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Companies House reports will be Free in 2015

Businessman get idea

Its time to review your subscription to company information databases!

Companies House is to make all of its digital data available free of charge. This will make the UK the first country to establish a truly open register of business information.

As a result, it will be easier for businesses and members of the public to research and scrutinise the activities and ownership of companies and connected individuals. Last year (2013/14), customers searching the Companies House website spent £8.7 million accessing company information on the register.

Until it becomes free in 2015, you will still have to pay

Companies House WebCHeck Charges
Company accounts £1
Annual return £1
Company record report £1
Current appointments report FREE
Monitor Service (per company, per year) FREE

This change will come into effect from the second quarter of 2015 (April – June).

How do you tell HMRC a company is dormant or active?


Dormant is a term that HMRC and Companies House use for a company or organisation that is not active, trading or carrying on business activity. But HMRC and Companies House use the term dormant in slightly different ways.

For Corporation Tax purposes, HMRC views a dormant company as a company that’s not active, not liable for Corporation Tax or not within the charge to Corporation Tax.

A dormant company can be, for example:

  • a new company that’s not yet trading
  • an ‘off-the-shelf’ or ‘shell’ company held by a company formation agent intending to sell it on
  • a company that will never be trading because it has been formed to own an asset such as land or intellectual property
  • an existing company that has been – but is not currently – trading
  • a company that’s no longer trading and destined to be removed from the Companies Register

Generally your company or organisation is considered to be active for Corporation Tax purposes when it is, for example:

  • carrying on a business activity such as a trade or professional activity
  • buying and selling goods with a view to making a profit or surplus
  • providing services
  • earning interest
  • managing investments
  • receiving any other income

This definition of being active for Corporation Tax purposes is not necessarily the same as that used by HMRC in relation to other tax areas such as VAT, or by other government agencies such as Companies House.

If your limited company has been dormant but is now active, you must tell HMRC within three months of starting your tax accounting period. The best way to do this is to use HMRC’s online registration service.

HMRC have further details on this link

To contact HMRC you will need your Company UTR number and the 3 digit tax office number, then you can use this link to find out contact details for you Corporation Tax Office

When you call, Option 3 is for Dormant Companies and Option 4 is for Active Companies.

Then you will need to write to HMRC to advise them of the change in activity status.

Companies House still require Annual Returns and Annual Accounts even if the company is dormant, but these are obviously easy as there are no changes from the previous year.

Free access to accounts filed at Companies House


60% of the 3.5 million companies in the UK now file accounts electronically and you can access those accounts free of charge via


Paul Driscoll is a Chartered Management Accountant, a director of Central Accounting Limited, Cura Business Consulting Limited, Hudman Limited, and AJ Tensile Fabrications Limited, and is a board level adviser to a variety of other businesses.

Why would you liquidate a solvent company?

Balance sheet business diagram

If you have a company which is no longer needed you have the following options:

  1. You can just keep it as a Dormant company
  2. You could strike it off at Companies House
  3. You could carryout a Members Voluntary Liquidation

If the company has assets the shareholders will want to release the assets and get hold of the money, so keeping it Dormant isn’t going to help.

Since March 2012, in the case of Strike Offs, ESC C16 has allowed the distribution of up to £25,000 as a Capital Distribution rather than as Income.

However, if you have assets in excess of £25,000 distributions can only be treated a Capital if the distributions are made through a formal liquidation.

With Entrepreneur’s relief, money paid to shareholders will only be subject to tax at 10% on the capital gain.

There could also be other benefits too.


Should you start your own business?

Economy in recovery

It now looks like the UK economy is in recovery.  Even if this isn’t the case, when people think that times will get better they start to spend money again.  With interest rates at historic low rates there is little incentive to stockpile cash in the bank for consumers and for entrepreneurs debt is relatively cheap to finance a new venture.

No Change for Currency

No Change for Currency (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What’s your plan?

If you are starting a new business, it is important to work out what you will be selling, but to survive the early days of a start-up you will need good projections of your cash flow.  As you grow you may need investment from banks or other third parties.  Without good quality management accounts is it more difficult to persuade a potential investor to part with their cash.

Ask for help!

You can’t do everything on your own.  Work out what your core activities are and how much time you need to do them.  If you have time left over for ancillary activities then you are better completing these yourself too.  The cost of hiring specialist help, whether it be an accountant, web designer or lawyer can seem to be too much for a nascent company to bear.  However if you are spending so much time working out your accounts that you don’t have time for your customers you will cost yourself more in the long-term.

Business booming in Scotland

According to this article from the BBC  more Scots are starting up their own business.  Records from Companies House show that more than 340,000 companies were formed in Scotland last year.  Glasgow and Edinburgh are at the forefront of the economic recovery in Scotland.  If you have a good business idea, now could be the time to let that idea take form, especially if you have a service that supports other new businesses.

