The UK is ranked one of the best locations for businesses looking to expand internationally. Starting a business in the UK can be challenging, but with the right set of tools and knowledge it’s a great place for business opportunities. The global environment, ease of doing business and strong market potential are of particular interest for overseas companies starting up in the UK.

When setting up a company in the UK, there are a number of registration requirements, regulations and obligations that need to be taken into account. This article highlights the most important things to consider when expanding your business into the UK.

Legal structures for market entry

When setting up in the UK, there are several legal structures to choose from. The company structure most suitable to you will depend on your type of business, where you are based and whether you have employees on board or not. Below are some of the most common legal structures in the UK;

  • Limited company
  • Branch office
  • Limited liability partnership (LLP)
  • Sole trader
  • Partnership

Limited company (LTD) is the most common form of business entity in the UK. A LTD company is a separate legal entity, owned by shareholders and managed by directors. The profits of a limited company are liable for UK corporation tax. Setting up an LTD company in the UK is a well-recognised structure that is quick and cost-effective to complete. With share capital starting at just £1, and with the risk contained within the subsidiary company, this is often the preferred route for international businesses expanding into Great Britain.

An international company may consider registering a branch office in the UK, rather than a LTD company. A branch office is not a separate legal entity from the head office company and full responsibility for the operations, debts and liabilities of the UK branch lie on the overseas parent company.

To find out more about the best option for you when expanding to the UK, please don’t hesitate to  get in touch with Goodwille’s Legal Department. 

Set-up and registration

A company can typically be registered with Companies House in 48 hours once all documents are completed. A UK company must register for corporation tax with HMRC, within three months of starting to trade. The paperwork for registration is not too extensive, however, certain statutory documents will be required.

Bank account

In order to make any transactions, you’ll need to open a UK bank account for your business. Opening a bank account is a time-consuming process as you will need to go through a money laundering process to ensure your company is credible for a corporate bank account. Therefore, prepare to have time and patience for this stage, it can easily take up to six months or more to complete.

Check if your bank in the company’s home country has any operations in the UK. In some cases, this might speed up the process, as it may prove some creditworthiness for the business.

Regulations

The regulatory system in the UK is open and transparent, making it easy to do business. In general, the UK aims to minimise bureaucracy and deregulate marketplaces in order to allow companies to develop and expand. However, there are strict regulations e.g. with regards to employment, industrial emissions, pollution monitoring and control, and waste disposal. Make sure you are aware of the regulations that directly or indirectly affect your business!

All businesses operating in the UK are subject to UK law, and every company registered in the UK must have a registered address in the UK. By law, all UK companies must file their annual accounts with Companies House within nine months of the end of an accounting period. Additionally, a confirmation statement must be filed with Companies House every 12 months (within 28 days of the anniversary of incorporation).

To get all the details in order and prepare for the regulatory areas, you should look for specialist advice. Contact Goodwille’s Corporate Legal Department today if you have any questions regarding regulations or your business’ obligations in the UK.

Tax

Foreign businesses looking at overseas business opportunities in the UK will find a competitive and business-friendly tax regime. Companies need to consider their exposure to UK taxation, including corporate income tax, value-added tax (VAT) and employment taxes.

Companies may become subject to UK taxation in a number of ways, such as

  • Establishing a formal taxable presence in the UK, such as a branch or Ltd company, and making a profit.
  • Registering a company for 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 current standard VAT rate in the UK is 20%.

It’s important to remember that an international business operating in the UK do not necessarily create a taxable presence in the UK. In order to be subject to the UK corporation income taxation, an overseas business needs to be trading in the UK through a permanent establishment. To find out more information about when you may need to register an entity in the UK, please contact us.

Employment

When employing people in the UK, you need to be aware of several regulations within UK employment law. To start with, make sure your employees have the right to work in the UK (that they hold a valid UK/EU passport or work permit/visa) and a NIN (National Insurance Number) for the deduction of taxes. Also, remember to follow the guidelines for UK employment contracts and provide these within 8 weeks of starting the employment.

In addition, you need to register you employees into a PAYE scheme (Pay-As-You-Earn: social costs of employment including income tax and National Insurance) and organise relevant company insurances. Every employer in the UK must also enrol their employees into the workplace’s pension scheme within three months after the start of the employment.

In terms of the remuneration, you must ensure the employees are paid at least the National Minimum Wage in the UK. As the recruitment market in the UK is highly competitive, also make sure your remuneration package is attractive enough and fits into the scope of the role.

If you are recruiting in the UK, you may want to turn to specialists who can help you with all the employer regulations and responsibilities you need to consider in the UK. Goodwille’s Human Resource Department deals with these issues daily and are happy to help if you have any questions regarding UK employment.

To conclude

The UK market provides great opportunities for expanding your business, however starting up a business in the UK is a challenging process full of regulations. In order to get the set-up processes and ongoing compliance right, it’s good to turn to professionals who are able to provide you with advice and all the necessary help you need to get your business operations up and running correctly from the start.

If you are a foreign-owned business looking to expand into the UK, either through setting up a UK subsidiary or employing staff in the UK, Goodwille can help you to get the inside track. We have helped businesses expand into the UK for 20 years, and are experienced in Corporate Legal, Finance, HR and Payroll services in the UK. With a track record of supporting almost 2,000 businesses, we have extensive experience to help you grow your business. Get in touch with us today, if you are planning to expand to the UK or have any questions regarding the UK market.


Useful contacts for your business

When expanding your business to the UK, there are many organisations you may find useful.

Networking-wise, it’s good to get know your local chamber of commerce and see if their network is worth accessing. For example, Finnish-British Chamber of Commerce and Swedish Chamber of Commerce provide good opportunities for professional networking.

Also, when developing your strategy for the new market, Department of International Trade (DIT) provides free advisory and supports companies with their UK strategy and planning.