For many, the requirements for filing the necessary information with Companies House can seem complex and overwhelming. Failure to file in time could carry serious consequences, including a penalty. However, by knowing the basic steps you need to undertake you can ensure this never becomes a topic of anxiety for you.

Sole trader or large organisation you must still register

Whether you are a start-up or a large multi-national corporation you must still register with either Companies House or HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Any new company must register certain information to become incorporated with Companies House. You can do this by either contacting Companies House direct or registering via one of its nominated preferred agents. The costs for registering your company with Companies House is as little as £15, however it is advised by ourselves and Companies House to use one of the preferred agents, speeding up the process. In turn for the protection that a limited company status provides you must comply with the requirements imposed by the Companies Act.

If you do not wish to register as a company then you can continue to trade as a ‘sole trader’. However, even sole traders must register with HMRC and follow certain rules on running and naming their business.

Choose the right name

Company names are protected. It is therefore important that you choose the right one. If you look to copy your business name from an established brand it will likely be challenged and you may face further litigation.

A name can be automatically challenged and removed from Companies House within the first 12 months of being registered. Some names are also protected by the law and (unless you wish to comply with the requirements) should be avoided; these include “Trust” “Accountant” and “Solicitor”.

A company can change its name as many times as it wants to, but each change must be registered with Companies House.

Make sure you complete your trading disclosures

It is a requirement of a trading company to disclose its company name and number at all trading offices and its registered address. This disclosure can be something as little as a business card in the window, but must include the company name and number. The information must also be detailed on the company’s website-usually on the landing page.

Comply with the directors’ and secretaries’ responsibilities

Whilst there are no requirements to have a formal secretary appointed, the company (i.e the directors of the company) must still keep the registered office, company books, shareholder information, director information and return addresses up to date. They can either instruct someone to do this or do it themselves, however failure to do so can result in repeated fines upon the company and or the directors.

Use the correct forms

Companies House provides free online information about how to update your company’s information. People still however fail to use the prescribed forms. If a company dos not uses the required form any application will be rejected and returned. It is therefore important to use the correct form to avoid delays and potential damage to your company.

Complete and file your annual returns

An annual return for your company must be completed and filed each year. This must be filed within 28 days of your legal return date and costs only £13 to file online.

Complete and file your company accounts

The filing of your company’s accounts however is a more serious procedure. This does not cost your business anything and must be done whether trading or not. A private company has nine months from the end of the accounting reference to deliver its accounts, a public company just six months. If you fail to file your company accounts you may be fined up to a maximum of £15,000 for being just one day late. 

Keep Companies House informed

You need to let Companies House know immediately if your business stops trading. Using the prescribed form and at a cost of as little as £10 your company can be dissolved. The process can take up to six months and people can submit an objection to this, however it is vitally important that you begin this process immediately upon the company ceasing trading.

Stay up-to date

The law regarding the setup, management and administration of a company is constantly changing. Recently the requirements for a company to appoint a secretary were relaxed and it is rumoured that later this year the appointment of corporate directors is to be removed altogether. It is therefore important that companies prepare in advance of this change in the law.  

Use the free resources available

Whilst running your company can be an expensive and time consuming task, Companies House has made a number of free resources available to everyone. These materials can be highly useful regarding your own company documents along with other companies you trade with. With the introduction of the Companies House Beta Service anyone can do a free search and obtain information about any registered company. We would recommend that you utilise this for your own company along with any company you are looking to trade with.