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. What is Incorporation?
Incorporation is the process by which a new or existing business registers as a limited company. A company is a legal entity with a separate identity from those who own or run it. The vast majority of companies are limited liability companies where the liability of the members is limited by shares or by guarantee.
A business cannot operate as a limited company until it has been incorporated at Companies House under the Companies Act 2006. Establishing your business as a company means the directors are required to file certain documents every year such as annual accounts and an annual return. They must also inform Companies House about any changes, such as the appointment or resignation of directors or a change to the company’s registered office.
It may be worthwhile seeking professional advice from a solicitor or accountant before deciding whether an incorporated company is the best way for you to run your business.
2. Who can incorporate a company?
One or more persons can form a company for any lawful purpose by subscribing their names to a memorandum of association (see question 8). In law, ‘person’ includes individuals, companies and other bodies. By completing the memorandum the subscribers are confirming their agreement to form a company.
3. Is there more than one type of company?
There are four types of company:
Private company limited by shares: This company has a share capital and the liability of each member is limited to the amount, if any, unpaid on their shares. A private company cannot offer its shares for sale to the general public.
Private company limited by guarantee: This company does not have a share capital and its members are guarantors rather than shareholders. The members’ liability is limited to the amount they agree to contribute to the company’s assets if it is wound up.
Private unlimited company: An unlimited company may or may not have a share capital but there is no limit to the members’ liability.
Public limited company: A publiccompany has a share capital and limits the liability of each member to the amount unpaid on their shares. It may offer its shares for sale to the general public and may be quoted on the stock exchange. Further information about public companies is explained in chapter 3.
4. How do I incorporate my company and what fees apply?
There are three ways to incorporate a company.
Electronic Software Filing
Electronic incorporations can be submitted electronically through suitably enabled software. However, many incorporation agents and software providers have developed their systems to the point where they are able to offer customers a web-based electronic service (this is chargeable). This means that occasional as well as regular customers can apply for incorporation.
Many of the businesses shown on our list of software suppliers provide web-based services and depending on the volume of filings you anticipate making, it may be more practical for you to use their services. You can find more information about software filing and a list of providers on our website.
The standard fee for electronic filing is £13 (or £30 for the ‘Same-Day’ service for applications received by 3pm Monday to Friday). Straightforward applications are normally processed within 24 hours.
Web Incorporation Service
Web Incorporation is the safe and reliable way to file online, enabling you to quickly and easily incorporate your company. The standard fee for Web Incorporation is £15. There is no same day service and currently only applications for a private company limited by shares adopting model articles in their entirety with a proposed non sensitive name can use this service.
For more information please visit our website.
Paper documents, which must be sent to the appropriate office, take longer to process than electronic documents. The standard registration fee is £40 (or £100 for the ‘Same-Day’ service for applications received by 3pm Monday to Friday).The fee is £20 (or £100 for the ‘Same-Day’ service) in the following circumstances:
- your company’s registered office is stated as being situated in Wales (“Welsh company”) and you file documents in the Welsh language;
- your company is a Community Interest Company (the total fee will be £35 including the CIC Regulator fee and there is no same day service); or
- your company is an unlimited company.
Cheques should be made payable to Companies House. Straightforward applications are normally processed within 5 days of receipt. When filing ‘Same Day’ applications by post, courier or by hand please ensure that you clearly mark the envelope “Same-Day Incorporation”.
To incorporate your company you must file the following documents:
- application to register a company (form IN01) and the fee;
- memorandum of association (see question 8);
- articles of association (unless you adopt model articles in their entirety (see question 9);
- additional information if your application includes a sensitive word or expression (see chapter 7).
You may not be able to incorporate your chosen company name if it is the ‘same as’ another name appearing on the registrar’s index of company names. There is an exception to this if an existing company (or LLP or other body on the index) is part of the same group as your company and consents to the use of your proposed name. This is explained more fully in chapter 6.
6. Can I reserve my proposed name?
No. You cannot reserve a name. We cannot guarantee to process applications in strict order of the time or date of their receipt and in general electronic documents are processed more quickly than paper documents.
7. What is included in the ‘Application to register a company (form IN01)”?
This form requires the following information:
- the proposed company name;
- the situation of the company’s registered office (‘RO’) i.e. whether it is in England and Wales, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland;
- the address of the RO (which must be the same as the situation of the RO);
- whether the company will be private, public or unlimited (see question 3);
- choice of articles of association;
- details of the proposed director(s), and the secretary if it has one;
- directors’ service and residential addresses;
- a statement of capital and initial shareholdings or a statement of guarantee;
- whether a company limited by guarantee wishes to apply to be exempt from the requirement to use “limited” or “cyfyngedig” in its name (see chapter 6,);
- if the proposed name contains a sensitive word and a section requiring confirmation that you have requested the views of a government department or other body. (see chapter 7).
