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Everything you need to know about online Company Registration in South Africa is outlined on this page.
This Company Registration Guide is for you if you’re looking for a step-by-step on how to legally register a new South African business without going to the CIPC offices.
In this post, I’m going to walk you through all the practical steps of picking your company structure, making sure your Company name is available and how the online Company Registration process works.
This Company Registration Guide will show you how to do this online without going to the CIPC’s physical offices.
Here are the 5 steps necessary to register a company online.
I will cover multiple topics related to these 5 Steps and relevant to our Company Registration Guide in South Africa:
- Different types of Companies in South Africa.
- The best Company Structure for a startup.
- How to choose a good Company Name?
- CIPC Name Search: how do you see if you Company Name is available?
- The documents that you need to register a Company online in South Africa.
- How do you register a Company online (with steps and pictures)?
Let’s get started with the basics.
BONUS: Claim your FREE telephonic business consultation with our experts HERE.
Why talk to us? We offer fast-tracked Company Registration services, offers every SA entrepreneur one free business consultation. Call us on 0800 007 269 toll free or book a call-back HERE to claim yours.
Different types of Companies in South Africa
Your preferred Company Structure is the first consideration you need to make when you want to register a new business at the CIPC.
You need to consider which company structure will work best for your business’s setup and goals.
Oftentimes, the easiest place to start is profit. Would you like a company structure that allows you the freedom to withdraw profit as you wish? With a for-profit, you can do that.
With a non-profit, you can’t. You’ll only receive your monthly salary. The profit will remain the non-profit’s asset because the goal of a non-profit is the advancement of a social cause not to advance personal financial wealth.
For the purpose of this article, I’m going to assume you need a for-profit structure. However, you can find out more about the different types of Non-Profit Company structures here.
Other common structures I won’t be discussing are State Companies, Public Companies, and Personal Liability Companies. They generally don’t work well for most startups businesses in South Africa.
State-Owned Businesses are businesses like municipalities, Public Companies are large companies who want to sell their shares on the stock market to the public and Personal Liability Companies only applies to very specific professionals like Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers, Accountants, etc
Here are the most commonly used for-profit Company Structures in South Africa:
- Sole Proprietor
- Pty Company (A Private Company)
- Personal Liability Company
- Close Corporation (CC) *
* Close Corporation (CC) can’t be registered in SA anymore. According to the latest 2011 amendments to SA’s Companies Act, new Close Corporations can no longer be registered, although existing CCs are allowed to continue operation. We also have Shelf CCs for sale – contact us for more details You can read more about the 2011 changes here. You can also find a PDF of the Companies Act here.
The best type of Company structure for a startup?
Let’s just say this right off the bat: there is no “best” company structure.
There is, however, a company structure that would be most advantageous to your specific business.
Here’s a quick overview of the most commonly used Company Structures in South Africa. I’ll also briefly discuss why each could be advantageous or disadvantageous to your South African business. Please note this is not legal or accounting advice; it’s simply a rough overview.
Here’s an overview of some advantages and disadvantages of the most common startup Company Structures in South Africa.
I am going to color the advantages, the disadvantages and the sections that might be both as follows:
Advantages and Disadvantages of a Sole Proprietor
- You don’t have to do a formal Company Registration. If you have your own business, you automatically fall into this category; you don’t need to register.
- Your business and personal finances are considered one. Yes, it requires less admin. Yet the disadvantage is the financial chaos that results in mixing your personal finances with your company’s finances. SARS require you to pay your tax by submitting your business income and expenses as part of your personal finances to SARS.
- You pay Income Tax Rates. In short, this will benefit you if you earn very little and be a disadvantage to you when you don’t. You’ll probably pay the least amount of tax with this structure if you earn less than R205 900 * taxable income per year. If you earn more, you might pay more tax with this structure. However, it’s a complicated matter, so be sure to check with your accountant. * You can check the Income Tax rates here because they differ every new financial year.
- You’re personally liable for your business debts. You and your business are considered one entity; you’re personally responsible for all the debt.
- You may be excluded from many Tender, RFQ and Contract opportunities. Many companies have Company Registration as a prerequisite for all their applicants.
Advantages and Disadvantages of a Private Company / Pty
- Your Company is a separate legal entity with shareholders and directors. This means you can allocate yourself 100% of the share and list yourself as the only director. Alternatively, you can sell shares to investors, you can have more than one director and you can allocate shares to a partner. The structure is completely flexible, depending on your needs.
- You probably won’t be liable for your company’s debt. The shareholders won’t be liable for the Company’s debt if your company ever becomes insolvent. Directors may be held accountable. However, this depends on their contract and also whether they participate in fraudulent or reckless behavior that instigated the insolvency.
- You qualify for many Tender, RFQ and Contract opportunities. You need to formally register a Pty; that means you’ll have the Company documentation companies often require from their applicants.
- You pay a flat rate of 28% Tax on your yearly profit. Depending on your yearly taxable profit, this might be more or it might be less than you would pay as a Sole Proprietor. There are some exemptions to pay a lower flat rate and you can check out both here: do you qualify as an SBC or do you qualify as a Micro Business registered for Turnover Tax.
- You have to do a formal Company Registration. Your business is a to be a separate legal entity to you, which is why you need to formally register as a separate legal entity. However, the registration process doesn’t need to be tedious and it can all be done online. Check out how fast Company Partner’s online and fast-tracked registration service is.
Advantages and Disadvantages of a Partnership
- You don’t have to do a formal Company Registration. You don’t need to do a formal Company Registration at the CIPC to assume this structure. If you and a partner run your own business together, you automatically fall into this category. However, a written partnership agreement, preferably set up by a lawyer, is the best way to establish a partnership. This will ensure there’s an agreed way to resolve any disagreements that may pop up in the future.
- You’re responsible for sharing the profit. Profit-sharing can often cause disputes because both partners don’t always contribute equally.
- Your business and personal finances are considered one entity. You’re required to submit your business income and expenses along with your personal finances. This can be quite complicated because it needs to be divided between two partners fairly.
- You pay Income Tax Rates. If you earn less than R205 900 * taxable income per year (when divided equally and allocated to each partner), you’ll probably pay the least amount of tax. If you earn more, you might pay more tax with this structure. * You can check the Income Tax rates here because they differ every new financial year.
- You’re personally liable for all your business PLUS your partner’s business debts. In the eyes of the law, your personal finances and your business finances are one. Furthermore, you and your business partners share the debt responsibility. If your business partner creates excessive business debt, you can be held accountable.
- You’re excluded from many Tender, RFQ and Contract opportunities. Many companies require their contract applicants to have Company Registration documents. You won’t have that with a Partnership, which means you’ll be excluded from many Tender opportunities without formal CIPC Company registration.
How to choose a good Company Name?
In the following section, I’m going to discuss how you can choose a great name for your new company and also how to make sure it’ll comply with the CIPC’s requirements.
1. The Basic Rules of Company Names in South Africa
- Your Company Name cannot already be in use by another registered Company in your industry. Company Names are categorized by industry, which means more than one company can share a name, as long as they operate in different industries.
- Your Company Name may not be a language translation of another Company which already exists. For example: “ABC Eiendom” will not be accepted if “ABC Property” already exists.
- When you finally reserve your chosen Company Name 100% sure your Company name is spelled correctly. It’ll be time-consuming and costly to change your Company Name after Name Reservation.
2. Your name must be memorable and easy to look up online
Your Company Name needs to capture the attention of your potential customers AND it needs to help customers find you on the Internet.
It needs to be short and memorable, so your potential clients can remember it easily and retype it into Google.
It also helps if your Company name describes what you do and/or where you do it, for e.g. Paarl Swimming Pool Services.
If your company name includes what you do and which area you serve, it’s might help people find you online. The main reason is SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
In short, SEO refers to the ways you make it easier for Google to identify what your website is about. This makes it easier for Google to identify when your site is relevant to the specific services or products people search for.
3. Your name must be unique online
It’s important to ensure another company doesn’t already use your company name online. If another business does, that not mean that company is registered or that the company name is unavailable.
It does, however, mean your potential customers will struggle to find you online – as the other business will pop up online.
Here’s how to check if another company uses your Preferred Company Name online or on social media.
Go to www.google.co.za and enter your new Company name in the search bar and press the blue search button (far right-hand side):
If there is clear evidence in the search results that your new Company name is used by another ‘South African’ company or business, it is best to think of another name as your current name is possibly used by another business.
4. Your website domain should be available
At your website domain bar (in your internet browser) type in www.“the name you want for your company with no spaces in between”.co.za or .com.
Press ‘enter’ on our keyboard:
It’s better to think of another name if another Business is already using your Preferred Company Name as their domain.
You could try something close and relevant to your name for e.g. yourbusinessza.com. However, if you need to significantly adjust your domain name, you might want to reconsider your name.
People don’t easily remember complicated domain names.
It’s up to you whether you choose .co.za or .com. A. com is slightly more expensive but perhaps more suitable if you focus on international clients. There are other forms as well, like .org (mainly used by organizations) or .uk (England) etc.. A .co.za is probably the best option for a South African business because people will automatically type that in when they search for you.
It’s also important to note that some companies buy popular domains to resell them. So oftentimes some domains aren’t available but they aren’t online either. You can contact Company Partners toll free on 0800 007 269 for help with your domain name.
5. Identify your new Company’s Industry
If your new Company will offer products and/or services in a specific industry, its best for your Company Name to end with the word that best describes this Industry.
- MyCompanyName ‘Cleaning’
- MyCompanyName ‘Construction’
You can use descriptive words like ‘Logistics’, ‘Transport’, ‘Catering’, ‘Security’, ‘Consulting’, etc.
