What is the company Annual Return (AR01 Form)?

What is the company Annual Return (AR01 Form)?

What is the Annual Return (AR01)?

 

Filing the annual return is a legal requirement in the UK.

If you are running a company in the UK, you must operate in accordance with the applicable legislation (e.g. Companies Act 2006). There are certain statutory annual requirements that you should comply with including:

  • Filing Annual Returns
  • Self-Assessment Tax Returns
  • Annual Accounts
  • Pay as you Earn (PAYE)
  • Corporation Tax
  • Quarterly VAT Returns

 

Of interest to this article is the annual return (AR01 form, part 24 of the Companies Act 2006).

Notably, from 30th June 2016, the name changed from annual returns to a confirmation statement. Nevertheless, there is no much change in substance. The phrase “annual return” is still widely used (so we will use both terms in this article).

 

The Meaning of Annual Return

 

An annual return is a statement that you file at the Companies House to confirm that the information that they hold about your company is correct.

You must file annual returns at least once every 12 months.

Failing to file the confirmation statement while your company is in operation is a criminal offense and entails serious consequences. So, if you fail to file the confirmation statement within the stipulated time, you may face one of the following actions depending on the case circumstances:

  1. Removal from the position of director of the company;
  2. Prosecution (if you fail to file a confirmation statement at all);
  3. Companies House may strike the company off the register of companies assuming that your company isn’t carrying on business or in operation. If this happens then your company will cease to exist and all its assets will become Crown property.

 

Filing Annual Return/Confirmation Statement

 

Confirmation Statements (Annual Return) should be filed online through the Companies House web filing service or by paper form which may be sent by post. In either case, you will need to fill form CS01 (previously form AR01).

However, the amount of fees is different; you will pay £40 if you file your company’s confirmation statement on paper and £13 if you file electronically. Most people prefer filing the confirmation statements through the online portal. You should note that you cannot use paper form to file confirmation statement for your company if:

  • The company is in the protected online filing scheme (PROOF)
  • You need to file form 363

 

Details that Must be Provided in a Confirmation Statement (Annual Return)

 

  • Company name and number
  • Registered office address
  • Made-up date of the return – date at which all information must be correct
  • Alternative inspection location (SAIL address), if you use one
  • Officers (directors and company secretary)
  • Persons with significant control (PSCs)

 

Responsibility for Filing Annual Return/Confirmation Statements

 

The legal responsibility for filing the confirmation statement (annual return) of a company lies with the directors. If you have a company secretary, you may delegate the responsibility to him or her but always have in mind that you are ultimately liable.

You must ensure that you file at least one confirmation statement every 12 months. However, you may file as many confirmation statements as you wish within the 12 months so long as you give an interval of 24 hours between any two consecutive confirmation statements. If you have just registered your company, you will have to wait for at least 48 hours before filing its first confirmation statement.

Although you are not required to pay more than once in a year even where you opt to file several confirmation statements, companies rarely file more than the mandatory one confirmation statement in a year-probably in the interest of time.

 

The Importance of the Annual Return/Confirmation Statement

 

While filing a confirmation statement is a statutory requirement, it is not meant to merely increase your responsibilities as a director. It serves several important functions including:

  • Keeping your company’s information on the official register up to date;
  • Improving the quality of information on the official register;
  • The fees paid when filing confirmation statements is an important source of revenue for the Companies House which needs money to maintain the register and to offer other services;

 

How does a Confirmation Statement (CS01 Form) Differ from an Annual Return (AR01 Form)

 

As noted above, confirmation statements replaced annual returns. This change took effect on 30th June 2016.

While there is no much difference, the following are worth noting:

Previously, the requirement was to include a full list of shareholders every three years. This is no longer a requirement with the confirmation statement. As a result, you avail the information to the Companies House whenever you want to ensure that your information is up to date and correct.

Moreover, now instead of having to provide a snapshot of your company data annually, you are only required to check and confirm that the information held by the Companies House is accurate and up to date. With the annual return, you were required to file within 28 days from the anniversary of the incorporation of your company. This period is now 14 days.

