Home Business Insights & Advice London life: What every non-UK business owner needs to know

London life: What every non-UK business owner needs to know

by Sarah Dunsby
25th Apr 23 3:34 pm

London is the epicentre of global trade. The whole world comes to the city to trade goods and services, and there are more international banks in the City of London than there are on Manhattan Island in New York. It is the perfect place to set up shop and start trading, whether locally or internationally. Foreign nationals are welcome to begin trading here too, but there are some things they need to know before you start operating. Do not fall foul of UK tax laws or the requirements of Companies House and follow this guide to get yourself set up for business in the United Kingdom.

Get set up for international finance

More money, more problems so the saying goes. If you are a foreign national setting up shop in London or elsewhere in the UK, making payments and collecting profits can generate a few unique problems if you are not prepared for them. You may have financial resources off-shore, or you may need to move your profits from one UK based account to another located in Europe, America, or Asia. Your business needs reliable financial facilities that will help you send money to where it is needed quickly and easily.

Getting set up with Silverbird can help you when you are converting currency or assist you in getting a UK multi currency account that will make moving money to and from the United Kingdom easy. They specialise in borderless payments for global businesses, and there are no transaction limits. Small businesses and global conglomerates and every scale of company in between all need the ability to move money around the world to where it needs to be. Make life easy with Silverbird.

Get registered

Anyone can register a business in the UK no matter where they live or what passport they have. The UK welcomes businesses from around the world with open arms and aims to make operating a business on its shores easy for everyone. The most important step is registering your company in the United Kingdom so that you can access the support you need and stay inside the boundaries of business law. You will require a UK based address, however.

This can be your home address if you are currently residing in the UK, a friend or family member’s address, or even a virtual office address. If you are renting a property in the UK or London, you can use that too. Forming your business and registering it in London is required to pay taxes to HMRC. It is not all bad news though, as this also gives you the opportunity to apply for financial support or tax incentives that can help you get your business started in the first year.

Learn about VISAs

You do not have to be a UK resident to start a business here, but you do need a VISA to work here yourself. It is possible to operate a successful company from off-shore, but if you intend to work at your company’s premises or within the United Kingdom you will have to apply for and obtain a VISA. Since Brexit, even EU citizens need to apply for permission to work in the UK. Though your business may be registered in your name, you will still need a valid VISA to work at your company’s UK premises.

If you start your business while residing in a foreign nation you can still trade through that business from off-shore without having to apply for a VISA. You can hire people with a right to work in the UK, such as British nationals or foreign workers with a valid VISA, and they can complete tasks for you while you reside elsewhere. Business owners can still take a salary from business revenue without a VISA, but they will still have to pay appropriate business taxes on the revenue before they can make a payment to themselves.

There is help available

Registering a business in the United Kingdom is fairly straightforward, but making a simple mistake in the early stages can have repercussions on the business for years to come. It is a good idea to get some help from a British national, ideally someone with experience in setting up companies, to make sure you start off on the right footing. Starting up a business in the UK requires registering and liaising with numerous organisations and government entities, and it will be easier to do for someone who is a UK resident.

Company Formation Agents can be worth their weight in gold for a foreign national setting up shop in the UK. They can begin the process for you, and have a wealth of experience in registering companies, working with the government, and making sure that all regulations are adhered to. There are financial penalties for mistakes and errors in applications, and they can slow down your progress which can cost you more money. Hiring help from an experienced formation agent can save you money in the long run.

Get to know UK tax laws

There are two things in life that are assured; death and taxes. Even if you are a non-UK resident your business is still required to pay taxes in the UK, and not just on your profits. If you employ people within the United Kingdom you will have to pay income tax and National Insurance contributions on their wages unless they are freelance. Your business may also be required to make contributions to their pension funds if they have them or opt in to NEST, the UK government backed savings scheme.

If you are operating your business from abroad your personal income will not be taxed in the UK, but any dividends you take from the business as a director will be subject to taxes depending on which country you reside in. Your income through dividends may also be taxed by the country you reside in. There are tax treaties in place between the UK and various countries, so you should investigate this carefully before you start to take money from your UK based enterprise.

Decide how to trade

There are many different types of companies you can form in the UK even as a foreign national. Sole Trading is one of the most popular business formations to operate and manage, but it is difficult to do without residing in the UK. It may be more advantageous to you to form a limited company, either public or private. Limited companies offer better protection if something goes wrong and the business becomes insolvent or bankrupt as personal assets will not be used to repay debtors if the company folds.

A Company Formation Agent can help you to decide which is the right business formation for your needs, and ensure that you make the right type of registration with Companies House. Getting the foundations of your new business right will be a crucial element of your success when operating in the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom is one of the best places in the world to do business no matter where you reside. Getting set up is easy, but you need to ensure you meet all the requirements and regulations of the UK Government and take steps to limit your liability and exposure to local taxes.

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