So you’ve decided to start a business. Great! But there are some steps you need to take to register it – especially if you’re a limited company.
With more than four million limited companies registered in the UK, and over 500,000 new companies incorporated every year, there is a process to doing this. This is where Companies House comes in – a government regulatory body for the registration of companies, and the maintenance of company records.
In this blog, we look into the ‘what, who, and how’ of registering with the organisation, as well as Corporation Tax for your limited company, and getting a Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR).
What is Companies House?
Think of Companies House as the library of limited companies in the UK. It’s the government agency for incorporating and dissolving limited companies, registering company information like the director(s) and registered address, and making it available to the public.
You only need to register with Companies House if you have a limited company. Sole traders don’t need to. But, as a sole trader, you’re still required to register for a self-assessment and file a personal tax return each year. It’s quick and easy to set up via the HMRC website – all you have to do is fill in a few details and it will send you a letter containing a 10-digit Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) and set up your account for the online self-assessment service.
Companies House can also be used to check the availability of a business name to make sure it’s not too similar to another registered one. If your name is the same or too similar, you may have to change it if someone makes a complaint or files a lawsuit against your company. As a limited company, your name must also end with ‘Limited’ or ‘Ltd’ unless you pay £40 during registration to change that (see below).
How do you register with Companies House?
Your business cannot operate as a limited company until it has been registered with Companies House. You can do this directly on its website, through your accountant, or through an online company formation agent.
It costs £12 to register your company and it usually takes around 24 hours to be confirmed. Once it is, you’ll get a ‘certificate of incorporation’ which confirms the company legally exists and shows the company number and date of formation. If you decide you don’t want to use ‘Limited’ or ‘Ltd’ in your company name, you’ll need to register by post at a cost of around £40.
There are seven steps to register with Companies House. They are:
Check if setting up a limited company is right for you
Choose a company name
Prepare documents agreeing how to run your company
Check what records you'll need to keep
Register your company
It’s really important to check that all your details are accurate when registering your company, as otherwise you may face problems down the line if there are discrepancies in applications where these are checked.
Additional information on Corporation Tax and UTRs
However, there is a different process for registering for corporation tax if you already registered your company in the following ways:
with Companies House but haven't registered for Corporation Tax
If you fall under this category, you need to register for corporation tax within three months of starting to ‘do’ business. This includes buying, selling, advertising, renting a property and employing someone. You can check if you’re unsure what counts as starting to do business.
Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR)
In order to register as ‘active’ for corporation tax, you will need your UTR. This is a completely unique 10-digit number that’s used by HMRC when dealing with your tax. It’s used to identify companies – both limited companies and sole traders – for all tax-related purposes.
As a limited company, this is posted to your company address by HMRC within 14 days of the company being registered with Companies House. If you didn't receive this, you can request your company’s UTR online.
If you’re a sole trader, you can find your UTR in your Personal Tax Account once you’ve registered for Self Assessment, and also in most documents from HMRC (including old tax returns, payment reminders, and tax return reminders).
As a limited company owner, make sure you’re registered with Companies House, corporation tax and HMRC as soon as possible to avoid any fines or late fees.