The small business owner’s guide to Companies House

Companies House, the official register for UK companies, is an essential resource for smaller business owners.

It provides public access to personal, specific company, and financial information of registered companies, and is a valuable tool for those looking to assess the credibility of potential business partners, suppliers, and customers.

However, many small business owners aren't familiar with the responsibilities and services provided by Companies House.

That's why we've teamed up with them to provide this guide on what you need to know as a small business owner when it comes to Companies House.

What is Companies House?

Companies House is the formal register for all companies in the UK.

It makes company information contained on the register, including company accounts, available to the public and a wide range of users.

It allows investors, creditors, customers, and other stakeholders to check the legal status, ownership, and financial health of a company.

This promotes transparency and accountability.

As well as providing insights into the operations and performance of a company, the financial information that Companies House holds provides valuable data to support investment, inform decision making, enable business transactions, and help hold directors to account. 

What does Incorporation mean?

If you’re thinking of setting up a limited company and becoming a director, you need to understand the duties and responsibilities of this role.

In addition to the day to day running of your company, you’ll need to file annual accounts and a confirmation statement with Companies House every year.

You must also report any changes to your company when they happen – such as changes to the company’s registered office, directors and their personal details, or people with significant control (PSCs).

You also need to keep up to date with any changes in company law.

Failure to keep company information up to date or make annual filings on time can affect your finance options or potentially affect your credit score.

What are annual accounts?

All companies - private or public, large or small, trading or non-trading - must send accounts to Companies House every year.

All information contained in the accounts will appear on the public record.

What you need to file depends on the type and size of your company.

If your company is dormant, you'll still need to file accounts - even if you don't need to file with HMRC.

If you’re not sure what type of accounts to file, you can ask a professional, like an accountant, for help.

As well as filing for you, they can offer business and financial advice to help you make the right decisions.

How do I file my annual accounts?

There are currently several ways to file your company’s accounts.

Most are filed using software or Companies House online services.

In the future, as part of new legislation, you’ll only be able to file your accounts using software.

Although businesses will be given time to prepare for this change, accounts software is already available now and you may already be using it to file with HMRC.

It's important to make a note of the deadline for filing your company accounts.

There are fines and penalties for filing accounts late, which can be costly.

These fees can quickly escalate, so it's essential to make sure you file on time to avoid unnecessary expenses.

Even if you have accountants who file your company’s accounts for you, as a director you’re still personally responsible for filing on time.

It’s also worth noting that a company can be struck off the register if accounts or confirmation statements are not received by Companies House.

What is a Confirmation Statement?

You’re also required to file an annual confirmation statement with Companies House.

The confirmation statement is a snapshot of the company’s data and confirms that the company's information is up-to-date and correct.

There is a fee, however this only needs to be paid once for every 12 month review period.

The 12 month review period starts on either the date the company was incorporated or the date the company filed its last confirmation statement.

The annual fee needs to be paid with the first confirmation statement in the 12 month payment period.

A company can then file as many confirmation statements as it wants in this payment period.

The easiest way to update your company’s information and comply with annual obligations is to file using Companies House online services.

The Companies House email reminder service tells you when your company’s accounts and confirmation statement are due.

The reminder can be sent to up to four email addresses and contains a link to file your documents immediately.

Why is it important to keep company information up to date and file on time?

Filing documents on time shows a company's commitment to transparency and compliance with legal requirements.

It enhances the credibility of the company and builds trust with stakeholders, customers, investors, and suppliers.

Missing your filing deadlines can affect your company’s credit score.

If you want to take out a business loan, an overdraft or another form of debt, the score will determine factors such as how much you can borrow, the interest rate or whether the company will be approved for a loan at all.

Filing late can make it difficult for a company to access finance, as lenders and investors may consider the company as unreliable or poorly managed.

The Companies House register can be used as part of due diligence processes when entering business relationships or transactions with a company.

It can help to identify potential risks or issues that need to be addressed before proceeding.

Directors who fail to comply with their responsibilities to Companies House can face financial penalties and legal consequences.

These depend on the specific situation and the severity of the offence but can include:

  • fines: Companies House can impose fines on directors who file their accounts or confirmation statement late. The amount of the fine depends on how late the filings are and the size of the company
  • prosecution: In some cases, Companies House may choose to take legal action against directors who repeatedly fail to comply with their obligations. This can result in criminal charges, fines, and even imprisonment
  • disqualification: Directors who are found to be in breach of their responsibilities may be disqualified from acting as a director of any company in the future. This disqualification can last for up to 15 years
  • liability for debts: If a company becomes insolvent and the director failed to file the appropriate documents with Companies House, the director may be held personally liable for the company's debts.

Closing a company

If you want to close down your company, you can apply to Companies House for a voluntary strike-off.

This is also known as ‘dissolving’ a company.

You can only strike off your company if it has not traded or sold off any stock in the last 3 months, has not changed names in the last 3 months, is not threatened with liquidation and has no agreements with creditors, for example a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA).

If your company does not meet these conditions, you will have to voluntarily liquidate the company instead.

You have certain responsibilities to close down your company properly.

After a company is struck off you’ll lose access to any business bank accounts and any assets will go to the crown.

It's important for directors to take their responsibilities to Companies House seriously and make sure they file all necessary documents on time.

Failure to comply can have serious consequences for both the director and the company.

You can find out more information about understanding your role as a company director and your responsibilities on the Companies House website

Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

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Our Making business finance work for you guide is designed to help you make an informed choice about accessing the right type of finance for you and your business.

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