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A new year and a new challenge for Companies House  

2023 was a turning point in the history of Companies House with the introduction of the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act.

As we start the new year, I want to reflect on our successes in 2023 and share more information about what’s happening over the coming months.

Louise Smyth, Registrar of Companies for England and Wales, smiling in an office environment.

My top 3 highlights of 2023

We’re coming to the end of the fourth year of our corporate strategy for 2020 to 2025, and we continue to transform at pace to achieve our vision to be the most innovative, open and trusted registry in the world.

2023 was a busy year with lots of highlights, but I’ve focused on my top 3.

The Register of Overseas Entities has been a great success so far since its launch in August 2022. We acted incredibly quickly to build this register which forms a key part of the government’s strategy to tackle global economic crime. We saw the end of the transition period in January 2023, and there are now more than 30,000 entities on the register. More than 9,000 update statements have been filed so far, and we’ve started issuing penalties to those who have not complied with the legislation. We won an Innovation (Excellence) Award from the Corporate Registers Forum (CRF) for our work on implementing the new register, and this international recognition was a particularly proud moment for me after such a busy year.

In September 2023, I’m so proud that we retained our Investors in People (IiP) platinum status. It’s testament to the brilliant people and leaders in Companies House that we retained our status during a period of significant change. It’s our people that make our culture, and our culture makes Companies House a great place to work.

Thirdly, in October 2023, the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill gained royal assent and became an act. This marked a pivotal moment for Companies House, and all the hard work from colleagues right across government made this happen. We’re grateful to all our stakeholders for their constructive challenges and the support provided during the parliamentary process.

Looking ahead to 2024

This landmark legislation introduces a series of positive changes that will not only strengthen our powers, but also contribute to a fairer and more transparent business environment. It will mean real improvements for the UK economy, for businesses, and for individuals.

As part of the act, the company registrars for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will have new objectives and new and enhanced powers. The new objectives give us a clear sense of our priorities, and the powers in the act give us the tools to deliver our future activities against these objectives.

Some changes will be introduced from March 2024. These include:

  • greater powers to query information. This means we’ll be able to scrutinise and reject information that seems incorrect or inconsistent with information already on the register. In some cases, we’ll be able to remove information.
  • stronger checks on company names
  • new rules for registered office addresses which will mean all companies must have an appropriate address at all times. Companies will not be able to use a PO Box as their registered office address.
  • a requirement for all companies to supply a registered email address
  • a requirement for all companies to confirm they’re forming the company for a lawful purpose when they incorporate. Every year, the company will need to confirm that its future activities will be lawful on their confirmation statement.
  • annotations on the register to let users know about potential issues with the information that’s been supplied to us
  • taking steps to clean up the register, using data matching to identify and remove inaccurate information
  • sharing data with other government departments and law enforcement agencies

These early changes will not necessarily stop fraudulent information being accepted and published on the register. We know there’s more to do. We’re working towards additional changes, such as identity verification, which will come in later.  We’re also already acting behind the scenes to disrupt crime through our intelligence functions and will soon be able to help victims of fraud in new ways.

Look out for a blog post over the next few weeks with more information about these early changes and what you’ll need to do differently.

Embracing the challenge

Our job is to make it easy for law-abiding companies to do business and to register their information with Companies House. We want this ease of doing business to continue throughout the implementation of these changes.

We’re working really hard to facilitate a smooth transition. This will continue over the coming months and years as we implement further changes such as identity verification, streamlining accounts filing options for small and micro entity companies, and transitioning towards filing accounts by software only. We’ll let you know when all these changes will come into effect as soon as we can.

Keep up to date on all the latest updates on our new website, and by signing up for our email newsletters.

I’m looking forward to embracing the opportunities that lie ahead in 2024 with my Companies House and cross-government colleagues. Happy new year!

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  1. Comment by Deeply Read posted on

    Exciting to see Companies House embracing change and achieving milestones in 2023! The success of the Register of Overseas Entities, recognition from the Corporate Registers Forum, and retaining the Investors in People platinum status truly reflect the dedication and excellence of the Companies House team.

    Looking ahead to 2024, the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act introduces crucial enhancements, emphasizing transparency and fairness in the business environment. The upcoming changes, such as greater powers to query information, stronger checks on company names, and the requirement for registered email addresses, are steps in the right direction.

    It's reassuring to know that Companies House is proactively addressing challenges, with plans for further improvements, including identity verification and streamlined filing options. The commitment to facilitating a smooth transition for law-abiding companies demonstrates a customer-centric approach.

    Excited about the opportunities that lie ahead in 2024 and appreciative of Companies House's commitment to an innovative, open, and trusted registry!

  2. Comment by Mokrane Mohamed posted on

    That's great 👍

  3. Comment by John Hewitt posted on

    many fraudulent companies are registered to addresses that they do not have permission to use (causing distress to many innocent homeowners).
    the new rules do not seem to deal with this problem.

    It would be simple to have a system where you post a postcard with a PIN number to the proposed address for a company - the address is not accepted until the PIN number is fed back. This would give a high degree of likelyhood that the address is being used with the owners permission.

    Google used this very successful method for many reays, BING still does.

    Much better to check that a company can use an address before it is published than causing problems with the incorrect use of addresses and firefighting the issue after the fact!

    An annual postcard world ensure the accuracy of addresses on an ongoing basis.

    Simple & effective.

  4. Comment by Andrew Chapman posted on

    I don’t see a firm commitment here to stopping registrations with fake registered addresses. Surely the main challenge is preventing fraudsters getting on the register at all and so starving them of the implied legitimacy from being on the UK Government official register.

    The most urgent reform therefore is to require verification of registered address before publication on to the register. Only this will prevent the blight on people’s lives of their addresses being repeatedly high-jacked by fraudsters. Of course this would also dry up a lucrative income stream for Companies House!

    • Replies to Andrew Chapman>

      Comment by Val Chambers posted on

      I entirely endorse your comment. Having just found out that our address has been used for a recently registered company, I am completely astonished that no-one checks if a proposed address for registration is legitimately owned or rented by the registration applicant. I am worried about the implications of my address on a public website and having all manner of fraud and other illegal activity linked to my property.

  5. Comment by MRS DENISE M BIRD posted on

    I was most shocked and disappointed that my address has been used for a company and director that I have never heard of. I with my husband have lived here for over 40 years.
    I have asked for the address to be deleted as it could lead to fraudulent activity thus was denied without providing confirmation that I live here surely you could confirm this by for instance electoral roll.
    Email sent with forms requested but no reply. Can you help for a speedy resolve to thid

    • Replies to MRS DENISE M BIRD>

      Comment by Luke Cardy posted on

      Hi Denise, thank you for your comment. We're sorry to hear this.
      I can confirm that you will receive a response to your email in due course.

  6. Comment by MRS DENISE M BIRD posted on

    Thank you for your reply. Unfortunately it has still not been resolved we now have more correspondence delivered one from HMRC.
    I have received no reply to my returned documents requested by yourselves.
    I have sent an email to L Smyth who I believe is in charge but no reply.
    We are both of pensionable age and can not tolerate the stress.
    I now intend to contact our MP

    • Replies to MRS DENISE M BIRD>

      Comment by Luke Cardy posted on

      Hi Denise, thanks for your comment. We've checked with the team responsible and they've confirmed that your application has been uploaded to the system. You'll receive correspondence in response from Companies House in due course.