- a statement of compliance or guarantee
The memorandum of association confirms the subscribers’ intention to form a company and become members of that company on formation. In the case of a company that is to be limited by shares, the memorandum will also provide evidence of the members’ agreement to take at least one share each in the company.
Under the Companies Act 2006, the memorandum is a much shorter document because all the constitutional rules of the company are contained in the articles of association (see question 9). Consequently, the memorandum serves a more limited purpose and once the company has been incorporated, it cannot be amended.
Information on capital and shareholdings is no longer part of the memorandum as it is contained in the application to register (form IN01) as a ‘statement of capital and shareholdings’ or for a company limited by guarantee, a ‘statement of guarantee’,
The required memorandum wording is included in the ‘The Companies (Registration) Regulations 2008 (2008/3014)‘ and you should use this format when preparing your memorandum. You can also download a proforma memorandum from our website. Please note, the wording of the memorandum is prescribed and it cannot be amended in any way. If you add or change the wording your application will not be accepted.
A company’s articles of association are its internal rulebook, chosen by its members. Every company is required to have articles, which are legally binding on the company and all of its members. The articles help to ensure the company’s business runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible and will set out how decisions are taken by the members and directors as well as various matters connected with the shares.
The articles cannot contain rules that are against the law. Provided the members observe this general principle they have complete freedom to choose which rules are included in the company’s articles, although they may find it convenient to rely on model articles as a default position. If the members decide to draw up their own rules as bespoke articles they may wish to obtain professional advice before proceeding.
On incorporation your company can adopt model articles in entirety, model articles with amendments or it can draft its own bespoke articles.
10. What are model articles?
Although the members can determine their own articles, they can also choose to adopt standard model articles set out in legislation. You are not obliged to adopt the provisions of model articles, but they are suitable for most standard companies, provide useful guidance and in some cases provide a safety net. They are available for private companies limited by shares, private companies limited by guarantee and public companies.
The model articles are set out in schedules 1-3 of ‘The Companies (Model Articles) Regulations 2008 (SI No. 3229)’. They can also be found in the FAQ’s on our website.
When you complete the ‘Application to register a company (Form IN01)‘ you will need to specify if the proposed company is adopting:
- model articles in their entirety (they should not be filed with application form IN01);
- model articles with amendments (only the amended articles should be filed with the form IN01); or
- bespoke articles (copy of the articles must be filed with the form IN01).
If you do not indicate which articles you are adopting, we will automatically apply the model articles appropriate to your company type.
11. Where can I find further guidance on the memorandum and articles of association?
You can find very useful information in the guide, ‘Companies Act 2006 final implementation – changes to constitutional documents, including model articles: a summary of what the new approach means.
12. Are there any model articles for unlimited companies?
No. There are no model articles provided for unlimited companies. However, an unlimited company can choose to use model articles as the basis of its own articles of association. The articles must not include the provision for the liability of the members to be limited and the members should consider including an article containing power for an unlimited company by special resolution to increase or consolidate share capital, subdivide or cancel shares or reduce share capital and any share premium account. If you are thinking of incorporating an unlimited company you may wish to obtain professional advice.
13. Do I need to notify Companies House if I change my articles?
Yes. Once your company is incorporated, you must notify Companies House every time your company makes changes to its articles. You and your company may commit an offence if you do not do so. You can amend your articles by special resolution and deliver a copy to Companies House within 15 days of the date it is passed. You must also deliver a copy of the amended articles within 15 days of the date the amendment takes effect. It will help us if you file both at the same time.
Further information about what you need to do if you amend your company’s articles can be found in our guidance, ‘Life of a Company – Event Driven Filings GP3′.
14. What are entrenched or restricted articles?
Your company may choose to adopt articles which include restricted provisions which can only be repealed or amended if certain conditions are met. For example, a rule which can only be changed with the support of a higher majority of shareholders than the 75 per cent that would be required to pass a special resolution.
If your company’s articles include any entrenched provisions you must complete the appropriate section of the ‘Application to register a company (Form IN01)’. The articles themselves must make it clear what conditions need to be satisfied in order to change the entrenched provisions in question.
15. Where can I obtain articles which are appropriate for my company?
Companies House cannot supply bespoke articles of association but you can purchase them from a company law stationer or formation agent. Alternatively, you can find model articles for your company on our website
16. What is the registered office?
Every company must have a registered office. The registered office must be a physical location where notices, letters and reminders can be delivered to the company. The registered office does not need not be the place where the company carries on its day-to-day business so it could, for example, be your accountant’s address. If the address is not effective for delivering documents, the company could risk being struck off the register or wound up by a creditor.
If any person you deal with in the course of your business requests in writing the address of your registered office, or the location where they can inspect your company records, or details of the records that you keep at your registered office, you must respond within five working days.
When you apply to incorporate your company you must state whether your company’s registered office is to be situated in England and Wales, in Wales (a “Welsh” company), in Scotland or in Northern Ireland. The address of your registered office must also be in the same country as its situation.
