Introduction -forming a limited company (UK)
What is the process when setting up a limited company for contracting, and what does it cost to set this up? In addition, what is the process with regard to how to set up a limited company as a contractor? Key to note, there are various things to do when you are forming a limited company for future contracting. In this guide to setting up a limited company we will cover various initial limited company advice including how to set yourself up as a limited company contractor. We will also go over the steps involved in contractor company formation.
When you are setting up a limited company in the UK there is a government body that deals with this. The Registrar of Companies otherwise known as Companies House can be used when you are forming a company (UK). Therefore, if you are looking for a new company formation (UK), you or a third party will perform the company incorporation (UK) procedure via Companies House.
Companies House is the UK’s registrar of companies, and they are part of the UK government. When you register a limited company in the UK or indeed close one down, Companies House are the body that perform this process. What is more, the register also shows specific data about each UK limited company. The Companies House public register shows all of these details and is available for the public to view online.
First steps when you are setting up a UK limited company for contracting
When you are starting a limited company (first timer) and organise your UK contractor company formation for the first time, you may be moving from an employment role or from an umbrella company. Many sole traders also look to convert to a limited company once their business generates increased income and profits.
What does the formation of private limited company process involve? Notably, there are specific steps for you to follow when you form a limited company (UK). We will go over the process regarding starting a ltd company (UK) for future contracting step by step below. We have a guide that covers moving from an umbrella company to your own company, and it sets out what you need to consider when you go limited company contracting. There are also crucial differences to consider when you compare contracting to freelance in the UK, which is worth looking at.
As a contractor, when you register a new limited company for the first time, it would be a good idea to list your pre-trading expenditure. We have a first-timer’s guide to contracting in the UK, giving a complete overview of what to consider when you start your own contractor limited company.
If you are moving from an umbrella company to working through your own company, please read our article, which covers tax tips for limited company contractors.
How to set up a limited company as a contractor
The options available when forming a company
First, when you are setting up a new company on Companies House for future contracting you have two choices. These options for UK contractor company formation are:
- You can go ahead setting up a company for contracting online via the Companies House website, or
- One can complete form IN01 and post this on to Companies House.
A different method you can use when we consider how to set up a limited company as a contractor is to use a third party. This method when setting up a limited company in UK will help to save you some time. The choices here for UK company incorporation are your accountant or a formation agent.
When setting up a limited company for contracting (UK) and you decide to ask your accountant, what will they charge? Most will likely arrange your contractor company formation for free if you sign up for a monthly payment service. The amount you will pay will depend on what type of service you take out with them e.g., a full bookkeeping service or a digital platform type service.
When we check out how to set up a limited company as a contractor, if you use a formation agent, they will offer several formation packages. Besides your contractor company formation, they may also include VAT registration, use of a London address for your company registered office, setting up a company bank account for you and other options.
Companies House charges a fixed £12 fee if you undertake UK ltd formation online. On the other hand, the cost for forming a company is £40 if you do so through the post.
Forming a limited company (UK) -other initial thoughts
If your contractor accountant sets up your new UK registered company for you, they may charge you a one-off fee for this. Please note that they may also provide the UK company incorporation service for free if you agree to sign up with them as a new client.
When setting yourself up as a limited company, the same information will need providing to Companies House whoever does this, you or a third party. If you do this yourself and get partway through and then need advice on setting up a limited company you can either ask your accountant, Companies House or do research online.
When running your own company, it is good to know your company’s future filing due dates. It is also good to know what documents the company will need to file each year, e.g. the annual accounts and Confirmation statement etc.
When you look at how to set up a limited company as a contractor, something that you must do is choose the directors and shareholders for the business. As this will be your own company, you will likely be both. Also, when you become a director, you will have specific director duties to bear in mind from the outset.
The choices to make when forming a limited company for contracting
One of the first things to do when you decide on UK limited company formation for future contracting is your choice of a company name. What’s more, when we consider how to set yourself up as a contractor there are specific UK contractor company formation guidelines in respect of your new limited company name which you need to follow with regard to this:
- Your company name cannot be identical or similar to an existing company name.
- The choice of name should not simply be that your business is a connection of the Government or local authority.
- The name that you choose cannot be offensive.
- Certain punctuation symbols are not allowed.
- You must have the required permission to include certain sensitive words that relate to the government. These words include bank, Britain, chartered, king, queen, and many others. Here is a complete list of these.
When considering contracting company names there are various ways you can go about this. Choosing your company name is an important task therefor it is good to get this right from the outset.
Registered Office address
Every UK company must have an address where it can receive any official mail. This address is called the registered office. Many UK contractors will use their residential address; however, you may be able to use your accountant’s address, and many contractors will choose to do this. A further option open to you is to use a service provider.
Note: If you set up a company in England or Wales, the registered office must be within England or Wales. The same rule applies to Scottish or Northern Irish companies.
Officials of the company
As part of your contractor company formation, you may also decide to appoint a company secretary. Today, however, there is no legal requirement for small companies to have a company secretary.
When you apply to set up your company, you will need to have all of your officials’ details to hand. These details include the full names, addresses, nationalities, and dates of birth. If you have concerns about the privacy of your home address, you can elect to use a ‘service address’. By doing this, your residential address will not appear on the public record.
Every UK company has a trading activity. Therefore, as a limited company contractor, you will need to decide what best describes what you do. Companies House has a standard list of codes you can refer to when deciding which best summarises your business activity.
