The UK is an exciting location for foreign businesses looking to expand internationally, as it is full of opportunities and business potential. It is however important to be aware of the many rules, obligations and regulations that come with setting up a business in a new marketplace. This article will provide you with an overview of four things to consider when setting up a new business in the UK.

Step 1 – Type of trading entity
One of the first things you must decide when starting a business in the UK is which legal business structure to choose. Below are the main routes into the UK market, and depending on the type of business and your intentions for UK market, different setups will be suitable. In finding the best route to market for your business, it is a good idea to look at the legal differences between the structures as well as any tax or other implications. You may wish to seek specialist advice on the differences between these types of entities, the up and down sides of them, and which entity that suits your business and you intentions of the UK market.

  • Limited company (private or public)
  • Branch office
  • Partnership
  • Sole trader
  • Distributor or agent

You can register your company online, but it is important to make sure you get all the bits and pieces right, and that you are aware of any reporting and filing requirements for the business. If you are unfamiliar with UK business, Companies House and statutory filings, we strongly recommend you seek professional advice and help. Goodwille’s Corporate Legal Department deal with these issues daily, and can advice and support you when setting up the business.

Step 2 – Bank account

In order to make any transactions, you will need to open a UK bank account for your business. Opening a bank account is a lengthy process as banks are required to go through long money laundering requirements to open a corporate bank account, so ensure that you allow time and patience for this. If you have a bank account for your business in your home country, check with your bank to see if they have operations in the UK which in some cases can speed up the process, as it proves some degree of creditworthiness for the business.

If the bank account opening process proves to be longer than anticipated and you need to urgently make transactions, Goodwille can provide a client account that you can temporarily use for transactions while you wait for your account to be opened. Get in touch with our Finance Department for more information.

Step 3 – VAT or not
You may also look to register your company for value-added tax, VAT in the UK. Companies must be registered for VAT if their taxable turnover for any 12 months period is £85,000 or over. The £85,000 threshold has been agreed to remain for at least two years from 1 April 2018.

The current standard VAT rate in the UK is 20%, which is the rate most businesses will charge. Some goods and services are reduced to a 5% rate and some are exempt from VAT so make sure you know which rates that applies to your business!

Step 4 – Employment
Now that the company, bank account and VAT is sorted, you need to employ people to get the money rolling and the business moving forward. When employing people in the UK for the first time, there are several things you need to bear in mind – whether you are bringing employees from your foreign company or employing in the UK.

  • One basic thing that people may take for granted but that shouldn’t be neglected is that you need to make sure that people you employ are eligible to work in the UK. Make sure they have a UK or EU passport, or that they have a work permit/visa!
  • All workers are covered by the law of the jurisdiction in which they work, meaning that your UK employees will be subject to UK employment law. This means it’s important to make sure that your employment contracts are based on and compliant with UK employment law. The contracts should cover and set out the employee’s duties, responsibilities, rights and employment conditions.
  • You need to register your employees for PAYE (Pay-As-You-Earn, social costs of employment including income tax and National Insurance that you as an employer needs to pay to HMRC) and organise with necessary company insurances.
  • Make sure you offer your employees a pay that is at least National Minimum Wage, and that you offer sufficient benefits to their responsibilities and scope of work. There are benchmarks for salary levels and benefits depending on industry, experience etc. that can be good to use as guidelines to make sure your remuneration package is attractive and reasonable and that you don’t offer “too much” or “too little”.
  • There is a requirement to enrol your employees on a workplace pension scheme. This is called auto-enrolment and as an employer, you must automatically enrol all your employees on a pension scheme three (3) months after the start of their employment. Employees must actively opt-out of the pension scheme if they don’t wish to receive a workplace pension.

We offer HR and People Management support, and can help you sort everything employee-related – from employment contracts to benefits, pension and payroll. Get in touch with our People Management Department if you have any questions.

In summary

All these things might seem straight forward when outlined here, but the truth is – it’s not always as easy as it seems. There are rules, laws and regulations you need to be aware of and make sure you follow to avoid a hefty fine, or even worse – being taken to court.

Goodwille have 20 years of experience helping foreign businesses in the UK, and can support you with everything you need to get your business started. With a track record of helping nearly 2,000 businesses in the UK, we have all the experience and resources you need to succeed with your expansion.

Get in touch with us today if you have any questions about doing business in the UK or if you want more information on the support we can provide to your business.