If you decide to change your registered office address, you must file a ‘Change of registered office address’ form AD01. The change is not effective until we register the form, which can be filed electronically as well as on paper. You can change the address of your registered office but you cannot change its jurisdiction. For example, if your registered office is in Northern Ireland you cannot change it to an address in Scotland.
17. What happens to the company incorporation documents sent to Companies House?
We will carry out a number of examination checks including one necessary to ensure proposed officers are not on the ‘Disqualified Directors Register‘ maintained by Companies House.
If the documents satisfy all the appropriate examination checks, we will incorporate the company, issue a certificate of incorporation and place the documents on the company record for public inspection. Please note the incorporation does not take effect until Companies House has issued the certificate of incorporation. You should bear this in mind before obtaining company stationery or creating bank accounts.
18. What is the certificate of incorporation?
The certificate of incorporation is conclusive evidence that the requirements of the Companies Act 2006 as to registration have been complied with and that the company is duly registered under this Act. The certificate will state:
- the name and registered number of the company;
- the date of its incorporation;
- whether it is a limited or unlimited company, and if it is limited whether it is limited by shares or limited by guarantee;
- whether it is a private or a public company; and
- whether the company’s registered office is situated in England and Wales, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
The certificate must be signed by the registrar or authenticated by the registrar’s official seal.
Directors and secretaries
Additional information about the role and responsibilities of directors’ and secretaries can be found in our ‘Life of a Company Part 2 – Event Driven Filings‘ guide.
1. What is the minimum number of officers a company requires?
Private companies: The Companies Act 2006 requires a private company to have at least one director. However, a company’s articles of association could impose a higher minimum requirement. At least one director must be an individual. A private company does not need to have a secretary unless the company’s articles of association require it.
Public companies: A public company must have at least two directors and a secretary. At least one director must be an individual. The secretary of a public company must be qualified (see question 3).
2. Can anyone be a company director?
It is up to the members to appoint the directors who will run the company on their behalf. The only restrictions that prevent anyone becoming a director are:
- they must not have been disqualified from acting as a company director (unless the court has given them permission to act for a particular company);
- they must not be an undischarged bankrupt (unless they have been given permission by the court to act for a particular company);
- they must not be under the age of 16.
Not in the case of a private company. A secretary of a public company must have one or more of the qualifications described
1. What are the requirements a public company must meet?
A public company must meet the following requirements:
- it must have at least two directors (who may also be members of the company);
- it must have at least one director who is an individual;
- all individual directors must be aged 16 or over;
- it must have at least one secretary;
- the secretary must be qualified to act as a secretary.
A qualified secretary is someone who:
- has held the office of secretary of a public company for at least three of the five years before their appointment; or
- is a barrister, advocate or solicitor called or admitted in any part of the United Kingdom; or
- is a person who, by virtue of his or her previous experience or membership of another body, appears to the directors to be capable of discharging the functions of secretary; or
- he is a member of one of the following professional bodies:
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland.
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland.
- Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators.
- Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.
- Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.
- Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy.
2. When can a public company start business?
A public limited company cannot conduct business or exercise borrowing powers unless it has obtained a trading certificate from Companies House confirming that it has the minimum allotted share capital. You will need to apply for the certificate by filing the ‘Application for a trading certificate for a public company’ (Form SH50). It is an offence to trade without a trading certificate and the directors are liable, on conviction, to a fine.
Different rules apply if a company wishes to re-register from a private company limited by shares or a private unlimited company to a public company. This is explained in our ‘Life of a Company – Part 2 Event Driven Filings‘ guide’.
1. What is a Community Interest Company?
A Community Interest Company (‘CIC’) is a limited company designed for people who want to carry out activities that are intended to benefit the community. CIC’s are registered as companies under the Companies Act after the CIC Regulator has approved the application to form a CIC. The regulator also has a continuing monitoring and enforcement role.
Further information including details of the relevant legislation, forms to download and sample articles of association can be found in the Community Interest Companies website.
2. How do I apply to incorporate as a community interest company (CIC)?
To incorporate a CIC you should file the following documents:
- application to register a company (Form IN01) making sure you do not complete section A3 and you do complete option 3 of A7);
- memorandum of association (see chapter 1 question 8);
- articles of association;
- application to form a community Interest company (form CIC 36 plus if necessary, CIC 36 continuation sheets) inclusive of declarations;
- a cheque for £35 – made payable to Companies House.
- additional information if your application includes a sensitive word or expression (see chapter 7).
As stated in ‘The Companies (Audit, Investigations and Community Enterprise) Act 2004‘, if your community interest company is a private company its name must end with “community interest company”, or “c.i.c.” Alternatively, if your company’s registered office is stated as being situated in Wales (“Welsh” company) its name may instead end with ‘cwmni buddiant cymunedol cyhoeddus cyfyngedig’ or ‘c.b.c.’.
