Between 1979 and 2022, the total register has increased by 4.1 million companies

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  • The total register size at the end of March 2022 was 4,894,356, an increase of 3.8% when compared with the end of March 2021.
  • There were 753,168 company incorporations in 2021 to 2022, a decrease of 7.1% when compared with 2020 to 2021. 2021 to 2022 saw the second highest number of incorporations on record.
  • In 2021 to 2022, there were 581,824 dissolutions in the UK, an increase of 32.9% when compared with 2020 to 2021. This is the highest number of dissolutions on record.
  • The average age of a company on the total register at the end of March 2022 was 8.6 years.
  • From 2004 to 2005, private limited companies have consistently accounted for over 96% of all corporate body types. During this time, the three corporate body types accounting for the highest proportion of all corporate body types have remained unchanged. These are private limited companies, limited partnerships and limited liability partnerships.
  • At the end of March 2022, the number of overseas companies on the register with a physical presence in the UK increased to 13,496 from 12,475 at the end of March 2021. This is an 8.2% increase when compared with 2020 to 2021. The largest share of overseas corporate bodies on the register originated in the USA, which accounted for 19.3% of all overseas companies. The Channel Islands overtook the Republic of Ireland as the second highest originating country, accounting for 11.9% of all overseas companies.

Key events

  • In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and national lockdown measures introduced in March 2020, a set of easements were announced by Companies House on 16 April 2020. They included the temporary pause of the strike off process (voluntary and compulsory) to give businesses affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic the time they needed to update their records filed with Companies House and help them avoid being struck off the register. The impact of this announcement was that compulsory dissolutions from 2 April 2020 onwards were temporarily paused, as was the final stage of voluntary dissolutions.
  • On 10 September 2020 the voluntary strike off process resumed by a phased release through the remainder of September and into October. This removed the majority of companies that applied to be struck off before July 2020 and included some companies that filed for dissolution before the first UK-wide coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown began in March 2020. The release of paused compulsory dissolutions began on 10 October 2020.
  • In response to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there was a second pause of the voluntary and compulsory strike off processes between 21 January and 8 March 2021. Companies House temporarily paused the strike off processes so that companies and creditors would not be adversely affected by processing delays.
  • As part of the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act, companies were granted automatic extensions to their filing deadlines, which may have affected the volume of dissolutions in 2020 and 2021.
  • Once a company starts the dissolution process (voluntary or compulsory), there is an opportunity for others to object to the dissolution and strike off. During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the government operated several loan schemes to support companies. The government acts as a Guarantor for these loans, and objects to strike-off proceedings if there is an outstanding Bounce Back Loan, Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan, Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan, or Recovery Loan in place. The objection is only removed once the lender confirms that there is no longer an outstanding loan in place. This has been a contributing factor to an increase in the number of companies in the process of removal since the first quarter of 2021.

2. Incorporated companies

The total register size – including those in the process of dissolution and liquidation (395,014) – at the end of March 2022 was 4,894,356. This is an increase of 3.8% when compared with the end of March 2021. The effective register, which does not include those in the process of dissolution or liquidation, at the end of March 2022 was 4,499,342.

The total register increased in size across all constituent countries of the UK – England and Wales by 3.9%, Northern Ireland by 4.8%, and Scotland by 2.2%.

Figure 1: The number of companies on the total register by region at the end of March 2022

A map of the UK showing the number of companies by region. 4,578,267 in England and Wales, 242,251 in Scotland, and 73,838 in Northern Ireland.

Source: Companies register activities 2021 to 2022, Companies House

During 2021 to 2022, there were 753,168 company incorporations, a decrease of 7.1% when compared with the previous financial year. 2021 to 2022 saw the second highest number of incorporations on record. The highest number of incorporations on record was in 2020 to 2021.

