UK Do I have to "register" a business name to do business under a name?
June 28, 2013 1:55 AM   Subscribe

I'm in London UK and I'm working for as an independent consultant for some businesses in the UK and Overseas (non EU). Currently I'm trading under my given name but I'm wondering if I can just start using a business name instead. just for the appearance of more "professionalism". Can I just start using "XYZ Consulting" as my business name on contracts and invoices etc? Or do I have to do I have to register something. I"m not that fussed about limited liability etc.

I have registered as Self-Employed with HMRC a few months ago (although have not yet received any confirmation / correspondence from them regarding that, which is a bit weird). I don't remember if there was something on those forms about using a different trading name.
posted by mary8nne to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No. But you might want to register as a limited company so that you have limited liability. It's cheap and doesn't take very long.

Even if you aren't bothered about limited liability, it's worth doing because there are certain bigger companies who won't deal with consultants that don't have a registered company number.
posted by tommorris at 3:13 AM on June 28, 2013

From the website

Naming your business

You can use your own name or trade under a business name. There are rules on using a business name. For example, you can’t:

- use the terms ‘Limited,’ ‘Ltd’, ‘public limited company,’ ‘plc,’ ‘limited liability partnership,’ ‘LLP’ or their Welsh equivalents
- use sensitive words or expressions unless you have permission
- suggest a connection with government or local authorities
- use a name that is too similar to a registered trademark or an existing business in the same area or sector
- be offensive

You must include your own name and business name (if you have one) on any official paperwork, like invoices and letters.

The bottom one is the one you've got to remember - invoice in your own name.

From my wife's experience, the 'own name' thing occasionally confuses the less attentive accounts department, so make it abundantly clear on your invoice that it's payable to you and not your business name.

From my experience, incorporating as a company adds credibility in some (not all) people's eyes but makes my accountancy fees rather higher. If you're a one man company I'm not sure how protective the limited liability thing is in the end. Better to just have the right professional indemnity insurance if you think you need it.
posted by dowcrag at 3:21 AM on June 28, 2013

Sorry, when I said 'invoice in your own name' I meant include it clearly on your invoice, which can also include your trading name. And then in the payment instructions bit at the bottom make sure you're explicit about cheques, drafts etc. being payable to your name.
posted by dowcrag at 3:22 AM on June 28, 2013

The main problem i have right now trading under my own name is that some foreign countries force me to apply for a "Temporary Work Permit" type visa because they feel that if i'm not working for a company in the UK then these clients are my Employer.

So I"m not sure how that would go If I just put down under Employer on the Visa Application "XYZ Consulting".

I currently have a few different clients that I do consulting for so I'm not really an employee of these firms. So I do feel that the Temporary Work Permit is a hassle I should be able to avoid. And 90% of the work is actually performed remotely in the UK.
posted by mary8nne at 5:54 AM on June 28, 2013

oh it is cheap to register a Private Limited Company: 15 quid online.

but what does that change for HMRC tax filing? It seems that it would make it much more difficult to deal with all that.
posted by mary8nne at 6:03 AM on June 28, 2013

You can trade under whatever name you like within the guidelines give by dowcrag. But you have to indicate that this is the trading name of you, an individual. One way to do this is to put something like "XYZ Consulting is a trading name of mary8nne" in the footer at the bottom of your invoices and letters. A limited company is similarly empowered and constrained: if it uses a trading name different from its registered company name, then it must indicate this: e.g. "XYZ Consulting is a trading name of mary8nne Limited"

However, strictly speaking you can't, as an individual using a trading name, claim you are "employed" by an entity with that trading name. Because you aren't. You are still a self-employed individual. If you want to be employed, open a company and appoint yourself director. You will have to file your company tax returns separately from your self-employment tax returns. So, if you continue to be both self-employed and active through your new company, then you will have to file two sets of tax returns.
posted by londongeezer at 9:02 AM on June 28, 2013

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