There are basically 3 possible structures:
1. Sole trader.
2. Partnerships including LLPs.
The majority of people start off as a sole trader. There is less paperwork, legal costs are lower and it is a much easier regime to work within. However there are usually two main drawbacks
1. The tax regime can be more punitive for sole traders compared to that which applies to a limited company. There are fewer opportunities to delay the taxing of profits. In a nutshell a limited company allows you to build up profits within a company which have been taxed at a lower rate. When you come to sell the company the gains can, if planned well, also be taxed at a lower or non existant rate.
2.The word “limited” means that the your liability if things go wrong is restricted. This of course won’t apply if you have given a personal guarantee but it means that there is a way to place your personal assets outside the reach of any business creditors.
A limited company will bring additional obligations.Each year you have a set of accounts to file and an annual return to make. You also have a second tax return, not just your own but one for the company as well. These and many more points can add maybe a £1000 or more to the costs of your business.
A partnership is like a sole trader but with a partner. You share liabilities and are equally responsible for the business debts.
So you have decided that you would like to be self employed as opposed to conducting your business through a company. Well this is what you now need to do.
1. Set up a business bank account.Longer term it is better not to mix up private and business expenses and income. This is better for your accountant and better when dealing with the tax man.You will need to keep the statements for 6 years.
2. You have to notify HMRC within 3 months of starting. If you fail to do this there is a £100 penalty.
3. Contact HMRC to register for national insurance and income tax. They will supply you with a 10 digit unique tax reference number (UTR).
4.Once you have a UTR you can then register to use the online service. As part of this process they will send you an activation code so you can complete the process.
5.If you expect your sales to be in excess of £79000 pa then you have to register for VAT.They will issue you with a VAT registration number and as for income tax you can administer this online.
6.You need to decide to what date you would like to complete your trading year. We recommend 31st March each year to coincide with the tax year. Technically it is the 5th April but the 5 day difference is ignored by HMRC in most cases.
7.You should budget for any income tax payable. This is due on 31st January in the tax year and 31st July after the tax year.These two payments are always estimates.The balance is paid 31st January the year after the tax year.This means each January you have two payments to budget for. Half of what you think you will need to pay this tax year plus any under/overpayment for the previous year.
One of the key decisions you will need to make for any new business is whether to operate as a sole trader or through a limited company. We will discuss the pros and cons of each in more detail separately but for this article we are going to look at what you need to do to set up a limited company.
Step 1. Incorporate a limited company. The usual route is to purchase an existing shell company, one which has been created just for this purpose and which has not yet traded.
You would then file a change of name ( assuming you didn’t want to keep the existing name ) as well as change of registered address,members and directors. Alternatively you can start from scratch and create the company from the ground upwards. Costs should be between £100 to £150 to have an accountant do this for you.
Step 2. Open a business bank account.It is much easier to separate your business and private affairs this way. Bank statements will need to be kept for 6 years.
Step 3.Companies house will notify HMRC on incorporation. You will be issued with a CT41G which basically asks what the business does, when did it start trading and who are the Directors.It will also provide you with a URN or unique reference number for all tax correspondence.
Step 4. You now need to register with HMRC to use their services online.Once they have received the application they will issue an activation code. Let your new tax advisor have this code so that he can notify HMRC that he will act for you. You will receive a second activation code which should be passed to your tax agent.
Step 5. VAT. If your sales are £79,000 or more then you must register. See here.
The rules are slightly more complex when you start to approach the limit so do check the reference or seek advice. If you are dealing mainly with VAT registered businesses then it might well be worth registering even though you are below the limit.
Step 6. Drawing money out. Hopefully you will make profits and generate funds to allow you to take money out either as a salary or as dividends. The salary route requires the operation of PAYE and you should register for a PAYE scheme. There is software available to simplify this.