The supply of goods or services from your overseas office will mean your enterprise must be aware of and comply with, all regulations and have in place any permits you may need to operate within the law. Many of the regulations and permits you have for your UK business will have similar counterparts in the country your overseas office is based in, but there may well be other unique regulations or permits your office must have in place before it can trade within the law.
Using an agent to help you set up your overseas office can be a great asset. They should have a wide understanding of the legal framework your overseas office must trade within. They can also be instrumental in helping your business obtain the permits it requires, and making any changes to its operation to ensure all regional and national regulations are met to ensure your business trades within the law.
Permits and Regulations
Just as in the UK, certain types of businesses are highly regulated. If your enterprise will be establishing an overseas office that will sell financial products, you and your staff must be properly registered with the authorities that govern that type of service. The law is clear and strict when regulations within certain industries are concerned. The market research you did before opening your overseas office should have highlighted any special permits etc. your new office will need.
One of the most highly regulated areas of business is intellectual property. If your business is based on intellectual property, you must protect this when you open your overseas office. Any protection you have in the UK is not likely to be valid overseas. Your business may have to register its intellectual property in each country it wants to trade in. The law regarding the protection of intellectual property is complex and completely different from one country to the next. The UK Intellectual Property Office can give you more help and advice. Ensure you have all your intellectual property protection in place via the specific laws and permits of the country you will have an office in before you begin trading.
Help and Advice
As each country has different permits and regulations your overseas office must comply with, it can be difficult to generalise about how your business can ensure it operates on the right side of the law. Luckily, there is masses of help and advice available to your business. Organisations like UK Trade and Investment have a presence in most of the countries of the world, and can help you set-up your overseas operation and ensure it complies with all regulations and has in place every permit it may need. You can also call them on their helpline: 020 7215 8000.
Tax and Your Overseas Office
One area of regulations your overseas office should be acutely aware of is tax law. It is likely that the money you make from your overseas operation will be taxed in the country your office is based in, and in the UK as well. Contact HM Revenue & Customs for more help and advice about what is called ‘double taxation’. You will also have to consider the National Insurance contributions of any staff that travel and work in your overseas offices. Consult your tax advisers about how to best handle this component of your overseas operation to ensure it is within the law.
Working in Your Overseas Office
If you have established a permanent office overseas, and your or your UK based staff regularly work in that office, you should be aware of the travel and work permits that you may require. Before you travel (especially to any office you have based in the USA) it is vitally important to have all of your travel documents and work visas completed and validated. The customs officials at the border control will want to verify these documents before permitting you entry to their country. More help and information is on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website.