Expanding into the UK – all you need to know when starting a business in the UK

Thames and london

The UK is ranked as 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.

  1. Legal Structures for Market Entry
  2. Set up and Registration
  3. Opening a Bank Account
  4. Understand UK Regulations
  5. UK Taxation
  6. Complying with UK Employment Law
  7. Expand to the UK With Goodwille
  8. Useful Contacts for Your Business

business men making choices

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/Subsidiary

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 learn more about the best option for you when expanding to the UK, check out the differences between a UK branch and a subsidiary.

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. Check out our comprehensive company registration services.

woman hand calculating expenses

Opening a 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 represented with wooden blocks

Understand UK 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. Our Corporate Governance Services can help you comply with any regulations or business’ obligations in the UK.

UK Taxation

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 UK corporation income taxation, an overseas business needs to be trading in the UK through a permanent establishment. Check out our comprehensive outsourced financial services and to find out more about when you may need to register an entity in the UK, please contact us.

department for work and pensions

Complying With UK Employment Law

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 HR Department deals with these issues daily and are happy to help if you have any questions regarding UK employment.

uk flag over london

Expand to the UK With Goodwille

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 Governance, Finance, HR, Payroll and Virtual Office 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.

Brexit: Norway and UK

An event hosted by the Norwegian-British Chamber of Commerce

In light of the upcoming trade negotiations between Norway and the UK, the Norwegian Embassy in London hosted an event under the topic “Brexit: Norway and UK”, together with the Norwegian-British Chamber of Commerce on 12 March. The NBCC invited its members to participate in a two hour engaging discussion about the future economic relations between the two countries, giving various perspectives from both the Norwegian embassy, the separate governments as well as affected traders.

Event Space

Opening remarks were made by the Ambassador, Wegger Chr. Strømmen, himself, followed by an update from Simen Svenheim, also representing the Norwegian Embassy, regarding future agreement outlooks, trade of services and mobility. In the case of mobility, the general consensus is that neither will be seeking free moving of people. Those areas where UK and Norway currently have free trade are not likely to change, though trading of financial services will. To summarize – some areas will cause friction in terms of negotiations, some will remain unchanged.

Brexit Business Impact

To get a corporate perspective on the future negotiations and the economic relations between the two countries, the event evolved around an open dialogue with the audience regarding their concerns and priorities for the negotiations. Further, David Cairn, current Vice President for the large Norwegian corporation Equinor, was included among the speakers.

In response to the general concerns, representatives from the UK government were present to update the audience about ongoing negotiations. With expected changes in trade regulations, the primary concern seemed to be around the survival of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME’s).

The government representatives agreed that there will indeed be disagreements involving three areas; governance, fishery and customs, though the Prime Minister has the intention and desire to seek similar arrangements with EEA countries as prior to Brexit.

Government support for SME’s

The audience presented concerns regarding whether the government will be supporting smaller players exporting to the UK, and how they assess the knowledge amongst these SMEs in terms of the financial consequences of Brexit. With all the uncertainty involving when and on what terms Brexit would actually happen, there was a perception of smaller business owners feeling “Whatever happens, happens”.


Overall the event, very purposely, gave insights into the struggles and concerns of the Norwegian businesses, with takeaways for the governmental parties to include in future negotiations and subsequently offer solutions. As NBCC manager Kyrre Haugen mentioned during his speech – SMEs contribute to the majority of the Norwegian economy, therefore, let’s hope they become priority for the upcoming negotiations.

Brexit update from Goodwille – November 2019

Two major events have taken place in the past month; the decision to have a general election in the UK, and an agreement to another Brexit extension.

General election in the UK – 12th December 2019

Last week, it was decided that a general election will be taking place in the UK on 12th December. This is the third national referendum since 2015.

The current Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, called for the election with the hope of resolving the Brexit deadlock. More Conservative seats would make a Brexit deal easier to pass.

However, the results could be the most unpredictable in a generation. According to recent statistics from the BBC, the EU/Brexit question tops the list of issues that British people care most about. Three and a half years since the Brexit referendum, every option is still a possibility.

Brexit Extension – 31st January 2020

The UK was set to leave the EU on 31st October 2019 and although Boris Johnson achieved a revised Brexit deal with the EU, the vote on the deal in the British Parliament did not go through.

In addition, British Members of Parliament adopted an amendment, commonly known as the Benn Act, which aimed to make sure that the UK could not leave the EU on 31st October without legislation in place.

Therefore, on 19th October, Prime Minister Johnson sent a letter to the EU asking for a Brexit delay for a third time. The EU agreed to a further extension until 31st January 2020, with an option to leave sooner if the British Parliament approves a deal.

Brexit will, of course, largely depend on the outcome of the general election.

Sign up to Goodwille’s Brexit newsletter to receive regular Brexit updates straight to your inbox!

