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Aside from these principal functions, Companies House is also responsible for gathering, inspecting, and storing information on UK companies and making these records available online to the public.
Let’s take a look at the important role and responsibilities of Companies House in greater detail below, including the services they provide to businesses, organisations, and the general public.
The role of Companies House
Companies House is the Registrar of Companies for the whole of the UK, which includes the jurisdictions of England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
The main responsibilities of the Registrar are administrative and regulatory in nature, and include the following:
- Incorporating (registering/setting up) companies in accordance with the Companies Act 2006 and supplementary legislation and regulations
- Examining and storing company information and statutory company filings (e.g. confirmation statements and annual accounts)
- Making corporate information and records available to the public on the central register of companies
- Dissolving companies and striking them off the register
When you set up a company, either directly at Companies House or through an online company formation agent, it is Companies House who inspects and approves the application.
Upon incorporation, Companies House stores the information and adds it to the official ‘register of companies’ for the UK. These corporate records are maintained online and can be viewed free of charge by anyone, including other businesses and members of the general public.
Companies House continuously updates the register to ensure that it provides the most accurate and up-to-date information on all companies operating in the UK. This contributes toward the UK government’s goal of increasing corporate transparency and minimising fraudulent activity.
To assist in this endeavour and ensure that the register is properly maintained, companies are required to notify Companies House when there are any changes to their registered details. The public register is then updated accordingly.
Companies must also prepare a confirmation statement each year to verify the information held on the register. Additionally, they are required to file annual accounts to report their trading status (‘active’ or ‘dormant’) and financial activity for their most recent accounting period.
After inspection by the Registrar, these two statutory filings are also made publicly available on the companies register.
Services provided by Companies House
Companies House provides a range of services, which can be utilised by businesses, organisations, and the general public.
Aside from company registration and dissolution services, you can search for company information free of charge and/or file documents online using:
- Companies House Service
- WebCHeck (due to close in late 2022)
- Companies House mobile app
Follow companies for free
Another free service available from Companies House is ‘Follow’, which provides free email alerts when a company of your choosing makes new filings. The email alert also includes a link to the company’s filing history, where you can download copies of the documents for free.
Certified copies and certificates
You can order certified copies of certain certificates and documents that Companies House holds on the public register. These include:
- certificates of incorporation, with or without additional certified facts (e.g. registered office, details of directors and secretaries, the company’s objects, and a statement of good standing)
- certified copies of any filed documents held on the register (e.g. certificates of incorporation, articles of association, confirmation statements, annual accounts, certificates of good standing)
A Welsh service is available for Welsh companies and LLPs who wish to use the Welsh language when doing business with Companies House. This enables such companies to communicate with a Welsh speaker and file bilingual (English and Welsh) forms.
A Welsh company is one that maintains a registered office address situated in Wales and whose jurisdiction of incorporation is ‘Wales’, rather than ‘England and Wales’.
What types of business structures are registered at Companies House?
Various types of business structures are required to register at Companies House, including:
- Private companies limited by shares
- Private companies limited by guarantee (i.e. without shares)
- Public limited companies (PLC)
- Private unlimited companies
- Limited liability partnerships (LLP)
- Limited partnerships (LP)
- Community Interest Companies (CIC)
- Right to Manage (RTM) companies
- Commonhold associations
However, whilst Companies House is responsible for processing and approving company registrations, you don’t have to use their online or postal incorporation services.
Instead, you can register through an online company formation agent, like Rapid Formations, who will assist you with the application and send it to Companies House for approval.
This is the simplest way to set up a company in the UK, with Companies House approving most applications within just 3-6 working hours.
There is no need to register with Companies House if you wish to operate as a sole trader or general partnership. You can register these two business structures through HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) instead.
What company information does it keep?
Companies House stores important information on more than 4 million UK companies and other types of incorporated business structures. This includes but is not limited to:
- Registered company name
- Company registration number
- Type of company, e.g. private company limited by shares
- Part of the UK where the company is registered – England and Wales, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland
- Registered office address
- Details of current and resigned directors, company secretaries, LLP members, and LP members
- Details of current and previous company members (shareholders/guarantors) and people with significant control (PSCs), including their shareholdings and/or nature of control in the company
- Standard industrial classification (SIC) codes, which are used to describe a company’s principal business activities
- Statutory filing deadlines, and notices of any late or outstanding filings
- Changes made to the company’s details since the date of incorporation, e.g. change of company name or registered office address
- Copies of all filed documents, e.g. annual accounts, confirmation statements, directors’ appointments, and resignations
- Insolvency information
- Compulsory or voluntary company strike-off action
- Details of disqualified directors, i.e. individuals who are banned from being appointed as directors of UK companies
- Details of dissolved companies – these are companies that are no longer in operation and have been officially ‘struck off’ the companies register. Their details remain on the register for 20 years after dissolution
All of the information on the register can be accessed free of charge by company directors and owners, as well as government departments and agencies, public bodies, other businesses, and members of the general public.
Aside from checking your own company details, you can access the register to verify information about other companies, such as competitors, or those with whom you are planning to do business.
Likewise, the companies register is an incredibly useful resource for your own prospective clients, investors, and suppliers, who may wish to find out more about your company and the people who own it.
Where is Companies House based?
Companies House operates from three separate locations across the UK, with a dedicated Registrar at each one.
This location is responsible for processing company registrations, dissolutions, and information related to companies in the jurisdiction of England and Wales. That is, any company whose registered office address is located in England or Wales.
Companies House Edinburgh deals with incorporations, dissolutions, and information related to companies with a registered office address in Scotland.
This location is responsible for company registrations, dissolutions, and information related to companies with a registered office address situated in Northern Ireland.
Closure of London office and counter services
Prior to March 2020, Companies House also operated an information centre in London. However, it was announced in July 2022 that this location would not be reopening, following its closure at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Similarly, the offices in Cardiff, Edinburgh, and Belfast no longer provide public counter services for the submission and inspection of company records. All such services are now exclusively carried out online, with some company filings permissible by post.
So, there you have it…
We’ve explained the important role and responsibilities of Companies House as the UK’s official Registrar of Companies.
This includes the processing and approval of company incorporations and dissolutions, in addition to the inspection and public disclosure of company records.
If you have any questions about this post, or need help setting up a company in any part of the UK, please contact our company formation team or leave a comment below.