In the same year, there were 581,824 dissolutions, an increase of 32.9% when compared with 2020 to 2021. This is the highest number of dissolutions on record. Due to legislative easements introduced during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, compulsory and voluntary dissolutions were paused for approximately 8 months during the 2020 to 2021 financial year. Therefore, we could be seeing dissolutions in 2021 to 2022 that would have originally occurred during 2020 to 2021 if easements were not in place.

The highest rate of increase in the number of dissolutions in 2021/22 were found in England and Wales (33.6%), followed by Northern Ireland (26.1%) and Scotland (21.6%).

Despite fluctuations, the number of incorporations and dissolutions over time have increased at a steady rate. There were 635,368 more incorporations in 2021 to 2022 when compared with the number of incorporations in 1986 to 1987, when the reporting of financial-year data began. There were 497,624 more dissolutions in 2021 to 2022 when compared with 1986 to 1987.

Chart 1: UK incorporations and dissolutions from 1979 to 2022

A chart showing the trends of incorporations and dissolutions

Source: Companies register activities 2021 to 2022, Companies House

Notes: ‘UK Registry’ refers to the addition of Northern Ireland to the Great Britain companies register.

During 2021 to 2022 there were 17,035 insolvent liquidations, a year on year increase of 63.2%. In the same year, there were 11,824 members’ voluntary liquidations, a decrease of 20.7% when compared with 2020 to 2021. These movements were observed in England and Wales and Scotland; however, Northern Ireland saw an increase in the number of members’ voluntary liquidations. There were 30,330 liquidations and other insolvency proceedings in total during 2021 to 2022, an increase of 10.9% when compared with 2020 to 2021. For further information please see Company Insolvency Statistics Releases – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).

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A full breakdown of figures for England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the UK as a whole is provided in Table A1 in the spreadsheets that accompany this release. Figures are provided for the years 2012 to 2013 through to 2021 to 2022. Separate figures for private companies and public limited companies are provided in Tables A2 and A3 respectively. Liquidation figures are provided in Table A10.

3. The growth in the register size over time

Between 1979 and 2022, the total register has increased by 4.1 million companies, whilst the effective register has increased by 3.8 million companies [footnote 1] [footnote 2]. During this time, the total register has seen 39 annual increases, whilst the effective register has increased 37 times over the same period.

In the late 2000s, it was anticipated that the register size would increase due to the introduction of Northern Ireland companies to the UK register. However, this may have been offset by the global financial crisis during the same period leading to a slight decrease in the register size overall.

During the period 2009 to 2010 there were also several significant changes to the register:

  • The Northern Ireland register was included to create a UK register, as mentioned above;
  • There was a change in the administrative system that forms the register;
  • There was a purge on the register to remove defunct companies that had spent an extended period in the process of dissolution or liquidation;
  • Legislative changes were introduced under the Companies Act 2006, which reduced the time taken to dissolve companies and remove them from the register.

These changes in combination are likely to have contributed to a sharp increase in the number of dissolutions between 2009 and 2010. This may in turn have had an impact on the overall sizes of the total and effective registers.

Since 2010 to 2011, both registers have continued to increase steadily in size.

Between 2012 to 2013 and 2021 to 2022, the average growth rate for the total and effective registers was 5.4% and 5.5% respectively. During 2021 to 2022, the growth rates decreased to 3.8% for the total register and 2.0% for the effective register, from a peak of 8.4% and 8.5% respectively during 2020 to 2021. This peak in the previous financial year is linked to the record number of incorporations combined with a lower number of dissolutions due to legislative easements in place during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Chart 2: UK total and effective register sizes from 1979 to 2022

A chart showing the total and effective register sizes from 1979 to 2022

Source: Companies register activities 2021 to 2022, Companies House

Notes: ‘UK Registry’ refers to the addition of Northern Ireland to the Great Britain companies register.

Table A8, in the spreadsheets that accompany this publication, shows the total and effective register sizes from 1939 to 2021 to 2022, as well as the annual number of incorporations, dissolutions and liquidations.

