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Choosing a company name for incorporation

Choosing a company name for incorporation
Before you begin the process of incorporation, you will need to decide on a company name. While name changes are possible later on, there are specific rules to adhere to.

Updated: 26 March 2024

Whether you're new to company incorporation or expanding your business empire, choosing a company name is the first step. While it's crucial for branding, it's also an administrative detail. Opting for a descriptive name simplifies the process.

Companies House: New powers to challenge company names

On 26 March 2024, Companies House announced they would be running stronger checks on company names as part of the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act, which came into force 4 March 2024. 

Companies House now has expanded authority to reject applications for the following circumstances:

  • The name is intended to facilitate fraud
  • The name is comprised of or contains a computer code
  • The name is likely to give the false impression the company is connected to a foreign government or an international organisation whose members include two or more countries or territories (or their governments)

Failure to comply within 28 days allows Companies House to assign a new name, often the company's registered number. Furthermore, Companies House can withhold a name from the register while awaiting a response to a name change directive. Read more about the change on the Companies House blog.

Can I use any name?

The Companies House register has a number of restrictions on what will be accepted. As all names go through a physical check before they are applied to the register, some names that are seemingly ok may be rejected as they do not adhere to Companies House standards. Firstly, a company name must be unique and not similar to an existing active company on the register. You can use the online company name tool on our homepage that automatically checks the register as you type; highlighting certain words that may not be accepted. Ultimately, its up to you. However, vulgar or offensive words will be rejected, and certain words may require additional documentation to support your application.

Easy Digital Tax and accounting information - company name

What is a similar name?

There are several rules around similar names, aside from the obvious ones like 'MY PETS STORE LIMITED' would be deemed too similar to 'MY PET STORE LIMITED'. However, there are many variations where Companies house may decide that phonetically the name is also to similar, despite looking different when written. Although most similar names are obvious, there are set rules that must be adhered to. For example, MY PET STORE GROUP LIMITED would also be deemed as similar as the word GROUP implies a connection to MY PET STORE LIMITED.  Our company name finder applies most of the rules, however, as approval is at Companies House's discretion, some name choices may be rejected despite attempting to follow the standards. In these situations, Companies House will advise on what needs to be changed to make it acceptable.  

What words cannot be used in a company name?

There are a number of protected words in which you would need to supply documentary evidence that you have the right to use it. For example, 'TOURISM WALES LIMITED' would be rejected unless you have permission from the Welsh Government to use the word 'Wales'. From the example above, using words like GROUP, INTERNATIONAL, UK, will require documentation which gives permission from the company which has the implied connection. You also cannot use names that imply a professional body, unless you have a letter from the body stating you can use that name. 

What is a trading name?

A trading name can be different to a registered name. However, as it's not registered with Companies House, it cannot contain the words LIMITED, LTD, LLP etc, which would otherwise imply that the name was registered. Often companies have a registered name e.g BLUE MOON LLP, and then have a number of 'brands' or trading names like 'South East Loft Conversions', 'Easy Loft Conversions'.

Do I have to display my company name?

If you have premises which are open to the public, you need to display your registered company name. You also need to display your registered company name, number and place of incorporation on any website, emails and other forms of written communications, which also includes, quotes, invoices and statements. If your company is registered to a private residential address, then you do not need to display the name.

Changing the Registered Company name after Incorporation

If you decide to change your registered name later, you can always do this. However, there is a £10 free from Companies House for doing this.

This article is information only and has been prepared for general guidance on matters of interest only, and does not constitute legal, accounting, tax, investment or other professional advice or services. You should not act upon the information contained in this article without obtaining specific professional or legal advice. No representation or warranty (express or implied) is given as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this article, and, to the extent permitted by law, Comdal Limited, its members, employees and agents do not accept or assume any liability, responsibility or duty of care for any consequences of you or anyone else acting, or refraining to act, in reliance on the information contained in this publication or for any decision based on it.

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