Setting up an online school has plenty of practical questions you need to answer first. This third part is leading you to more practical points – which country is best for registering the business, setting up a bank account, taxation, certification, teaching children, credibility, so you feel prepared.
The practical areas to consider
Ok, so you have looked at yourself – Setting up an online school – Part 1, figured out what type of school you are going to offer – Setting up an online school – Part 2, now you need to think about all the practical areas.
What country to set up in?
First off, what country will you operate in? Now, you may say, that’s obvious, the country I live in. No, the fact that you are operating on the internet allows you to choose the most advantageous country. I, myself, have had the experience of setting up in a different country so I speak from my own knowledge here. There are various points to consider: taxation, it makes sense to choose a country that offers the best tax deal. V.A.T. is also a consideration, some countries have zero V.A.T. on education. Certification also needs to be taken into account, what are the certification procedures in your chosen country? There are other practicalities surrounding the teaching of children. Some countries are very strict on who they allow to access their kids. If it is an English school, then locating in an English-speaking country will probably be an advantage. I will look at these in turn.
So, is there a magic bullet country that I can advise? Not really, because it depends on your circumstances, but I can make one strong suggestion – stay in your own country, if possible. Just to make things crystal clear, in the previous paragraph I am talking about living in your own country but operating the business from somewhere else. I am not suggesting moving abroad, although if that is your wish, fine. But if you can stay and do everything in the business from your own country, it does make things easier. Going abroad means you will have to hire an accountant and doing so from a distance has its problems. There will be documents to be signed every so often and you have the factor in the expenses incurred. You will probably need an accountant and lawyer to register and set up the business and there are always plenty of firms offering such services. You will have to do your own due diligence on these and again, this aspect will be easier in your own country as you can probably get personal recommendations.
Setting up a bank account
Setting up a bank account in a foreign country, which will be essential, has its complications. Even a simple thing like if the bank asks for proof of address via a utility bill in your name (a requirement in the UK and Ireland, for instance) was a problem for me as all such things were in my wife’s name. You will need to physically go to the country at least once to organize setting up the company and getting a bank account. You will, of course, need online banking but nowadays that shouldn’t be a problem.
I have researched many countries regarding setting up an account and banks have become more stringent in recent years as they are concerned about money laundering. The days of cowboy countries with cowboy banks have narrowed considerably and are probably only available to the rich.
Tax and V.A.T. should be a big consideration. If you are going to set up abroad then you need to research for the best deal for you. You need to take into account future employees, they will have to be paid from your business’s country. The best way is if they can invoice you as self-employed then their country shouldn’t matter too much but if you plan on paying a salary then it will have to be feasible for them to accept it from your country. You will need to be guided by your accountant on this aspect. It is vital.
If you can identify a country that would suit you, I would recommend if you could also have a reliable contact there. It takes time to build up a good working relationship with an accountant and a friend on hand could be very useful.
If you decide to operate from your own country, you will need to do all the above steps but they should be easier to accomplish. If your country has a business-friendly regime with good incentives for start-ups then why locate anywhere else?
Certification of educational establishments is a hot issue in many countries. Online schools, while not escaping such considerations, do operate in a different sphere. If you desire certification then there are hurdles to go through and you need to research them. Often a school has to be operating for a period of time, sometimes years before they can get certification. You need to look at the guidelines and decide do you wish to get through them. Certification does add a cachet which can give a definite competitive advantage. It is unlikely that you can get a respected certification straightaway so it will be something to aspire to, but you may need to follow their guidelines right from the start to make it possible.
Teaching children is also an issue. Again, I would recommend taking legal advice here as some countries insist on vetting those who are teaching their children. Aiming for an adult audience means you don’t have to worry about this. For teaching young children, it will be necessary to have an adult on the computer with them and is another area to consider.
The last aspect is credibility. Of course, here I am talking about an English language school although it is a factor no matter what your type of institution. Suppose you find a cheap taxation country with a lax regime and you decide to operate legally from there, will students be put off? Operating from the UK, for instance, with an English address, is more convincing than from Boohooland. Of course, if you decide on the UK or a similar English speaking country and your name is unlikely to be that of a native speaker from there you may have to consider using an English sounding name to give the necessary credibility. It is not illegal to use a non-de-plume, so it is an option. If it will give you a competitive advantage then why not?