Each trade/industry has a unique SIC code to identify what a business does. Furthermore, section J of the SIC code list is likely to interest UK contractors the most. Please read our other article, which explains the SIC code with Companies House in more detail.
When setting up a limited company (UK), you will also need to decide on your company’s share structure. Therefore, you will need to choose:
- Who the shareholders will be.
- The number of shares in your company. Usually, most companies will set up with 100 shares. The shares will typically have a value of £1 or 1 pence each.
- How many shares each person will hold.
Please note that it is also possible to set up different classes of shares when you are forming a company.
As a shareholder in your own company, you could decide to own all of the shares yourself. A further option as part of your contractor company formation is that you could split the shares between you and your spouse. An additional option could be to bring in other people as shareholders.
In the future, your company may declare dividends. If it does, it must distribute and pay these in the same ratio as the shareholdings.
Most contractors who set up their own company either:
- Make themselves the sole shareholder; or
- Make themselves and their spouse the shareholders. You could also decide to pay your spouse a salary if they do some work for your company, e.g., admin-type tasks.
When considering your company’s share set-up, the best thing to do is to talk to your accountant.
Once you know your shareholders in your company, you will need to gather their information. These details will include their full name, address details, class of share, and the number of shares they will own.
Forming a limited company (UK) -registers and official documents
As part of forming a limited company, all companies in the UK must also now keep a record of all ‘People with Significant Control’ (PSC).
Therefore, when you go through contractor company formation, a PSC is someone who:
- Holds more than 25% of shares or voting rights in a company.
- Has the right to appoint or remove the majority of the board of directors, or
- Otherwise exercises significant influence or control.
After the initial set-up of your company, the PSC information will need updating via the annual Confirmation Statement. All companies need to submit this form to Companies House each year. As a result, this will keep the UK Companies House register up to date.
Certificate of Incorporation
After forming your UK company, you will receive the Companies House Certificate of Incorporation (UK). This is an important document, and you can view this as your company’s birth certificate. The document proves that your company exists, and you may need to provide this to third parties such as your company bankers and future clients.
Articles of Association
In the UK, all companies have a set of Articles. These, in turn, act as a rule book. The Articles will govern all aspects when you run your own company.
The articles include:
- Directors’ powers.
- Decision-making by shareholders.
- Voting rights.
- How the company will distribute dividends.
You can elect to use ‘model articles’ (this is a generic document), which should suffice in most cases.
When you are forming a company yourself, you may decide to create your own set of articles. If you opt to do this as part of your contractor company formation, you cannot set up your company online. Instead, you must use the postal method here (Form IN01).
Memorandum of Association
This agreement confirms the intention of initial subscribers to form a company in the first place. It will also have the following wording:
`each subscriber to this memorandum of association wishes to form a company under the Companies Act 2006 and agrees to become a member of the company and to take at least one share’.
A list of all of the subscribers will follow this wording.
The Memorandum and Articles of Association are two important documents. Therefore, you should store these in a safe place. In most instances, your accountant will usually look after these for you.
When you set up your company, Companies House will pass the new company details on to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). As a result, HMRC will issue your company with a Corporation Tax number, and you will use this number in the future when you file a company tax return.
What to do after forming a UK limited company for contracting
As a contractor who is setting up a limited company for contracting, there are other tasks to undertake too. Besides contractor company formation, when we look at how to become a contractor (UK) such tasks which you need to think about when you are forming a limited company will include:
- Set up your business bank account. You can do this in the branch or online via the bank website. Please note that it is now much easier to do this online nowadays.
- Make a list of your pre-trading expenditure.
- Choose an accountant for your business. It would help if you researched here to pick the best one for you. A good, experienced contractor accountant will help advise ways for you to operate tax efficiently and maximise your tax relief.
- Learn what details to show on your invoice and how to recharge expenses, if appropriate.
- Decide how you are going to keep your accounting and business records. Nowadays, most contractors use online accounting software, and a popular choice is FreeAgent. It is also good, from the outset, to know how you should maintain your business records and how long to store them.
- Consider taking out insurance for your business. You should consider Professional Indemnity insurance and perhaps other insurances too.
- Check if you need to register for VAT. As part of this, you will need to consider whether the VAT Flat Rate Scheme or standard VAT scheme is the best option for you -today, the standard scheme is the usual choice for contractors as they are better off using this. If you need to register, your accountant will be able to do this for you and help you file your quarterly VAT returns in the future.
Some other things to do after setting up a limited company for contracting are:
- Find out what are the legal and financial obligations of company directors.
- Learn what your company’s statutory records are and how to look after these. When you appoint an accountant, they will usually do this for you.
- Register for Corporation Tax within three months of carrying out some business through your company. Nowadays, when you set up your new company, Companies House will contact HMRC for you.
- If you will take a contractor salary in the future or have other employees such as your spouse, your company will need to register as a new employer with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). HMRC will then set up a PAYE scheme for your business. In most cases, your accountant will do this, and they will also look after any submissions to the tax office.
- If you like to be organised, a good start when you have your own company is to be aware of when the various filing dates are for the filing of documents and the payment of company and personal taxes.
- You might also decide to set up your business website to help promote your business.
Many contractors will use their accountant to undertake the contractor company formation process. This is usually the easiest option when you are setting up a contracting business. When undertaking the forming a limited company process, you may prefer them to do this or you could in fact perform this process yourself. As a final thought, the actual setting up a limited company for contracting process online takes between 15 and 30 minutes.
Finally, if you are considering closing your company for any reason, there is a particular process to follow.
Link to Contractor Advice UK group on