If you own a UK business then you may have considered setting it up as a limited company. Limited liability is a type of legal structure which means that any private assets that are owned by the company owner or investor will not be at risk if the company fails. It is no surprise that this is a very popular choice right across the UK but, if you want to enjoy these benefits, then you must provide certain information to Companies House. Here, information and data can be accessed online for free by anyone, so it pays to know exactly what information can be seen.
What is the public register?
All limited companies in the UK must register at Companies House. In other words, in order to access the benefits of limited liability, the government wants you to be fully transparent by allowing some data and information about your company to be open to the public. This collection of information is known as the public register or Companies House register.
Why is there a public register?
The main aim of the public register is to allow corporate transparency and to ensure that businesses are being open and honest. This, in turn, will help to reduce fraud and any other corporate criminal activities. This transparency also makes the UK a very attractive place to start a business and helps to create an environment in which consumers, investors and entrepreneurs can act with confidence.
What information is required?
As a limited company, you must supply information and data about your business’s activities, accounts and details of who controls it. Specific information about its directors is also required and you must keep this up to date for as long as the company is running. For this reason, any future directors of the company must be willing to provide details about themselves.
Below we highlight in more detail the information required from limited companies:
- Your business’s office address — You are required to submit a physical address where any letters, notices or reminders can be delivered. Even if you have no office location, an address — such as a home address — is mandatory. Do bear in mind, however, that this address will be available to the public. Alternatively, you can set up a Single Alternative Inspection Location (SAIL) for the public to view, where information and records can be kept.
- Company directors — As well as the names of any company directors, you must provide also their nationalities, occupations and dates of birth, together with two addresses for each director: One for receiving business communications and the other being their residential address. The former can be the same as the office address but the latter will be kept on the private register and will be available only to credit reference agencies and particular authorities in exceptional circumstances.
- Date of birth — Any new company directors must provide their full date of birth, which will be held on the private register. Those appointed after October 2015 will have only their birth month and year made public. Once again, their full date of birth will be given only to particular parties, such as credit reference agencies or the police, in certain circumstances.
- Company secretaries — Although company secretaries need not provide their date of birth or home address, they must give an address for business correspondence. This can be the registered office address or somewhere else but remember that this will be made public.
- PSCs — People with Significant Control within the company must provide the same information as a director. In addition, they must detail how they control the company. All information, except for their home address and date of birth, will be made public. If the PSC chooses his-or-her home address as their business correspondence address, however, then this will be made public.
Who can access the public register?
In short, everyone — both other businesses and individuals. Organisations are allowed to make copies of any data or information that is available on the public register. Once they have this information, however, then they must comply with any data protection laws.
It is worth noting that credit reference agencies and public authorities such as the police have the right to request private information from Companies House, although this will be disclosed only when required by law.
How long does the information stay on the public register?
Your information stays at Companies House for the whole period that the business exists and is active. Exactly 20 years after a company has been dissolved, however, information will be passed to The National Archives, from which records can still be requested by anyone across the globe.
Protecting your personal information:
Although company directors and PSCs must provide certain information, it can have consequences for them and for other members of the company. For this reason, it is sensible to protect your home address to avoid spam letters, cold calls and — in serious cases — identity theft.
Protecting your home address
The easiest way to protect your home address is by not using it as your business correspondence address, the company’s office address or the SAIL address. This is because this information is available to the public and would reveal your home address. If your company is run from your residential address but, for the reasons above, you would like to use instead another address, then organisations such as Uniwide Formations offer Registered Address services.
If you have used your home address on public documents in the past, then a recently enacted law now lets you ask that it be removed from the public register. You will need to know on which documents your residential address has been used and then fill in this form. The cost is £32 for each document from which you want your home address removed. You should remember, however, that you cannot remove your private address if this is still your company’s current registered office address.
Those who may be at risk due to the kind of work that their company conducts can file a claim for their home address to be restricted. In such a case Companies House could not then provide address details to credit reference agencies on your behalf. You must, however, show proof that you would be at risk — whether such proof may be a police incident number after an attack, evidence of a threat of attack, or evidence that you work for a particular company which may give rise to such a risk.
Keep your authentication code a secret
When you register your limited company you will receive a 6-digit authentication code. This is like a PIN number and, for the same reasons, you should treat it in the same way since anyone who has this number can change details of your company online.
Report any scams
Scams typically come in the form of e-mails or text messages. If you believe that you have been sent anything suspicious then it is important to forward it to [email protected]. Do not open any attachments or give out any of your personal information. The government will never ask for your authentication code over the phone or via e-mail, so never give out this information either.
Companies House in numbers
There are believed to be over 4 million companies now on the Companies House register and more are being registered every week. Anyone can access their information, whenever they want, but there is also a quarterly report which details the newest companies on the register and also those which have been removed from it.
It is in these records at Companies House that one can find information about company liquidations and insolvency procedures. There is also an annual report which highlights how many companies are on the register, as well as the total number of incorporations and dissolutions for the year.
How can we help?
Have you any other questions about Companies House? Are you wondering whether to register a Limited Company? At Uniwide Formations we can help you with exactly these things.
Our team of experts can help you register your limited company with Companies House, or help you change your registered address details, or help you in other ways. We offer various company formation packages, so that you can find one that suits your needs and budget. We can also advise on a number of other business-related matters. For more information about our services, and about how we can help your business, you are most welcome to contact us.