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What Is Companies House?

GoCardless
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Last editedAug 20212 min read

If you’re thinking about creating a limited company, one of the first things you’ll need to do is register with Companies House. So, what is Companies House and what does it do exactly? This government agency keeps a central record of all companies for transparency purposes. Here is what you need to know before registering a company in the UK.

What is Companies House?

Companies House is a UK government body responsible for storing information about limited liability partnerships and limited companies. All qualifying partnerships or companies must file documents including their annual returns, accounts, and basic contact details. These documents are retained and displayed as public record, allowing anyone to search for and retrieve basic Companies House information.

There has been some form of registration in the UK similar to the Companies House service since 1844. Today, company registrations are regulated by the Companies Act of 1985, 1989, and 2006. At present it’s estimated that there are over 1.8 million companies registered. When a new limited company incorporates or dissolves, the Companies House register is updated accordingly.

What does Companies House do?

There are three primary aspects of Companies House services. Its main functions include:

  1. Incorporating and dissolving limited companies

  2. Storing and maintaining information according to the Companies Act legislation

  3. Putting company information on public record with an online search tool

It’s important to note that the Companies House register is only used to archive details related to certain types of businesses. Limited companies can include private limited companies (Ltd), public limited companies (PLC), and limited liability partnerships (LLP). Business structures that don’t fall under these categories are dealt with differently by the government.

How to register with Companies House

Companies registering in England or Wales will deal with the Companies House office based in Cardiff. Scottish companies will register with the office in Edinburgh, and Northern Irish companies in Belfast. There’s also a central London office which can be contacted by post.

However, the easiest way to register with Companies House is online. By registering, you’ll receive an official ‘certificate of incorporation’. This proves your company is legally registered with a company number and date of incorporation.

To register online, you’ll need to provide some basic information. This includes identifying details such as your:

  • Passport number

  • National insurance number

  • Telephone number

  • Mother’s maiden name

  • Town of birth

Company registration costs £12, and you’ll need to create a new Government Gateway user ID and password specific to your new company. It’s also possible to register by post, filling out the form IN01 on the government website.

Important Companies House forms

There are several Companies House forms you should be aware of when starting any new business. This includes form IN01 when first registering, but there is additional paperwork required:

  • Annual accounts

All limited companies within the UK are legally required to keep accounting records. The director of your company is responsible for ensuring annual accounts are filed on time each year.

  • Confirmation statement

Formerly known as the annual return, the confirmation statement shows a quick rundown of your company’s directors, share capital, and contact information.

If any of your original registration details change, such as your business address or name, you’ll need to update Companies House. Similarly, you’ll need to fill out a form should you appoint new directors, secretaries, or other officers.

Penalties for non-compliance

It’s important to remember to keep your Companies House information current, because penalties do apply for inaccuracies or late filing. An automatic financial penalty is applied when annual accounts are submitted past the deadline. Perhaps more importantly, company officers could be subject to prosecution for withholding information from Companies House. Be sure that your accounts team is competent and knowledgeable about Companies House services to ensure all records are up to date.

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