Letterheads – legal requirements

What is the correct information to put on a company stationery?

When designing your company letterhead or order form you could be forgiven for solely concentrating on their design and the quality of paper they are printed on. However, Company stationery legal requirements need to follow several requirements. If you fail to implement these then hard work and vital cash will have been wasted.
Thankfully Company stationery legal requirements are simple. They also vary by the type of business run.
Under the Companies Act 1985 your company must state its name. As it appears in its memorandum of association. In certain places and on its business stationery. Your company must also give certain information on all its business letters and order forms.

Sole trader

If you are a sole trader you can trade under your own name or you can choose a different business name. If you choose a business name that is not your own name, you must include your own name.  You must also include business address on all letterheads and order forms.

Partnership

If you are a partnership business your letterheads, order forms, receipts and even invoices must include the names of all partners and the address of the main office. If there are many partners then it is also acceptable to state where a list of partners may be found.

Limited company

If your company is trading as a limited company the letterhead and order form stationary (whether printed or electronic versions) must include:
  • Your full registered company name.
  • The company registration number and place of registration.
  • The company registered address and the address of its place of business, if different.
  • There is no need to include the names of the directors on the letterhead for a limited company, but if you choose to name directors all directors must be named.
  • Most letterheads also include a telephone and fax number, a url for the business’ website and an email address.

Certain businesses must also state the following on their business letters and order forms:

  • For an investment company (as defined by section 266 of the Companies Act 1985) that it is such a company.
  • For a company exempt from using the word ‘limited’ in its name, that it is a limited company.
  • For a company with share capital, it is not necessary to state the share capital on stationary but if the company chooses to do so, the paid-up share capital rather than the authorised capital must be stated.
  • Charitable companies whose name excludes the words ‘charity’ or ‘charitable’ must state the fact that it is a charity on its stationary.

Where must the company name be displayed?

Every company must paint or affix its name on the outside of every office or place in which its business is carried on – even if it is a director’s home. The name must be kept painted or affixed and it must be both conspicuous and legible.

On which documents must the company name be shown?

The company must state its name, in legible lettering, on the following:
  • All the company’s business letters.
  • All its notices and other official publications.
  • All bills of exchange, promissory notes, endorsements, cheques and orders for money or goods purporting to besigned by, or on behalf of, the company.
  • All its bills of parcels, invoices, receipts and letters of credit.
  • All electronic data.

Must the company show any other details?

Yes. On all its business letters and order forms the company must show in legible lettering:
  • Its place of registration and its registered number. The place of registration must be one of the following, as appropriate:

Company stationery legal requirements for companies registered in England and Wales:

  • Registered in Cardiff
  • Registered in England and Wales
  • Registered in England
  • Registered in London
  • Registered in Wales

Company stationery legal requirements for companies registered in Scotland:

  • Registered in Scotland
  • Registered in Edinburgh
The address of the registered office. If a business letter or order form mentions more than one address, it is recommended that you state which is the registered office address.

Must directors’ names be shown?

A company does not have to state the directors’ names on its business letters but, if it chooses to do so it must state the names of all its directors. In other words a company cannot be selective about which directors’ names it shows – it must show all of them or none of them.

Must anything else be shown?

Certain categories of company must also state the following additional information on their business letters and order forms:
  • For an investment company (as defined by section 266 of the Companies Act 1985), that it is such a company
  • For a company exempt from using the word ‘limited’ in its name, the fact that it is a limited company.
  • For a company with share capital, it is not necessary to state the share capital on stationery but, if the company chooses to do so, it must state its paid-up share capital, not its authorised capital.

Websites

Companies registered in the UK are now required to list their company registration number, place of registration, and registered office address on their company website.

Email

Companies registered in the UK are now required to list their company registration number, place of registration, and registered office address in email footers.

Are there special rules for charitable companies?

Under section 68 of the Charities Act 1993, a charitable company whose name does not include the word ‘charity’ or ‘charitable’ must state the fact that it is a charity on all the documents listed under question 2, in all bills it sends and on any conveyances it executes.
Section 68 does not require a charitable company to include the word ‘charity’ or ‘charitable’ in its name.
The Charities Act 1993 does not apply to charitable companies registered in Scotland but the same rule applies to Scottish companies under section 112(6) of the Companies Act 1989.

Do the rules apply to overseas companies?

A company incorporated outside Great Britain which opens a branch or place of business in Great Britain must be registered and must give similar details to those stated in this chapter. Full details are listed in the Companies House booklet, ‘Overseas Companies’.
This information for Company stationery legal requirements is intended as a guide only. See http://www.hmrc.gov.uk  or Companies House for current information.