How to register a business name in the UK

Congratulations, you’ve decided to start a business! Now you’re asking yourself, “how do I register my business name”? No worries, we’ve got your back with a quick guide to doing exactly that!

Jump to a section or read on to take it all in:

  1. Limited company
  2. Limited liability partnership (LLP)
  3. Sole trader
  4. Business partnership
  5. Overseas company

Registering your limited company or LLP

If you’d like to set up a limited company or LLP, you’ll need to register with Companies House, the UK’s registrar of companies. Before you get started you should check that:

  • your proposed company name is available - it’s easy to find out with the Companies House name availability checker
  • the business name doesn’t contain any of the sensitive words or expressions outlined in government guidance documents
  • you’ve kept your business name consistent in your application and supporting documentation
  • you’ve registered your business name as a trademark to prevent others from trading under your name

Once you’ve checked off the above list, you’ll be in a good position to register your business name with Companies House.

How much does it cost?

The cost of registering a business name depends on which method you choose to send your application:

Registration method Cost Time to register
Online From £12 24 hours
Online before 3pm From £12 with £100 fee Same day
Post £40 8-10 days

Registering your sole trader business

Are you a sole trader? If that’s the case, then you don’t need to register with Companies House. Instead you should register with HMRC to let them know they should expect an annual Self Assessment tax return from you.

It’s possible to trade under your own name or to choose an alternative name for your sole trader business; however, sole trader names must not:

  • include ‘limited’, ‘Ltd’, ‘limited liability partnership’, ‘LLP’, ‘public limited company’ or ‘plc’
  • be offensive
  • contain a ‘sensitive’ word or expression or suggest a connection with government or local authorities, unless permitted to do so
  • be the same as an existing trademark

Registering your business partnership

If you’re registering a business partnership name, then you and your partner (or partners) must share responsibility for the business. With a business partnership you need to:

  • name your partnership according to government rules e.g. not including a ‘sensitive word
  • assign a ‘nominated partner’ (responsible for managing the partnership’s tax returns)
  • share profits between partners

If you’re the nominated partner then you’re responsible for sending the partnership’s tax return and you must register the partnership for Self Assessment with HMRC. All partners need to send their own tax returns as individuals.

You can register your partnership online, or alternatively you can print SA400 and fill in by hand. To register as a partner, fill out form SA401.

When filling out official paperwork for a partnership, it’s important to include all the partners’ names.

Registering as an overseas company in the UK

Expanding your business to the UK? Any company that wants to conduct business from a UK address needs to register with Companies House.

Once you’ve registered your business name, why not sign up for a 30-day free trial with FreeAgent? Our award-winning accounting software has everything you’ll need to help you keep your business finances on the right track.

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Disclaimer:The content included in this guide is based on our understanding of tax law at the time of publication. It may be subject to change and may not be applicable to your circumstances, so should not be relied upon. You are responsible for complying with tax law and should seek independent advice if you require further information about the content included in this guide. If you don't have an accountant, take a look at our directory to find a FreeAgent Practice Partner based in your local area.