How to strike off a limited company

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Striking off a company is a process by which a company is removed from the Companies House register. Once this is done the company ceases to exist. It can be done voluntarily by the company or by the Registrar of Companies if they believe the company is no longer active or not complying with its legal obligations. Striking off a company is a relatively straightforward and inexpensive process that can be completed within a few months. It is often used when a company is no longer trading or has no assets or liabilities.

Section 1003 of the Companies Act 2006 gives the directors the right to apply to strike off the company and it’s that process that we look at in this article.

There can be many reasons why someone might wish to strike off their company from the register of companies at Companies House. Perhaps the company was set up to fulfil a purpose, has achieved its objective and is no longer needed. Maybe it sold a product that didn’t work or is no longer viable. It might be that the owners want to retire and can’t find anyone to take over the company from them.

Whatever the reason, if certain conditions are met the directors may choose to request to strike off the company using Companies House form DS01. Once struck off, the company legally no longer exists. This fact can be checked by searching against the company name at the Companies House website.

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All you need to do is sign and send the system created document to Companies House with a cheque for their fee. It couldn’t be easier.

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The registry page for the company will now say ‘Company Status: Dissolved’ and give the date of dissolution.

How to strike off a limited company

To request that a company be struck off using the DS01 form, in the last three months the company must not have:

  • Traded (or otherwise carried on in business)
  • Sold any property or rights owned by the business which it previously sold while trading. For example, a clothes shop could not in those three months sell remaining clothes themselves, but it could sell the mannequins, tills, shelving and its delivery vehicle.
  • Changed its name
  • Engaged in any activities other than those required to dissolve the company, conclude its affairs or comply with a legal requirement. This allows a company to have sought (and paid for) professional advice in relation to dissolving the company.

If any of the above do apply, the business would have to spend three months of complete inactivity before being able to use the strike off procedure and use form DS01 to dissolve the business.

This procedure to strike off a company voluntarily cannot be used where the company is insolvent

This procedure to strike off a company voluntarily cannot be used where the company is insolvent (i.e. cannot pay its debts). In other words, the company must satisfy the following conditions in order to be struck off:

  • The company must have no outstanding liabilities – so all of its outstanding creditors must have been paid
  • There must be no outstanding petition to wind up the company, insolvency proceedings or another type of order under the Insolvency Act
  • There cannot be any existing agreements with creditors, e.g. a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) or other compromise agreement.

If any of the above do apply, form DS01 is not appropriate and you should instead take professional advice about your obligations as a director from an appropriate professional experienced with handling insolvency situations.

What must a company do before requesting strike off?

Here is a checklist of actions company directors must take before applying to strike off a company.

  • Follow the detailed rules if you’re making staff redundant
  • Pay any staff their final wages and salary
  • Prepare final accounts and a company tax return and send these to HMRC, stating that these are the final accounts and that the company will be dissolved shortly. (You won’t need to file final accounts with Companies House.)
  • Pay HMRC the final balance of corporation tax, PAYE, NI and any other tax liabilities
  • Ask HMRC to close down the company’s payroll scheme
  • Deregister for VAT
  • Distribute any business assets between the shareholders. Any assets not distributed are effectively abandoned, bona vacantia, to the Crown as part of voluntary strike off.
  • As part of a board meeting, minute that the company has paid or will pay all of its outstanding debts or other obligations
  • Close any company bank accounts
  • Transfer website domain names.

How do I get a form DS01 to strike off the company?

Unfortunately, at present Companies House have not made it possible to submit a DS01 via software filing, i.e. with Inform Direct. However, you can use Inform Direct to create and populate the DS01 form for postal submission and generate the accompanying board minutes. This is a simple process that results in a set of documents ready to be submitted to Companies House. The form should be signed by a majority of the directors. If there are two directors both should sign.

Strike off a limited company

What does it cost?

A cheque (or postal order) made payable to Companies House must be sent with the completed form DS01.

Where do I send the form DS01 and cheque?

A cheque and the completed form DS01 should be sent to

  • Companies House, Crown Way, Cardiff CF14 3UZ – for English and Welsh companies
  • Companies House, 4th Floor Edinburgh Quay 2, 139 Fountainbridge, Edinburgh EH3 9FF – for Scottish companies
  • Companies House, 2nd Floor the Linenhall, 32-38 Linenhall Street, Belfast BT2 8BG – for Northern Irish companies

Do not send a cheque from the account of the company applying to be struck off. Otherwise, it will fail the dormancy test.

Who must I tell about the proposal to strike off the company?

Within 7 days of sending form DS01 to Companies House, a copy of the form must also be sent to interested parties. Legally, therefore, a copy should be sent to any person who is:

  • A member (usually a shareholder)
  • An employee
  • A creditor of the company
  • Any director who didn’t sign the DS01 form
  • The manager or trustee of any pension fund established for employees

Anyone who later, after the form is sent but before the company is dissolved, becomes a member, creditor etc must also be sent a copy of the form within seven days.

