How to start a business in the UK - affordable company formation, registration, VAT & accountants

Despite the upheaval since the Brexit vote, the United Kingdom continues to be one of the most successful economies in the world. It attracts more inward investment from Asia and the US than any other European country, securing almost a quarter of all investment into Europe. This success is reflected in the number of foreign companies that have expanded into the UK.

The extremely business-friendly environment and smooth company formation process in Britain means the UK is considered one of the easiest locations to open a business. So an entrepreneur looking to branch out into lucrative markets without the mountains of paperwork and bureaucracy would do well to choose the UK as a base. Britain is also home to one of the most innovative tech hubs - dubbed Silicon Roundabout - and has built up strong startup communities in all the major cities, with London being seen as one of the startup capitals in the world.

Why is the UK so popular among foreign investors?

Investors have cited a number of reasons for choosing the UK, including these:

  • Size of the market - it is one of the the world's largest economies
  • Location and language
  • Government policy - the UK has a liberal business environment
  • Low corporation tax

What is the regulatory environment like?

The UK government places a priority on attracting investment from abroad, and has sought to ensure that the regulatory environment is as liberal as possible. There are very few restrictions on foreign ownership or investment, although certain sectors, such as financial services, are strictly regulated to protect the consumer. The authorities also enforce laws guarding against the abuse of monopoly powers.

What are the main types of company in the UK?

These are the most popular structures for foreign companies entering the UK:

  • Private limited company (Ltd)
  • Public limited company (Plc)
  • Branch of a foreign company
  • Limited liability partnership

Requirements for UK company formation:

  • One director and shareholder are currently required. A company secretary is recommended. You must have at least one individual director appointed on a UK limited company.
  • Minimum share capital is £2, although we recommend that you deposit at least £100 into your corporate bank account.
  • VAT: The requirements to be eligible to register for VAT in the UK are that you have a physical presence and can prove you have business in the UK. Without this it’s unlikely you will qualify to register for VAT.

What are the main features of a private limited company?

  • By far the most popular format for foreign investors
  • Only one shareholder needed, ideal for wholly-owned subsidiary
  • No minimum capital requirement
  • Minimum one director and a company secretary
  • Accounts to be filed annually

What are the main features of a Plc?

  • The minimum share capital for a Plc is £50,000
  • At least 25% of the share capital must be paid up
  • Minimum of two directors and a company secretary
  • Financial statement to be audited if turnover exceeds £1m

What are the main features of a branch?

  • The foreign parent company is responsible for all liabilities of UK branch
  • A branch is required to register with Companies House
  • Parent company accounts to be filed annually

What are the main features of a limited liability partnership?

  • At least two members, each with limited liability
  • Increasingly used for joint ventures and foreign companies
  • Same registration and disclosure requirements as limited company

How easy is it to recruit staff in the UK?

Foreign companies will find little difficulty in recruiting local staff. British workers are generally well educated and motivated and able to adapt to different management styles. There is a thriving recruitment sector in the UK, and we will be happy to help if you require advice on this.

Are there financial incentives available?

Financial incentives are available for companies investing in specific areas and sectors. Grants may be provided to assist job-creating investment in certain areas of the UK, mainly outside London and the south east. Other incentives take the form of research and development grants, technical assistance for exports, and export credit guarantees.

What about banking facilities?

The City of London is one of the world's foremost financial centers, and banks from most countries have offices here. The UK offers sophisticated banking facilities to the business community, but the process of opening an account can be time-consuming. We can help you cut through the red tape so you get your business bank account opened with minimum delays.

For more information about opening a bank account or company formation in the UK, including cheap company registration, VAT and accountants, please contact us on 0033 (0)1 53 57 49 10 or email us from our contact page and we’ll be happy to help.

Or for information about how to relocate your business, home and family to the UK, why not read our article on Relocating to the UK where you can find out all the details and discover useful websites to make your international move as smooth and easy as possible.