This update is for general guidance only. Specific legal advice should be obtained in all cases. This material is the copyright of Goodwille Limited (unless otherwise stipulated) and is not to be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written consent.

Brexit Timeline of Events

23rd June 2016

The United Kingdom European Union membership referendum takes place, commonly known as the Brexit referendum. It results in 51.9 per cent of votes being in favour of leaving.

29th March 2017

The at-the-time Prime Minister Theresa May trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union, which begins the UK’s withdrawal.

29th March 2019

The initial Brexit day, when the UK was originally set to leave the EU. However, the process is delayed as the Withdrawal Agreement drafted and negotiated by the then Prime Minister Theresa May was not approved in the British Parliament.

7th June 2019

Theresa May announces she will resign as Prime Minister.

23rd July 2019

Boris Johnson is elected new leader of the Conservative party.

24th July 2019

Boris Johnson becomes the new Prime Minister of the UK.

31st October 2019

The UK is supposed to leave the EU, but the departure is yet again delayed.

12th December 2019

General election in the UK.

13th December 2019

The results of the General election are announced.

31st January 2020

Brexit day. The UK is set to leave the EU on this date.

Want to keep up with the latest updates on the Brexit discussions?
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This update is for general guidance only. Specific legal advice should be obtained in all cases. This material is the copyright of Goodwille Limited (unless otherwise stipulated) and is not to be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written consent.

Go virtual – how a virtual office can support the success of your UK business

International expansion is the goal of many businesses and while launching your business in a new marketplace is very exciting, it’s critical that you spend your time doing the things that bring value to your business. For companies, and startups in particular, the most important resources you have to play with for the new market launch is time and money. A virtual office solution is one of the many ways in which you can reduce your costs, and save yourself time, so you can’t afford NOT to consider it when you are starting a UK business.

What is a virtual office?

A virtual office is a cost-effective solution for creating a UK presence without renting a physical office space and employing office staff. It provides all the benefits of your own office space, but for a fraction of the cost. You might disregard these tasks as trivial, but they really can eat your time and be a distraction from the activities you should be focusing on to grow your business.

Virtual office solutions can cover a range of different services. Some of the most common virtual office services include:

  • Telephone answering
  • Post handling
  • Customer support
  • Meeting room hire

How can a virtual office support the success of you UK business?

A virtual office brings several benefits and could increase the chances of your success in the UK market. Here are some of the main reasons our clients choose to use a virtual office solution to ensure their UK business thrives.

Focus on your core strength

A virtual office gives small businesses that are entering the UK market access to the support functions needed to run the business operations without having to employ someone to do it. When you establish in a new market and only have a few employees you need them to add direct value, at all times, and contribute to growing the business. A virtual office is a great solution to maximise your resources before the business warrants creating a permanent job for tasks like answering the phone and other administrative tasks.


Finding the perfect office takes time, especially in London where office rents are exceptionally high. Jump too soon and you might find yourself caught up with an expensive lease that is not fit for your longer-term growth plan. And even if the goal is of course a successful UK expansion, unforeseen situations can occur that might result in that you want to exit the market.

It’s just simply not worth risking the cost and investment for an office when you just start out in a market, as your key to a successful market launch is flexibility. A virtual office gives you just that – flexibility, while at the same time offering all the benefits and processes needed to give you a head start on the UK market.

A good impression

But a virtual office also offers another very important advantage for companies operating in UK– it gives the impression of an established and more serious presence in the UK. Business is all about relationships and a UK phone number and address gives you credibility as a business as it shows commitment to the market.

A UK presence sends an important message to potential clients and suppliers. Just think for yourself –would you rather do business with a company that is in the same country, or someone who is elsewhere in the world (and likely a different time zone).

So is a Virtual Office only for companies launching on the UK market?

Not necessarily! Businesses of any size and at any stage of growth can reap the benefits from using a virtual office solution. It all depends on your business’ needs and what services you require. Virtual office services provide the flexibility to grow with your business while always maintaining a high level of professionalism, so it’s an excellent solution also for scaling businesses. By outsourcing your non-core business activities, you give yourself more time to focus on growing your business, regardless if you are just starting out or if you are more established on the UK market.

So as you can see, a virtual office solution gives you both a better chance at impressing potential clients, as well as more time and money on your hands. If you are just starting up in the UK and want your UK business to get a head start without involving too much risk and capital, or if you are a more established business that want to streamline your operations and maximise resources, then a virtual office is definitely something you should consider.

Goodwille’s Virtual Office service, available in both London & Warwick, provides you with a selection of services to suit your needs at any stage of your business’ growth. Read more about our Virtual Office services here or contact our Front of House Manager Evy Rune to find out how we can help create a UK presence for your business.