If your community interest company is a public company its name must end with “community interest public limited company”, or “community interest p.l.c.”.
Alternatively, if your company’s registered office is stated as being situated in Wales (“Welsh” company) its name may instead end with “cwmni buddiant cymunedol cyhoeddus cyfyngedig”, or “cwmni buddiant cymunedol c.c.c.”,
Currently, you can only file your application documents in paper format and there is no “Same Day” service available.
3. What are the fees to register a Community Interest Company?
Companies House collects fees on behalf of the Regulator of Community Interest Companies. The fees shown are combined Community Interest Company Regulator and Companies House fees:
- to incorporate a community interest company (“CIC”) – £35;
- to convert a company to a CIC – £25;
- to convert and re-register a company to a CIC public company (“PLC”) (and vice versa) – £35;
- to convert an existing CIC to a CIC PLC – £20;
- to convert an Industrial and Provident Society to a CIC – £35;
- to change the name of a CIC – £10.
Flat Management companies, Right to Manage (RTM) companies and Commonhold associations
1. What are Flat Management companies?
A Flat Management company is a company that has been formed to manage a property divided into a number of separate flats. Each flat owner usually has a lease of their own flat, but they may also be a member of a management company that owns the freehold (or lease) of the entire building. As members of the company, the flat owners have their say in running the building.
If the members own shares in the company, it is common practice in the company’s articles of association that shareholders who sell their flats must also transfer their shares to the new owners. This ensures that, at any given time, the limited company represents the interests of all the current flat owners, and it remains a separate legal entity regardless of who holds its shares.
Leaseholders can also exercise their right to manage the building they live in. To obtain the right to manage the leaseholders must set up a ‘Right to Manage’ (‘RTM’) limited company. Further information is included in question 3.
A limited company could also be formed to own and manage the common parts of a development made up of separate units under ‘commonhold’. This type of company is called a ‘commonhold association’. Further information is included in question 6.
2. What documents are required to incorporate a Flat Management company?
To incorporate a Flat Management company you need to file the documents set out in chapter 1, question 5. When you complete the ‘Application to register a company (form IN01)‘ you will need to tick option 3 (bespoke articles) of section A7 and include the articles with the other documents.
The Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE) provides free advice on the law affecting residential leasehold property in England and Wales. Its website includes advice and contact information.
RTM companies were introduced under theCommonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002. These are private companies limited by guarantee enabling long leaseholders in blocks of flats to take over the management of their building.
Leaseholders must form a limited by guarantee company to exercise the management functions. The constitutional rules of an English RTM company are prescribed in articles of association included in The ‘RTM Companies (Model Articles) (England) Regulations 2009’ (SI 2009/2767). These regulations apply to all existing and proposed RTM companies.
4. What documents are required to incorporate an RTM company?
To incorporate an RTM you need to file the documents set out in chapter 1, question 5. When you complete the ‘Application to register a company (form IN01)‘ you will need to tick option 3 (bespoke articles) of section A7 and include the articles with the other documents. The name of your company must end with “RTM” Company Limited’ or the Welsh equivalent.
The Department of Communities and Local Government (‘DCLG’) is responsible for RTM companies in England. Further information and guidance can be found on the DCLG website.
The Welsh Government is seeking to introduce amended regulations for Welsh RTM companies in Wales as soon as possible. Further information can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or you can telephone 01685 729191
Please note, RTM companies do not exist in Scotland or Northern Ireland.
5. What are Commonhold Associations?
Commonhold Associations were introduced under the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002. Commonhold is a form of freehold land ownership which is an alternative to long leasehold ownership of flats and other interdependent properties. It combines freehold ownership of a single property (a unit) in a larger development with membership of a limited company that owns and manages the common parts of the development, for example a block of flats where each flat is a unit and all the other parts, such as the hallway are commonhold.
The constitutional rules of commonhold associations registered in England and Wales are prescribed in the articles of association included in The Commonhold Regulations 2009 (SI 2009/2363).
To incorporate your commonhold association you need to file the documents set out in chapter 1, question 5. When you complete the ‘Application to register a company (form IN01)’ you will need to tick option 3 (bespoke articles) of section A7 and include the articles with the other documents. The name of your company must end with ‘commonhold association limited’ or the Welsh equivalents.
The Ministry of Justice is the responsible for commonhold associations. The Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE) provides free advice on the law affecting residential leasehold property in England and Wales. Its website includes advice and contact information.
Commonhold Associations do not exist in Scotland or Northern Ireland.
This chapter provides information about the restrictions, controls and requirements for approval of certain words and expressions when used in a company name. It includes guidance on name endings and company type; same as names; names that imply a connection with any part of government; punctuation and permitted characters; and sensitive words and expressions.
Before choosing a name you should use our WebCHeck service to ensure your chosen name is not the ‘same as’ an existing name on the index of company names. You should also check the Trade Marks Register of the UK Intellectual Property Office to ensure that the proposed name does not infringe an existing trade mark. You can also seek advice from the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys.
