you have and how much ‘peace of mind’ you want to pay for. We’ve outlined a few basic forms of insurance below to get you started.
Employers Liability Insurance – this is the only legally required form of insurance for a small business owner. This is to cover any employees that are injured whilst working for you. If you operate with no insurance and have staff working for you, there can be a penalty of £2,500 per day.
Management Liability Insurance (Directors’ and Officers’ Liability Insurance) – this covers the individual directors personally rather than the business as a whole. This can be helpful if things do go wrong as directors are open to having claims of malpractice brought against them with potential fines, disqualification (this will mean you won’t be able to be a director of a future company) and even prison sentences. When taking out this insurance check your policy covers insolvency and large shareholders (over 15%) as many policies do not protect you in these cases.
Public Liability Insurance – this is to cover customer injury. Accidents do happen and not having this insurance if you have a shop/salon etc could be costly. Also note some clients and suppliers may request you have this insurance as part of your contract with them.
Contents and Portable Equipment Insurance – this covers all the technology and physical belongings you use to operate your business. If you are running your business from home and have contents insurance it’s worth checking the wording of your policy as some do not cover equipment used in a commercial capacity.
Professional Indemnity Insurance – this is for businesses that offer advice or consultancy services. This insurance will cover you if a client of yours makes a claim against you stating they have incurred financial loss after acting on your advice. In these industries clients may insist you have this form of insurance and it will help bolster your professional reputation if you do.
Cyber insurance – this will insure you against any claims made if you have a data breach. You should consider this insurance if you hold large amounts of customers data and/or sensitive customer data. This may become more important as you grow and will be valuable to have as you build the data on your customers to optimise your marketing strategy and potentially increase your product/service offering.

8. What are your responsibilities as director? 

The term director does come with some legal responsibilities. Alongside ensuring your business is compliant e.g. has licenses with the local authority and/or the correct insurance for your employees there are some actions you will need to do.
Ensure your corporation tax is paid
File annual accounts with HRMC
Write the companies ‘articles of association’ when you form the company and then follow them. These can be updated after registering
Keep detailed company records and report any changes in a timely manner
Notify other shareholders if there is a possible conflict of interest where you will personally benefit from a purchase the business makes
If you follow these steps you will have a compliant and solid foundation from which to grow your business. If you’re still unsure, we’ve outlined the main differences between being a sole trader vs limited company for you. Alternatively if you’ve decided becoming a sole trader is the best option for you read our guide on how to set up as a sole trader here.

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