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A registered office is a company's official location listed with the government agency that regulates business activities. Some jurisdictions require the company's principal headquarters to be designated as its registered office. Other jurisdictions allow any physical location to be used, as long as a registered agent is there who can receive mail on behalf of the company. A few jurisdictions require a registered address rather than a registered office, allowing companies to use a post office box to meet the requirement.
Most countries require new companies to register with a government agency to obtain the legal authority to do business in a particular jurisdiction. This allows the government to control various aspects of business activity and enables it to protect the public from any unscrupulous practices. As part of the registration process, companies provide official contact information that becomes part of the public record so the government or its customers can contact a responsible party in case of a compliance issue or a lawsuit. The mailing address for the company's registered office is the official contact information that every company must provide.
Registered office definitions differ depending upon the jurisdiction. Business registrations are usually authorized under a specific law, which will indicate what type of office will satisfy the requirement. The law can require a company to use the address of its principal headquarters or it can require any physical location that can receive mail, with or without a person there who will act as a registered agent.
In the US, for example, business registrations are authorized under state law. Each state business statute outlines the registration process and defines the type of contact information that will qualify as a company's registered office. Some states require a company to use an operating location. Others allow companies to use any physical location, such as the home of an owner or a board member.
Some US states require a registered agent that is reachable at the office location even though the office does not have to be a business location. Anyone can serve as the registered agent, including an owner of the company, but states that allow business registrations to be handled this way also have an industry of corporate services firms that will act as a company's registered agent and office for a fee. This enables a company to register in a state without having to open an office to meet the contact requirement.