Give yourself a break

To give your business the best start, make sure you understand your finances.  Don’t forget that if you registered a company you are obliged to file accounts with Companies House as well as HMRC.  For more information on company formation see my blog here.

For support and advice on the finances of your business contact Alterledger or visit the website


Micro Entity Accounts – who can file them?

Micro Entity

Micro-entity accounts are a new type of accounts that can be submitted to Companies House. They will provide the smallest companies with the opportunity to prepare and publish simplified financial statements (profit & loss account; and balance sheet) if they wish.

A micro-entity is defined as meeting two of the following criteria:

  • Balance sheet total: £316,000
  • Net turnover: £632,000
  • Average number of employees during the financial year: 10 (or fewer)

Micro Entities are exempt from filing their profit and loss with Companies House.

Business Minister Jo Swinson said:

“Thriving micro-businesses are a vital ingredient for a stronger economy. However, because of their size they don’t always have dedicated finance teams behind them. We therefore need to make sure that they can focus on growing their business – rather than completing unnecessarily detailed paperwork.”

There are approximately 1.56 million micro-entities in the UK, as compared with a total number of companies on the UK register of approximately 2.8 million.

I don’t think this is going to help much? Micro Businesses still need to file corporation tax returns, deal with PAYE, RTI, VAT, minimum wage, Auto Enrolment Pensions, and a wide range of other requirements

Fake email alerts from HMRC and Companies House

Red button spam with icon envelope, internet concept.Fake email alerts from Companies House and HMRC have become increasingly sophisticated. There was a time when it was relatively easy to spot a fake email alert but even accountants have been caught out by recent fake email alerts. And it isn’t just Companies House and HMRC. Be careful of emails from banks, other institutions, postal services, voicemail services and even Skype. Previously harmful emails have tried to direct you to a fake website to steal your personal details but these recent emails have attachments which could harm your computer.

What to look for

These fake email alertss have an attachment which appears to support details in the email message. For example, it could claim to be a customer complaint from Companies House, a missed delivery or a bank transaction. The email address could give you a clue that it is a fake email alert but many now look like they have come from a genuine email address. Some fake emails have footers which have been obviously copied from another email. If you are not expecting an email from the sender, think twice before opening any attachments, particularly .zip files.


These emails are all trying to get you to do one thing: open the attachment. The attachment invariably contains malware or a virus and will either damage your computer, steal your details or even demand a ransom (see an article from the National Crime Agency on Cryptolocker).


The National Crime Agency provides this advice:

This is a case where prevention is better than cure.

  • The public should be aware not to click on any such attachment.
  • Antivirus software should be updated, as should operating systems.
  • User created files should be backed up routinely and preserved off the network.
  • Where a computer becomes infected it should be disconnected from the network, and professional assistance should be sought to clean the computer.
  • Various antivirus companies offer remedial software solutions (though they will not restore encrypted files).

Example of fake emails

Follow the links for some examples of fake emails:

Can I prepare Abbreviated Accounts?

Young woman with checklist over shoulder shot

There are 3 sizes of companies to consider when preparing your accounts; small, medium or large.  There are thresholds for turnover, balance sheet total (meaning the total of the fixed and current assets) and the average number of employees, which determine whether your company is small or medium-sized.  Any companies that do not meet the criteria for small or medium are large companies and will have to prepare and submit full accounts.

A small company can prepare and submit accounts according to special provisions in the Companies Act 2006 and the relevant regulations. This means that they can choose to disclose less information than medium-sized and large companies.

The Thresholds are:

Test Small Company Small Group Medium Company Audit Exempt
Sales must be below £6.5 million £6.5m net or £7.8m gross £25.9 million £6.5 million
Balance Sheet Total £3.26 million £3.26m net or  £3.9m gross £12.9 million £3.26 million
Average no. of employees 50 50 250 50

A small company must meet at least two of the conditions above.

Generally, small company accounts prepared for members include:

  • a profit and loss account
  • a full balance sheet, signed by a director on behalf of the board and the printed name of that director
  • notes to the accounts
  • group accounts (if a small parent company chooses to prepare them)

And they should be accompanied by:

  • a directors’ report that shows the signature of a secretary or director and their printed name
  • an auditors report that includes the printed name of the registered auditor (unless the company qualifies for exemption from audit and takes advantage of that exemption)

For financial years ending on or after 1 October 2012 a small company only needs to qualify as small to be exempt from Audit.

Even if a small company meets these criteria, it must still have its accounts audited if a member or members holding at least 10% of the nominal value of issued share capital or holding 10% of any class of shares demands it; or – in the case of a company limited by guarantee – 10% of its members in number.

