We recently had an issue with a US based company who asked us for the following:

Copy of your business license via PDF/JPG scanned (preferred) and emailed or faxed

We went on to explain that we don’t have a business license, they clearly didn’t understand and they proclaimed:

Most cities and many counties do require businesses — even tiny home-based sole proprietorship — to register with them and pay at least a minimum tax. In return, your business will receive a business license or tax registration certificate. Even if they do not require you to have one in the UK, we do. We must have something on files stating something along the lines that you are allowed to conduct business in your country.

I explained that in the UK there is no such thing as a business license, that is why there is no requirement.

I also stated that:

  • We are registered with HMRC to pay our tax, but they do not provide a license, certificate or otherwise. Just a tax return form, which you fill out and return every year.
  • We do not have a “Certificate of Incorporation” as a business is not a corporation.
  • We do not have a “local business office”, we have a Chambers of Commerce, who, if contacted, will say same thing.

To which they replied:

To clarify, you are telling me there is absolutely nothing you can show us to prove that you are a registered business or allowed to conduct business in the UK?

There must be something from your government you can provide that will show us you are a business.

I went on to explain that our government provides no method to register with them as a business and that in the UK you become a business as soon as you begin trading as a business. Of course, we are registered with the government for tax, but they only provide the tax return form.

To which they replied:

Thank you for your reply. After reviewing your detailed information and further investigation we found the information you provided is correct, and you do not need a business license.

So, that’s right folks: You don’t need a business license to run a business in the UK.