The much anticipated changes to company law in England and Wales will start to be introduced from March 2024, according to the Registrar of Companies. The changes introduced by the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023, together with an increase in funding, in part from the Economic Crime (Anti-money laundering) Levy, aim to turn Companies House from a passive regulator to a much more proactive one. From March 2024, Companies House will have greater powers and resources to scrutinise the information being provided by companies and reject information that appears incorrect or inconsistent with information already on the register. There will also be stronger checks on company names.
From March 2024, companies must at all times have an "appropriate address" as their registered office. An appropriate address is one where any document sent there should be expected to come to the attention of a person acting on behalf of the company, and can be recorded by an acknowledgement of delivery. Companies can no longer use a PO Box as a registered office address.
All companies will also have to provide a registered email address.
One of the aims of the new legislation is to deter and prevent criminals from using registered companies to conduct illicit activities; those wishing to incorporate a new company will therefore be asked to declare that the proposed company will only be used for lawful purposes. Whether the requirement for such a declaration will act as an effective deterrent remains to be seen.
The new rules will also give the regulator more powers to "clean up" the register by (among other things) cross-referencing information held for companies with other regulators to ensure that, for example, names, addresses and dates of birth of officers are accurate. In some cases, Companies House will have the power to remove incorrect information that it identifies. It will also be able to annotate the register to alert users to potential issues with information that has been supplied.
Although the new rules impose a greater burden on UK companies and those that use the services of Companies House, they should ultimately result in a more accurate and reliable register.
For a short overview of the key corporate changes, click here. To read about the new “failure to prevent” fraud offence and the reform of the identification doctrine for corporate criminal liability, click here.