When Should I Register with Companies House?

Navigating a new business can be tricky, but you’re not alone. In March 2023, there were reportedly 29,620 newly incorporated companies in London, and they’re all in the same boat as you!  

We understand how daunting it can feel though, especially when it comes to HMRC requirements – what information do they need? When do they need it? The list goes on.

Another thing you need to check off is whether or not you need to register with Companies House.

That’s because not all businesses need to register, which leads us to the purpose of this article. We’ll help you figure out if (and when) you should register.

Do I need to register my business with Companies House?

This all depends on the legal structure you’ve chosen for your business.

For example, if you’re a sole trader, you do not need to register with Companies House. Instead, you’ll register for Self Assessment with HMRC and complete yearly tax returns to tell them about your self-employed income.

All limited companies will need to register though, and they’re not the only ones. Despite ‘companies’ in the name, limited partnerships and limited liability partnerships need to register too.

If you’re confused about whether or not this applies to you, incorporating a business with Companies House will mean the business exists as its own separate entity. A business partnership, for example, won’t need to register because the partners, like sole traders, are the business.  

If your business structure requires you to register with Companies House, that means your company information will be available to the public, including things like your business address, your shareholders and directors, and even a copy of your annual financial accounts.

What happens if I don’t register with Companies House?

If you need to register with Companies House and don’t, your company will not exist legally. Registering your business with Companies House should be pretty straightforward if you have the correct information on hand. When it’s completed, you’ll receive a certification of incorporation as confirmation of your business’s existence.

If you don’t register, then you won’t be paying the correct taxes, and you run the risk of receiving penalties if your accounts and tax return aren’t filed on time.

What is a certificate of incorporation?

Once you register with Companies House, you’ll receive a certificate of incorporation which includes:

  • Your company’s name
  • Registration number
  • The date it was incorporated
  • The location of registration (For example, England, Scotland, or Wales)

Think of this like your company’s birth certificate – it’s essentially proof it exists and will be used as ID to access things like business bank accounts. You can choose to get a paper copy or have it in digital format. Whichever you go for, remember to keep it safe – you’ll need the company number and date of formation to file your tax returns!

When do I need to register with Companies House?

For you to be trading legally, you’ll need to register within three months of starting your business, but the earlier you do it the better! You can even register the business before you start trading.

How do I register my business with Companies House?

There are many ways you can register, including:

It’s much quicker to register with Companies House online, but before you do, you’ll need to know three pieces of personal information about yourself, shareholders, or any guarantors, including:

  • Passport numbers
  • National Insurance (NI) numbers
  • Town of birth
  • Mother’s maiden name / Father’s first name
  • Telephone numbers

You can register online here.

If you don’t want to use ‘limited’ after your company name, you’ll need to register by post. To register via post, you’ll need an IN01 form.   

How much does it cost to register my business with Companies House?

If you register your business online with Companies House, you’ll pay a fee of £12. This can be paid by debit or credit card, or using PayPal, and your company is usually registered within 24 hours.

If you opt to register via post because, for example, you do not wish to use ‘limited’ in your company name, it’s £40 to register a private or public company and £20 to register an unlimited company.

You must print your forms out on white, A4 paper. To pay, a cheque will need to be made out to ‘Companies House’. This process is a fair bit longer than online, with a registration estimate of 8-10 days.

Can I use a third party to register my business with Companies House?

Yes, you can use a Registrar when registering with Companies House. They’ll handle it all for you, but it will come with an additional fee on top of the reg fees!

New companies often decide to go with a registrar to ensure what they’re sending to Companies House is correct, or to use a registered address in London, or for a directors’ service address. This is helpful for privacy reasons, so that you can protect the residential address of a director (which would otherwise be made public on the Companies House register).

Starting a business in London can be a daunting prospect, for more support and guidance visit our online information centre.

A creative content writer specialising across business, finance and software topics. I have a love for all things writing, and creating engaging, easy to understand content that helps everyday people!