4. Age of companies on the register

The average age of UK companies on the total register in 2021 to 2022 was 8.6 years, an increase from 8.5 years in the previous year. Within both the total and effective registers for 2021 to 2022, over half of the companies were aged under five years (50.5% and 50.4% respectively). Over two-thirds (72.1% for the total register and 71.7% for the effective register) of companies were under 10 years old, whilst just over one in ten companies were aged over 20 years on both the total and effective registers (10.1% and 10.2% respectively).

Chart 3: Age profile of companies on the total UK register for 2022

A chart showing the age profile of companies on the total register in 2022

Source: Companies register activities 2021 to 2022, Companies House

Historically, the average age of a company has always been relatively young. The average age of a company gradually declined from 10.7 years in 1999 to 2000 to 8.1 years in 2006 to 2007. Between 2008 to 2009 and 2010 to 2011, the average age of a company fluctuated in response to changes in the numbers of incorporations, dissolutions and overall register size due to the move to the UK register, which added Northern Ireland to the Great Britain register. Between 2012 to 2013 and 2021 to 2022, the average age of a company has stabilised and remained roughly consistent over the period.

Since 1999 to 2000, the decline in the average age of a company could be due to the general increasing trend in the number of incorporations and dissolutions. It is likely that the increasing number of incorporations has led to a greater number of younger companies on the register, which has served to lower the average age of companies overall. The average age of a dissolved or closed company has declined from 5.4 years in 2015 to 2016 to 4.9 years in 2021 to 2022.

Chart 4: Average age of a company on the UK total register from 2000 to 2022

A chart showing the average age of a company on the total register, 2000-2022

Source: Companies register activities 2021 to 2022, Companies House

Table A5, in the spreadsheets that accompany this release, shows the age profile of companies on the total and effective registers at 31 March 2022, as well as those in liquidation or the course of dissolution. The table also shows the average age of a company from 1999 to 2000 to 2021 to 2022. Table A11 shows the average age of dissolved and closed companies from 2012 to 2013 to 2021 to 2022, while Table C3 shows average ages at closure and dissolution across all corporate body types.

5. Types of corporate body on the register

There are 30 types of corporate body held on the register. These include a number of corporate body types in addition to those companies covered by the Companies Act 2006.

Each corporate body type has a distinct set of requirements, as outlined in various pieces of legislation and royal acts. This information is provided to Companies House. Further information on each company type can be found on the Companies House pages of the gov.uk website.

From 2004 to 2005, private limited companies have consistently accounted for over 96% of all corporate body types. During this time, the three corporate body types accounting for the highest proportion of all corporate bodies have remained unchanged. These are private limited companies, limited partnerships and limited liability partnerships (LLPs). These three corporate body types have consistently accounted for over 98% of all corporate body types.

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Table 1: Breakdown of corporate body types on the UK total register for 2021 to 2022

Corporate body type Number Percentage of all corporate bodies
Private Limited 4,713,538 93.1
Private Limited by Guarantee/No Share Capital 130,268 2.6
Limited Partnership 56,244 1.1
Limited Liability Partnership 52,394 1.0
Private Limited by Guarantee/No Share Capital (Use of Limited Exemption) 40,103 0.8
Charitable Incorporated Organisation 28,723 0.6
Overseas Company 13,558 0.3
Registered Society 10,240 0.2
Public Limited Company 5,951 0.1
Other corporate body types 13,169 0.3
Total of corporate body types 5,064,188 100.0

Source: Companies register activities 2021 to 2022, Companies House

Although the composition of the register overall has remained stable in recent years, there have been some minor fluctuations within the individual company types:

