This article is part of our registry spotlight series, where we provide useful information on each of the national registries accessible via the Know Your Customer platform and single API.
The UK registry is one of the 125+ registries that can now be accessed in real-time via the Know Your Customer platform and single API. Explore our full coverage here or purchase a Business KYC report directly from our website here.
What is Companies House?
Companies House is the official UK government agency responsible for registering and maintaining a public record of all companies in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. It was established in 1844, as part of the Companies Act of that year. From the beginning, its main purpose was to provide greater transparency and information about companies, making it easier for investors and other stakeholders to understand their operations and financial health.
According to the Companies House blog, their function includes incorporating and dissolving limited companies, registering the information companies are legally required to supply, and making that information available to the public.
What information is available through Companies House?
There are more than 4 million limited companies registered in the UK, and over 500,000 new companies are incorporated each year and added to Companies House.
Key entity types listed in the registry include:
- Private Limited
- Private Limited by Guarantee/No Share Capital
- Limited Partnership
- Limited Liability Partnership
- Private Limited by Guarantee/No Share Capital/(Use of Limited Exemption)
On these companies, Companies House provides details about their registered address, directors, shareholders, and People with Significant Control (PSCs). Called a “beneficial owner” in other jurisdictions, a person with significant control is someone who owns or controls a specific company. Companies House requires that all registered companies identify their PSCs.
The UK registry also provides access to the following company documents:
- Certificate of Incorporation Confirmation statement (CS01) – Used to confirm that the company details are up to date.
- Annual Returns
- Return of allotment of shares (SH01) – Used to give notice of shares allotted following incorporation.
- Notification of purchase of own shares (SH03) – Used to give notice of a purchase by a limited company of its own shares.
- Notification of cancellation of shares (SH06) – Used to give notice of a cancellation of shares by a limited company on purchase.
How can you access Companies House?
Companies House is accessible online through their website, where you can search for information about specific companies by name, company number, or other criteria. You can also download company information in bulk, or submit electronic filings.
The website also offers a variety of other services, such as the ability to change company details, file annual returns, and change company officers.
What are the new ID Verification requirements for Companies House?
Despite its importance and usefulness, Companies House has also received negative media scrutiny over the past few years due to its historically poor data verification.
As an enormous repository of information with no enforcement powers, Companies House hasn’t been able to prevent companies from providing false information. These, in turn, could be used to facilitate money laundering schemes or circumvent sanctions, especially since the Russian attacks on Ukraine in February 2022.
To address such concerns, in December 2022 Companies House announced the implementation of a new identity verification process for all its users.
While details on these new requirements are still scarce, the UK registry is aiming to provide various options to facilitate a seamless identification procedure for users.
According to the official statement, it will be possible verify directly with Companies House or through an Authorised Corporate Service Provider (ACSP).
Direct verification with Companies House will primarily rely on a standard digital service for ID verification, linking a person with their government-issued ID such a passport or a driving license. For people who are not able to access the digital service, alternative methods will be provided as well.
If choosing the ACSP route, it will be necessary to involve an intermediary such as a company formation agent, an accountant, or a legal adviser. To limit money laundering risks and increase liability for ACSPs, intermediaries will have to be registered with a supervisory body and already be subject to due diligence and Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements on all of their clients.
What does the New ID Verification requirement mean for ACSPs?
The new requirements will have potentially great implications for ACSPs.
In order to form new companies or file company information, these intermediaries will need to register and confirm their own AML supervised status with Companies House. To protect themselves against enforcement action down the line, ACSPs will also need to complete all the necessary identity verification checks on their clients and their beneficial owners before completing any filings.
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