Because of the benefits it offers its owners, a private company limited by shares is the most popular company structure in the UK. However, one potential drawback to operating as a limited company is the amount of information that’s placed on the public register when a company is formed, including the names of all the people associated with the company.
So, is it possible to set up a company anonymously? Let’s take a look.
The people with significant control register
Generally speaking, the answer is no, you cannot form a limited company in complete privacy.
Previously, nominee directors, secretaries, and shareholders could provide anonymity to the people behind a company. Nominees (a person or other corporate entity) did this by allowing their name and personal details to be used on the Companies House public register instead of the actual person/people behind a company.
They took no active role in the company, and all roles and responsibilities were signed over to the ‘real’ directors, secretaries, and shareholders via documentation (such as a deed of indemnity).
Whilst this is technically still permitted, the introduction of the people with significant control register (PSC register) in April 2016 has essentially made nominee appointments redundant.
This is because the purpose of the PSC register is to promote transparency in limited companies, by ensuring the people who hold ultimate control of a company – even if they’re not directors or shareholders – are named on the public register. In rare cases, a PSC’s information can be protected from the public register. We’ll look at this shortly.
This means, even if a nominee appointment were in place, the genuine authorities in the company would still have their names published on the public register along with their correspondence address, month and year of birth, nationality, and the specific nature of their control (for example, they own 75% or more of the shares in the company).
In rare instances, certain information can be withheld from the Companies House register
The question ‘can I set up a company anonymously?’ immediately throws up images of shady operations; however, there are legitimate reasons why someone may wish to make themselves anonymous when setting up a company.
Soon-to-be business owners may wish to keep their personal information private from competitors, customers, and current employers (if the company was being set up whilst still in full-time employment).
Whilst there are no measures in place to fully hide a person from the public register in these scenarios, Companies House does allow PSCs to have all of their information protected if the PSC in question:
- Has been targeted by activists
- Is licensed under the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986
- Is active in the defence industry
- Is an easily traceable supplier (or partner of) one of these organisations
- Has another appropriate reason for having their information withheld
Likewise, directors can have their residential address (only) protected from credit reference agencies if any of the above criteria apply to them (directors must provide a residential when being appointed to a company, this is not made publicly available but is shared with credit reference agencies). See the dedicated gov.uk ‘Applying to protect your personal information on the Companies House register’ page for more information.
Protecting your residential address from the public register
As mentioned, the price you pay for reaping the many benefits of running as a limited company is that certain company, personal and financial information is placed on the Companies House public register, making it freely accessible to anyone who is interested.
This includes the below:
- Registered office address
- SIC code(s)
- Full names – for directors, secretaries, shareholders, and PSCs
- Month and year of birth – for directors and PSCs
- Correspondence address (also known as the service address) – for directors, secretaries, shareholders, and PSCs
- Nationality – for directors and PSCs
- Any documents that are filed post-company formation with Companies House, including annual accounts and confirmation statements
As you can see, the registered office and the correspondence address are placed on the public register. Therefore, if you use a residential address as either of these – something that is permitted – you are immediately compromising your personal address.
This can belittle your company by signposting its home-based nature and make you vulnerable to unwanted visitors and potential fraud.
However, no actual trading activity has to take place at the registered office or correspondence address provided.
This means you can use any UK address as your company’s registered office and any address worldwide for the correspondence address, provided that you have permission from the landlord to use the address as a registered office and/or correspondence address, and that any official mail that arrives at the address is passed on to the appropriate person in the company.
It should be noted that most tenancy agreements in the UK prohibit the use of the address as a registered office address. With our address services, you can use our Covent Garden, London address as your registered office, correspondence address, and business address (mailing address). They’re perfect for shielding your home address from the public register and boosting the image of your company with an established address in a bustling business location. See the below links for more information:
Thanks for reading
Can you set up a company anonymously? No, but you can take steps to make sure that your home address does not appear on the public register.
We hope you have found this post helpful. Please leave a comment if you have any questions about setting up a limited company or our address services, and we’ll be happy to help.