If you break these rules, you can be fined and face prosecution. It will also delay the strike off of the company, as parties who should have been informed will have the ability to object to the strike off proceeding (see below).

What happens next?

Companies House will check the DS01 form and, assuming it’s acceptable, send the company an acknowledgement in the post.

A notice will then be published in the London, Edinburgh or Belfast Gazette (depending on where the company is based). This gives at least two months’ notice of the intent to strike off the company. Gazettes are the UK’s official newspapers of record, where you can view both recent and historic strike-off proposal notices.

The Gazette notice invites any interested party to make an objection as to why the company should not be struck off.

Objections to strike off – why and how?

Any interested party can make an objection to the proposal to strike off the company. Objections must be made in writing, sent to the Registrar of Companies alongside any supporting evidence. An example of supporting evidence would be copies of invoices demonstrating that the company is still trading.

Valid reasons for objecting

  • The company has not complied with the conditions of the application to strike off. For example, it would be valid cause for objection if the company has traded or changed its name during the three months before the application to strike off or afterwards.
  • The directors have not informed interested parties of the proposed strike off
  • One or more of the declarations on form DS01 is false
  • The company has wrongfully traded
  • The directors have committed tax fraud or another type of offence
  • Action is being undertaken, or is pending, to recover money owed from the company. This might, for example, be via a winding-up petition or through the small claims court
  • Legal action of any other kind is being taken against the company.

If an interested party makes an objection which is upheld by the Registrar before the two months has expired then the action to close the company will be suspended.

Do I still have to file a confirmation statement and accounts with Companies House after filing the DS01 form?

No. Once, an application to strike off the company is accepted Companies House will no longer chase for these but if the striking off is aborted – see below – then they will become due again.

What can stop the company being struck off?

Before a company is struck off Companies House will check with HMRC.

If HMRC believes that there is or might be some tax due from the company they will object to the dissolution and Companies House will reject the application.

So, before sending in a form DS01 it may be as well to obtain advance clearance from HMRC that no tax is or might be due. If the company has never traded or been dormant for several years then HMRC are most unlikely to challenge an application for striking off and you can safely proceed without seeking prior clearance.

Can the dissolution be stopped by the company?

The directors must halt the dissolution process if any of the events in section 1009 of the Companies Act 2006 occur. So, for example, they must abort the strike off if the company:

  • changes its name
  • trades
  • makes a disposal
  • engages in any activity other than that required to effect the dissolution.

The directors can choose to halt the strike off process for other reasons. Whether the dissolution is being halted for one of the statutory reasons or another reason then it is form DS02 (Withdraw a striking off application by a company) that needs to be filed. Creation of this populated form is available for free in Inform Direct.

If the application is withdrawn, the fee sent with form DS01 is non-refundable. Note also that any outstanding accounts and confirmation statements will become due again and the accounts will be subject to any late filing penalties.

When will the company be struck off the register?

If there is no reason to do otherwise, the Registrar will strike off the company within about two months from the notice in the Gazette. At that point, a second notice will be published in the relevant Gazette and the company will thereby no longer legally exist. If the company is registered with Inform Direct you will be notified when the company is successfully dissolved.

At the date of strike off, any cash or assets held by the dissolved company become the property of the Crown via bona vacantia. For this reason, it’s usually prudent to complete the distribution of the company’s remaining assets before submitting the DS01 form to Companies House.

What company records need to be kept?

Business documents must be retained for seven years after the company is struck off. That would include, for example, all invoices, receipts and company bank statements.

If the company employed people, you must also retain a copy of its employers’ liability policy and schedule. These must be kept for 40 years from the date of strike off.

Can a company be restored to the company register once it has been struck off?

Usually it can:

  • If it was struck off the register within the last six years
  • If it can be shown that it was trading at the time of dissolution

The process is known as ‘administrative restoration’ and is done via form RT01.

If restoration is desired for any other reasons, it may be necessary to get a court order. This process can be long and costly. It is probably best to take specialist advice that will be tailored to the particular circumstances.

How soon can I start another company with the same name?

Once the Registrar of Companies has struck off the old company you can form a new company with the same name. The Inform Direct company formation wizard makes this really easy.

Why bother filing a DS01 and paying a fee if Companies House will do it all for you?

In some cases, Companies House will beat the directors to striking off the company. Indeed, if the registrar believes that a company is defunct they have the right to remove such a company from the register. This is known as compulsory strike off. The process starts when no accounts or confirmation statement have been filed and post sent to the company’s registered office goes unanswered.

There are at least two potential reasons why it may be advisable to file a DS01 rather than wait for Companies House to dissolve a company:

  • The possibility that it could adversely affect the director’s credit score
  • If one of the directors subsequently needs professional indemnity insurance the application form may distinguish between an orderly strike off of a previous company and it being dissolved by Companies House for failing to file on time.

Since the process is so simple, most people will choose to file form DS01 and maintain control over the process of striking off the company.

This article was originally published in 2015. We update our content frequently. The most recent revision to this article was in February 2023.

Inform Direct makes it simple to apply to strike off a company from the Companies Register by creating the documentation needed in just a few steps.

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