Companies House is the registry of limited companies in the UK, operating as an executive agency of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. The main purpose of Companies House (the ‘Registrar’) is to incorporate (‘register’) and dissolve limited companies (including LLPs) in England & Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, in accordance with the Companies Act 2006, which governs all company registration matters in the UK.
Additionally, Companies House is responsible for examining, storing, and updating company information, including statutory filings such as annual accounts and Confirmation Statements. Companies House makes this data available to the public, removes non-compliant companies from the register, and prosecutes directors who fail in their statutory duties.
Companies House jurisdictions and locations
The UK has three separate legal systems – England & Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. As a result, Companies House has three different registrar branches, each of which deals with companies incorporated in their own jurisdictions. A fourth office is located in London, but this serves only as an information centre where documents can be delivered and filed, and search services carried out on limited companies registered in the UK.
- Companies House Cardiff Office, Crown Way, Cardiff, CF14 3UZ, is responsible for companies registered in England and Wales, which are subject to English Law.
- Companies House Edinburgh Office, 4th Floor, 2 Edinburgh Quay, 139 Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, EH3 9FF is responsible for companies registered in Scotland, which are subject to Scots Law.
- Companies House Belfast Office, 2nd Floor The Linenhall, 32-38 Linenhall St, Belfast, BT2 8BG, is responsible for companies registered in Northern Ireland, which are subject to Northern Irish law.
What Companies House branch should I use?
When setting up a limited company in the UK, the location of its registered office address (i.e., official contact address) determines which Companies House branch deals with the incorporation and subsequent storing of company records. This factor also dictates which UK legal system the company is subject to during its entire existence:
- A company with a registered office address in either England or Wales will be incorporated by Companies House Cardiff
- A company with a registered office address in Scotland will be incorporated by Companies House Edinburgh
- A company with a registered office address in Northern Ireland will be incorporated by Companies House Belfast
Please note, however, that UK limited companies can base their operations in any, or multiple, UK jurisdictions. It is simply the registered office address that must remain in the country of incorporation throughout a company’s existence.
What information is stored at Companies House?
An incredible amount of corporate information is stored at Companies House. In 2018 alone, the company register peaked at 4.1 million companies. By ensuring that data on this register is as complete and reliable as possible, the Registrar endeavours to maintain a culture of corporate transparency in the UK.
The information and statistics available are used extensively by members of the public, businesses, public bodies, and other government departments and agencies.
Once a company is incorporated, either directly with the Registrar or through an online company formation agent, the business must provide a number of details for the register, update Companies House of any changes after incorporation, and file certain documents each year. The information stored at Companies House includes:
- Date of company incorporation
- Company name and registration number
- Company type (limited by shares, limited by guarantee, or limited liability partnership)
- UK jurisdiction of incorporation
- Registered office address
- Details of directors, company secretaries, shareholders or guarantors, people with significant control (PSCs), and LLP members – including other past or present company appointments held by each individual
- Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes – i.e. what the business does
- Any changes made to company details and appointments
- Filed statutory documents, including annual accounts and Confirmation Statements (previously called ‘Annual Returns’)
- Notices of late or missed statutory document filings
- Mortgage charge data
- Insolvency information
- Compulsory or voluntary strike-off action
- Disqualified directors
- Details of dissolved companies
This freely available information is not only invaluable to members of the public who wish to ensure that certain businesses are genuine and reputable, but also to many other organisations, such as the Police, The National Crime Agency, HMRC, etc. A vast amount of statistical data is also made available by the Registrar, which enables:
- government to understand the probable impact of policy changes and monitor the effects that economic changes have on businesses
- banks to form an understanding of their corporate customer base
- other businesses to research and understand their market share and plan marketing strategies accordingly
- international businesses to make decisions on viable UK locations
- academic institutions to inform their curriculum and research into businesses at both local and national levels
- public service organisations in decision making and the evaluation of business-related policies
Companies House Services
In addition to incorporation services, the Registrar provides a range of digital facilities that make it easy to manage your own company online, as well as access information on other UK-registered limited companies and the people who own, manage, and control them.
Company search services
To search the register, find information on any limited company in the UK (including dissolved companies and disqualified directors), and view/download document images, you can use WebCHeck or Companies House Service.
Companies House Service (formerly known as Companies House BETA) will eventually replace WebCHeck. Furthermore, unlike WebCHeck, there is no need to register your details to use the new service.
Included in Companies House Service is a feature called ‘Follow’, which enables users to register their details to receive free email alerts of limited company filings.The alert provides instant notification of approved documents filed by any registered limited company that you choose to ‘follow’. A copy of the document(s) can then be downloaded free of charge
You can also search and access company information on the go by using the Companies House mobile app.
Company filing services
To file company information and documents online for a business that you own or manage, you can use Companies House WebFiling.
This digital facility is available to all UK limited companies, enabling secure delivery of annual accounts, Confirmation Statements, notices of changes to company details, and registration of charges. You can also use WebFiling to sign up for email reminders of your filing deadlines.
Companies House Service will eventually provide comprehensive filing facilities and take over from WebFiling.
Companies House has four information centres. They are located in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, and Belfast. The services available at these information centres include:
- A public search room for accessing digital services to find information on UK limited companies
- Help and advice
- Ordering copies of company documents, including certified copies and certificates
- Checking your company record, including filing deadlines
- Making changes to your company record
- Document filing services, including company formation applications
- Receiving company filings by post
Improvements to the company register
In July 2018, the Registrar introduced a new facility to make further improvements to the company register.
A welcome addition to the Companies House Service, the ‘report it now’ facility enables customers to notify Companies House of any errors or problems related to the information held on the register, as well as suspicious company activity. Since its launch, more than 58,000 reports have been made.
More significant, however, is the recent announcement that Companies House is to gain greater powers, which will result in a complete overhaul of the UK company register. These reforms aim to tackle criminal activity by limiting the risk of fraud and misuse of company information.
The Registrar will have more power to examine and challenge information, conduct identity checks on the individuals who set up and control companies, and request further evidence to support significant changes to a company.