Finally, there is the introduction of the requirement to provide a list of people with significant control (PSC) at the time of filing your first confirmation statement.

For the official information on confirmation statements, click here.

 

Related: How to Change from Sole Trader to Limited Company?

 

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Changing From Sole Trader to Limited Company

Changing From Sole Trader to Limited Company

Thinking of Changing From Sole Trader to Limited Company?

 

If you are running your business as a sole trader at some point you may start thinking of changing from Sole Trader to Limited Company.

This is quite common practice. Many businesses start with carrying on their business activities as sole traders. Then some of them change from sole trader to limited company.

This shift usually occurs when a business outgrows the sole trader business structure.

There may be certain reasons for you to think about changing your business structure. They may and may not be sufficient to actually start the process.

Thus, when deciding on such important things as changing the legal structure every business owner must lean on solid facts only and not his personal perceptions. Your ultimate purpose is to derive the greatest benefit for your business from every change you make.

 

Below are the most common reasons to change from Sole Trader to Limited Company:

 

  • Limited Company Formation Process is quick and affordable. Usually you get your new company up and running in 3 hours only.
  • Limited Company structure can help you to save tax.
  • Limited Company is a separate legal entity. It limits the liability of shareholders and directors. This means that your liability as a shareholder for any debts incurred by the company is limited to your shares in that company. Your personal assets cannot be seized to pay company debts.
  • Being a company positively impacts your image in the eyes of your customers, suppliers, partners and basically everyone else. People tend to have more faith in a business if it is a registered company.
  • Legal and financial mechanisms are easily accessible for Limited Companies to get investment and raise capital.
  • It is far easier to expand your business being a company rather than being a sole trader.
  • Your business name will be automatically registered together with your company.

 

Important things to keep in mind:

 

  • You and your limited company are not the same thing/person from a legal perspective.
  • You’ll need to open a new bank account for your limited company.
  • Limited company means more paperwork (but that shouldn’t be a problem as long as you are going big, right?).
  • Company funds are not considered to be your own funds unless they’ve been paid to you in the form of dividends.
  • If you will appoint yourself as a company director you will have certain legal duties to fulfil. For example, you will have to manage your company’s resources and finances.
  • Limited company records (e.g. registered address, directors, etc.) are in the public domain and available for everyone to see. This means less privacy for you.

Obviously, there are some pros and cons of changing from Sole Trader to Limited Company. The good news is that they are pretty straightforward.

In essence, the most important differences are: limited liability (this is actually the nature of Limited Company – the reason why this legal structure actually exists. With a limited company you have a limited liability protection) and access to investment/capital raising mechanisms.

If these reasons coincide with your situation, then you can start with the changing process.

 

Changing from Sole Trader to Limited Company – the step-by-step process:

 

Step 1: Form your limited company

Step 2: Notify HMRC that you have stopped self-employment as a sole trader. (You may use this link for that).

Step 3: If you are registered for VAT, you must notify HMRC within 30 days of the change. Otherwise, you will get a penalty. You can either cancel your VAT and then register a new one or transfer your current VAT registration. You can complete this step using this link or fill in and send this form to HMRC by ordinary post.

Step 4: In case you employ people, you will also need to notify HMRC about the change.

Step 5: Complete your final tax returns as a sole trader.

Step 6: Within 3 months of starting to trade through your company, you must register with HMRC for Corporation Tax. You can do this online.

Step 7: Inform all of your existing customers, suppliers, lenders, service providers and employees that you are going to start trading as a limited company.

Step 8: Update your website, terms and conditions and business stationery with your new details.

Step 9: Leverage the limited company advantages for the benefit of your business (after all you’ve changed from sole trader to a limited company for a good reason, right?).

 

Notes:

This article outlines the process of changing from Sole Trader to Limited Company in the UK. However, this is almost the same or very similar in other countries including Ireland and U.S.
** This article does not constitute a legal or accounting advice and is provided for general information purposes only. For a qualified advice please refer to the certified lawyer or accountant.

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How to choose a great name for your new business/startup?

