The one aspect most likely to delay the start of business for a new company is not the actual incorporation but the printing of stationery, design of website and so on..

Letter headings and other stationery cannot be printed until after the company is incorporated. This is not just commercial prudence in case a name is turned down, but certain items such as the company number will not be known until the certificate of incorporation is received.

Once you have this you can go ahead and print any stationery you need, though if you are going to register for VAT it may be best to wait until you have your VAT number before printing invoices, though this can be typed on an invoice rather than printed.

There are some legal requirements that you ignore at your financial and criminal peril and these are set out below. Please note that as from 1st January 2007 certain information must be shown on company websites and email footers. Full details below:

Letterheads: Company letterheads must show:

  1. The name of the company. This must end in “Limited” or “Ltd” or their Welsh equivalents. If the name you trade under is different in any way from the name of your company as shown on your certificate of incorporation, then the full name, including “Limited” etc must be shown on the heading, usually at the foot.
  2. The registered office. It must be identified as the registered office. If there is only one address shown on the letterhead, the words “Registered Office” can appear in small type just above or below, or you can mention it at, say, the foot of the heading by saying “Registered at the above address”, or something similar. The important point is that your registered office must be clearly identified. If this were an address other than your trading address then it would be appropriate to print the address, clearly identified as such, in small type at the foot of the letterhead and the trading address elsewhere in larger type.
  3. The registered number.
  4. Whether registered in England (or ‘England & Wales’) or Scotland.
  5. A Welsh company which has chosen “Cynfngedig” instead of “Limited” as the last word of its name must also state (in English) that it is a limited company.

Letterheads: Information that is not legally required but which it may be advisable to include:

  1. The correspondence address, if other than the registered office.
  2. Telephone, Fax and Telex numbers.
  3. The general nature of the company’s business unless obvious from the name.
  4. The VAT number. Legally required on invoices but not letterheads. If you are going to type invoices on your letterheads it may be convenient to print it here.
  5. It is no longer necessary to print the names of directors on a letterhead, but if you print one you must print all. Also, you must indicate the nationality of directors who are not British.


If the company is registered for VAT its invoices must show:

  1. The company’s name.
  2. Its business address. (It is not necessary to show or indicate the registered office address on an invoice, though you may do so if you wish.)
  3. The VAT registration number.
  4. The serial number of the invoice – this must be sequential.
  5. Date of supply. (If a different date is also shown as the date the invoice is issued the date of supply must also be identified by the words “Tax Point”.)
  6. Type of supply: (sale, hire, loan, etc)
  7. Description of goods or service.
  8. Total payable excluding VAT.
  9. Rate of VAT.
  10. Amount of VAT.
  11. Rate of any cash discount offered.
  12. The customer’s name (and address if not a cash/counter sale)

Not all these details need to be printed: items 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 & 12 will obviously be typed in as required. Further details of VAT requirements can be found on the HM Customs & Excise website.

Where a company is not registered for VAT item 1 is the only legal requirement and items 1, 2, 5, 7, 8 and 12 will probably meet all commercial requirements.

If the business uses any of the special VAT schemes this has to be shown on the invoice. These schemes include the second hand and tour operators schemes.

If the business makes cross border or intra EC supplies this also must be stated on the invoice.

See here for further information.

Purchase Orders

Previously there were no specific requirements under the Companies Act but it was generally considered prudent under contract law for a “printed purchase order” to show the same information as was legally required to be shown on a letter heading. Since 1st January 2007 it is now a legal requirement for all UK companies to list their company registration number, place of registration, and registered office address on order forms.

Websites & Email Messages

All UK companies are now required to list their company registration number, place of registration, and registered office address on their company website. This information should also appear in email footers.

Name of Company

In addition to business letters and invoices, the company’s name must appear:

  1. On its cheques (the bank will normally do this anyway but if you have a long company name this may cause a problem if they shorten it).
  2. On receipts, if issued.
  3. Outside “every office or place in which its business is carried on.” This wording is ambiguous. It can be read as “every office” or “every office … in which its business is carried on.” For example, if you use an accommodation address, or use your solicitor’s address as your registered office, does your name need to be shown outside? Prudence would say yes, but …. ? Whatever you decide, note that a Welsh company which uses a Welsh equivalent to “Limited” or “Ltd” has also to state that it is a limited company outside every ….  etc.

Certificate of Incorporation

This should be “clearly displayed in ‘a public place’” at every company’s registered office.

If you don’t get these things right not only can you be fined you could find that any contract your company entered into will not be enforceable. 

Related Articles:

Category: Starting a Business

33 Responses to “Business Disclosure Requirements: Information which must appear on your letterheads, invoices, websites and email messages”

  1. James Green says:

    Hi James 9 – I don’t know of anyone who has been prosecuted just for failing to comply with these requirements but there are plenty of cases where directors or owners of businesses which have gone bust have found themselves liable for costs (and on a few occasions banned from being directors. Also it isn’t uncommon for contracts being deemed unenforceable and customers being able to walk away from debts – potentially forcing the errant business into bankruptcy.

  2. james 9 says:

    Thanks for this interesting information. I didn’t realize that it was all so complicated. Do you know if many people get fined or prosecuted for failure to adhere to these requirements?

  3. James Green says:

    Hi Andrew. Apologies for not responding sooner but I’ve been unwell. An interesting one this. If you really are trading as “A. Hirons Construction & Landscaping” then you should have the full disclosure requirements. However if you are trading as “A. Hirons” and simply describing your services as “Construction & Landscaping” you probably wouldn’t. What does it say on your business cheque book? That would seem to be proof either way.

