How to register a company name in the UK

Ready to start a business? Follow these 8 steps to set up a limited company.

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

Registering a business name, also known as incorporation, is an important part of starting a new business.

If you’re a sole trader, registering a business name isn’t actually compulsory – unlike registering for self-assessment with HMRC. But if you’re launching a private limited company then you are legally required to register a business name.

There are benefits to doing so, such as paying less tax. You’ll also secure a name for your firm, which makes things easier if you want to apply for a trademark further down the line.

In 2021 there were 810,316 company incorporations. The vast majority register through Companies House, the UK’s official registrar of businesses. But the website comes with lots of industry jargon that can be difficult to interpret.

Thankfully, registering a business name is quick and easy once you know what’s involved.

Below, we’ve broken down the process into eight simple steps so you can submit a successful business name application and start your exciting journey to becoming a business owner.

1. Check that the company name you want isn’t already taken

Start by using the Company Name Availability Checker to make sure your ideal name isn’t taken or too similar to an existing company’s name.

Company formation company name availability checker

Then, click the link to register a ‘private limited company online’.

Your registered company name does not have to be the same as the name you trade with: the latter is known as your ‘business name’.

What can my company name not include?

You must not include the words Ltd, Limited, limited liability partnership, LLP, plc or public limited company if none of these are true.

Also: be wary of punctuation, special characters or words commonly used in UK company names, as well as of using sensitive words or terms that could be deemed offensive or suggest a connection with government or local authorities.

For example in order to use “Accredited” in your name you need permission from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

2. Decide on an official company address

If the company name you want is available (for now!) then you now need to register your company name to a UK postal address in order to have somewhere for official notifications to be sent.

Create an account (email address, name and password) on Companies House, and then you’ll be prompted to enter your chosen company name and address.

What should I use as my business address?

This address must be in the same country you registered your business in, e.g. if you registered in Wales, your address should be somewhere in Wales.

Your company address will be publicly available. If you want to keep your home address somewhat private/separate you may want to register your company with whoever will handle your company accounts and company tax (i.e. your accountant).

Some company formation agents offer mail forwarding to companies who would like to give the impression they are operating from an office space or non-residential area.

3. Choose a SIC code for your company

Next, you’ll need to choose a ‘business activity’ – that is, you’ll need to state what your business does by assigning a standard industrial classification of economic activities (SIC) code.

SIC code companies house register a business name

You’ll get a dropdown first of group headings (in which you can select, for example, 11xxx Manufacture of beverages), and then get a subsequent dropdown of trade descriptions.

You can add up to four SIC codes per company, and you can change them at a later date. Read more about what is a SIC code here.

4. Appoint a company director or directors

You’ll then need to appoint at least one company director. The director is the person who is legally responsible for running the business and ensuring that reports and company accounts are prepared.

The director must be aged 16 or over and cannot be disqualified from being a director.

Each director must have two addresses associated with them:

  1. A publicly available official service address
  2. A residential address which will not appear on the public record.

If the service address is the same as the company address, you’ll need to add an alternative residential address.

Finally you’ll need to confirm that the person named has agreed to act as a director by attaching a letter of consent to your application form.

5. Outline your proposed company share structure

Limited companies are made up of shares and you will need to provide information about these shares when registering your company; this is known as a ‘statement of capital’.

Company formation share capital

Within this you should include the number of shares of each type the company has (there are nine types, or class, of share to choose from) and their total value (and in what currency).

For example, if your company is made up of 100 ordinary shares and you’ve decided their nominal value is £1, then the aggregate nominal value will be £100.

There is no maximum amount of shares and you can apply any value to an individual share, as well as noting the specific rights each share has (e.g. full rights in the company with respect to voting, dividends and distributions).

Once you’ve determined the aggregate nominal value i.e the initial value of the company), you’ll have to confirm if there is any money left unpaid to the company for this nominal value (if no amount is left unpaid, enter zero).

6. Choose your company shareholders or Persons of Significant Control

Since limited companies are made up of shares, you must have at least one shareholder, or ‘subscriber’. If you are the only one who owns shares in the company, then you own 100% of the company.

Company formation persons of significant control

You will need to add an address for each subscriber that appears on the public record, plus any three security details to act as an online signature (such as your mother’s maiden name or the first three letters of your eye colour).

If a subscriber holds more than 25% of the shares in the company, they must also (since 2016) be listed as a Person with Significant Control (you’ll need to fill out their name and service address again).

Most companies will have at least one person with significant control or influence over the company, and you’ll need to select the nature of that control, for example ownership of shares, voting rights and/or the right to appoint or remove the majority of the board of directors.

As with step four, you’ll need to confirm that each subscriber knows that their details are being supplied as part of this company formation.

7. Sign a statement of compliance

As company formation is a legal exercise, you will need to confirm the requirements of the Companies Act as to registration have been adhered to, and that you have viewed and accepted the Memorandum of Association relating to the rules of running a business.

Don’t worry – this step is as simple as ticking a few boxes.

8. Pay a company formation fee

Unfortunately, nothing comes free in this world. As a final step, you’ll be charged £12 by Companies House to register a company online.

Don’t forget that once you’ve completed your company registration, you’ll also need to:

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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