Join our roundtable on launching a food and drinks brand on the UK market

Are you a food, drinks or nutrition business planning to launch on the UK market? Join our roundtable session during Food Matters Live for insights on how to successfully launch your brand in the UK!

Food Matters Live, the food community aiming to change the future of food and drink, comes to London 19th-20th November. The two-day exhibition attracts innovative food and drinks brands and visitors from around the globe to ExCeL London. Besides showcasing the latest innovation in food and drinks, it offers cross-sector meetings and educative seminars and roundtables with sector experts.

If you are a food & drinks brand thinking about entering the UK market – don’t miss our roundtable session, co-hosted by Goodwille and Ely Advisory. Themed ‘The Lean Startup – Market Entry Simplified’, the session will provide insights on how to enter and succeed on the UK market as a food & drinks brand.

About our roundtable sessions

When: Tuesday 19th November and Wednesday 20th November, 13:15 – 14:00
Where: Food Matters Live, ExCeL London

Theme: The Lean Startup – Market Entry Simplified

Launching a new product can be challenging in itself, let alone when you are launching into an entirely new market. Together, Goodwille & Ely Advisory have been helping foreign-owned food & drink brands enter the UK for decades. Join our roundtable session during Food Matters Live to understand the practical elements of establishing your food & drinks business in the UK, along with some essential tips & tricks that will help you when you are dealing with UK food & drink retailers.


Alexander Goodwille, CEO of Goodwille

Goodwille have been helping brands from around the world to get their products into the UK market. Supporting restaurant chains, along with consumer food & drink brands, we understand what it takes to get your product into the marketplace, whilst ensuring you remain fully compliant when trading in the UK.

Goodwille provide a complete solution for businesses entering the UK market, covering Corporate Legal, Finance, Human Resources, Payroll & Virtual Offices.

We have experience working with both food & drink brands selling online into the UK, through independent stores & leadings retail chains, along with those operating their own physical restaurant chains.

Through our wider network we can support our clients with import/export, leases, storage facilities, distribution, marketing and more. By choosing to work with Goodwille, it gives you more free time, so you can focus on launching your brand in the UK market.

Andrew Ely, MD of Ely Advisory

Ely Advisory is a boutique consultancy specialising in working with food and drink companies on UK market entry. Founded by Andrew Ely in 2017 and utilising over 30 years of successful sales and marketing experience with UK based food and drink companies.

We can all think of inspirational food and drink brands but how do we create them? This is a question which has always fascinated me. My experience covers a wealth of categories: bread and cakes, Chinese and Italian products, gluten and lactose free, plant-based foods, crisps and snacks, wines and spirits. I am well versed in managing the opportunities and challenges around cross-cultural and cross-border working. I have also got to know and thrive working with the different ownership structures that support modern food businesses; from large publicly quoted companies to private equity backed investments and exits.

At channel level, I have strong experience evaluating and executing the different choices facing companies who want to come to market in the UK. Retail and online are perhaps the most visible of these options but increasingly Out-of-Home and Business-to-Business form an essential part of any well-planned market entry.

Who should join and why?

Our roundtable discussions give you the opportunity to hear us share our experiences and ask questions about launching a food & drinks business on the UK market. Our combined expertise in UK market entry, launching a food & drinks brand and dealing with food retailers in the UK will help you prepare your launch with the right resources and partnerships. If you are a foreign food & drinks brand with interest in the UK market, this 45min session will give you a head start on the UK market.

Goodwille are experts in helping foreign-owned businesses enter the UK market. We have supported several food and drinks brands and can assist you business with launching and expanding in the UK. Contact us today for more information on how we can help your brand succeed on the UK market. 

What Comes Next? The Business Analysis of ‘No-Deal’

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has examined the ‘no-deal’ preparations made by the UK government, the European Commission, Member States and companies in 27 areas of the UK-EU relationship that are most important to business.

They recently published a report on ‘no-deal’ readiness, including the table below (pages 9-10). Please click on the table to get to the original report for further reading.

This update is for general guidance only. Specific legal advice should be obtained in all cases. This material is the copyright of Goodwille Limited (unless otherwise stipulated) and is not to be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written consent.

Boris Johnson on Brexit – One Week In

Delivering Brexit is the number one priority for Boris Johnson. He has repeatedly pledged that a ‘no-deal’ exit would be preferable to another extension. During his first speech as Prime Minister, he stated: ‘We are going to fulfil the repeated promises of parliament to the people and come out of the EU on 31st October, no ifs or buts’.