  4. Andrew says:

    Hi, I’m a sole-trader, trading as “A. Hirons Construction & Landscaping”. On my letter heads I have a logo in the top left corner, to the right of this I have “A. Hirons”, immediately below my name is “Construction & Landscaping”. My question is, does this comply with the business disclosure requirements, or do I need to put further information elsewhere on my letter head?


  5. Nathaniel says:

    Thanks for sharing your info. I truly appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your next post thank you once again.

  6. Duffy says:

    How much attention do the authorities – whoever they are – pay to this law? It would seem hard to police to me.

  7. Slaney says:

    It’s really a cool and useful piece of info. I’m glad that you shared this useful info with us. Keep up the good work. Thank you.

  8. Steve Grant says:

    Great site. A lot of useful information here. I’m sending it to some friends!

  9. WP Themes says:

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  10. WP Themes says:

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  11. Patrick444 says:

    I really liked your blog! super

  12. James says:

    Thanks Peter. No, Comp Slips don’t need full details (neither do business cards) but some people do put company number and registered office on just in case a quite Comp Slip is used as an order or acknowledgement. Frankly I’d not bother.

    By the way, I had a look at your site. Homepage seems to have a problem but some good info on the rest of the site. Hopefully andydee will feel the same and get in touch. If so – you owe me a pint mate!

  13. Keylon says:

    I Don?t Usually Comment on Posts or Articles But I Will in this Case. Awesome, What a Great Article and Informative Post, I Always Wanted to Write in My Site Something Like That. Thank You!

  14. ailaber says:

    Thank you, very much – great info. I hope we’ll meet again.

  15. peter says:

    Do compliments slips need the same business disclosure info as letterheads?

    Incidentally, for andydee, we are great at all kinds of graphic design including business stationery – get in touch http://www.fouragency.co.uk

  16. andydee says:

    Good information. Do you have any contacts who can design business statopnery for me?

  17. GapsspeeguisK says:

    I found this site using google and i want to thank you for your work. You have done really very good site. Great work, great site! Thank

  18. Eduardo says:

    Thank you for this very good information.

  19. James Green says:

    Well it is possible but rather impractical. Apart from anything else it’s going to be a very complicated design – probably with very little room to actually write anything!

    I got a letter a few weeks ago from Lloyds TSB and they had details of a number of their subsidiary companies at the foot of the letterhead. I think there were four or five. Each one gave details of the company but as they all had the same registered office and there is no requirement in the UK to list directors this was reasonably simple although I find 8 point Univers damn difficult to read!

    Of course, Lloyds TSB only have one logo and this was printed at the top of the letterhead. If you are going to have six different logos that’s going to look pretty crowded.

    From a legal point of view these “omnibus” letterheads are dangerous it must be clear to recipients which company is actually writing to them. This could be achieved if the writers state clearly at the end of the letter:

    Yours sincerely
    For and on behalf of Company Name 1 (or2,3,4,5 or 6) Limited

    Joe Bloggs

    The fact is that it could be legal but it should be pointed out if someone makes a mistake then the debts of one company could be enforced on one or more of the other companies if a creditor so argued and a court agreed.

    So, possible – but I don’t think it is practical or desirable. If cost were the driver here I’d just print the logos on good quality stock and set them up with templates to add the individual company details. If what they want is to show what a large group they are they could print small versions of all the logos on every letterhead. Probably easier for you to design that than a complex “omnibus” letterhead which I frankly thing will look dreadful.

  20. Melanie says:

    Hi, I am a graphic designer, I am designing new stationery for a client, this client has a holding company and 5 sub companies, He wants all 6 logos (Holding company and all the other 5 companies) on one letterhead with their Pty(Ltd) names and registration numbers, and all 6 companies have different directors. Meaning you have 6 pty’s, 6 registration numbers and, 6 different sets of director, and the more I fight this the more they insist. Now my question… is there a legal complication to this? This can’t be legal, having a letterhead like this.

  21. Lisa says:

    Info very useful, much appreciated.

  22. Brooretum says:

    Hi, Congratulations to the site owner for this marvelous work you’ve done. It has lots of useful and interesting data.

  23. Banksie says:

    Thanks for the info. I wasn’t aware of these changes.

  24. KrisBelucci says:

    Great post! Just wanted to let you know you have a new subscriber- me!

  25. James Green says:

    Dear M Hutchinson. Which instance of the term “certificate of incorporation” are you referring to?

    If it is the one at the very end then no, this doesn’t refer to the name of the company. The actual certificate has to be “on public display” inside the registered office. That can be done by handing a framed copy in the reception area or entrance hall or even in the actual office. It is also possible to get around this in circumstances where there are lots of companies registered at the same address (perhaps a solicitors or company formation agent) in various ways.

  26. M Hutchinson says:

    Where does the quote about the certificate of incorporation come from ? Should this not instead refer to the registered name ?

  27. James Green says:

    A sole trader isn’t a company. But leaving that aside have a look at the guide to the Business Names Act which you will find in the downloads section. This advises on a number of issues, however if your query is about websites etc then the same rules apply. As a sole trader you must identify yourself and your address etc.

  28. sam says:

    what if the company is not ltd but sole trader what are the requirements.


  29. James Green says:

    Good point David. In general terms if you are a sole trader, partnership or limited partnership you do still have to give full contact details on any website you own. So if you are a sole trader you should give your name and home address. You could probably get away with giving a business/office address. Telephone number isn’t mandatory. Partnerships should give details of the partners and either their home addresses or a business address. Limited Partnerships need to give their registered office but don’t have to give details of the partners because – as with companies – that information can be found in the public registry at Companies House.

  30. David Adams says:

    James, what are the rules if your website isn’t owned by a company?

  31. Dik says:

    Good ideas. Adviced to friends


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