How to choose a great name for your new business/startup?

Name selection for your new business is an important and crucial process. This decision will influence your business throughout its entire lifetime.

It may sound easy, though. What a big deal in the end? You just starting out and any name will be good for now, right?

Well, not really.

As a beginner, you need to make use of every single opportunity to raise your chances to succeed.

Your business name is an another opportunity for you to get maximum out of it. Many people underestimate the importance of effective and “working” business name. They often do not believe that the business name, unless it is obviously abortive, can have a significant effect on their business results.

However, this is not true.

Business name is vital for success. It has an impact on your business identity, the first impression your customers get, your marketing, SEO and even legal stuff. Needless to say that these are serious things and you certainly do not what to mess them up.

Large corporations and big companies employ the naming agencies and spend significant amounts for their name selection.

Investing in your company name prior to business operations will save you money and time in a long run. Therefore, we recommend to take time and find the name that best suits your business.

So what would be a perfect name for your new business/startup?

Although there is no official set of rules that will help you come up with the exact name you need to use, there are certain things that you need to take into consideration.

Perform a Research

First, start with a thorough research. Identify your market and target audience. Your market primarily defines the requirements for your business name. If you have ready marketing strategy refer to it.

Do you aim to target teenagers, young moms or businesses? Those categories are significantly different. Do you need a business name that conveys credibility and quality? Maybe fun or creativity?  Or maybe you need the combination of two or three?

Your research will help you to outline the message your business name needs to communicate.

When you have the clear picture stick to it and make sure that the chosen name suits your market and is not extrinsic.

Brainstorm

As soon as you’ve done your research and have the idea of what you need start brainstorming. Often many forget about the power of brainstorming. You never know what brainstorming will bring you. It is quite possible that you’ll end up with “Aha!” effect having a number of amazing business names.

So, brainstorm the potential business names and make a long list. After your long list is ready start filtering it to create a short list based on the principles listed below.

Stand out

It is a good decision to choose a company name that will help you stand out from the crowd and will highlight your uniqueness. Consider your potential customers browsing through the directories. Your company name stickiness will often be decisive here.

Additionally, with a unique name it is easy to get remembered by customers and have repeated sales with them. If your name is sticky then there are chances that the customers will recall you and not your competitors when they need your service or product next time.

However, do not choose names that are too uncommon and apparently unclear. There is a level of uniqueness from which it starts to work against you as people simply do not understand your message or they experience troubles with reading and pronouncing it.

Keep it simple and short

Short and sweet names have always been an excellent choice. They are sharp and easy to remember. Experts reaffirm that company names that are shorter are much better. So, if possible, try to avoid names with more than one word. Use two to three syllables and avoid the use of special characters. It Is also a good idea to avoid abbreviations that don’t mean anything to other people.

Avoid Names that are hard to spell or pronounce

The next step is to find a name that is easy to pronounce. Using fancy foreign words that are difficult to pronounce should be avoided. People misspell unknown words and this is what you do not want to happen to your business name.

You may come up with such names while trying to stand out as per our advice above. That kind of names definitely stand out but for this reason, they also may be hard to spell or pronounce. So, you need to find your middle way here.

Foreign words (Italian or French for example) may be adorable and sound just beautiful, but do not let the temptation affect your neutrality. The mere fact that you like it does not make it effective as you are likely to be biased. You may be in love with uncommon foreign names, but keep your business objectives in mind and stay focused. Those names usually are not catchy without a prior knowledge of their meaning.

Choose a name that will stand first in alphabetical orders

This is actually one of the reasons why Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak chose Apple as a name for their new company.

Many online and offline directories, phone books and other business databases divide companies alphabetically. Therefore, naming your company with a letter at the beginning of the alphabet will help you to be at the top of the list (leaving behind your competitors) at no extra cost.  This free advantage combined with the stickiness of your business name will leverage the power of business directories for your benefit.

Your name shall tell what you do

It is good if your business name actually tells what you do. This way it conveys the immediate and clear message of the nature of your service or product so you do not need to go into explanations or whatever. For example, many hair studios use salon in their names and therefore everybody knows what is their business about.