1. Can I choose any name I want for my proposed company?
No. There are a number of restrictions and controls on your choice of company name.
If your company is a private company limited by shares or guarantee its name must end with “limited” or “Ltd”. However, if your company’s registered office is stated as being situated in Wales (a “Welsh”company), its name may instead end with “cyfyngedig” or “cyf”.
If your company is a public company its name must end with ‘public limited company’ or ‘p.l.c.’. However, if your company’s registered office is stated as being situated in Wales (a “Welsh”company), its name may instead end with ‘Cwmni Cyfyngedig Cyhoeddus’ or ‘CCC’
The Company and Business Names (Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2009 (SI2009/1085) set out the controls and restrictions on your choice of company name including:
- requirement that certain expressions and abbreviations (including Welsh equivalents) which describe a particular form of company, can only be used at the end of a name, such as “Public Limited Company” or “Community Interest Company”.
- controls that restrict the use of “Right to Manage” (or the Welsh equivalent) or “RTM” in any part of the name unless the company is an RTM company;
- conditions a private company limited by guarantee must meet to enable it to be exempt from including “limited”, “ltd”, “cyfyngedig” or “cyf” at the end of its name (see question 2);
- rules which prevent the registration of a name which is the ‘same as’ an existing name on the index (see questions 3-7);
- controls over the use of certain characters, signs, symbols and punctuation in a company name.
The following restrictions apply under sections 53-55 and 1197-8 of the Companies Act 2006:
- names that suggest a connection with Her Majesty’s Government, a devolved government or administration or a specified public authority;
- names that include “sensitive” words and expressions included in regulations;
- names that include words that would constitute an offence;
- offensive names.
- Your company must be a private company limited by guarantee and the articles of association must include clauses that:
- state that the objects of the company are the promotion or regulation of commerce, art, science, education, religion, charity or any profession.
- require its income to be applied in promoting its objects;
- prohibit the payment of dividends, or any return of capital, to its members; and
- require each member to contribute to the assets of the company if it is wound up during the time that he is a member or within 1 year of him ceasing to be a member
- If you wish to apply for the exemption upon incorporation you must complete Section A3 of the application to register (form IN01).
3. What is meant by ‘same as’?
If two company names are so similar they are likely to confuse the public as to which company is which, then they are the ‘same as’. To determine whether a name is the ‘same as’ an existing name the regulations set out:
- the words and expressions that must be disregarded ; and
- the words, expressions, signs and symbols that are to be regarded as the same.
There is one exception to these rules which is explained in question 7.
The full list is set out in the regulations. They include:
- designated name endings (including permitted abbreviations and Welsh equivalents), e.g. “limited”, “unlimited”, “public limited company”;
- certain words and expressions including “biz”, “co”, “co.uk”, “com”, “company”, “UK”, “United Kingdom”, “Wales”, “Cymru”, “net”, “org.uk”, “services”, “international”;
- a blank space between or after a word, expression, character, sign or symbol;
- punctuation including a full stop, comma, colon, bracket, apostrophe;
- characters “*”, “=”, “#”, “%” and “+” when used as one of the first three characters in a name;
- “s” at the end of a name (irrespective of whether it is a plural) ;
- “the” and “www” at the beginning of a name;
- any characters after the first 60 characters in a name.
When comparing one name with another certain words and expressions will be regarded as the ‘same as’, for example, “and” and “&”, “plus” and “+”, “1” and “one”, “6” and “six”, “€” and “euro”, “$” and “dollar”, “%” and “percent”, “@” and “at”.
6. Can you give some examples of ‘same as’ names?
‘Hands Limited’ is the ‘same as’:
- Hand-S Limited
- H and S Public Limited Company
- Hands: Ltd
‘Catering Limited’ is the ‘same as’
- Catering UK Limited
- Catering.co.uk PLC
- Catering International Ltd
- Catering Company Services Public Limited Company
7. Are there any exceptions to the ‘same as’ rules?
Yes. The ‘same as’ rule will not be applied in the following circumstances:
- that the proposed company will be part of the same group as an existing company;
- the existing company consents to the registration of the proposed name;
- the application to register includes a letter/statement from the existing company which confirms its consent to the incorporation of the new company name and that it will form part of the same group.
Sensitive words and expressions
1. What are sensitive words and expressions?
These are words and expressions which, when included in a company or business name could:
- suggest business pre-eminence, a particular status, or a specific function;
- imply a connection with a government department, devolved administration or, public authority
- cause a criminal offence.
If any of the above are indicated in your chosen name you will need the approval of the Secretary of State. These rules are in place to protect the public from being mislead. Companies House administers the approval process on behalf of the Secretary of State.
2. Is there a list of sensitive words?
Yes. These are set out in the Annexes A-C.
