Handling a corporate address when moving to a fully remote location: What you need to know.
Companies across the United States and the world were forced to make a quick transition to a remote workforce this past spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it was certainly a steep learning curve, a majority of companies have found that the change has been successful. In fact, a study by S&P Global Market Intelligence found that 67 percent of companies who moved to remote work plan to remain remote, either permanently or for the long term. That raises an obvious question: Why continue to pay for office space if your distributed team is performing well while working from home?
One obstacle to giving up a physical office is the need for a permanent corporate address. There are many reasons why a business needs a permanent address, including:
- Offices still get plenty of “snail mail,” and sometimes that mail includes important documents that need quick responses. You don’t want any deliveries to sit in limbo.
- Incorporated entities need to have a business address.
- Suppliers and vendors require an address to open an account.
- Registering a domain name requires an address, and not including an address on your website can hurt your SEO.
The good news is that organizations without a physical office have several options for a permanent business address. Let’s take a look at what’s available and what you need to consider when choosing which is best for you.
Virtual mail services.
Businesses offering virtual mail services provide a permanent physical address and give you tools to manage your deliveries virtually. These companies have been spotlighted during this work-from-home period, and many offer additional benefits that can improve office efficiency.
The exact offerings depend on which company you work with, but, in general, a virtual mail service works like this:
- The service receives your mail. (Unlike a P.O. Box, there are no restrictions to how mail is delivered, so this can include deliveries from courier services.)
- You receive a notification when a delivery arrives.
- You log into your virtual mail account to see what has been delivered.
- From the platform, you can choose if you want a letter opened and scanned for you. Some services offer an option to forward packages to your home address. A virtual mail service can also shred sensitive documents or recycle junk mail, all under your direction.
- Many services archive your scanned mail, so you have ongoing electronic records of what has been received.
Some services are also permitted to act as registering agents. That means they are able to receive legal documents on your behalf. And some can deposit checks on your behalf.
One disadvantage of a virtual mail service is that if you discontinue the service, you may not be able to use USPS to change your address, so you will have to notify all your contacts. That can be a big task, so it’s a good idea to be fully committed to remote working before you make the switch.
How to set up a virtual mail service.
You should invest a bit of time researching the virtual mail services available in order to find one that fits your needs. Some of the big players in this industry include:
- VirtualPostMail: Also offers registered agent services.
- Stable: Targeted for fast-growing start-ups.
- PhysicalAddress: Does not use third-party delivery services.
- Earth Class Mail: Creates high-resolution, searchable PDFs of scanned letters.
In order to use a virtual mail service, you need to fill out USPS Form 1583, which authorizes the service to receive mail for you. You must provide two pieces of identification, and the form may need to be notarized.
You should also consider the tax implications, particularly if you chose to use a virtual mail service that provides a street address in a different state. The state tax authority could assume that you now have a nexus in that state.
Using a P.O. Box.
A P.O. Box is a private, locked box within a postal facility. P.O. Boxes are often cheaper than other options. However, if you go this route, you should be aware that P.O. Boxes only receive deliveries from USPS, and not from other delivery services such as FedEx.
In addition, a P.O. Box is often viewed as less professional than a physical address. They’re not accepted as an address for many legal processes. You can’t use a P.O. Box to register an LLC or a corporation, for example, and most banks won’t accept a P.O. Box as an address when you’re opening an account.
Private mailbox services.
Private mailbox companies offer mailboxes at their store locations. You can use the store’s address as your physical address, so these generally present a more professional image than a P.O. Box. Another advantage over P.O. Boxes is that most delivery companies will deliver to a private mailbox service. And some companies offer other business services, such as notary services, the ability to send faxes, and printing services.
The main difference between a private mailbox and a virtual mailbox is that you have to physically go to the store to pick up your mail from a private mailbox, instead of having it sent to you virtually. That can be restrictive and inconvenient, unless there is one nearby. And if you aren’t able to make it to the store for a few days, you may not be responding to your mail in a timely manner.
The main players in this space include:
As with virtual mail services, you need to complete USPS Form 1583 and provide two pieces of identification to set up an account with a private mailbox service.
The risks of using a home address.
With no centralized office, it might seem that the easiest solution is to use a designated employee’s home address as a corporate address. After all, that would be a cheap and simple solution.
However, you may want a more distinct boundary between work and home. You know that pile of junk mail that seems to accumulate in most homes? Imagine important business documents mixed in with store flyers and then you start to see some of the potential risks. In addition, depending on the type of business and where you live, municipal zoning laws may not permit home businesses, even if you’re just using the address for convenience.
Speaking of boundaries, it’s important to know that your business’s location information is publicly available. In most states, the address of any incorporated entity can be easily searched. Although it’s unlikely that angry clients will show up on your doorstep (at least we hope it is), many people are uncomfortable with this lack of privacy.
And, of course, there’s also your image to consider. Your brand is a complete package, including its location. With a home address, your business could appear less professional.
There are ways to get a permanent corporate address, from virtual mail services to P.O. Boxes. It’s worth considering the pros and cons of the alternatives to find the right solution for your business.
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