Freelancers' Questions: Do sole traders have duties?

Freelancer’s Question: As a sole trader, trading under my own name, are there any legal requirements for certain information, such as address, to be clearly displayed (e.g. on stationery or my website)? Or is it acceptable to just keep this information for invoices, and have only phone and email details on, say, business cards and my website? I don't want to get in trouble, or fined, for not complying with any rules. Are there any legal obligations that I haven't mentioned which I must fulfil as a sole trader?

Expert’s Answer:
As a sole trader your invoices must contain the name of the business i.e. in this case your name and an address where any legal documents can be delivered to you. Also if you are VAT-registered then you must show your VAT registration number. The only restrictions or requirements in relation to business cards or stationery are that if you trade under a business name other than your own, then you must include your name and address.

As for the website, this very much depends upon exactly what is on your website. If it is literally just an advert for you with some contact details then email address and phone number is fine. If, however, you are selling goods or services from that site then there are additional considerations under the Distance Selling Regulations and the E-commerce Regulations. Basically you will need to provide the business name (your name in this case), address and VAT registration number if applicable.

From a practical point of view, I would advise including an address on your stationery/ business cards. It may make prospective customers feel more at ease with who they are dealing with as they have full contact details for you.

The expert was Ben Evans, trainee solicitor at Lawdit Solicitors, a legal firm that advises freelaners on a one-to-one basis.


27th January 2010

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