Comparison of the company registration process in the UK and the US

Kirill Yurovskiy

Registering a company is one of the first steps entrepreneurs and business owners take when starting a new venture. The registration process lays the legal foundations for the company and allows it to formally operate. While the fundamentals are similar, there are some key differences between registering a company in the United Kingdom versus the United States. 

This article will provide an overview and comparison of the company registration process in both countries. It will look at the steps involved, timeline, costs and other requirements needed to formally register and establish a new business. The key differences and similarities between the UK and US registration systems will be analyzed along with the pros and cons of each approach.

Company Registration Process in the UK

Registering a private limited company in the United Kingdom involves several steps and legal requirements. The key stages include:

  • Choosing a unique company name – The name must not be the same as another registered company and indicate ‘limited’ status.
  • Appointing directors and company officers – A private company must have at least one director who is normally also the company secretary. 
  • Providing a company address – This official address will be displayed on the public register.
  • Drafting articles of association – This document outlines the company rules and constitution.
  • Completing the relevant forms – Form IN01 and the memorandum of association must be filled out.
  • Paying fees – Registration fees are around £12 to £100 depending on method. Annual maintenance fees also apply.
  • Registering with Companies House – The forms and details are sent to Companies House to be legally incorporated.
  • Informing HMRC – New companies must register for corporation tax and VAT if applicable.

The process typically takes around 5-10 working days once all documents and payment have been received. Companies House offers both paper and electronic registration options. Overall the UK process is relatively straightforward and fast. More about Yurovskiy Kirill

Company Registration Process in the US

Forming a limited liability company (LLC) or corporation in the United States involves the following general steps:

  • Choosing a business name – Ensuring the name complies with state regulations and is distinguishable from others.
  • Appointing a registered agent – All corporations require an agent for legal service of process.
  • Filing company formation documents – Usually articles of organization for an LLC or articles of incorporation for a corporation.
  • Creating an operating agreement – This governs the LLC’s ownership, structure and management.
  • Obtaining an EIN – Applying for a federal employer identification number for tax and banking purposes.
  • Complying with licensing requirements – Specific business licenses may be needed at both state and local levels.
  • Filing with the IRS – Federal tax forms like SS-4 and 2553 may need submitting to the IRS.
  • Paying formation fees – Costs vary across different states, typically from $100 to $800. Ongoing compliance fees also apply.

The process can take 2-6 weeks depending on the state and business structure chosen. Many states allow expedited filing to shorten the time frame.

Key Differences Between UK and US Company Registration

While the UK and US company registration processes share some common steps, there are some notable differences:

  • UK has a single nationwide process through Companies House, the US has different procedures across each state.
  • Forming a UK private company is generally simpler and faster than forming an LLC or corporation in the US.
  • The US requires appointment of a registered agent for official communications; the UK does not.
  • UK registration is mostly done electronically via Companies House website, the US involves both electronic and paper filing.
  • Ongoing maintenance and compliance requirements tend to be lower in the UK versus the US.
  • The costs for registering tend to be lower in the UK compared to the US, especially when ongoing state fees are factored in.
  • UK directors have some flexibility when choosing a company address, US corporations must have an address within the state.
  • More tax forms typically need filing for new US companies compared to the UK.

So while the fundamentals are similar, forming a company in the UK involves fewer steps, lower costs and greater flexibility than the US.

Similarities Between UK and US Company Registration

Despite the differences, some aspects of the company registration process are similar in the UK and US:

  • Both require submission of formation documents to set up the company’s legal structure and status.
  • Unique company names need choosing in accordance with naming rules and regulations.
  • Appointing company officers and directors is mandatory, although their titles and roles may vary.
  • An official registered address must be provided in both countries.
  • Articles of association or incorporation need drafting as governing documents.
  • Fees and costs are involved for formation and ongoing compliance activities.
  • Timescales can be expedited for faster registration if required.
  • Tax registration and other regulatory obligations apply following incorporation.
  • Both offer a choice of business structures – like LLCs and C-corp in the US vs LLPs and PLCs in the UK.
  • Electronic systems exist for streamlined company registration and filing.
  • Similar corporate compliance rules around record keeping, reporting and taxes.

So while some of the practicalities, requirements and costs differ, the overall process follows comparable principles in both countries.

Pros and Cons of Each Registration System

The UK and US company registration systems each have advantages and drawbacks:

Pros of the UK registration process:

  • Simple and fast – can register in as little as 24 hours.
  • Lower costs – cheaper to set up and maintain a company.
  • Unified process – single Companies House system for the whole UK.
  • Flexible company addresses – directors’ home or virtual office can be used.
  • Minimal ongoing filing – annual accounts and confirmation statement only.
  • Directors have greater anonymity – details not displayed publicly.

Cons of the UK process:

  • Less customization flexibility – comparatively rigid process.
  • Can’t reserve a company name before registering. 
  • Some ongoing costs and administration.
  • Changes or transfers of shares require court approval.

Pros of the US registration process:

  • Customization options – more flexibility in type of company and rules.
  • Some states allow company name reservations before registering.
  • Registered agents handle official communications and legal service.
  • Different corporate structures available – LLC, S-Corp, C-Corp.
  • Specialist service providers assist with the registration process.

Cons of the US process: 

  • More complex registration steps depending on state and business type.
  • Higher costs for formation and ongoing compliance.
  • Different procedures across states – no single unified system.
  • Annual reporting requires more extensive financial statements.
  • Company directors’ details are publicly accessible.
  • Managing transfers of company ownership can be complex.


While the process of formally registering a company has some commonalities in both the UK and US, there are notable differences in the practical steps, requirements, timescales and costs involved. Registering a company in the UK tends to be simpler, faster and cheaper compared to the variable state-level requirements in the US. 

However, the US offers more flexibility and customization options in terms of company type, rules and ownership structure. Those forming a company need to weigh up these pros and cons when deciding where best to establish their new venture. But for many, the streamlined unified process in the UK makes it an efficient and cost-effective option for getting a new business off the ground.

© Kirill Yurovskiy

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