Letterheads – legal requirements
What is the correct information to put on a company stationery?
When designing your company letterhead, invoice or order forms you could be concentrating on their design and forget the content which is equally important. Company stationery needs to follow specific legal requirements depending on what type of company you are or want to be. If you fail to implement these requirement correctly not only your hard work but vital cash will have been wasted you may have a call from HMRC.
First of all: All company’s including sole traders must be registered with HMRC. You can do that here.
Company stationery legal requirements are thankfully simple to implement but they do vary by the type of business you intend to run. Do not be tempted to omit anything, it has a habit to come back and bite.
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 the trading business address on all letterheads and order forms and invoices. If your registered for VAT your VAT Number must be included on invoices and order forms. Remember you cannot charge VAT without registering with HMRC. You can do that here.
If you are a partnership your letterheads, order forms, receipts and 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. If your registered for VAT your VAT Number must be included on invoices and order forms.
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.
If your company is trading as a limited company the letterhead and order form stationary (whether printed or electronic versions) they 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, email, 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.
- If you are a charity, you must also include the company’s charity number.
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.
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.
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.
You must include your charity number on all documentation
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’.
Final Note: All information on all company stationery must be at a point size that is readable, if you make it so small it is difficult to read with the naked eye then it will be deemed as illegal.
First drafted 2009/2014. Updated June 2020