Annex A – These words and expressions are included in ‘The Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2009 (SI No. 2615)‘. Also included are the specified public authorities set out in the ‘The Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business Names (Public Authorities) Regulations 2009 (SI No. 2982)’.
To use the majority of these words you will need to obtain the views of the body specified in the regulations. For other words you may need to seek the views of another relevant body.
In all cases the body concerned is not required to support the name but should indicate in writing whether it has any objection to the proposed name. If it has no objection the letter or email need only confirm this view. If the body does object then it should explain the reasons. You must include a copy of the response with the ‘application to register a company (form IN01′).
Annex B– These words and expressions require the approval of the Secretary of State because they could imply a connection with government or a relevant body. If you choose a name that includes any of these words you may need to obtain the views of the body and deliver a copy of the response with your application. The response should follow the format set out under Annex A.
Annex C– If you wish to include one of these words you may need to seek the views of the relevant body or ask us for advice. If you use any of these words without approval you may commit a criminal offence.
Objections to Company names
1. Could I be required to change my company name after incorporation?
Yes. You could be required to change your company name after incorporation if:
- the name is ‘too like’ an existing name on the index;
- misleading information was provided at the time of registration;
- the company’s activities are misleading;
- the company no longer justifies omitting “Limited” from its name;
- the name is too similar to a name in which someone else has goodwill.
2. What are ‘too like’ names?
In general a name is ‘too like’ an existing name if:
- the differences are so trivial the public are likely to be confused by the simultaneous appearance of both names on the index; and/or
- the names look and sound the same.
In practice this means that a name will be regarded as being ‘too like’ an existing name if they:
- differ by one or two letters or characters, although the length of the names involved will be taken into account. For example, International Logistic Support Limited and International Logistical Support Limited would be ‘too like’ but ICL Plc & ICG Plc would not
- differ because of punctuation or spacing of letters or words or the order of words. For example, Bristol Heating & Plumbing Limited & Bristol Plumbing & Heating Limited would be ‘too like’; or
- look and sound the same. For example, Dynamic Technology Limited would be regarded as ‘too like’ Dinamix Teknology Limited.
Names that differ by the inclusion of additional words (as opposed to a few characters) will not be treated as ‘too like’ regardless of whether the additional word does or does not describe an activity in detail. For example, there is no difference in the treatment of “trading” or “plastics” in terms of additional words. However, names that differ only by the inclusion of words that are normally associated with a name ending such as “company” or “partnership” will be regarded as ‘too like’.
When deciding whether a name is ‘too like’ another we will not consider factors such as:
- trademarks/patents infringement;
- disputes between directors;
- trading/business names;
- nature & location of the companies’ activities;
- arguments over proprietary rights in the name;
- suggestions of passing off;
- suggestion of implied association;
- dormancy or non-trading status.
All ‘too like’ objections should be addressed to the ‘Secretary of State’ and delivered to Companies House in time to allow for any necessary direction to be issued within 12 months of a company’s incorporation. If a direction is issued to the affected company it will be required to change its name within 12 weeks of the date of the direction.
The ‘too like’ rules apply to any name which appears on the index of company names which includes companies, LLPs and other bodies such as Limited Partnerships, overseas companies and Industrial Provident Societies.
When choosing your proposed name you should check the index to ensure it will not result in an objection for ‘too like’ which could require you to change your company name. Not all ‘too like’ names result in an objection but you could incur additional costs, for example, new signage, business stationery and also damage to the goodwill you have gained since incorporation.
3. How is the rule on misleading information applied?
You could be directed to change your company name within five years of incorporation if misleading information was provided to enable the name to be registered or if an undertaking or assurance given to enable the adoption of the name has not been fulfilled. For example, this could apply if statements or information provided to approve a word which included a sensitive word turned out to be misleading and on review are insufficient to allow you to use the name.
If a direction is issued the company would be required to change its name within 12 weeks of the date of the direction.
If your company or business name gives a misleading indication of the nature of the company’s activities and the public are likely to suffer harm as a result, then you could be directed to change your company name. A typical example would be a company whose name and stated activities suggested it was providing training courses that the public believed would lead to a recognised qualification.
An objection can be made at any time regardless of how long the company has had the name. If a direction is issued the company would be required to change its name within 6 weeks of the date of the direction.
5. When would I need to re-instate “limited” in my company name?
A limited company is entitled to be registered without “limited” (or a permitted alternative) in its name if it meets certain conditions. The conditions for exemption are explained. If at any time the company no longer meets the requirements for the exemption the Secretary of State may direct the company to change its name so that it ends with “limited” (or a permitted alternative). The directors will need to pass a resolution and notify Companies House on form NM05 ‘Notice of change of name by resolution of directors‘. A copy of the resolution should not be sent with this form.
6. What is Opportunistic Registration?
Opportunistic registration is the term applied to a company or LLP which registers a similar name to one in which another person has goodwill. There is no restriction on who can complain.
