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How to register your business in Uganda (And get a TIN number)

How to register your business in Uganda. A business is an organization or enterprising entity engaged in commercial, industrial, or professional activities.

Businesses can be for-profit entities or they can be non-profit organizations that operate to fulfil a charitable mission or further a social cause. (That is according to Investopedia)

How to register your business in Uganda

With so many businesses starting today, there are many people in Uganda who want to register their business and enjoy the befits of business registration which includes the following according to (the Uganda Registration Service Bureau)URSB;

  • Obtain legal Identity/status
  • Safeguard your business name by acquiring a trading name.
  • Access opportunities like loans, tenders, financing etc.
  • Business formalization creates more employment opportunities through business expansion.
  • Enables registration for licenses e.g Investment, trading and taxation licenses.
  • Better marketing and advertising opportunities for increased clientele
  • Improved competitiveness in the regional market

By registering your business, you stand a chance to be among the people to benefit from the above. But what really is business registration in Uganda and how does one do it?

The term business registration has a lot of definitions but I love to define business registration in Uganda as the formal certification by the Uganda Registration Services Bureau(URSB) that a business entity (sole proprietorship, LLC, Partnership), upon its application of registration forms, has attained and maintained status as a registered business according to Uganda Registration Services Bureau Act Cap 210.

Are you having trouble starting a business? See our Tips How you can start any Business in Uganda today.

In other words, it is the URSB that clarifies whether a business is registered or not according to its records.

Steps followed to register a business in Uganda

1. Choose a structure for your business

The first step in registering a business in Uganda is choosing a business structure.

A business structure or business entity is a category of an organization that is legally recognized in a given jurisdiction and characterized by the legal definition of that particular category.

The business structure (also called a business entity) you choose affects your business from the way you file for taxes to your day-to-day operations.

Common business structures in Uganda include.

  • Sole proprietorship: This is the default business structure. If you never select a business structure but operate your business, then you are considered a sole proprietorship. In a sole proprietorship, your business and personal assets and liabilities are not separated.
  • Partnership: This is the business structure for two or more people that own a business together. There are various types of partnerships. In a limited partnership (LP) there is typically one partner (the general partner) who is exposed to personal liability while the other partners (the limited partners) enjoy limited liability. Limited liability partnerships (LLP) protect all partners from the debt of the business.
  • Limited liability corporation (LLC): This business structure allows the business owner to protect personal assets from the business’s liabilities. The profits and losses of an LLC are typically taxed as personal income or loss to the members.
  • C-Corp: This structure makes your business a separate entity from the owners (the shareholders). That means the business can be taxed, make a profit, or be held legally liable for its actions separate and distinct from the shareholders. For this reason, this structure offers the most protection for an owner’s personal assets.

2. Get a Business name

A business name is a name or style under which any business is carried out whether in a partnership or otherwise. A business name helps your business get an identity.

By carrying on business under your registered name, you build a brand for your business and you can never underestimate the power of a brand name.

Take the example of Coca-Cola. The business name is stronger than even the business itself.

So when you reach the offices of the URSB, you will be asked to search the Business Registration Form to establish whether the name of the business you want is available.

If found available, you will be required to pay the business’s name registration fees.

After all, is completer and your business name is registered, you will be given a certificate of registration of business name to certify that you have registered your business name.

3. Get a certificate of incorporation

certificate of incorporation is a legal document/license relating to the formation of a company or corporation.

It is a license to form a corporation issued by the Uganda Registration Services Bureau(URSB).

A certificate of incorporation will serve to show that your business is properly and legally formed. It can either be electronic or you can choose to have an official printed one that you could frame and hang at your business premises.

A certificate of incorporation confirms the existence of your business and contains important details such as the date of incorporation, the company registration number, and more.

You will get the certificate of incorporation from the URSB

4. Register with URA and get TIN

The next step in registering your business is acquiring your Tax Identification Number (TIN). The TIN is issued by the Uganda Revenue Authority(URA).

The TIN is an identifier that helps URA identify which form goes with which business.

URA has made the process of TIN registration easy for everyone through their eServices online registration platform.

You no longer need to physically reach URA offices for TIN, you can go to the URA website and download a TIN registration form, fill it and then upload it back to URA.

The TIN is crucial for the following;

Business structure registration

There are many business structures you can use when establishing your own company, but if you have an invalid tax identification number or no TIN at all, your choices for business structures are severely limited.

Those without tax identification numbers are not allowed to establish a corporation or a partnership.

This also means that business owners will not be exempt from taxes. If you are looking to establish one of these businesses, make sure that you get a TIN and keep it valid.

Filing for Tax Exemption Status

If your organization or your business is trying to file for tax exemption status, it is important to have a valid tax identification number.

Businesses that are dedicated to serving the public are usually the common reasons for tax exemption status.

Tax exemption status means that for each taxable year, an organization pays a reduced amount of their taxes than other companies would.

This status can be revoked if a business lies about or is unaware of the validity of its tax identification number (TIN).

Setting Retirement Plans

If you are self-employed, otherwise known as a small business owner or an independent contractor, you should think about setting up your own retirement plan.

With a retirement plan, you can start saving up for a pension plan.

Because the filing process for a retirement plan is different for self-employed individuals, each person should have a tax identification number so that their unincorporated company can sponsor their retirement plan.

Without a TIN, you will not be able to enjoy these benefits.

NOTE: You don’t need a registered business to get a TIN. You can get a TIN even before registering your business.

For More on TIN, visit the official URA website here.

5. Apply for licences and Permits

For a business to become fully operational here in Uganda, you must have all the right licenses and permits.

Licences and permits issued here in Uganda differ according to the business sectors available in the country.

Thankfully, the government of Uganda has created an easy way to search for the permits and licenses you need by entering your location and type of business.

You can go there and check what licenses or permits your business requires.

6. Register with NSSF

This step is not mandatory and you can ignore it. By the way, it is not required for your business to be recognised as a registered business.

However, if you have at least 5 or more employees, you are obliged to pay your employees 10% of their salary to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) as their retirement plan.

If you are just starting out, you don’t need to register with NSSF.

7. Join other Business Owners

The Uganda National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (UNCCI) is an organization focused on enhancing business opportunities.

This Organization has many registered businesses under it.

It is like an overseas business. By buying a membership at UNCCI, you also get the opportunity to interact with other business owners and this is likely to have a big effect on your business as well.

UNCCI has four types of memberships which are;

  • Ordinary Membership
  • Silver Membership
  • Gold Membership
  • Associate Membership

For more info about the Uganda National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, you can visit their website here.

Your Turn…

Those are the few steps you need to register your business in Uganda.

If you feel the process is too big for you, you can hire a lawyer to register your business for you in Uganda.

What point has touched you most? Share with us in the comments section below.

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