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UK Company Law

Guidance on company law developments tailored for those working in accountancy and finance.

Developments in UK companies legislation, prospective legislation and related matters of professional concern to accountants in practice, industry or commerce.

Information on this page is open to the public but may include links to material where access is limited to members or certain members of ICAEW.

Recent developments 

Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023

The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023 received Royal Assent on 26 October 2023. The Act includes provisions allowing Companies House to play a more active role in tackling economic crime and promoting corporate transparency. These include:

  • Statutory powers and responsibilities for the Registrar (which including powers to query and remove information);
  • Identity verification and other measures relating to directors, persons with significant control and third-party agents;
  • Implementing of the ban on corporate directors;
  • Increased powers for Companies House to share data with law enforcement and regulatory bodies; and
  • Changes to how companies report their financial information to Companies House.

 The Act also introduced:

  • A failure to prevent fraud offence applying to organisations (including companies) over a certain size threshold; and
  • A new mechanism under which employees of all business can have their criminal actions attributed to the business. Under section 196 of the Act, “If a senior manager of a body corporate or partnership (the organisation) acting within the actual or apparent scope of their authority commits a relevant offence after this section comes into force, the organisation is also guilty of the offence.” Previously, criminal liability could only be attributed to a business for the actions of that business’ “directing mind and will”.

Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022

The Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022 received royal assent on 15 March 2022. Among its provisions, it introduced a new register requiring an overseas entity owning property in the UK to register with Companies House and identify its beneficial owners. The Act applies retrospectively to property acquired since January 1999 for property in England and Wales, and Scotland since December 2014.

Exemption from audit by parent company guarantee

Following the end of the Brexit transition period (11.00pm 31 December 2020), the exemption from audit by parent company guarantee will apply only in relation to guarantees by parent undertakings established in any part of the UK.

Dividends and distributable profits

Paying dividends - the essentials

A reminder for directors of micro and other small companies.

ICAEW Introduction to the Law on Dividends

This introduction to the law on dividends provides an overview of the various laws that directors should be aware of before making dividend payments, outlines the general principles on the realisation of profits and losses when applying the relevant legislation and describes the subject matter of each chapter of Tech 02/17BL.

It aims to inform readers who are not accountants (eg some directors) about the subject generally and to make Tech 02/17BL and its principles more widely accessible. It also helps accountants to use Tech 02/17BL by putting it into a broader context.

It does not address any issues arising from COVID-19 (see our COVID hub for further information on COVID).

Tech 02/17 BL - ICAEW and ICAS Guidance on realised and distributable profits under the Companies Act 2006

This Technical Release provides guidance on realised and distributable profits under the Companies Act 2006 (as amended) (the Act) and all relevant statutory instruments made under the Act. Its purpose is to identify, interpret and apply the principles relating to the determination of realised profits and losses for the purposes of making distributions under the Act.

It is based on the guidance previously issued as TECH 02/10 in October 2010 but has been updated as proposed in TECH 05/16 which was issued for comment in March 2016. For the convenience of users, paragraph numbering has been kept consistent with TECH 02/10 so far as possible and consequently some paragraph numbers are not used where material has been deleted or moved. 

Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive – duty to report regarding beneficial owners

On 10 January 2020, the Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (5MLD) came into force in the UK through the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Amendment) Regulations 2019.

As a result obliged entities (including auditors and external accountants) must tell Companies House if there is a discrepancy between the information that they hold about a beneficial owner of a company, limited liability partnership, or Scottish limited or qualifying partnership and the information that is on the public people with significant control (PSC) register.

A beneficial owner does not have the same definition as a PSC. The requirement to report discrepancies is based on the Companies Act definition of a PSC.

Companies House has published guidance on the requirement:

The Register of Persons with Significant Control and other recent changes made by the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 to company law.

The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 (SBEE) introduced a new regime for UK companies and Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) to keep a register of significant controllers (PSC register) and to file related information with Companies House. The regime has since been amended and extended to cover additional legal entities.

We give an overview of the PSC regime in effect at 15 July 2017 below. The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has issued guidance which is more detailed than this and to which reference should be made where appropriate. The Law Society and City of London Law Society have published a series of Q&As concerning certain complexities that are not specifically addressed in the legislation or BEIS guidance.

The legislation follows government consultations on trust and transparency and money laundering regulation during which ICAEW raised a number of concerns about the likely effectiveness of the regime and its burdens on business (in particular Rep 125-13 on trust and transparency, Rep 162/14 and Rep 99/15 on the PSC register, Rep 190-16 on extending the regime to more UK entities) and Rep 65-16 and Rep 59-17 on proposals (not yet implemented) to extend the regime to foreign entities.

SBEE made other changes to UK companies law and we also give an overview of these changes below.

ICAEW briefings and responses to company law consultations

Other ICAEW company law publications

TECH 01/11 Guidance for directors on accounting records under the Companies Act 200
27 Jan 2011
Guidance on the meaning and application of the 'adequate accounting records' requirement in section 386. 

ICAEW's guide to directors' responsibilities
This ICAEW guide provides an overview of directors' responsibilities and duties, including on internal governance, transactions between a company and its directors or shareholders, and corporate administration. It also covers responsibilities in relation to insolvent or financially challenged companies, as well as penalties for breach of directors' responsibilities.

More information

Better Regulation project

The Better Regulation project aims to help ICAEW and its members understand how the UK’s regulatory regime might be improved and to use our insights to call for change.

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