Avoid restrictive names

Your business name must have a potential to improve your image. The most important thing is to be sure how you want to be perceived by the market. This might seem like an easy task, but it isn’t.

Many people make the same mistake and choose names that are too restricting. When we say this we mean names that cannot be used in case you decide to expand your company in the future. A good business plan must include a strategy for growth and expansion and using a company name that sets limitations is not a smart choice.

For instance, if you choose a name like “Cotton Shirts”, you will find it difficult to include sweaters, hoodies, dresses and other things that are usually associated with shirts in your offer.

Or another example of a restrictive name is when it includes a specific geographical area. It will be hard for you to expand your business in London if your company name is “Birmingham Real Estates”. Many current global companies struggled from geographically limited business names and were forced to de-emphasize its regional nature. A great example is Kentucky Fried Chicken which is now KFC.

Use online tools

There are amazing online tools for the name selection out there. Try them to save your time and get better results. Play a bit with the names from your long list to find creative combinations. Here are some useful links for you to start off:

http://www.rhymezone.com/

http://www.rhymer.com/naming.html

Your business name should be available

If you have a great idea on how to name your business it does not automatically mean that it is available. There are few places you need to check your business name for availability:

> Trademark

What is important when you are selecting your business name is to be proactive and sort out trademark issues beforehand. It is very likely that you can come up with an amazing name or even start to use it successfully but one day you’ll find out that it has been trademarked by another entity. This is highly unpleasant experience and might end up being fatal to your business.

So, it is of the highest importance to check whether the name you have chosen has been trademarked or not. Luckily, it can be done easily online in most countries. If this is not the case with your country, then check it with your local Trademark Office.

In case, your business name is available then it is recommended to register it as your own trademark and carry on your business activities in a risk-free manner.  For this, you need a spare budget to pay for registration fees or even hire a lawyer (if needed).

Trademark registration mainly depends on your individual circumstances. Compare time and cost of registration versus risks and then decide if you really need a trademark.

Many people do not register their trademarks until it is unavoidable. And they are fine. It is your decision and you take it on your own risk.

To make a long story short, it is highly recommended to register your business name as a trademark together with logo and any other intellectual property. This will save you time and money in a long run.

> Domain Name

Another big and important concern can be your domain name.

As you are probably aware, online presence is a must for every business/startup today.

So, when you are choosing a name for your company, you should take the name of your website (your domain) into consideration. The best scenario it is when your business name matches your domain name.

However, there are literally millions of active websites out there and it is likely that the name you have on your mind is already taken. That’s why you should check whether the name is still available. So, make sure you arrange it in time.

Go to our search page and search for your potential business names. When you decide with your business name buy your domain name immediately. You never know who is currently searching for the same name among billions of internet users and how long it is going to be available. Domain names are very cost-effective at Mill, so there is no excuse for not having one (prices start from as low as $3.99 per year!).

Depending on the purpose and goals of your business/startup you may find top level domains different than .COM. Those sometimes are more attractive and they are usually more available.

Our search system includes tons of different top level domains, so just go and see what is there for you.

Create a ranking table

As a final step, we recommend using our ranking table to choose the best name for your business.

Take all the criteria listed in this article and create the points-based ranking table. Give points to short-listed names based on criteria and find the winner(s).

Find below free Google Doc with ready-made ranking table template.

Mill For Business - Name Ranking Table

BONUS TIP!

As a bonus tip, we recommend you to split your whole selection process into four simple steps:

  • First set criteria using this article

  • Brainstorm and create a long-list of potential business names

  • Filter names according to criteria and short-list them

  • Choose an amazing Business Name

As you can see, the name selection process requires some research and time, but in the end, you will know that your business has a unique name that will make you visible on the market and eventually bring you excellent outcomes.

Additionally, you can also check the availability of your UK company name in our Company Formation System. It is super quick, so you will have your results in seconds.

 

Further Reading: Top Recycling Business Ideas – Best Green Opportunities For Entrepreneurs

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