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General Business Advice


1) Preparing for a visit from the VAT Inspector

2) How to choose and protect a Business/Trading Name



1) Preparing for a visit from the VAT Inspector


If you are operating a VAT registered business it is one of life's certainties that one day you will receive a HMRC visit. Their timing can be unpredictable and they may or may not have a reason for a visit. It could be that you have a poor track record or your business is nearly all cash. It could be that your VAT returns are irregular or have suddenly changed significantly.


Don’t worry too much about this, just make sure you keep good records and everything will be ok. HMRC seem to do more unannounced visits these days which I think is rather rude. Lack of preparation can be the cause of a daunting experience, especially if you are not sure of your facts. If they should do this tell them to come back with an appointment. Having an accountant there at your appointment could simplify things by answering the questions on your behalf.


I think what inspectors try to do is not give people chance to fake records before a visit, but it is your right to refuse to speak to them if you so wish. Since VAT rules are very complex there is nearly always something that they can find, especially if your business has lots of transactions. So don't be shocked if they do find something.


If they do happen to find anything it is worth going through this with your accountant to make sure the inspectors are not trying it on. Some inspectors can be very enthusiastic.



2) How to choose and protect a Business/Trading Name.


If you are trading as a sole trader or partnership you can trade under another name other than your own but the trading name must follow certain rules. The trading name must not include public limited company, Limited company and limited liability partnership. The Trading name must not be offensive or contain prescribed or sensitive words and expressions, unless you have obtained permission.


For details and rules for naming your limited company or limited liability partnership (LLP) contact Companies House.


It is important that anyone else is not using your proposed trading name. You should check that is not being used by another business in your area. If it is, you should choose an alternative. Check local phone directories, business directories and the internet. Make sure that your proposed name, or something similar hasn't been registered by a company (check with companies house). Make sure that the name isn't too similar to a registered trade mark.


If your trading name is relative to the goods and/or services you provide, you may be able to take legal action against anyone using it in a similar capacity. But, you get more legal protection if you register it as a trade mark.


Using the same same or similar name as your website name is a common practice. To do this, first you have to check to see if that is available. Having a trade mark does not give you a right to the same domain name. The domain name may already be in use, but you may take legal action if a) the domain name is being used to pass off their goods and services as yours or b) your domain name has been bought just so they can sell it back to you.