You’ve got a great business idea, some startup funds and dreams of world domination. Now you only need to choose a business name that sticks. A name that is unique, embodies your brand values and perhaps shows a bit of personality. But also something that’s clear, memorable and makes people take your business seriously.Sounds like a tall order, right? But that’s not all. You'll need to contend with the sordid HMRC rules on business naming.Luckily, we’ve got some tips and tricks to help make the process go smoother.
First things first, we need to make a serious distinction. One between a legal name and a trading name.Your business’ legal name is its official name. You must always use it on official documents such as contracts, invoices and tax returns.Also, your business’ legal name will depend on what kind of business structure you use. In some cases, it must be your name and surname. But even where you can choose a different legal name, HMRC has rules you need to follow.In contrast, a trading name is a name familiar to your customers. The trading name could be the same as your business’ legal name or completely different. You won’t be surprised to hear that HMRC has rules on trading names, too.
If you plan to register as a sole trader, your business’ legal name must be your name and surname.That said, you can trade under a different name, as long as you display your legal name and surname on official documents. Typically, you’d do this by writing [Your name] T/a [Your trade name].So, if you’re John Fitzpatrick, but you trade as Magic Bookshop, you’d write John Fitzpatrick T/a Magic Bookshop. T/a means ‘trading as’.What you choose as your trading name is up to you. However, HMRC does have some rules. In particular, your trading name can’t:
If you decide to register a partnership, you have two choices. You can either use the partners’ names as your legal name or choose a different name. However, you must include all the partners’ names on official paperwork.As is the case with sole traders, the choice of a business name is up to you. However, it can’t:
Decided to incorporate and do business as a limited liability company? Then you’ll need to choose a legal name.Your company’s legal name:
You can also choose a trading name if you’d like (more naming pressure!). This name must follow the same rules as a sole trader and partnership trading names.
Coming up with a business name can seem like a tall order. However, here are some basic tips to help you get started:
Choosing a business name is hard work. So, once you have one you like, you may want to make sure no one else can use it. You can do this by registering your business name as a trademark.To register your name as a trademark: