The Basics of How to Register a Business in South Africa

Posted by Elaine Viljoen on 26 January 2018.

Elaine Viljoen

CA(SA), CTA, Hons BCompt, Adv Diploma Banking, BCom (Cum laude), IALMBA Graduate Student, Business School Netherlands

The Tax Shop Head Office

More about Elaine Viljoen

Elaine obtained qualifications from various academic institutions and currently studies towards the International MBA at the Business School Netherlands. She qualified as a Chartered Accountant (SA) in 1988 and is a member of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants. After completion of her articles with KPMG, she lectured in the fields of accounting and auditing at various universities. Thereafter, she occupied high profile positions in the banking sector, including appointments as Group Chief Accountant at Standard Bank, General manager in the enterprise risk management, treasury and finance divisions at ABSA and Chief Financial Officer at ABN Amro Bank South Africa. She served on various executive committees, including audit and risk committees and as representative of the Middle-East and Africa region on the Steering Committee Information and Operations for ABN Amro Bank. Since 2008 she has provided business consulting services to various financial institutions in South Africa and acted as a specialist advisor in the nuclear energy sector.
Instructions on how to register a business are shared below to make the process a bit easier. However, should you want professional assistance or simply prefer the convenience and efficiency of having experienced accountants handle the process on your behalf, we recommend making use of our services.
Where and How to Register
The Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) handles business registrations in South Africa. You will also find instructions at their website on how to register a business.  The New Companies Act has simplified the business registration process. You can now register your business without having to reserve a name and in such an instance the business will operate under its registration number. We do recommend that you do the name reservation along with the business registration to save on administration and costs associated with reprinting stationary after the name has been approved.
Choosing the Business Name
It is essential to choose a name that is appropriate, not already registered, easy to recognise, and one that can be trademarked, as well as one that is easy to remember and easy to find in a directory or on the World Wide Web. Go with simple rather than one that is difficult to spell or pronounce. Do not copy from competitors as it will only make it difficult to stand out and lower the chance of the name being accepted by CIPC.
Humour is welcome in life, but when it comes to the business name, be sure to keep it professional since puns are not taken seriously. Keep your colour scheme in mind when choosing the name, since that choice will form an integral part of your branding process.
You need to select four names for your business in the order of preference. Your first choice may not be successful, so make sure all the choices are worth keeping. Run an internet search to check if the names you select are not already in use in your particular industry and use the company name check facility at CIPC to check availability of the name. Once CIPC approves one of your choices you will receive a notification to the effect either via text message or email, and will also get a number for tracking progress.
Register a Domain Name
As part of your business setup, you will inevitably want to register a domain name too (for your Internet Protocol (IP) address). This is where it becomes important to ensure that the name you select is not trademarked, already registered with CIPC, in use, or already used as a domain name. It is preferred to have your business name in the domain. You want to be able to spell the name in the same way as it appears on your documents for the internet domain. Keep in mind that the longer domain names are difficult to spell and make it possible for unscrupulous criminals to setup similar looking pages with similar names for people who have misspelled the name where they then collect information from the visitors without their knowledge.
Type of Entity
You can register a non-profit business, which is one focussed on public benefit or for social, group, community or cultural interest and not geared towards profits. You can also register a profit company, which is an entity that is aimed at generating income and profits. The types of profit companies are:
• Personal liability
• Private
• Public
• State-owned
A personal liability company is one where the directors are also liable together with the company for liabilities during their management of office period and is denoted as Inc. or Incorporated. The private company is similar to the old Close Corporation or CC, but shareholding unlike in the past with private companies is no longer limited to a total of 50 shareholders. At least one director must serve on the board and the company is denoted as Proprietary Limited or (Pty) Ltd. Note that you cannot register a CC anymore.
For a private company, you will need to have a Notice of Incorporation as well as a Memorandum of Incorporation (MOI). Do not let these forms frustrate you. We have the expertise to help complete the forms.
The MOI includes information such as the necessary details of the incorporation, the maximum share capital and the total number of directors. The Notice of Incorporation includes details about the type of business entity, incorporation date, when the financial year-end is and the office registered address. It also includes the company name and details regarding the total number of directors, whether the company will operate under its registration number or reserved name, the reserved name, and the name choices.
Our Professional Accountants and Tax consultants can help you determine whether to register for provisional tax or turnover tax. The turnover tax is a relief system for micro-businesses. In addition, the Tax Shop Professional Accountants will help to streamline bookkeeping with appropriate software and assist in other aspects of running a business in South Africa such as business plans.