When you initially establish a business, you’ll likely start as a sole trader. However, as your business grows, forming a private limited company may make more sense. Our advice will guide you through the process and help you understand how your legal position, finances, and responsibilities will change.
What Is a Limited Company?
A limited company is a business structure separate from its owners, like directors. The main benefit is limited liability, meaning your personal assets stay protected if the business struggles or faces legal issues. A limited company has its own bank accounts, pays its own taxes, can sell shares, and must register with Companies House.
The Benefits of a Limited Company
Limited liability is the biggest benefit of a limited company. By separating your personal and business finances, you protect your personal assets from business risks. Limited companies also often pay lower taxes on profits.
When Should I Switch from Sole Trader to Limited Company?
Starting as a sole trader lets you test and refine your business model without consulting others. However, as your business expands and revenue increases, a private limited company may be smarter. A limited company also offers more funding options, like private equity or business loans.
Can I Establish a Limited Company on My Own?
Yes, you can have a limited company where you’re the only employee and director. This is popular for contractors, as it reduces risks and protects from legal issues. You can also join an umbrella company to handle administration for you.
The 7 Steps to Establishing a Limited Company
Decide if a limited company is right for you: Consider the pros and cons before deciding.
Choose your company name: Your name must be unique, suitable, and not too similar to an existing company’s.
Appoint at least one director: You need at least one director, but you can have multiple directors to collectively make decisions.
Decide on shareholders: A company must have at least one shareholder, who can also be a director.
Create your company documents: Prepare the necessary documents, like the memorandum and articles of association, to establish your company.
Confirm the records you need to keep: Maintain records of all significant company details, including accounting records, for at least six years.
Register with Companies House: Register your company at Companies House, and ensure you select the correct SIC code to specify your business’s nature.
Registering a Limited Company
You can register your company online or by mail with Companies House using form IN01. Online registration usually costs £12, while mail registration costs £40 (or £100 for same-day registration). Online registrations typically process within 24 hours, mail registrations though can take up to 10 days.
Taxes and Your Limited Company
Your limited company must pay corporation tax on profits. Register your company for corporation tax within three months of becoming active or face potential fines. You’ll also need to file an annual company tax return` and register for PAYE if the company pays salaries.
How Long Does It Take to Establish a Limited Company?
Establishing a limited company in the UK is quick. Mail registration can take 8 to 10 working days, while online registration through specialists can complete within hours.
How Will I Get Paid through My Limited Company?
As a director, you can receive income from your company through salary or dividends from profits. Most directors choose both, as it can be most tax-efficient.
Dividends attract less tax but can only come from profits. Salary provides benefits like pensions and parental leave but higher taxes. Take a keen interest and learn as much as you can about drawing income from your company.
Legal Responsibilities of Running a Company
As a director, you have legal responsibilities like managing accounts and disclosing personal benefits from company transactions. While you can appoint an accountant and/or company secretary to handle these, remember that ultimate responsibility lies with you.
Year-End Reporting for Your Company
At your financial year’s end, you have to report all key information to Companies House and HMRC. This ensures your company pays the right taxes and provides accurate information to shareholders, investors, creditors, and the public. Learn more about financial year-end reporting.
Remember, changing from a sole trader to a limited company can significantly advance your growing business. Hopefully our guide helps you through the process and enables you to make the best decisions for your business’s future.