Should I buy a business address service for my UK company?

Every UK company needs a registered address based in the UK, and individual company directors must each also provide a service address to Companies House. However, many people will not have an address they can – or want to – use for these purposes, particularly as the address is displayed on the public record.

A business address service, commonly offered by company formation agents and company secretarial firms, is a popular option that may people choose to purchase.

Often involving a London address, here’s how it works:

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  1. You purchase an address service, typically online and for a year in advance.
  2. As part of the application process, you’ll need to satisfy the business address service provider’s anti-money laundering checks.
  3. It’s the address you purchase which is placed on the public record as the official address for the company and/or individual director.
  4. Official (and other) mail will be sent to the address you’ve purchased.
  5. The service provider will forward official (and, depending what you’ve purchased, some other) mail to you at an alternative address of your choosing, or it will be scanned and emailed to you.
  6. Typically, the service will be renewable each year, although quarterly options are available.

Why do companies buy business address services?

Here’s just 10 reasons why many limited companies (or individual officers of a company) choose to buy a business address service:

1 Avoid public disclosure of your residential address

If you’re operating your business from home, it allows you to avoid public disclosure of your residential address. As the registered office address of a company (and the service address of directors) is shown on the public register, you’d have to publicly disclose your personal address unless you purchase a registered address service – or have another address you can use for this purpose. Most people would prefer to keep their personal address private.

2 Prevent unwanted visitors

A special case is where the company undertakes sensitive work or individual directors are involved in sensitive occupations. A company involved in political work or controversial activities – such as animal testing – may be the subject of protests. In that case, the directors will be particularly keen not to disclose their home address on the public record.

Even for an uncontroversial business, it helps to protect you and your family from intrusion. Nobody wants unwanted visitors – be they disgruntled clients or business creditors – arriving at their home.

3 Reducing junk mail

Because the company’s registered address and each director’s service address is on the public register, these addresses will typically receive a lot of unsolicited marketing mail. Marketers will often target the addresses of new and existing companies with advertising. While they might see this as promoting useful services, to those receiving this mail – particularly when there’s a lot of it to wade through to find genuine business mail – it will usually be an unwanted distraction. A business address service, especially one where only official mail and not “spam” is forwarded on, can therefore help those running a company save time and avoid the frustration of handling junk mail.

4 Prestige

A prestigious address – often a central London address – can lend your business a sense of status. To some customers and suppliers, a London address could increase confidence in your brand and therefore help boost your business.

5 Non-UK resident business owners

A company’s registered office address must be in the UK. For those who live outside the UK but are looking to form a UK company, they’ll need to have an address in the UK for this purpose. Again, a London address is a particularly popular option.

6 To present an office presence if you don’t have one

You might not be able to afford an office of your own – or just not want the extra hassle of maintaining somewhere. But you still may want it to appear to your customers that you have a physical presence, somewhere physically dedicated to the business. A virtual office address, particularly coupled with a telephone answering service, can help to support this impression.

7 Privacy

Even if you have a business address, you might not want your own personal mail – addressed to you as a director of the company – being sent there, especially if all post is opened centrally. If you prefer to keep your official correspondence private from others in the business, you may prefer to have it sent to an alternative address.

8 If you’re often away from home

If you spend a lot of time away from where you live, it may be easier to use a business address service so you can be confident official mail will be dealt with promptly rather than sitting at an address you won’t immediately access. Depending on your needs, you could arrange for mail to be forwarded to you at another address or scanned and emailed to you.

9 Avoiding disruption if you plan to move

If you know you’ll be changing your address in the near future, a business address service can provide some continuity. Otherwise, you’ll have more work to do to tell the people you do business with about the change of address, arrange for mail to be forwarded and company stationery to be updated.

10 Restrictive rental contracts

Many rental contracts don’t allow the property to be used as a company’s registered office or service address, let alone for a business to trade from. In that case, you’ll need to find another address to use for the business.

What types of business address service are available?

The services available from business address service providers fall into three main types:

Registered office address

By law, every UK company must provide an address where official mail from government bodies can be sent. A UK registered address is required even if the business is operated from elsewhere in the world. It will appear on the company’s official documents and business stationery, including letters, order forms, invoices and the company’s website.

Director service address

Each UK company director must provide a service address, which also appears on the public record. As well as being visible to the public, it’s where official post from Companies House, HMRC and other government bodies for the attention of the individual director will be sent.

It’s not only directors who need a service address. Persons with significant control, company secretaries and members of a limited liability partnership must each provide a service address to Companies House. Often, a business address service provider will support these roles as well as directors.

Virtual office address

With a virtual office, it appears to the outside world that your business operates from that address. So, even if you don’t have an office of your own, you can give the impression of being an established business with physical premises.

This service is often combined with a telephone answering service.

The different services are often purchased together. Most commonly, if a business purchases a virtual office address service they’ll also buy the registered address and service address options.

How do I choose who to buy a London address from?

There are a lot of people out there selling a business address service, including the registered address and virtual address options. So how should you choose whose service to buy and which address to use?

Here’s just a few things to consider when choosing an address service:

  • Which locations are offered? While most providers will offer a London address, they are in different areas of London. (In some cases, a provider will have several different London addresses available.) There are also sometimes options available in Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast and other towns and cities in the UK.
  • Do you need a director’s service address or trading address in addition to the registered office address? If so, does the provider supply all of these options and is there any cost saving of buying them all together?
  • If you’re buying a service address for several directors, is the charge per director or is it the same price regardless of the number of officers?
  • Will mail be scanned and emailed to you or is the option to send it physically in the post available? Are the costs different for these two options?
  • Which mail will be forwarded? Often only official government mail will be forwarded for the given price, with general mail costing more to forward.
  • Are there limits on the number of mail items that will be forwarded?
  • Does it cost extra to send mail outside the UK?
  • Is renewal automatic or will you need to take action to renew the service?
  • What will the renewal cost be? Sometimes the initial rate is discounted, but you’ll want to avoid a nasty surprise if you expect to renew in a year’s time.
  • How efficient is the service and what support is available? Take a look at a company’s reviews to see whether other customers have been impressed.

Inform Direct simplifies the company formation process, it takes just a few minutes. If you need a business address service there are packages that include them, or just add one as an extra during the process.

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