More than half of the six million businesses currently operating within the UK have something important in common. They’re all registered with Companies House.
As an agency within the government Department for Business, Skills and Innovation, Companies House is the official register of companies within the United Kingdom. It is responsible for handling the regulation, incorporation and dissolution of private limited companies and limited liability partnerships within England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
There are around 4.3 million active businesses within the UK currently registered with Companies House. Anyone can go online on the Companies House register and access the information about these businesses at no cost. They can inspect the ownership, actions and reliability of each registered business within the UK.
What does Companies House do?
For almost two centuries, Companies House has been the UK’s official company register. It acts as the authority over new businesses eager to become limited companies while also maintaining the public records of the existing organisations on the register.
Any company registering with Companies House must meet certain requirements and supply certain company information, for example, what name an organisation can register under, how owners must declare and disclose their involvement within the business and the way the company is classed for tax and investments. Once a company is registered with Companies House, it must report any changes within the past year, such as the appointment of new board members, company secretary or new investors.
Companies House also deals with the dissolution of companies. If your business is closed, you need to inform Companies House, who will officially record the business as closed.
What is incorporation?
When a business is granted permission to form a company by Companies House, the process is called incorporation. The shareholder will have declared their agreement to form a company through a memorandum of association and disclose the company’s share structure with Companies House. They must also appoint a director to run the company (the first shareholder), additional directors, and a secretary. The shareholder will declare how they will run the company by submitting an ‘articles of association’ document. Companies House will use this information to generate an online listing for the company and each shareholder.
What happens when a company is dissolved?
If a company fails to supply Companies House with updates or goes out of business, the company may subsequently be dissolved. There are alternative ways to dissolve a company depending on the reason for its closure. When a company is dissolved, the company’s register listing is still publicly accessible as an official record of ownership. However, the company does not exist and cannot do business.
Where is Companies House located?
Companies House has separate branches across the United Kingdom responsible for incorporating companies in their specific location. Your company’s registered address will determine which Companies House location will handle your company’s incorporation and manage of all your company documentation. The three Companies House locations are:
- Companies listed within Scotland : Edinburgh Office, 4th Floor, 2 Edinburgh Quay, 139 Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, EH3 9FF
- Companies listed within Wales and England : Cardiff Office, Crown Way, Cardiff, CF14 3UZ
- Companies listed within Northern Ireland : Belfast Office, 2nd Floor The Linenhall, 32-38 Linenhall St, Belfast, BT2 8BG
Which businesses can register with Companies House?
Companies House is accountable for incorporating limited companies. It does not deal with sole traders and general partnerships. A limited company can register by using a company formation agent such as Uniwide Formations to complete the process on their behalf. The businesses that Companies House incorporates includes:
- Public limited companies (PLC)
- Private unlimited companies
- Limited liability partnerships
- Limited partnerships
- International and European public businesses
Why does Companies House register businesses?
The purpose of Companies House is to support business owners, the general public and also the government. It does this by allowing business owners to register their company information, giving them a specific level of protection and ownership. Once registered, the business becomes a legal entity with a separate status and rights. Nobody else can claim it as their business. The owner can also claim rights to the company name, and therefore no other business can operate using the identical branding.
When a business registers with a trusted authority like Companies House, the process provides certain assurances about the real nature of these incorporated companies. A UK business cannot register with Companies House without meeting certain criteria and filing official documents, manually checked before approval is granted. Anyone is freely able to look up a business and find out who owns it and its history, providing a vital level of transparency and assurance.
The Companies House register also enables the government to monitor UK businesses to gather data on the current state of the economy and specific markets.
Services available from Companies House
Companies House offers various digital data and filing services for companies and public information services alongside its incorporation services.
This service from Companies House allows anyone to access all of the public data it holds on businesses registered in the UK for free. This information includes everything from the date of a company’s incorporation to details of its directors, secretaries, share capital and filings. Anyone can access this information by searching the name of the company or that of its director. The information is freely accessible without having to register an account with Companies House.
Companies House offers a web filing facility that permits limited companies the flexibility to quickly and easily share information and documents with Companies House. This online document filing service provides an efficient, safe and cost-effective way to send company information and documents.
Businesses and members of the general public can use the Company House WebCheck service to obtain a wide range of information regarding registered limited companies. Most of the documents are image files available to download at no cost. However, accessing certain company documents and reports will have an administration fee attached. The company information available to everyone at no cost includes:
- Company name
- Registration number
- Company type and sector
- Date of incorporation
- Registered company address
- Company status
- Accounting reference
- Date of last and next accounts filing
- Type of account (full, dormant, abbreviated)
- Previous company names
- Current directors and secretary
Direct subscription service
This £4 a month subscription facility enables the public to access all the 130 million records that Companies House holds. Subscribers are able to search by ‘company’ or ‘owner name’ and download the documents they want for around £1 each. Subscribers can access a range of information, such as:
- Company reports
- Company appointments
- Personal appointments
- Online certificate ordering
- Detailed mortgage information
- Dissolved companies
- Details of liquidation
- Banned directors
There are Companies House information centres located across the UK where businesses can access the following services:
- General advice
- Accessing Companies House’s digital services
- Ordering and reviewing copies of company records, documents and certificates
- Inspecting and updating company records and filing deadlines
- Filing documents and company formation applications
What makes Companies House important for businesses?
Companies House has a crucial role within the UK business landscape. It acts as a central hub for all company data, protects businesses and provides the necessary information for creating a fair and stable environment for businesses. Without it, there would be no registration process for businesses, no records of UK businesses past and present and no way for business owners to prove ownership of their brand. Companies House provides two key benefits to the business community and the public:
Promotes best practice
Companies House holds a register of disqualified directors. This register is available to view using the Companies House online portal. A company director is disqualified when they fail to fulfil their responsibilities for running a company legally. The timeframe of this disqualification could be as long as 15 years and can have far-reaching effects. Having a register for disqualified members helps promote best practices within the business community and highlights the consequences of poorly operating company directors beyond any criminal charges they may face.
Companies House ensures that each company’s registration information and trading performance are publicly available, creating transparency and accountability across the UK’s business community. From a business perspective, this enables competitors and investors to track how an industry is performing overall. A potential investor looking to buy shares in a company or find out how their competitors are performing can use the Companies House online portal to do their research for free. Companies House continues to explore ways to improve the quality of the registered information they hold to ensure it’s as accurate and transparent as possible.
If you are ready to set up a limited company in the UK and need help registering with Companies House, Uniwide Formations can guide you through the process. Our range of company formation packages offers a fast and efficient way to incorporate your company or register a partnership. To find out more about our services and how we can help your business contact us today.