When his predecessor Theresa May was in office, a Withdrawal Agreement (WA) between the UK and the EU that would settle how the British would leave the Union was drafted and negotiated. The WA is close to 600 pages long. Some key points include:

  • A transition period of 21 months – in which the UK must abide by all EU rules;
  • A financial settlement, the so called “divorce bill” – to be paid by the UK to the EU;
  • Citizens’ rights – UK citizens in the EU-, and EU citizens in the UK will retain their residency and social rights after Brexit;
  • Northern Ireland/the backstop – an insurance policy designed to avoid a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

To date, the WA has been rejected three times by the British Parliament. The issue regarding the Irish backstop was one major reason why Theresa May could not get the agreement through Parliament. Although the EU consistently has said it is unwilling to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement, Boris Johnson is confident that a better deal, one that the British Parliament will adopt, can be negotiated. He has for example stated that he believes the issue of the Irish border will be better dealt with after the UK has left the EU.

However, even if the EU were willing to consider the changes requested by the new PM, there is little time left. With less than 100 days left until 31st October 2019, the prospect of a no-deal exit is rising.

This update is for general guidance only. Specific legal advice should be obtained in all cases. This material is the copyright of Goodwille Limited (unless otherwise stipulated) and is not to be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written consent.

How Could A ‘No-Deal Brexit’ Affect Goodwille’s Clients and Our Services?

It is impossible to go into every detail on how a ‘no-deal Brexit’ would affect Goodwille’s clients and our services, but one can start by categorising the possibilities in the sections below.

For clients based in one of the remaining Member States, the consequences of a ‘no-deal Brexit’ broadly fit into two categories. Firstly, the human aspect as there will be new rules to bring staff into the UK post Brexit. Secondly, the import/export side, affecting those with physical products or businesses operating in regulated markets. The latter will likely be hit the hardest with an increasing amount of paperwork and new systems related to importing goods from EU Member States to the UK (and, to a lesser extent, exporting from the UK to the remaining EU).

As we approach the 31st October deadline, companies that move goods into or out of the EU are once again facing the prospect of stockpiling. If not already done, it is important to check with delivery partners to ensure they are ready in the event of a ‘no-deal’. For goods trading companies, Goodwille has previously encouraged these clients to apply for a UK EORI number (please contact us if you require more details).

Companies in the service industry will likely only have to deal with changes to VAT reporting. This should be covered easily within the remit that Goodwille has with clients using Goodwille’s finance services.

Most impacted will be subsidiaries of EU companies in the UK. These are likely to face the biggest hurdle related to ‘no-deal’ planning. Nonetheless, companies from outside the EU may find the so-called “no-deal exit” less problematic, unless they use the UK to as a gateway to the EU market.

To ensure a continued presence within the EU after Brexit, Goodwille has been developing its network and we have secured partners in Ireland. We have established contacts with import specialists to make use of the TSP (Transitional Simplified Procedures). For clients wishing to bring staff into the UK, we have partnered with North Star Law to ensure expert immigration advisory services aiding with supported VISA applications to enter the UK. We have also partnered with relocation services businesses, which can be essential when it comes to moving a family to the UK smoothly.

Goodwille are currently supporting in the region of 400 subsidiary businesses in the UK, and the vast majority of these are headquartered in Northern & Central Europe.  Over the coming weeks (and months), as more information is released and it becomes clearer on the impact Brexit will have on foreign businesses ability to trade with the United Kingdom, then Goodwille will proactively keep our clients updated – you are in safe hands.

This update is for general guidance only. Specific legal advice should be obtained in all cases. This material is the copyright of Goodwille Limited (unless otherwise stipulated) and is not to be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written consent.

About Boris Johnson

On Tuesday 23rd July 2019, Boris Johnson was elected new leader of the Conservative party in the United Kingdom. The following day, he became the 14th person invited by Queen Elizabeth II to form a government. Johnson is thus the third British Prime Minister since the Brexit referendum that took place in June 2016.

Following the change of Tory PM, there has been a reshuffle of government. Johnson has described the new cabinet as a “cabinet for modern Britain”. It includes Dominic Raab, who is the new Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State. Priti Patel has replaced Sajid Javid as Home Secretary, who in turn is the new Chancellor. Stephen Barclay remains Brexit Secretary.

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson was born to British parents in 1964 in New York. His father is a former British Conservative Member of the European Parliament. Johnson therefore spent a couple of years of his childhood in Belgium. He was educated at Eton College and at the University of Oxford.

Prior to the referendum, Boris Johnson was one of the front figures of the Leave campaign who is believed to have contributed to the UK’s decisions to leave.

After Theresa May became Prime Minister in July 2016, she appointed Johnson Foreign Secretary. He resigned two years later. Between 2008 and 2016, Boris Johnson was Mayor of London. Prior to becoming a Member of Parliament, he worked as a political journalist for newspapers such as The Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Spectator.

This update is for general guidance only. Specific legal advice should be obtained in all cases. This material is the copyright of Goodwille Limited (unless otherwise stipulated) and is not to be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written consent.
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