According to a show of hands at many stops on the recent fifteen-city ICB Inspire Tour, ICB members are huge fans of the Companies House website; it is easy to use, free and accurate. But is it? According to an article in AccountingWeb, two-thousand people listed as Persons with Significant Control (PSCs) are disqualified directors and seventy-six had the same name and birthday, as people to be found on the USA sanctions list.

Whilst I, and no doubt many of you, have always thought that government had the power to do most things, the nonsense is that Companies House does not currently have the legal power to verify this information.

They have now released their long-awaited consultation white paper about their future and their vision for providing a more robust service.  If accepted, these proposals could bring in the biggest change since the Register of Companies was created in  1844.

The consultation has 4 main themes:

 1. Knowing who’s setting up, managing and controlling companies

They are proposing that directors, people with significant control (PSCs) and those filing information, should have their identity verified. They are also considering whether more information should be disclosed about shareholders.

2. Improving the accuracy and usability of data

They say that the proposals will result in better quality information on the register. Proposals include extending their powers to query information before it is entered on the register and make it easier to remove inaccurate information.

 3. Protecting personal information

The proposals will allow them to change the way personal information is accessed and stored. Access to the register will be carefully managed, allowing only identified or authorised people to file information. Sensitive information will also be better protected.

4. Improving the detection of possible criminal behaviour

The proposals, if accepted, will improve the cross-checking of their data against data held by other organisations and will improve the exchange of intelligence so that they can quickly identify possible criminal behaviour.

ICB has taken part in recent high-level meetings with Companies House to discuss what changes would benefit ICB bookkeepers and I can certainly see many of our suggestions in this consultation.  We were particularly keen to address members’ concerns about the ease with which it appears to be possible for criminals to register companies.  I think this is a major step in the right direction.

The full consultation can be found here

If you have any comments or suggestions that you would like ICB to build into its response, please email these to professional.standards@bookkeepers.org.uk