Your limited company's registered office address
If your business is a limited company, it has a legal identity of its own.
This means that, apart from numerous other factors, it can have its own address. This is called the "registered office address".
Why is this important?
A company can't keep its registered office address private. The address will be available for anyone to buy it from the Companies House website for a few pounds.
The registered office address must, by law, also be put on a company's website and all its correspondence, including, for example, invoices and emails.
If your company's registered office address is different from its correspondence address, you can use the default text feature in FreeAgent to include the registered office address on your invoices and estimates.
Companies House and the tax authorities will write to the company at its registered office, and send documents, such as reminders to file an annual return, to the registered office.
I work from home, I don't want my home address splashed all over the web!
In that case, or if for any other reason you want to keep your business address private, you can choose another address for your company's registered office address.
The registered office doesn't have to be where your company actually carries on its business, but it must be a real physical address to which documents can be sent and where legal documents can be served on the company if it's unlucky enough to get sued.
What alternatives are there?
There are businesses which do offer a registered-office service, where they will allow you to put their address forward as your company's registered office, and forward all documents on to your correspondence address.
The fees for this will vary depending on where the registered office is. Some businesses sell the prestige of an office in Mayfair!
Search for "registered office address provider" in your web browser to find a selection.
Be aware that some serviced office providers won't let you use their address as your company's registered office. Check carefully when you're choosing a serviced office provider.
Many accountants do also offer a registered office service to their clients, so that your accountant's office will be your company's registered office. Some accountants have a preference for your company's registered office to be at their office, so that they can deal straight away with documents that Companies House and the tax authorities send to your company.
But if your accountant works from home as well then they might not offer that service!
You can't use a PO Box address as your company's registered office.
Why can't I use a PO Box address?
Because the registered office address must be a real physical address.
What about where in the UK the address can be?
If your company is registered in England and Wales, then the registered office address must also be in England and Wales - for example, an English company can't have a registered office address in Edinburgh.
If your company is registered in Scotland (in which case it will have the prefix SC in front of its company number) then its registered office address must also be in Scotland.
What about the directors' own addresses?
Until 1st October 2009, the company's directors' own addresses were also available to buy for a few pounds from the Companies House website.
Since that date, directors still nearly always have to tell Companies House what their "usual residential addresses" are, but they can opt to have a "service address" too, and keep their home address off the public website.
The service address can be the same as the registered office address.
The only snag with that is that if you were a company director before 1st October 2009, before the Companies Act 2006 came into force, your address will be on the public record from old Annual Returns - and you won't be able to take it off!
Why do directors still have to tell Companies House their home addresses?
Companies House will give directors' home addresses to credit reference agencies and certain public authorities.
I don't want them to do that!
Companies House specify that you can apply for your home address not to be given out only if you're "at serious risk of violence or intimidation because of the activities of" the company.
Disclosure of your addresses is one of the legal quid pro quos for having the protection of limited liability. If the privacy of your address is a serious concern for you, then you might decide to trade as a sole trader or partnership instead.
If in doubt, as always, seek professional advice!
- Turning over a new leaf: tips for organising your bookkeeping in autumn
- MTD for Income Tax: next steps for sole traders
- Hack to the future: how hack days inspire creativity at FreeAgent
- Video: self-employed business expenses by HMRC
- Finance Bill 2017-19: Making Tax Digital back on the agenda