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Unlike limited companies, there’s no legal requirement for a sole trader to open a business bank account.
However, legal aspects aside, most banking providers don’t allow personal current accounts to be used extensively for business purposes.
So, if you’re a sole trader, it shouldn’t be a problem to accept payments for the work you have carried out. But if a high volume of business-related payments is noted going in and out of your personal account, then your bank may contact you and ask you to set up a business account.
If you’re going to be doing a huge amount of business banking, we’ve already established that even as a sole trader you probably won’t be allowed to use your personal current account for that.
But apart from that point, there are lots of other advantages that come with setting up a business bank account.
For one, it makes it a lot easier to keep your personal and business finances separate, especially when it comes to the end of the financial year and you need to work out your tax bill.
And then there’s the fact that some business accounts come with great features to help you manage your cash flow and bookkeeping.
Depending on which account you sign up for, you could benefit from an invoice creation service, expenses management, spending categorisation, budgeting tools and tax and VAT calculators. If you already use a different accounting software package, such as QuickBooks or Xero, these accounts can often integrate directly with those too.
And with a raft of new digital account providers on the market, you can usually manage all of this on the go through a click mobile banking app.
Some banking providers have specific accounts designed for sole traders, while other banks just let you use their standard business account. The application process varies by provider, but most can be completed online now.
In general, when you open a business account as a sole trader, you’ll be asked for proof of ID, proof of address and your contact details (plus your business name and address, if you have chosen to set these up as separate to your own). You might be asked for some details about your business, and a credit check may also be carried out.
This varies depending on which banking provider you go with, but unlike personal current accounts (which many of us are used to getting for free), it is far more common to be charged for using a business account.
Some business accounts come with a monthly fee, typically between £5 and £10, while others are free to set up and operate.
There will often be small charges for individual transactions, such as setting up direct debits, making or receiving payments or depositing cash into the account.
With some accounts, you get a certain number of transactions for free each month, or you may have the option of choosing a plan that reflects your payments mix. For example, if you know you’re going to be paying in a lot of cash, you could choose the plan with cheaper cash transactions charges as opposed to one with cheaper electronic payment charges.
Make sure you take all of this into consideration when you select your account since tiny individual charges can run up to a big total if you’re carrying out a lot of transactions.
And remember to look out for any free introductory offers. Some banks will offer free everyday banking for the first few months or even the first year or two (although you will have to pay any business banking fees after that).
It’s not a legal requirement for a sole trader to set up a business account for their banking needs (like it is for limited companies), and business accounts do often come with fees attached. But there are several advantages to opening one, including making the management of your business finances easier and being able to take advantage of any invoicing, cash flow and calculation tools that may come with it.
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