Any company from overseas – with the exception of partnerships and unincorporated bodies – looking to do business based in the UK must register their details with Companies House. Even if you don’t have a base here, but are developing property or land in the UK, then you’ll still have to register your interests, this time with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) rather than Companies House, in order to register for Corporation (Business) Tax.

HMRC actually defines a ‘place of business’ as a type of physical presence in the UK i.e.  “anywhere that a company regularly conducts business or premises that indicate that a company may be contacted there”.

How to register

Registering your business interests in the UK is fairly straightforward. Fill in form OS IN01 and send to Companies House. This must be done within one month of your business opening. A cheque or postal order for £20 should accompany the form.

If it’s the first time you’ve registered, then you must also send in a certified copy of your company’s constitutional documents. This includes the charter, statute, memorandum and articles of association – with a certified translation in English if the original is produced in a foreign language.

You should also attach a copy of the company’s most recent accounts – with a certified translation in English. Accounting needs differ depending on if your company was registered in a European Economic Area (EEA) or non-EEA state.

If registering a further UK establishment of an overseas company, you should complete and submit to Companies House form OS IN01. Write in the return that you’ve already sent the constitutional documents and recent accounts in respect of another company, giving the registration number for it.

Benefits of registering

It looks better as a business if you are registered. Not being registered can give the impression you are a very small company and a ‘one-man band.’ Even if you are – it still looks much better if you are VAT registered.

You can claim back VAT pre-registration costs for equipment or stock bought for your business four years earlier and up to the current date. You must still be using (or have) those items and they must be included in the account’s balance sheet. For services, you can only claim back for up to six months.

UK VAT registration

This is reported, and paid for, in a quarterly fashion in the UK. It’s a case of sending in your returns quarterly online by registering via the Government Gateway site. Alternatively, you can get an accountant to fill these in).

There are currently three rates of VAT in the UK. These are:

  • Standard rate of 20 per cent
  • Reduced rate of 5 per cent
  • Exempt rate of 0 per cent