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Business Surgery: Chris Kelly, from Bury St Edmunds accountants Jacobs Allen, explains what information Companies House retains on small businesses





Most business owners rely on their accountants to file information about their company.

But how often do you check what information is available on the public register about you?

I have seen information filed on the public register at Companies House that may surprise you.

Chris Kelly, of Jacobs Allen
Chris Kelly, of Jacobs Allen

This includes:

- Accounts for small companies showing the profit for the year and dividends paid. Small companies are exempt from this disclosure, but accounting software can inadvertently disclose this.

- Full accounts submitted including the management accounts containing detailed profit and loss information. Filleted accounts comprising of only a balance sheet and notes should have been filed.

- Home addresses of the company directors.

- Abbreviated balance sheets submitted with a detailed note disclosing the Corporation Tax liability. This can enable anyone to estimate the profit for the year.

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I usually recommend that companies use either their business premises or accountant’s office as their registered office and also use this as the service address for the directors, rather than home addresses. This can help protect individuals from the risk of identity theft, disgruntled customers or simply junk mail.

Changing your service address now will not remove your address from the public register and to do this fully you would need to submit a special form and pay a fee.

The new Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act brings in many changes, giving Companies House the power to play a greater role in tackling economic crime, alongside measures to improve the transparency and accuracy of information on the register.

An element of this new legislation is the removal of the ability to file filleted accounts and small companies will eventually be required to file their profit and loss accounts. During the consultation phases of this new legislation, the Institute of Chartered Accountants expressed the view that publishing a profit and loss account would be prejudicial to the interests of small companies and their members.

The particular concerns for small companies are:

- There are a large number of one-person limited companies in the UK and filing their profit and loss accounts could in effect disclose the individual’s earnings.

- Disclosing a company’s gross profit on the public record may be commercially sensitive and could enable customers and suppliers to see the level of profit being made and use this to request discounts or increase prices. This information could also be interesting to competitors.

In a significant change to the original Bill, the Act now includes a regulatory power that, while small and micro companies will be required to file their profit and loss account, it (or parts of it) may not necessarily be made available for public inspection.

Currently, if someone wants detailed information on a company, for example, to support a finance application, they ask the company to see this. The company then controls who it is shared with and for what purpose.

We are waiting to hear further information on what exemptions there will be for small companies.

-- Chris Kelly is a director at Jacobs Allen Chartered Accountants