If you’re operating solely within the UK, there is generally no need to obtain a business licence. However, specific licences may be required in certain sectors.
A business licence is required for all businesses operating within the private security sector, including door supervision and surveillance. Other businesses may require one or more licences for particular activities, such as public entertainment, the sale of alcohol, gambling, adult entertainment, keeping animals, and some types of beauty treatment. You may also require a licence if you trade in certain locations, such as on the street (e.g. a cafe with tables outside) or in a designated market.
Your local council is responsible for issuing most kinds of business licence.
One of the easiest ways to start a business in the UK is to become a sole trader. This is essentially when you own the business and can work by yourself or employ other people.
To register as a sole trader you need;
- A National Insurance Number
- To be registered for self-assessment with HMRC
- To trade under your own name or choose a business name
The legislation affecting sole traders is much simpler than for most other types of business, so expensive legal advice isn’t usually necessary.
Your first source of advice should be the government’s main website, www.gov.uk, and the HMRC’s website www.hmrc.gov.uk, which cover registration, record-keeping and tax requirements. Citizens Advice is also a great source of free information for self-employed people, with branches around the country.
Professional organisations, such as the Federation of Small Businesses, are a good source of advice, and your local Chamber of Commerce may be able to provide links to local enterprise groups and business lawyers.