The new requirement for companies to supply a registered email address (REA), also sometimes referred to as an ‘appropriate email address’, is found in Clause 29 of the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act (2023).
Subject to Companies House’s operational readiness, the new requirement will apply to newly formed companies from 4 March 2024. There are transitional provisions for existing companies to supply a registered email address, which take effect from one day later, 5 March.
In this article, we explain the changes being implemented, as they affect both new and existing companies. We also look at how accountants and others can use Inform Direct to easily comply with this new legal requirement, whether you manage one or many companies.
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What is the purpose of the registered email address?
Companies House will use the registered email address to communicate about the company, for example to send reminders or to query or challenge information held on the public record.
Until the change, much of this communication is via post, or by email to the presenter of submissions. In time, we can expect more messages to be delivered by email – which will be quicker and more convenient for many companies – with only limited information sent via post.
The legislation ensures that the email address provided will remain private. In the same way as the residential address of directors and PSCs, it will not be published on the public register or otherwise shown to unauthorised users. You will, however, be able to see the registered email address for each of your companies when logged into Inform Direct.
Who will be affected?
The requirement to provide an appropriate email address will apply to:
- All UK companies, including new companies and those already on the register at the date of implementation
- Limited liability partnerships (LLPs), on the same basis as UK companies
- Limited partnerships, with clause 117 of the Act giving a transitional period for existing limited partnerships to verify their registered email address with the registrar
The requirement to provide the REA applies regardless of whether you prefer to receive communication from Companies House by email or by post. Going forward, an email address must be provided in order to form and manage a company.
That may pose a challenge to those companies whose directors do not use email. However, only a single email address will be needed for the company, rather than a separate email for each director. If you manage multiple companies or LLPs, the registered email address must be supplied separately for each of them. It can of course be the same email address.
What will be valid as an appropriate email address?
According to the legislation, an email address is considered appropriate ‘… if, in the ordinary course of events, emails sent to it by the registrar (i.e. Companies House) would be expected to come to the attention of a person acting on behalf of the company.’
In practical terms, the registered email address:
- May be a new one set up specifically for this purpose or an existing one
- Does not need to be at the company’s domain (e.g. [email protected])
- Can be the same email address for a number of companies – for example, a group of companies could provide the same REA for each group company
- Does not have to be a specific, personal address of a company director or other officer
- Can be the email address of the company’s accountant or other agent who oversees company secretarial work on their behalf
It does not appear that the email address will be verified, checking you have access to it, at the time it is provided. There may be limited checks to validate that what’s provided is in the standard form of an email address.
Even without verification, it will still be important that the email address provided is valid and that those managing company secretarial compliance for the company receive correspondence sent to it. As Companies House increasingly looks to utilise its new powers to check and challenge information on the public register, correspondence from the regulator may become more frequent.
According to the legislation, failure to provide Companies House with an appropriate email address ‘without reasonable excuse’ will be an offence that may incur a fine. If mail sent to an address ‘bounces’, because the email account is invalid or full, we imagine that Companies House will invalidate the record of the email address provided – possibly noting the fact on the public record – and write to the company at the registered office address requiring it to provide a new, valid address. Similarly, it remains to be seen, if a company fails to reply to emails that required a response, whether the regulator will always then try to contact them by post or instead may move straight to sanctions.
Forming new companies
From 4 March, any request to form a new company or LLP must include the email address the founders intend to use as the registered email address. Any formation request that does not include an appropriate registered email address will be rejected by the Companies House.
In Inform Direct, you’ll be prompted to provide an email address when forming new companies and LLPs.
The legislation states that a registered email address must be included in the first confirmation statement with a confirmation date after the new requirements come into force. In practice, for companies or LLPs that exist before 4 March 2024, it means the first confirmation statement with a made up date of 5 March 2024 or after must include an appropriate email address. In fact, we understand that it will not be possible to submit that first post 4 March 2024 confirmation statement without an email address.
Inform Direct makes it easy to comply
We’re making it easy for accountants – both new and existing Inform Direct customers – to comply with the new requirements. As accountants agree an email address for each company client, Inform Direct has been fully updated to record and report the registered email address to Companies House.
- Our handy company details report lets you see at a glance which of your companies have a registered email address recorded and which you still need to collect it for. You can prioritise the more urgent cases where an email address is needed.
