To trade officially in the UK you need to have a registered UK business address. Usually that address is the place you carry out your business; your shop, or your home or your office.
However, it is possible to rent a ‘virtual’ business address and this is really useful for certain people, including those working from home. I have listed a couple of companies I recommend that offer virtual business address and other business services in the UK.
Why you may not want your home as your business address
For some people using their home address is not possible, for example if they rent an apartment and their contract states it cannot be used for business.
Your registered address is held on public record and available to everyone. You may not want your home address as your business address and the possibility have customers visiting you at home, or solicited business mail being sent to you.
Your official business address MUST be shown on your business website. Not everybody wants their home address on the internet as this may also lead to unsolicited mail.
Why you may want a ‘virtual’ business address service
There are companies that, for a small fee, will give you an address that you can use when you register your business with HMRC, as a sole-trader, or with Companies House as a Limited Company.
Usually the address they provide is in a prestigious location, often with a central London postcode. This can look impressive to have as a business address, depending on what your business is.
If you work from home and don’t want to use it as your business address, for the reasons above, a virtual address is a good option.
If you are a market trader, or IT contractor, or travelling the world as a digital nomad, a virtual business address in the UK gives you a constant base to use for your business identity.
You don’t have to live in the UK to run a business in the UK, but you do need a business address.
What other services are available along with a virtual business address?
Many virtual address companies offer a range of other paid-for services, including scanning any postal mail you receive so you can view it online wherever you are, or forwarding it to your home address.
Some of them, including the ones I recommend below, also offer offer assistance in setting up your Limited Company, helping to find an accountant to do your annual tax returns, and opening a business bank account.
Is there anything negative or illegal about using a virtual business address?
There is nothing illegal at all. It is perfectly legal to use any UK address as your official business address, as long as it is in the same region that you registered your business, i.e. If you register your business with HMRC in England, English tax rules apply and your business address must be in England.
The only downside with a virtual business address is that it is not unique to your business. There maybe hundreds, even thousands of businesses sharing the same business address. Depending on your business, this may be absolutely fine.
If you are offering a personal, long-established service that your customers want to trust, then a virtual address doesn’t always convey the same professionalism as a unique office address.
Recommended Virtual Business Address Companies
Rapid Formations is one of the leading providers of virtual businesses addresses in the UK. They offer addresses in London and Scotland (for either English or Scottish businesses) and their address service starts from £39 + VAT per year. Note that for this price, Rapid Formations only scan, email and mail official correspondence from the Government, HMRC or Companies house. If you want other mail forwarded to you it costs an additional £89 +VAT.
I like Rapid Formations for the range of other services they offer. They can set up your limited company for a very small fee, from just £11.99 if you are not yet trading. Their website is clear and concise and their response times to questions is very quick.
With Rapid Formations, directors of a limited company each have to purchase a £39 service address if they want to keep their personal address off publicly available Companies House register.
1st Choice Formations is another popular virtual address service and also has many positive reviews. I like 1st Choice because of their clean and easy to navigate website. They don’t offer as many services as Rapid Formations, but some of their services may work out cheaper.
If you are a sole-trader, then 1st choice may be a better option for you because their entry-level virtual address service at £54 + VAT includes up to 50 scanned mail a week, not only official government mail.
Additionally, their Limited Company virtual address at £39 + VAT can be used by all the company’s directors too. For Limited Companies, An upgrade from receiving only official mail to receiving all mail is £48 whereas Rapid Formation’s price is £89.
I recommend you look at both of these companies and select the one most suited to your needs and budget. There are many other virtual address and business formation companies in the UK, but I believe these two will be able to offer you what we need. (I do not get commission for recommending these companies, I have used both for myself and for my clients).