With the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) coming in, and tales of data being mined on social media in the news, data privacy is more of a concern than ever. However, those wishing to set up a company may find that they have to reveal more data than they would like. Fortunately, with a bit of planning ahead, the more sensitive pieces of information can be kept out of the public eye.

When a company is first formed, certain pieces of information related to it are placed on the public register. This data can then be examined by anyone with access to the Companies House website. (companieshouse.gov.uk) This transparency of information is partly to offset the benefits of limited liability a company offers. By seeing who is behind a company, a business or individual is more able to make an informed decision about whether they want to use them. To further this aim, the register of Persons of Significant Control (PSCs) was introduced a few years ago. This is intended to identify those who run the company, regardless of their actual position within it.

The main information that is available on the public register is as follows:

Company name
Company number
Registered office address – The company’s ‘home’
Director information
Month and year of birth
Share capital and shareholder information
PSC information.

However, while the information above has to be on the register, it is still possible to hold some personal details back.

Addressing the issue
The main issue is to do with addresses. Many people do not wish to have their personal addresses appearing on a public register. This can be simply for privacy, or from genuine concerns that members of the public will seek them out.

However, the reason that these addresses are required is that they give a point of contact for legal and government documents. It is important that these reach those who are running the company, so having these addresses on the register provides the facility to do this.

Firstly, it should be noted that two addresses can be recorded for directors. The two addresses are residential address and the service address. The first, as made clear by its name, has to be the address where the director in question lives. While it is required to supply this address to Companies House, this does not automatically go on the public register. Instead, what goes on the public register is the service address. Although for many directors the two addresses are the same, the second can simply be an address where the director can be reached.

The same is true for the registered office address. This will usually be the address from which the company is run, but it does not have to be. As for the director, it can simply be an address to which legal and government documents related to the company can be sent. 

For an address to be used as a registered office, it must meet the following criteria.
the directors must have permission to use the address
any Government mail that arrives at the address is seen by the directors
the registered office must be based in the UK.

For director service addresses, the last criterion does not apply, with service addresses outside the UK permissible.

If you are operating your company from home, you may not have a readily available alternative address to use. Most accountants will offer this service to clients who wish to use their offices as this alternative address. It should be noted that the complete history of addresses used is freely available, so this needs to be considered before a company
is set up.

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