A company registration number is a unique combination of numbers and, in some cases, letters. The company registration number (also known as the company number, registration number or simply abbreviated to CRN) is used to identify your company and verify the fact that it is an entity registered with Companies House.
The company registration number is automatically assigned by Companies House when a company is formed.
A company registration number only applies to businesses incorporated or registered at Companies House, primarily limited companies and limited liability partnerships. Sole traders are not incorporated in this way and therefore do not have a company registration number. Nor are general partnerships (sometimes called ‘ordinary partnerships’), although limited partnerships are registered at Companies House and do therefore have an unique reference.
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You cannot select or reserve a particular number. Neither can you change it: even if the company changes its name, its business activities, its directors and shareholders, the company number will remain the name.
Don't confuse your company registration number!
During its lifetime, a company may collect a number of other references. It’s important not to confuse references issued by HMRC like the following with your company registration number:
- Unique taxpayer reference (UTR) – issued by HMRC, consist of 10 digits (e.g. 9012345678), used to identify a company for tax-related purposes
- VAT number – issued by HMRC for companies registered for Value Added Tax. It consists of 9 digits, with “GB” sometimes included as a prefix (e.g. GB123456789)
- Employer reference number – issued by HMRC when an employer registers to operate Pay As You Earn for its employees. The first part of the reference is 3 digits, which identifies the tax office that deals with the company’s PAYE. The second part, following a forward slash, is the tax office’s employer reference. An example PAYE reference might be 123/CD678.
While these are “official” reference numbers, they are entirely different to the company registration number and serve different purposes.
What is the format of the company registration number?
The company registration number is 8 characters long.
Companies registered in England and Wales, which make up the majority of those on the company register, have an 8 digit company registration number beginning with 0. The leading zero is omitted in some places. A Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) registered in England and Wales will begin with ‘OC’ followed by 6 numbers.
The company registration number for limited companies in Scotland begins with ‘SC’ followed by 6 digits. The format for Scottish LLPs begins ‘SO’ followed by 6 digits.
Similarly, limited companies based in Northern Ireland are identified by ‘NI’ followed by 6 digits. There are also some older Northern Irish companies with company registration numbers beginning ‘R’ followed by 7 digits, but no new numbers are issued on this basis. LLPs registered in Northern Ireland have references beginning ‘NC’ followed by 6 numbers.
There are several other forms of company registration number, but these tend to apply to specialised type of company (e.g. Royal Charter companies begin ‘RC’) or are historic references that are no longer used for new companies.
Where can I find my company registration number?
You can find your company registration number in several places:
- On the company’s certificate of incorporation. The company name and company number are both shown on the incorporation certificate issued by Companies House.
- Emails or other correspondence from your company formation agent or accountant. If an accountant or formation agent formed the company for you, they may well have quoted the company number when sending you the initial documents relating to the company.
- On a change of company name certificate. If you’ve changed your company name, you’ll have received a change of company name certificate from Companies House. Just like with the certificate of incorporation, both the company name and company registration number are shown prominently on the certificate.
- Any official letters or other documentation received from Companies House.
- Using Inform Direct’s company search tool. If you type in your company name, the company number will be shown in brackets. (You don’t have to register, but if you do, you’ll gain the use of our acclaimed company record management tool!)
- On the public register. You can search Companies House’s records by company name.
When do I need to use the company registration number?
Because it identifies the company, you’ll need to provide your company registration number on a lot of occasions.
You’ll need to quote the company registration number when doing any of the following at Companies House:
- Changing the company name
- Changing the company’s registered office address
- Setting up or changing a SAIL address
- Moving the location of statutory records between the registered office and SAIL address
- Appointing or removing a company director, company secretary or LLP member
- Changing the details of a company director, company secretary or LLP member
- Filing a confirmation statement (which replaced the annual return from 30 June 2016)
- Filing the company’s annual accounts
- Filing copies of resolutions
- Allotting shares or undertaking other changes to the company’s share capital
- Changing the company’s accounting reference date
- Dissolving the company
Companies House will also request the company registration number if you make any enquiries.
In a similar way, you’ll need to quote the company registration number to HMRC when:
- Registering for corporation tax, filing company tax returns and paying corporation tax
- Registering the company for VAT, submitting VAT returns and paying VAT
- Registering for PAYE and submitting PAYE reports
- Filing company accounts
- Informing HMRC that a new company is dormant or changing the status of an existing company from active to dormant
When writing to or making other enquiries to HMRC, always quote the company registration number.
Other occasions on which you’d quote the company’s registration number include:
- Communicating with government bodies other than Companies House and HMRC
- Opening a business bank account
- Applying for other forms of credit
- Issuing share certificates to shareholders
- Issuing dividend vouchers
- Other communication with shareholders
- Communication with other parties about the company’s business
Where must the company registration number be displayed?
The law requires a limited company or LLP to display its company registration number on its company stationery and a number of documents, including:
- Compliment slips
- Order forms
- Other forms of printed marketing material
The company registration number must also be shown on the company’s website(s) and any other online material.
All companies are required to maintain up to date company records. Inform Direct is the perfect free tool to help you easily keep everything up to date.
A previous version of this article was originally published in 2015.