Complaints about opportunistic registration are handled by the Company Names Tribunal (not Companies House) which provides a remedy for parties who are damaged by the registration of a company or LLP name in which they have a goodwill/reputation. Objections are also based on the suspicion that the name has been registered in order to extract money or to prevent the aggrieved party from registering the name.
Further information, including application forms and contact information is available on the Company Names Tribunal website.
1. What is a Business Name?
A “business name” is any name under which someone carries on business other than their own. In the case of a company or limited liability partnership, it means a name that is not its registered name. In the case of a sole trader, it means a name other than a surname with or without forenames or initials. In the case of a partnership, it means a name other than the partners’ names.
2. Which provisions of the Companies Act 2006 apply to my business name?
Business names are not registered under the Companies Act but some of the rules included in the Act do apply, principally:
- restrictions on the use of certain words in the name and names that could imply a connection with a government department or public body
- Inappropriate and misleading use of a name ending, e.g. “limited” at the end of the name and trading there are rules to prevent the use of names that could mislead the public
- rules requiring the names of sole traders and partnerships using a business name to be displayed on stationery and signs at business premises.
3. How do I obtain approval to use a sensitive word in my business name?
If your business name includes any of the words and expressions included, where appropriate, you must obtain the written views of a relevant body and send it to Companies House with your letter seeking permission to use the name. If you use such a name without prior approval, you will be committing an offence and may be subject to a fine.
You should also ensure your business name does not infringe an existing trade mark.
4. Do I need to display my business name?
No. However, if you are a sole trader or partnership that uses a different trading name you must display your own name (sole trader) or all the partners’ names (partnership) in a prominent position at all your business premises.
5. What must I include in business stationery?
If you use a business name, you must include your own or the partners’ names
in legible characters on:
- business letters;
- written orders for goods or services to be supplied to the business;
- business emails;
- invoices and receipts issued in the course of the business;
- written demands for payment of debts arising in the course of the business.
You must also include an address in the UK to enable business documents to be served on the sole trader or any partner shown on business stationery .
Disclosure of company name and specified other information (“Trading Disclosures”)
1. What is meant by trading disclosures?
Regulations made under the Companies Act 2006 require a company to display its name at its registered office and other places of business, on business documents and on websites. The purpose of the regulations is that the legal identity of every company should be revealed to anyone who have, or may wish to have, dealings with it.
Where must I display my company name?
Every company, unless it has at all times been dormant since incorporation, must display a sign with its registered name at:
- its registered office;
- any inspection place;
- at any location at which it carries on business (unless it is primarily used for living accommodation.
It must also include its registered name in all business communications (hard copy and electronic).
3. How must I display the sign with my company name?
You must display a sign with your company name:
- in characters that can be read with the naked eye;
- in such a way that visitors to that office, place or location may easily see it;
- continuously, but if the location is shared by six or more companies, each such company is only required to display its registered name for at least fifteen continuous seconds at least once in every three minutes.
4. How must I display the company name in communications?
You must include your company’s registered name in all forms of business correspondence and documentation, whether in hard copy or electronic, including:
- business letters, notices and other official publications;
- business emails;
- bills of exchange, promissory notes, endorsements and order forms;
- cheques purporting to be signed by or on behalf of the company;
- orders for money, goods or services purporting to be signed by or on behalf of the company;
- bills of parcels, invoices and other demands for payment, receipts and letters of credit.
5. Must I display my company name on my website?
Yes. Every company must disclose its registered name on its websites. You do not need to include the company name on every page but it must be displayed so it can be easily read.
6. Are there any exceptions to the requirement to display a company’s name?
There are two exceptions:
- an insolvent company, i.e. a company in respect of which a liquidator, administrator, or administrative receiver is not required to display its registered name at any premises which are also the place of business of those insolvency specialists.
- if every director of the company is one whose residential address cannot be disclosed by the registrar to a credit reference agency, then the company does not have to display its registered name at any place at which it carries on business (but this exception does not extend to the company’s registered office or inspection place for the company’s records).
7. What additional information must I disclose?
The company must display the following on all its business letters, order forms and websites:
- the part of the United Kingdom in which the company is registered (i.e. England and Wales, or Wales, or Scotland, or Northern Ireland);
- the company’s registered number;
- the address of the company’s registered office;
- if a company is exempt from the requirement to use “limited” in its name, the fact that it is a limited company;
- if the company is a community interest company which is not a public company, the fact that it is a limited company;
- if it is an investment company as defined by section 833 of the Companies Act 2006, the fact that it is this type of company;
- if it is a company which has chosen to display its share capital, it must display the amount of paid up share capital.
8. What information must the company provide on request?
If anyone with whom the company deals in the course of business makes a written request for:
- the address of its registered office:
- the address of any place of inspection;
- the type of company records kept at the registered office or inspection place.
The company must provide this information, in writing, within five working days.
