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The United Kingdom has over 660,000 new businesses registered every year, making it a booming place for startups to thrive. 

If you’re considering expanding to the UK, you’re probably aware of the various benefits that operating overseas brings to your business. But how do you take the right steps to set up business operations in the UK? 

Follow our guide and watch your business grow.

Get a business license

Depending on your business type, you may need to obtain a number of permits or licenses in order to legally operate in the UK. 

Business categories that require specific licenses include the following:

  • Alcohol and tobacco retail 
  • Restaurants and food prep retail
  • Athletic coaching
  • Childcare services
  • Farming and agriculture
  • Hairdressing and salon technician
  • Hospitality
  • Waste management

Check out GOV.UK’s License Finder online tool if you’re unsure of which licenses/permits you need. They’ll direct you to the right support contact. 

Register your business

Next, you will want to designate a legal form and register your business with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). This identifies the classification or legal status of your business.

Sole trader

Registering as a sole trader means that a single individual is responsible for the business and its liabilities, losses, and accounting. A sole trader is typically a self-employed person running their own business and receiving post-tax profits.


A partnership is run by at least two individuals who share the same amount of responsibility in terms of business debt, overall finances, and accounting. Each partner is also responsible for any losses. 

Limited companies

Shareholders (also referred to as business owners) privately own this type of business and are responsible for business debts only up to the value of their shares. So in turn, limited companies are those that keep business finances separate from the owners’ finances. 

Limited companies also have more managerial and accounting responsibilities, such as paying Corporation Tax

Registering your business

You need to register your business with HMRC (based on the legal form you designate) when you set up business operations in the UK. 

For example, sole traders need to sign up for self-assessment so that HMRC can collect self-employment income tax. If you’re registering your business as a partnership, you need to designate a nominated partner who keeps records and oversees tax forms.

Registering for self-assessment and partnership is free, but other legal forms may charge a small fee.

Familiarize yourself with UK business laws

Familiarizing yourself with UK business laws is an essential step before setting up operations. Some important topic areas include:

  • Business tax
  • Employment regulations
  • Employee expenses and benefits
  • Copyright patents and trademarks
  • Data protection


Be sure you’re following the right rules for your specific business, especially if you sell goods online, buy or sell goods abroad, or store/use personal information. The GOV.UK business section is a great resource for additional information. 

Insure your business

To ensure your business has protection against potential threats, you’ll need to apply for business insurance. The type of insurance you need depends on the industry your company is in. 

Here are some of the most common types of insurance:

  • Contents
  • Building
  • Commercial property 
  • Professional indemnity
  • Public liability
  • Employers’ liability 
  • Vehicle 

Fund your business

Once you’ve registered your business, gotten the correct permits, licenses, and more, you need to make sure that your business has the funds to expand. Capital matters for international expansion. However, not all companies have the funds to support this type of growth.

Kickfurther can help you secure the inventory funding that you need to grow. We’ll provide you with capital to help you sell more, and you won’t have to make any payments until after you’ve sold and received payments from your customers. 

Kickfurther gives you the support you need early on, and we’ll continue to fund your inventory on a different, larger scale as your business grows. With over 99.5% of deals funded, our marketplace is a great way to get your business operating in full swing.

Carry out administrative duties

Once all of the legal prep is out of the way, you’ll need to take care of some administrative responsibilities before starting up operations in the UK. 

Hiring employees

Consider whether you’re transferring workers from your home country to your location in the UK. If that’s the case, you may need to apply for a permit or worker’s visa to legally work.

If you don’t plan to transfer any of your home-based workers, you’ll need to hire freelancers, contractors, or permanent employees in your new location. Then you need to figure out payroll, employee insurance, workplace pensions, and more. 

It’s better to have a specialized business or professional help you lay these things out. Failure to comply with employment regulations such as minimum wage, providing legal contracts within two months of employment, and making pension and social security contributions can lead to consequences such as hefty fines.


Accounting is a crucial part of running any business, whether it’s in your home country or abroad. In addition to being a legal requirement, it’s essential to gain insight into your finances and make strategic plans for your business.

Businesses often feel forced to decide between handling their accounting internally, which can be time-consuming and error-prone, or outsourcing the work to an accountant. 

When you’re looking to hire an accounting firm, it’s important to consider whether you’re better off working with a team of generalists or a team that focuses on your specific business niche. 

Generalist accounting firms provide the standard range of services that are often required with accounting. This may include VAT filing, income tax returns, reconciling payouts, virtual CFO advice, and so on. 

Alternatively, niche firms have a narrow focus on who they serve, but they bring deep expertise to the table. As a result, they provide a more streamlined service and are better equipped to stay on top of changes in the industry. You’ll likely get more value from partnering with an accountant that focuses on your niche.

Business accounts

To start making transactions, you need to first go through the process of opening a UK bank account

You’ll need the following in order to set up your UK bank account from overseas:

  • Official proof of identity for all business partners
  • Proof of address on an official mail item or bank statement
  • Contact details and full business address
  • Estimated annual turnover
  • Your Companies House Registration Number
  • Certificate of incorporation, memorandum, and articles of association (for limited companies)

Think ahead to avoid delays when setting up your UK bank account. For example, if your business uses a specific bank, check if they operate in the UK to speed up the process.


One way to streamline your business payments is to use virtual payment cards. Virtual payment cards are debit or credit cards that facilitate online transactions. 

These cards are generated entirely online and accepted almost anywhere that traditional Visas and Mastercards are accepted. With virtual payment cards, you can designate spending limits as well as choose certain currencies to pay for things internationally, hassle-free. 

Virtual payment cards from Airwallex also have zero international transaction fees.

Value-added tax (VAT)

Don’t forget about value-added tax (VAT)

VAT applies to most goods and services bought and sold for use in the EU, and is charged as a percentage of the price. It’s collected from businesses via partial payments and paid to revenue authorities. 

VAT is a type of tax that doesn’t exist in the US, so familiarizing yourself with its process before you expand is crucial.

Inventory and shipping management

When it comes to listing and managing your inventory, you should aim to automate as much as you can. This will help you stay organized and generally keep track of your inventory to know what’s selling and what’s not.  

Additionally, automated processes will quickly fulfill your inventory on multiple eCommerce sites by creating lists, cataloging on numerous platforms, syncing inventory, and fulfilling FBA orders.

Contact Airwallex to assist your overseas expansion

Expanding your business to the UK isn’t hard if you take the proper steps — and Kickfurther is here to help. We’ll get you on your way with reliable, consistent funding and help you sustain your success as you grow. 

For further help with your expansion, check out our partner Airwallex. They offer Global Business Accounts in multiple currencies, so you can spend less on foreign transaction fees and more on your business growth. 

Fill out our inquiry form and one of our specialists will get back to you on your funding potential!

Featured image via Pixabay

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