Companies House General

What is the purpose of Companies House?

Companies House is responsible for registering companies and maintaining the register. Having a company is a privilege and having a limited liability company is a considerable privilege. In return for these privileges, which include in most cases an absence of personal liability for company debts, it is deemed right that certain information be placed into the public domain. Companies House is the medium by which this is achieved. Companies are obliged by law to supply certain information to Companies House which places it on the public record. Anyone at all, for any reason at all, may inspect and copy the information. Companies House is also responsible for activities peripheral to this.

As is implied by its name, most of the information supplied to Companies House relates to companies, but other types of organisation must supply information too. A list of them is given in the answer to the next question.

What types of organisation must register information at Companies House?

The great majority of registered documents are lodged by companies incorporated in the United Kingdom under the Companies Acts, but these are not the only organisations required to file at Companies House. The others are:

Overseas companies

Limited partnerships

Limited liability partnerships

European Economic Interest Groupings

Open Ended Investment Companies

Newspapers that must be registered under the Newspaper Libel and Registration Act

An overseas company is a company registered in any place other than England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. Companies registered in Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man are among those counted as overseas companies.

What does Companies House say that it does?

The following is taken from a Companies House publication:

'Companies House is an executive agency of BIS, and has five main functions:

the registration of new companies;

the registration of documents required to be delivered under companies, insolvency and related legislation;

the provision of company information to the public;

dissolution and striking-off companies from the register;

ensuring that companies comply with their obligations in connection with the above functions.'

What is the precise meaning of 'deliver to Companies House'?

The legal obligation of directors and others is to deliver documents to Companies House. Putting a document in a correctly stamped and addressed envelope and putting it into one of Her Majesty's post boxes is a very good start, but it is not quite the same thing. Post is at the risk of the sender and the obligation is to get it there. If timing is critical, it is the date of delivery that counts, not the date of posting. Electronic filing has the advantage of eliminating these possible difficulties.

Is Companies House efficient and does it give value for money?

The writer has filed documents and used its services for a long time, and he finds that it almost invariably gives a very good service. It is responsible for about 2,700,000 companies and it does everything with around 1,100 staff. Yes - it does a good job and provides value for money.

I am a director who failed to file on time at Companies House. Will I be prosecuted?

The chances of you being prosecuted are very small indeed, but of course not nil. Companies House prefers to encourage compliance by means of education and persuasion and, apart from anything else, it does not have the resources to initiate a large numbers of prosecutions. Prosecution is more likely if there are aggravating circumstances such as the fact that there has been a fraud or an insolvent liquidation, or that you are a serial late-filer.

Prosecutions are a separate matter from the automatic civil penalties which will be levied if accounts are filed late. These are almost invariably levied and are levied on the company itself, not its officers.

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