What is Companies House? A guide for e-commerce entrepreneurs

What is Companies House e-commerce - man in a burgundy henley shirt with a pen raised, sitting at a desk with a woman in a white shirt

Feeling a little lost on where and how to register your business? Wondering, what is Companies House? Why is it a beta? Do I even need it? Whatever your situation, our complete guide will get you up to speed on everything related to Companies House beta.

If you are looking to register a limited company or want to do a bit of due diligence or competitor research, Companies House is the place for you. There are lots of features, some of which are legal requirements and some of which are just handy tools to have in your back pocket.

What is Companies House?

Companies House is an online government service that houses all data for limited businesses in the UK. It was launched in its current form in 2015 and kept the beta moniker for 4 years until it was eventually rebranded as Companies House Services or CHS. The website address has now been amended to https://find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk/ although you can still access it through https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/.

When you register with Companies House, you’ll be required to provide a few key details, including your company’s name, address, directors and shareholders. Once processed, this information is then made available to the public, ensuring that there is a standard level of transparency and accountability for all businesses operating within the UK.

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Do I need to register with Companies House?

If you are starting a limited company and are wondering how to register, Companies House should be your first port of call. Until your company is registered, you won’t receive a UTR number (required for tax purposes) and if you don’t have your registration number and UTR in a timely fashion you can clock up fines for late filing.

Some of the types of businesses that do not need to register include:

  • Private limited companies
  • Private unlimited companies
  • Public limited companies
  • Limited liability partnerships
  • Limited partnerships
  • International companies

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Sole Traders and Companies House

If you are a sole trader or a non-limited partnership, you do not need to register with Companies House. When you register your business, you should do so through HMRC. This means you will be able to submit your annual self-assessment tax returns and pay your income tax and National Insurance contributions. If you are unsure whether you should register as a limited company or a sole tradership, feel free to get in touch and our team will be happy to advise you.

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How can I access Companies House beta?

You can access Companies House Services through their website. If you need to register your limited company offline, they also offer postal filing. To register by post, you will need form IN01. Postal applications usually take 8 to 10 days.

How much does it cost to register with Companies House?

It costs just £12 to register online or £40 to register via post. For a full list of costs please see this page on HMRC.

Changing your details also incurs a cost so ensure you enter details precisely. A name change, even in the event of a typo is £8.

What information is held on Companies House?

Companies House is a free-to-use search tool that is open to the public. the UK. Just type the name of the company you are looking for into Companies House Services to get information on:

  • Company Registration number (CRN)
  • Company name, including any previous names
  • Registered office address (if this is your home address, it will be publicly available so many business owners use their accountant’s address)
  • Company status – are you actively trading or dormant
  • Company Type – Private Limited, Partnership
  • Accounts dates and whether they are up to date
  • Confirmation statement and whether it is up to date
  • Date of incorporation
  • SIC code – this describes the nature and sector of your business
  • Register of people – details of shareholders, secretaries and directors
  • Documents: PDFs of all official filings and decisions, like incorporation, change in address etc.

Here is an example of how a search on Royal Mail appears:

Companies House - example of a search on Royal Mail plc

What is a confirmation statement?

You may have noticed the details for a confirmation statement. This is a yearly form that must be filed (digitally or by post) confirming all details are correct. You must file a confirmation statement at least every 12 months. It is £12 to file online or £40 to do so via post.

How can I use Companies House data?

Companies House searches are free and can provide useful insight into businesses that you are looking to partner or merge with. The filing history and directors’ register will help you do some surface-level due diligence.

Can I get my address removed from Companies House?

If you have used your home as your company’s registered address, you can get it removed for a fee of £55 but that is per document so this can rack up fast. You can also request your private address is withheld if you are under threat because of the nature of your work. This costs £100 but is highly unlikely in the world of e-commerce!

How do I correct a mistake in Companies House?

If you find an error, look for an option in the bottom right of the page:

Companies House - how to report that something is wrong with your page screenshot

It will lead you to a simple report, where you can alert them to any issues, such as a company you are not associated with using your address or a wrong date of birth.

Can I use Companies House to help grow my business?

Aside from a way to simply check business information, Companies House can be a helpful tool to boost your business. For example, you can use Companies House data to look for local businesses who you may be able to collaborate with, or to keep an eye on your competition and see how they have structured their business. It can also help you conduct due diligence for any partnerships you are considering, and to conduct credit checks on potential customers or clients.

Next Steps

If you’re looking to register your e-commerce business as a limited company or need help filing with Companies House, our team of e-commerce expert accountants is here to help. We can help with everything from start-up choices to apps for automation to scaling your business. Get in touch today and see what your e-commerce business can become.

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