9. Do I have to display directors’ names?
A company does not have to state the directors’ names on its business letters unless it chooses to do so. However, if it does decide to include the names then it must state the names of all its directors. In other words, a company cannot be selective about which directors’ names it shows – it must show all of them or none of them.
10. Are there special rules for charitable companies?
Section 68 of the Charities Act 1993 provides that a charitable company whose name does not include the word ‘charity’ or ‘charitable’ must state that it is a charity on company documents, including business letters, notices, invoices, bills of exchange, promissory notes and on any conveyances it executes. The relevant legislation in Scotland is the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005.
11. Do the rules apply to overseas companies?
12. Do the rules apply to business names?
13. What if the company is being wound up?
If a company is being wound up or is in administration or receivership or a moratorium is in force in respect of its debts, every invoice, order for goods, business letter or order form (in hard copy, electronic or any other form) must contain a statement that the company is being wound up.
Quality of documents
1. What happens to the documents I send to Companies House?
We scan the documents and forms that you deliver to us to produce an electronic image. We then store the original paper documents and use the electronic image as the working document.
When a customer searches the company record, they see the electronic image reproduced on-line. So it is important not only that the original is legible, but that it can also produce a clear copy.
When you file a document electronically, we automatically create an electronic image from the data you have provided us with.
This chapter sets out some guidelines to follow when preparing a document for filing at Companies House.
2. How should I set out documents?
Documents filed electronically
Documents filed electronically must comply with the specifications set out by the registrar in his rules on electronic filing. The formats for software filing are contained in the rules published on the website, and our website contains all the formats you will need to file via that method.
Generally, every paper document sent to Companies House must state in a prominent position the registered name and number of the company. There are a few exceptions to this rule, which are set out in the published registrar’s rules.
Paper documents should be on A4 size, plain white paper with a matt finish. The text should be black, clear, legible, and of uniform density. Letters and numbers must be clear and legible so that we can make an acceptable copy of the document. The following guidelines may help:
When you fill in a form please:
- use black ink or black type;
- use bold lettering some elegant thin typefaces and pens give poor quality copies);
- don’t send a carbon copy;
- don’t use a dot matrix printer; and
- remember – photocopies can result in a grey shade that will not scan well.
When you complete other documents, please remember:
- the points already made relating to completing forms;
- to use A4 size paper with a good margin;
- to supply them in portrait format (that is with the shorter edge across the top); and
- to include the company number and name.
3. Where can I find further information?
1. How do I deliver information to Companies House?
For full details of all the ways of delivering documents to Companies House, electronically or on paper, please refer to the registrar’s rules which appear on our website.
The safest and most secure way to deliver statutory information to Companies House is to use our online filing services For more information and registration details please visit our website.
If you are delivering documents by post, courier, Document Exchange Service (DX) or Legal Post (in Scotland) and would like a receipt, Companies House will provide an acknowledgement if you enclose a copy of your covering letter with a pre-paid addressed return envelope. We will barcode your copy letter with the date of receipt and return it to you in the envelope provided.
Please note: an acknowledgement of receipt does not mean that a document has been accepted for registration at Companies House.
Please Note: Companies House does not accept any statutory documents by fax, PDF or by email.
2. Do I have to pay to file documents at Companies House?
You do not have to pay a fee for many of the documents that you have to send to Companies House, but some do require a fee and we will not accept them for registration without it. For full details you should refer to our website.
3. Can I file documents in other languages?
As a general rule the law requires that you deliver documents to Companies House in English, however there are exceptions which are detailed below. Companies can deliver the following documents in languages other than English if the document is accompanied by a certified translation into English:
- resolutions and agreements affecting a company’s constitution delivered under Chapter 3 of Part 3 of the Act;
- accounts of larger EEA (European Economic Area) groups, the group accounts and parent undertaking’s annual report;
- accounts of larger non-EEA groups, the group accounts and, where appropriate, the consolidated annual report;
- a charge instrument or copy charge instrument;
- valuation report required to be delivered to the registrar under section 94(2)(d) of he Act;
- articles of association; Memorandum of association; and
- court orders.
In addition companies may also file voluntary certified translations of any document subject to the First Company Law Directive disclosure requirements. These are:
- constitutional documents such as the memorandum and articles of association;
- directors appointments, changes in particulars or terminations; Accounts, reports and annual returns; Notification of any change in a company’s registered office; Winding up documents; Share capital documents (public companies only); Documents relating to mergers and divisions (public companies only); and Documents relating to overseas companies.
The voluntary translation must relate to a document delivered to Companies House on or after 1 January 2007. Voluntary translations can only be filed in an official language of the European Union and must be accompanied by Form VT01, which will link the translation to the original document.
There are different exceptions for Welsh companies (those complying with section 88 of the Act) who are entitled to draw up and deliver certain documents in Welsh without the need of an accompanying certified translation in English. A full list of the excepted documents can be found in our guidance entitled ‘Conducting business in Welsh (GPO5)‘ available on our website.