As a regulatory body working for the UK government, Companies House maintains countrywide registration of limited companies (Ltd) and limited liability partnerships (LLPs). It is an executive agency and operates under the remit of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.
A Companies House search can be used for researching companies you are or are thinking of doing business with. By undertaking a Companies House web search, the general public can access any information on UK-based registered companies.
Companies House is split into three separate and independent registrars: Companies House Cardiff (covering England & Wales), Companies House Edinburgh (covering Scotland) and Companies House Belfast (Covering Northern Ireland). This is so there is a separate registrar for each jurisdictional district of the UK.
Companies House is meant to be the ultimate source of truth relating to limited companies and LLPs in the UK, a go-to stop for anyone seeking information about one of these specific organisations.
What is Companies House?
Originally formed as part of the Joint Stock Companies Act 1844, Companies House was created to provide transparency around businesses to help protect the public from fraudulent activity. It’s the UK’s central registry of all limited companies and limited liability partnerships and sits as a government body within the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.
The role of Companies House is to approve the incorporation of relevant businesses and handle the dissolution of companies. They are a repository of information on limited companies and limited liability partnerships, offering this data in the public domain.
Submitting false information or failing to meet your filing obligations is an offence and can result in professional disqualification. In some severe cases, they have been known to prosecute under the Companies Act 2006. There are incoming changes to reform and enhance the role of Companies House, which means they will be better equipped to tackle money laundering and hand out civil sanctions and financial penalties.
The full list of companies that must be incorporated through Companies House is:
- Public Limited Company (PLC)
- Private Limited Company by share
- Private Unlimited Company
- Private Limited Company by Guarantee (no share capital)
- European Economic Interest Groupings (GP04)
- Limited Liability Partnership (LLP)
- Limited Partnership
- European Public Businesses
- International Companies
What information can you find on Companies House?
Businesses are required by law to file certain information at Companies House, this includes basic information such as:
- Company name
- Date of incorporation
- Business activity (SIC code)
- Registered address
- Directors’ information
Every company on the register is required to file an annual financial statement, except companies with an annual turnover of less than £10 million. These companies do not need to file a fully audited set of accounts and may not be required to share additional information that other companies do. This could include:
- Persons of significant control information
- Shareholders’ information
- Previous Directors’ information
- Previous Company names
- Mortgage information
- Annual Confirmation statement
- Annual financial statement
- Insolvency information (only in the case of insolvency)
What is Companies House Beta?
Companies House Beta is an extension of the Companies House service through which Companies House allows its stored information to be accessed by the public. Companies House Beta is free of charge and can be accessed through the Companies House website.
Launched in 2015, Companies House Beta aims to increase the transparency of a company’s financial affairs, as well as provide a resource for professionals when doing due diligence on a potential business partner or customer. Over 3 million business records are accessible through Companies House Beta.
The limitations of Companies House
Companies House is an incredibly useful tool, but it certainly has its limitations that could cause issues for anyone needing a full-service offering.
There are several major restrictions when using Companies House:
Companies with a turnover of less than £10 million a year are not obligated to file a fully audited set of accounts
The only filing requirements are for the balance sheet and any notes, and these do not need to be prepared by a professional accountant. This information is extremely limited and does not give much insight into a company’s financial health. In the UK millions of companies fall below this threshold.
Companies only have to file once a year
Information at Companies House is not in real-time and is often ‘out of date as soon as it is filed’. A business showing strong financials at the time of filing may experience distress at any time; for example, a major client may go bust, leaving an unabsorbable bad debt. Without up-to-the-minute information and ongoing monitoring, to base business decisions on you are opening yourself up to serious risk.
Information is limited
Companies House does not have information such as County Court Judgements (CCJs), petitions or bad debts which are essential for understanding the financial health of a business
The system is abused
It is very easy to set up a company in the UK and there is no verification required as to actual ownership. Unfortunately, this means that the system can be abused and just because a company is on the registrar does not mean it is legitimate and further information is often needed.
It’s inconvenient and inefficient
The financial information that is provided comes as a PDF download. As such, to do any analytics you would have to manually go through multiple previous financial statements to obtain any data, wasting time and money, as well as having the necessary software or expertise to perform any analytics.
It is not meant to be a tool for making sound business decisions
Companies House is not, and does not claim to be, an analytical tool or source of up-to-the-minute data. Companies House exists so there is a legally backed register of UK companies to ensure there is always a measure of transparency and that the legitimacy of companies can, theoretically, be easily confirmed.
However, Red Flag Alert is the solution to all of these problems whilst offering even more useful information so you can make accurate data-driven decisions to drive growth and protect your business from risk.
Why should you use Red Flag Alert?
Whilst Companies House provides basic information for free, it’s not enough to give you an accurate insight into a business or detect any financial distress. Red Flag Alerts business report presents in-depth data and insights on any UK business, quickly, and conveniently. We provide detailed information not only on insolvency but also on growth metrics, using our proprietary algorithm and highly accurate scorecard to build real-time and in-depth data analytics for our customers.
Using this information alongside our powerful monitoring alerts allows full visibility of any changes that occur to a company instantly. We offer:
- Real-time updates
- Unique data insights
- Industry-leading algorithm (built from 15 years’ worth of insolvency data)
- UK’s No.1 insolvency scorecard
- 15+ million businesses
Find out how Red Flag Alert’s company checking platform can help your business by starting your free trial today.