If your new Company will offer a variety of products and/or services, it is best to NOT restrict your business. You can ensure this by ending your Company Name with:
- Trading and Projects
- Trading Enterprises
You can simply use ‘Trading’ too. Here are some more examples: ‘Trading and Services’, ‘Enterprises’. ‘Trading Services’, ‘General Trading’, ‘Projects’, ‘Suppliers’, ‘Services’, ‘General Dealers’, ‘Trading and Suppliers’, etc.
CIPC Name Search: How do you see if you Company Name is available?
Your Preferred Company Name should be unique for two reasons. Firstly, when you clients look you up online (as discussed in Step 2) your Company Name should not be confused with another Company’s name. Secondly, if your Company Name is not unique, the CIPC won’t accept it.
If it’s already taken by another registered Company, the CIPC won’t be able to register your Preferred Name.
Luckily there’s a very easy way to do a Company Name Search at the CIPC.
Firstly, you have to follow this link. It’ll take you to the CIPC’s Intellectual Property Commission page.
On the left-hand-side, you’ll see a blue bar. Type in your Preferred Name under “TYPE THE ENTERPRISE NAME” section. See below.
The results that relate to your Preferred Company Name will pop up.
I typed in ‘mynewcompanyname’ and no results popped up, which means that specific name isn’t registered yet.
The CIPC should accept this specific Company Name, because there doesn’t seem to be another registered Company with the same name. However, there are no guarantees that another Company doesn’t want to register that name as well.
That’s why Company name Reservation is the first step in the actual Company Registration process.at any time with the registration process.
The documents that you need to register a Company in South Africa.
Here’s exactly what you need to register a company online. Please note that we do not require any documents from you – we only need your SA ID number and address.
If you’re not a South African citizen, you can still register a company. Take a look at the following blog post we did:
How do you register a Company online (with steps and pictures)?
After you’ve decided which Company Structure will work best for you and what your new Company Name will be, the next step would be reserve your Company Name.
We include fast-tracked Name Reservation with our Company Registration service here. Consequently, I won’t be discussing that step here. You can click HERE to talk to an expert who will walk you through the process and get you started.
In this section, I’ll be showing you how our easy and online Company Registration service works. We’ll register your company at the CIPC hassle-free in record time with the support of a CIPC expert and your very own assigned Business Expert.
We also specialize in all other Business and Tender Documentation services. That means we can assist and advise you on whatever paperwork you need in the future, We cover everything: affordable accounting services, Tender Compliance Documents, Industry-specific Compliance Documents, Business Plans, Tax Clearances, Letter of Good Standing, etc.
However, if you wish to register your business it directly at the CIPC yourself, without our expert service, here’s what you need to do:
The benefit of using us is getting an assigned consultant who walks you through the entire process very quickly and effortlessly. Click HERE to start.
Step 1: Claim your FREE Business Consultation
Either call us tollfree on:
Or book a Call-back like this by following this link and clicking on the FREE CONSULTATION bar.
Next simply pick a time, you’d like one of our experts to call you back.
Lastly, simply provide us with your details so we can give you the specialized FREE consultation you need.
Step 2: Let our Experts sign you up telephonically
Once you’ve called us on 0800 007 269 toll free or we’ve called you back if you made a call-back booking, one of our experts will sign you up telephonically or show you the ropes on our easy online system. After that, the consultant will send you all the information you need straight to your email inbox.
Step 3: Send us your ID Number and Address
If you are a South African citizen, we only require your ID number and address. (no documents are required) Foreign citizens will need to send us a copy of their passport.
Step 4: Make your service payment
You then simply make the payment so we can pay the CIPC and necessary fees to process your Company Registration.
Step 5: Await an email from your assigned Business Consultant with your official CIPC documents
Yes, it’s as simple as that. Our business consultant will also remind you of important dates and renewals. Your Company Registration needs to be renewed one year after your initial registration (through annual return) – this is legally required by the South African Government and we can assist you with this easy process.
You can also just send your assigned consultant an email whenever you need anything else related to your Company’s business administration and he or she will assist you in record time.
Here are a few of the other services we offer, that might assist you in growing and launching a brand new company:
- Pty Company with a new name
- Business bank account & potential finance (we can assist with an FNB Bank Account and potential financing options if required)
- Tax Registration & Tax Verification
- Company Logo
Within 1 month, the above services should cost you less than R4 000.
You can ‘upgrade’ by initiating the ‘Formalise’ and ‘Grow’ phase, once you’ve launched your company and it starts generating an income. Contact your Consultant on 0800 007 269 for more details.
We assist South African entrepreneurs and Companies in all three phases they: (1) Launch; (2) Formalise; (3) Grow.
We offer you a One-Stop-Shop for ALL the Company Registration and Tender Compliance Documents you need! Plus our online system and a team of Experts will get you what you need in record time.
Our services relate to everything business. We offer marketing and branding materials; Compliance Documents needed for Contracts, RFQ’s and Tenders; assistance with your business bank accounts or accounting services; the works. You can search for any Business service you need right HERE.