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9. Red tape checklist: What your small business needs to know

Dealing with business red tape? Startups has complied the five key legal issues and how best to deal with them…

When setting up in business, an understanding of the red tape involved is a must, or you will be asking for trouble.

It is essential that you have read through and understand the checklist below to ensure you have a good understanding of the relevant laws and regulations involved in starting a business – click the links to explore in-depth articles on a topic.

1. Tax law

As you will now be self-employed, a knowledge of tax law is essential. If you’re going to surpass the £81,000 revenue threshold you will need to register for VAT – learn how to do so in our step-by-step guide.  If you’re going to be running a registered company, get the lowdown on corporation tax and the current rates that apply to small business; similarly, if you will be occupying non-domestic premises you need to know the business rates that will apply. If you plan to take on staff, learn how the new PAYE reporting regulations will apply to you.

2. Intellectual property law

Know your intellectual property law to protect your own ideas – and make sure you’re not infringing on others. Intellectual property can refer to copyrights, designs, patents or trademarks, so make sure you’re aware of the distinctions. The vast majority of companies will carry a logo, and thus a trademark; so learn how to register a mark and how to avoid trademark infringements. If your business relies on an invention or innovative product, patent protection is essential.

3. Employment regulations

If you’re going to be taking on staff, a knowledge of employment law is a must. Learn how to navigate discrimination law – especially the thorny issue of parental leave, how to handle disciplinary issues and how the changes to the Default Retirement age may affect your business.  Figuring out how much you should pay your staff not only ensures a well-renumerated workforce but means you won’t fall foul of National Minimum Wage regulations.  Finally, ensure your workplace is compliant with health and safety regulations. If you think you might benefit from some help from an HR consultant, take a look at our guide comparing potential HR outsourcing costs.

4. Digital regulations

Doing business online means dealing with a host of laws and regulations applying to the digital sphere. Read up on the Privacy and Electronic Communications Act to ensure you’re not penalised for sending unsolicited marketing emails, and make sure your software is properly licensed so you stay on the right side of the law.

5. Insurance

Understanding which types of business insurance you’ll need can be tricky, some are compulsory whilst others are just advisable – however you’ll certainly need some form of insurance, it’s the law.  Ensure you understand the necessary business insurance jargon so that you can feel confident talking to insurers about the right package for your small business.

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  1. Whether selling online or not, a presence on the internet is essential for all new businesses and there are a number of legal issues associate with this that often are overlooked.

    At the very least the name of the actual service provider must be stated. A catchy trading name is not sufficient. You can’t get away with an anonymous contact form, you must also provide an e-mail address, especially if you are involved in eCommerce. A physical address is also essential if this is the case. Apart from satisfying legal requirements this information instils greater confidence in the company for site visitors.

    The registered office address must be displayed for all companies and registration numbers of trade associations affiliated to in addition to a VAT registration number if appropriate.

    Clear and unambiguous in pricing is required. Whether or not prices are inclusive of tax and delivery costs should be stated to avoid confusion.

    Business communications through e-mails need also to include key company information.

    There are issues associated with the content of the website that need to be considered. For instance, it is not appropriate to simply download images found through search engines for use on websites without gaining permission from the owner unless the image is suitably licensed to allow for this.
    Care should be exercised in taking and using personal information whether from customers or newsletter subscribers. In certain circumstances, the Information Commissioner must be notified and you will be required to have robust systems in place to protect the data gathered.

    These are just some of the key legal issues that should be at the forefront of the mind of businesses setting out their store front online. Engaging a professional Web Designer is therefore essential. You may come unstuck if your decision is swayed purely on claims of high search engine ranking or you are dazzled by fancy animation.

    Sid Edwards