Whenever a limited company is established in the UK, that company needs to be registered at Companies House to become a legal entity. This is a government body with offices in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast. It is responsible for the registration and dissolution of companies in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Companies House has three main responsibilities:
Incorporate and dissolve limited companies
Make information on limited companies available to the public
Ensuring that businesses maintain accurate company records
Registering your company name is a legal requirement for all limited companies and limited liability partnerships (LLPs) in the UK. Companies must complete their registration within three months of the date they begin trading.
Registration with Companies House
If you have decided that a limited company or limited liability partnership is the best structure for your company, you will need to do the following before you register with Companies House:
Decide upon your company name
Appoint a director (or directors) and a company secretary (not essential)
Elect at least one shareholder or guarantor (this can also be the director)
Prepare relevant company documents such as a memorandum and articles of association
Familiarise yourself with what company documents and records you will need to keep for compliance
You will also need to register for corporation tax within 3 months of the date you start trading.
The registration process
You can file for company registration online via the government website using your Government Gateway login details. This is the fastest, cheapest and easiest way to register a limited private company. Registration costs £12 and the company is usually incorporated within 24 hours.
Companies may also register by post by filling in form IN01 and enclosing a cheque for £40. Registration by post typically takes between 8 and 10 days.
Once you have completed this process you will receive a Certificate of Incorporation. This document shows that your company is a separate legal entity that assumes liability for your tax and compliance rather than the individual directors. It will contain your unique business registration number and date of formation.
Companies House FAQs
Do sole traders have to be registered with Companies House?
No, sole traders do not need a company number, even if they trade under a different name from their own. Only limited liability companies and partnerships need to obtain a registration number.
Can a limited company be reinstated after it has been dissolved?
If you wish to reinstate a company that has been struck off by its directors, you will need to obtain a court order to reinstate the company. The fee for this can be up to £800.
However, a company may also be dissolved by Companies House – usually for failing to file relevant documents. You may petition to have the company reinstated (all documents outstanding must be provided and all fines must be paid). Alternatively, you may set up a new company under the same name but this will have a different registration number.
My company doesn’t have an office. Should I register using my home address?
You are obliged to provide an address upon company registration. However, this does not necessarily have to be an office address. You can use the registered office address of an appointed agent or an individual that manages your corporation tax (with their permission, of course). A PO box may be used, but it must still be accompanied by a physical address and postcode.
For privacy reasons, using your home address is not recommended.