One of the many pieces of information with which you must provide Companies House when you register your company is the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code. By providing a five-digit SIC code to Companies House you inform them of what kind of business you conduct. Should your company change to a different kind of business during its lifetime then you will need to inform Companies House of the new SIC code. Under the current classification system there are over 700 SIC codes, which cover even the most obscure industry sectors in the UK. For example, SIC code 1440 denotes that a company is in the business of “raising of camels and camelids”, while the SIC code 1260 is for “Growing of oleaginous fruits” (fruits grown for the extraction of oil). In this article we will explain when you might need to change your SIC code, how to change an SIC codewith Companies House, what to do if you have a business that spans multiple SIC codes and what happens if you provide Companies House with an incorrect SIC code.

What is a Standard Industrial Classification code?

Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes are used in several countries as a way of classifying economic activities. When a company registers with Companies House it must choose between one and four SIC codes that reflect the type of business that it does. This is important because if each company were to use its own description of its type of activity then this would result in an endless list, with many having the same or a similar meaning. Rather than companies being allowed to write their own description they are asked to choose from a predefined list. This means that any governmental and non-governmental statistics, reporting or analysis that is carried out based on sector type can be undertaken in a logical and consistent manner. As Companies House states; “By supplying this [SIC code] data, it allows us to track the number of companies operating in the different types of industries. This gives an indication of emerging trends and the strength of the UK economy”. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) also explains; “The [SIC code] classification provides a framework for the collection, tabulation, presentation and analysis of data, and its use promotes uniformity”.

The UK has its own SIC code system, the UK Standard Industrial Classification (UK SIC), which was last updated in 2007 and contains over 700 five-digit SIC codes.

The Definitive Guide to Understanding Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Codes

What are the main SIC code sections?

Under the 2007 UK SIC framework there are 21 SIC codes denoting the main high-level industrial sectors in the UK:

  • Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing
  • Mining and quarrying
  • Manufacturing
  • Electricity, Gas, Steam and air conditioning
  • Water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities
  • Construction
  • Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles
  • Transport and storage
  • Accommodation and food service activities
  • Information and communication
  • Financial and insurance activities
  • Real estate activities
  • Professional, scientific and technical activities
  • Administrative and support service activities
  • Public administration and defence; compulsory social security
  • Education
  • Human health and social work activities
  • Arts, entertainment and recreation
  • Other service activities
  • Activities of households as employers, undifferentiated goods and service-producing activities of households for own use
  • Activities of extraterritorial organisations and bodies

New SIC codes are added as new industrial sectors emerge and these were last updated in 2007. The last change before 2007 was in 2003 and, before that, in 1997. This may suggest that we are overdue for an update to the SIC code system, given the considerable changes in commerce over the last 15 years.

See below for an example of some of the manufacturing SIC codes used in the UK.

How do I know whether I need to register more than one SIC code?

Companies House will ask you to provide at least one SIC code that reflects your “principal business”. In other words, they want to know the business activity that brings in the most revenue. A single SIC code is sufficient for most circumstances, although you may add more codes if you have other distinct areas to your business. More codes may cause confusion when it comes to finance and taxes, however, hence it is important not to add codes unless they are really needed. In some cases it may be hard to choose the appropriate SIC code-or-codes for your business. In these circumstances we recommend speaking to a company formation agent who can advise you on the correct codes to register with Companies House.

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Why might I need to change a company SIC code?

You might need to change a company SIC code for a number of reasons. If you cease a particular type of business then you will need to have the relevant code removed from your list of SIC codes at Companies House. Likewise, if you change from one form of business to another then you will need to register this change. This would also be the case if you were to add a new activity to your business. For example, you may manufacture electrical goods and yet later decide to add the repair of electrical goods.

Another reason to change a company SIC code is if you switch from being an active trading company to a dormant company. In this case, your company will be given an SIC code of 99999 for a “dormant company”. Alternatively, the SIC code 74990 is used for a non-trading company.

You may also need to change a company SIC code if you used the wrong one when you set up your company. You will not be penalised by Companies House for having provided an incorrect code, but it is advisable to have this corrected at the next available opportunity.

How to change an SIC code

We are often asked by our clients how to change an SIC code with Companies House. Thankfully, there is no need to make an immediate change to your company’s SIC code. This is because you are only required to inform Companies House of any changes to your SIC codes when you file your next annual confirmation statement. If, for any reason, you want to make an immediate change to your SIC code then you can do so by filing your confirmation statement earlier than the normal filing date. Since you need to pay only a single confirmation statement filing fee each year you will not need to pay more if you file more than once in a given year.

Many companies now rely on company specialists to handle all aspects of their annual filing requirements, including their confirmation statements. If you are unsure of how to change an SIC code with Companies House then a company formation professional can do this for you quickly and easily.

Where can I find a list of UK SIC codes?

A full list of UK SIC codes can be found on the Companies House website. This provides a search facility allowing you easily to find the most appropriate SIC code.

Some examples of specific UK SIC codes:

  • 10110 Processing and preserving of meat
  • 10120 Processing and preserving of poultry meat
  • 10130 Production of meat and poultry meat products
  • 10200 Processing and preserving of fish, crustaceans and molluscs
  • 10310 Processing and preserving of potatoes
  • 10320 Manufacture of fruit and vegetable juice
  • 10390 Other processing and preserving of fruit and vegetables
  • 10410 Manufacture of oils and fats
  • 10420 Manufacture of margarine and similar edible fats
  • 10511 Liquid milk and cream production
  • 10512 Butter and cheese production
  • 10519 Manufacture of other milk products
  • 10520 Manufacture of ice cream
  • 10611 Grain milling
  • 10612 Manufacture of breakfast cereals and cereals-based food
  • 10620 Manufacture of starches and starch products
  • 10710 Manufacture of bread; manufacture of fresh pastry goods and cakes
  • 10720 Manufacture of rusks and biscuits; manufacture of preserved pastry goods and cakes
  • 10730 Manufacture of macaroni, noodles, couscous and similar farinaceous products
  • 10810 Manufacture of sugar
  • 10821 Manufacture of cocoa and chocolate confectionery
  • 10822 Manufacture of sugar confectionery
  • 10831 Tea processing
  • 10832 Production of coffee and coffee substitutes
  • 10840 Manufacture of condiments and seasonings
  • 10850 Manufacture of prepared meals and dishes
  • 10860 Manufacture of homogenised food preparations and dietetic food
  • 10890 Manufacture of other food products n.e.c.
  • 10910 Manufacture of prepared feeds for farm animals
  • 10920 Manufacture of prepared pet foods
  • 11010 Distilling, rectifying and blending of spirits
  • 11020 Manufacture of wine from grape

Uniwide Formations specialises in registering limited companies and Limited Liability Partnerships. You can change your company’s SIC code/s when you file a confirmation statement.

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