Companies House

Your business isn’t a limited company until it is registered with Companies House. It’s the government-sponsored agency responsible for registering the information that companies are legally required to supply and has the power to incorporate and dissolve limited companies.

Limited company formation process

If you want to launch your business as a limited company it must be incorporated by Companies House before you can begin trading. For this to happen you have to file your company registration details with them, either directly or through a Company Formation Agent. The information you need to provide is:

  • a company name
  • an address for the company
  • identity of at least one director
  • identity of at least one shareholder
  • memorandum of association – the agreement of all initial shareholders to create the company
  • details of the company’s shares and the rights attached to them
  • articles of association – written rules about how the company is run

Once your business is registered as a limited company, you’ll get a ‘Certificate of Incorporation’. It confirms the company legally exists and shows the company number and date of formation.

Check that your business name is not a registered trademark

If your business name idea is available and it complies with the regulations around company names Companies House will register it. They do not check your name to see if it is already a registered trademark though. It is your responsibility to do this and it is important you do so before attempting to register your name.

You can do a free trademark search here.

Ongoing legal obligations

After your company has been formed, you are obliged to file certain documents with Companies House on a regular basis. These include the annual accounts and an annual return, as well as written notification of any changes to company directors, share holders or the company’s registered address. Failure to keep Companies House informed can lead to prosecution or even having your company dissolved and its assets seized by The Crown.

Companies House has regional offices

The name is a bit misleading because Companies House actually has several offices. The one that you register with will depend on your registered company address. The Companies House Registrar for England and Wales is based in Cardiff, the registrar for Scotland is based in Edinburgh and the registrar for Northern Ireland is based in Belfast.

Public information

Companies House do not retain all the information they collect solely for their own use. Part of the database on which company information is kept is available for the general public to search. This is a condition of being a limited company so you should keep this in mind during the formation process, particularly when thinking about what address you want to register.