A medium company must meet at least two of the conditions above for medium companies.

Medium-sized accounts must include:

  • a profit and loss account
  • a balance sheet, showing the printed name and signature of a director
  • notes to the accounts
  • group accounts (if appropriate)

And should be accompanied by:

  • a directors’ report including a business review showing the printed name of the approving secretary or director
  • an auditor’s report that includes the name of the registered auditor unless the company is exempt from audit

Medium-sized companies may omit certain information from the business review in their directors’ report (that is, analysis using key performance indicators so far as they relate to non-financial information). Also a medium-sized company which is part of an ineligible group can still take advantage of the exemption from disclosing non-financial key performance indicators in the business review.

Medium-sized companies preparing Companies Act accounts may omit disclosure with respect to compliance with accounting standards and related party transactions from the accounts they send to their members.

Abbreviated accounts of a medium-sized company must include:

  • the abbreviated profit and loss account (this must be full if preparing IAS accounts)
  • the full balance sheet showing the printed name and signature of a director
  • a special auditor’s report showing the printed name of the registered auditor
  • the directors’ report showing the printed name of the approving secretary or director
  • notes to the accounts

What is a dormant company?

A company is dormant if it has had no ‘significant accounting transactions’ during the accounting period. A significant accounting transaction is one which the company should enter in its accounting records.

When determining whether a company is dormant you can disregard the following transactions:

  • payment for shares taken by subscribers to the memorandum of association
  • fees paid to the Registrar of Companies for a change of company name, the re-registration of a company and filing annual returns
  • payment of a civil penalty for late filing of accounts

How long do I normally have to file my accounts?

The time normally allowed for delivering accounts to Companies House is:

  • 9 months from the accounting reference date for a private company
  • 6 months from the accounting reference date for a public company

You can submit the following accounts online:

  • dormant company accounts
  • small full audit exempt accounts
  • small audit exempt abbreviated accounts

Failure to deliver accounts on time is a criminal offence.

Further information available from Companies House

UK Private Limited Company Formation – A brief guide.

3d Tree by renjith krishnan

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan  /

What is a private limited company?

A private limited company is a company limited by shares.  The company is run by its directors on behalf of its shareholders.  There must be at least one director and one shareholder for any new private company.  The same person can be director and shareholder.  The shares in a private company cannot be traded on a stock exchange, this is only open to public limited companies.

A limited company is a legal person, which means that it is separate from its owner’s finances.  This legal separation brings various advantages and obligations / disadvantages that you would need to consider before setting up a company for your business.

Limited company advantages

Some of the reasons business owners decide to incorporate a company include:

  • Separation of the business from the owner’s personal finances and other business interests.
  • Limitation of personal liability (limited to unpaid share capital).
  • Tax benefits (Corporation tax is currently lower than personal tax rates).
  • Greater credibility with banks, funders, suppliers and customers.

Limited company disadvantages

With the rights that a limited company enjoys come responsibilities and restrictions including:

  • Requirements for governance procedures e.g. annual meetings.
  • Annual filing obligations with Companies House and HMRC.
  • Additional cost compared to operating as a sole trader.
  • Restrictions on withdrawing money from the business (see below).
  • Company details must be presented on official documents and website (see below).

Withdrawing money from a company

Although a company is a separate legal person from its directors and shareholders there are restrictions on how money can be taken out of the business.  As a director of a company there are only three ways to take cash out of the business:

  • Salary
  • Dividends to shareholders
  • Directors’ loans

Companies must pay National Insurance at the rate applicable to salaries paid under a contract of employment.  Deductions must also be made from the gross salary for National Insurance and Income Tax.  Any salary must be paid under a contract of employment and is subject to the National Minimum Wage.  Directors are not able to invoice their own company for their personal time spent working on the company.

Dividends are paid at a rate agreed by the company for each class of share.  If a director is also a shareholder any dividend paid to shareholders will be paid to the director.  Dividends can only be paid out of retained profits (after tax).  If you want to pay dividends, you must have financial records to show that there are sufficient retained profits in the company.

Any money paid to a director that isn’t salary or a dividend must be considered a director’s loan.  Full records of directors’ loans must be kept and depending on when they are repaid there are different rules on how they are treated for tax purposes.

Business stationery

All companies are required to use their official company name with any business correspondence.  The company name must be stated on all stationery including Limited or Ltd at the end to signal that it has limited liability.

All business letters / emails, order forms websites must include the following information:

  • Place of registration               e.g. Scotland
  • Registered number                 e.g. SC433814
  • Registered office address      e.g. 4 Dolphin Road, Glasgow G41 4LE

For more information on forming a company for your business or keeping financial records please contact member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants using the link to The Team above.

Useful links

Companies House:
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