- Add the registered email address to Inform Direct. It will then be automatically included in the first confirmation statement with a confirmation date following the implementation date.
- Some companies will want to record their decision on which email address to supply to Companies House as the REA. We have a board minute for this purpose. This can be produced automatically, with details prepopulated, when you add the registered email address.
- If you have lots of companies, we provide a bulk upload service to save you the effort of adding the applicable email address to each company individually. Please get in contact to arrange your upload.
We understand from Companies House an email address will not be needed (and indeed including it may cause the submission to be rejected) in the following circumstances:
- For a confirmation statement with a made up date of 4 March 2024 or before, even if it is filed on 5 March or later.
- For a company which is formed on or after 4 March 2024. To change the email address already supplied, there will be a separate form.
- On the second or later confirmation statement dated after 4 March 2024. Collection of the email address via the confirmation statement is a one-off transitional provision. Any later update to the appropriate email address must be via a separate form.
Changing the registered email address
Sometimes a company will need to change the email address they’ve registered at Companies House, to ensure that emails will continue to be received. That might include situations where:
- The director or officer responsible for compliance, whose email has been provided, changes
- The company appoints a new accountant, whose email address is to be used
- The company changes its email addresses more generally, for example when rebranding or following a takeover
Therefore, Companies House are introducing a new reporting transaction for companies and LLPs to change their registered email address. This will be a simple electronic form, available via Inform Direct and Companies House’s Webfiling service.
The new electronic form is only to be used to change the registered email address when one has already been provided at incorporation or the first confirmation statement after implementation. That means two things:
- For existing companies, the new form cannot be used to supply a registered email address ahead of the first confirmation statement.
- Once a registered email address is first supplied, it cannot be updated on a later confirmation statement. Only the new form can be used to change the email address.
Planning points for accountants
As Companies House increasingly look to communicate via email, accountants will need to consider how best to manage correspondence from the regulator. Similar to the situation with physical mail sent to a registered office address, the two main solutions are:
- Obtain an email address from the client and use that, relying on the client to inform you when correspondence is received that may require your input
- Use your own email address, so that your firm receives compliance correspondence directly from Companies House, and you inform the client of anything they need to be aware of
We imagine many accountants will prefer option 2. Especially if there is to be an increased likelihood of correspondence from Companies House querying or challenging information supplied, which will often have been supplied by the accountant, as this will allow them to react quickly and manage any issues.
Using the client’s own email address
- Just as if a client receives physical post directly, you’ll need to find the right way to ensure they inform you of any important correspondence received by email.
- When forming a new company for a client, you’ll need to obtain an email address from them to submit as part of the incorporation if you don’t already have one.
- When taking on a new client, it will be prudent to check the email address held by Companies House is valid and up to date – rather than, for example, the address of a previous accountant.
Using your own firm’s email address for clients
- Decide whether this is service you would prefer to provide in all cases, or whether to offer this as an extra service to clients, possibly with a fee attached.
- Consider whether to use an existing email address for this purpose, whether to set up a dedicated address for all client correspondence from Companies House or to set up a specific email address for each client for this purpose.
- It’s probably best for this to be an email address that can be accessed by different people within the business, rather than the personal email address of an individual. This will avoid the situation when someone leaves the firm and then submissions need to be made to Companies House to update the registered email address for multiple companies.
- You will need an efficient process to assess correspondence received and, where appropriate, provide details to the client and follow up any action required.
- When taking on a new client, you’ll need to submit the new form to change the registered email address so that your firm’s email address is used for future correspondence.
Companies House have not yet specified a process to follow when the email address supplied is one that the company has no right to use. We imagine this will be necessary when the email address supplied, whether accidentally or deliberately, is one with no connection to the company or is not an actual current email address. The email will, therefore, be sent to a person not connected with the company or not received by anyone. Similarly, this process will be needed in cases where an accountant’s email address is used but the company is no longer a client of the firm, and the company or their new accountant has not updated the registered email address. In a similar way to the process of reporting a registered office address invalidly used, we imagine Companies House would need either to make the email address blank or insert a ‘dummy’ address.
Inform Direct makes it quick and easy to maintain statutory registers, manage company records and submit filings to Companies House at the touch of a button.