Companies House is the government body responsible for administrating company information in the UK. As a company owner, you will interact with the agency when you first form a company, submit accounts or your Confirmation Statement, or make changes to the data stored about your business.
When a limited company incorporates (comes into existence as a legal body) or dissolves (ceases to legally exist), it is Companies House which is responsible for giving the accepting the formation and maintaining ongoing records for each of the estimated 1.8 million companies on the register.
It’s also the body responsible for making this information and more (such as Confirmation Statements and annual accounts, registered office addresses and charges) available to the general public, who can access it online.
Companies House also keeps a record of various specific pieces of information, including lists of disqualified directors. It also operates an online system which allows you to send in your company information at a low cost.
Companies House is based in Cardiff, where company registrations for England and Wales take place. In Scotland, there is an office for registrations in Edinburgh, and in Northern Ireland, there is one in Belfast. Any documents you might need to send over to Companies House can be delivered to their London office, and a search function is also maintained here.
How do limited company owners interact with it?
During your time as a company director, there are many occasions on which you (or the company representative to whom jobs are delegated) will need to interact with Companies House.
The first of these interactions happen when you first set up a company.
There are three ways that you can incorporate a company at Companies House. The first is electronic software filing, which entails using a computer programme to submit your documentation to Companies House through an external provider (usually via an accountant). Applications with no complications usually get confirmed within 24 hours, and cost a mere £10.
You may decide to set up a company yourself, which costs £12, while you can file paper incorporation documents for a higher fee.
A significant event that will also require interaction with Companies House is when you (or more likely, your accountant) files your annual accounts.
As well as to Companies House, limited companies must send their accounts to anyone who is a member of the company, as well as all people who are entitled to receive a notification of general meetings and each person who holds the company’s debentures.
There are also a number of specific events that happen periodically which often require a report to Companies House.
For example, if you change some of the officers who help run your company you’ll need to fill out a form to let Companies House know. The events included on the list include the appointment of a new director or corporate director, the appointment of a secretary or corporate secretary, a change in any of their details or a termination of their appointments.
In some circumstances, you’re also required to let Companies House know if you’re changing the name of your company. You also must tell Companies House if you’re changing the address of your registered office: bear in mind that the change won’t swing into effect until you make Companies House aware.
There are also other scenarios in which you’d be required to inform Companies House of a change in circumstance. If in doubt, you should contact Companies House directly or consult their site.
What happens if you don’t follow the rules?
If a company is operating but fails to provide company information accurately and on time, the officers of the company in question could face prosecution.
Remember, the company’s officers are legally responsible for completing these tasks, so they could face prosecution in their personal capacities if they don’t.
On top of the risk of prosecution, it’s important to remember that there is an automatic financial penalty whenever accounts are submitted late.
What this means is that all limited companies should have a strong and competent accounts team in place who can plan the submission of documents and avoid the problems that could arise in the event of late submissions or no submissions at all.