  • Charitable Incorporated Organisations (CIOs) were introduced in late 2017. The Charity Commission allowed charitable companies to convert to CIOs. This is an incorporated structure designed for charities and needs to be registered with the Charity Commission. For the 2021 to 2022 financial year, there were 28,723 CIOs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (0.6% of all corporate bodies) and 5,454 Scottish CIOs (0.1% of all corporate bodies). Since 2017 to 2018, the number of CIOs has increased, with average annual growth rates in England, Wales and Northern Ireland of 20.4%, whilst Scotland has seen an average annual growth rate of 13.3%.
  • Limited liability partnerships (LLPs) were introduced in 2001. These gradually increased in number to make up 1.8% of the register in the years 2012 to 2013 and 2013 to 2014. The proportion of LLPs has since gradually declined, and they now account for 1.0% of the register.
  • Limited partnerships have grown from 0.5% of the register at the end of 2004 to 1.1% at the end of March 2022. This has been primarily due to large increases in the numbers of limited partnerships in Scotland between 2012 and 2013 and they continue to make up a large share of limited partnerships on the register.
  • Public limited companies have been declining in number since 2008. They now make up only 0.1% of the register overall.
  • Due to the UK’s exit from the European Union, the majority of Europeans EIGs and Europeans SEs became part of the UK Economic Interest Grouping and UK Societas respectively.

Although these changes are small, they show the subtle ways in which the composition of the register is changing outside of private limited companies.

Table C1, in the spreadsheets that accompany this publication, displays numbers and percentages of all corporate body types on the register from 2004 to 2022. Further information on public limited companies, limited partnerships and limited liability partnerships is available in Tables A3, B2 and B4 respectively.

6. Overseas corporate bodies with a physical presence in the UK

At the end of March 2022, there were 13,496 overseas corporate bodies on the total register, when compared with 12,475 at the end of March 2021. This represents an 8.2% increase when compared with 2020 to 2021.

Overseas corporate bodies are incorporated outside of the UK but have a physical presence in the UK (such as a place of business or branch) through which they carry out their business.

At the end of March 2022, the largest share of overseas corporate bodies on the register originated in the USA. This accounted for 2,600 (19.3%) of all overseas companies. The Channel Islands overtook the Republic of Ireland as the second highest originating country, accounting for 1,604 (11.9%) of all overseas companies. The Republic of Ireland had consistently been the second highest originating country since 2010 to 2011.

Incorporations in the Channel Islands and Isle of Man increased by 129.9% and 78.3% respectively in the latest financial year. As a result, there was an increase of 31.2% in the number of overseas corporate bodies originating from these locations on the total register. There were more modest increases in the number of overseas corporate bodies originating from the EU27, Commonwealth and the rest of the world; 7.1% for the EU27, 4.9% for the Commonwealth, and 2.1% for the rest of the world.

The top 10 countries incorporating corporate bodies in the UK in 2021 to 2022 are consistent with those of the previous year. These countries accounted for 65.0% of all overseas corporate bodies on the total register at the end of March 2022.

Figure 2: Top 10 originating countries for overseas corporate bodies, 31 March 2022

A world map, showing top 10 originating countries for overseas corporate bodies.

Source: Companies register activities 2021 to 2022, Companies House

There were 1,130 new incorporations for overseas corporate bodies in 2021 to 2022. Of these, 354 (31.3%) originated in the Channel Islands, 95 (8.4%) in the Republic of Ireland, 85 in the USA (7.5%), and 58 (5.1%) in the UK Virgin Islands.

Table 2: Registrations of corporate bodies incorporated outside the UK in 2021 to 2022 for the top 10 originating countries

Country of incorporation New incorporations Percentage of all incorporations
Channel Islands 354 31.3
Republic of Ireland 95 8.4
USA 85 7.5
UK Virgin Islands 58 5.1
Netherlands 56 5.0
Germany 50 4.4
Isle of Man 41 3.6
Italy 21 1.9
Australia 21 1.9
France 20 1.8
Total 801 70.9

Source: Companies register activities 2021 to 2022, Companies House

Full figures on registrations of corporate bodies incorporated outside the United Kingdom from 2013 to 2014 to 2021 to 2022, as well as numbers on the register at 31 March 2022, are provided in Table B1.

7. Other statistics in this release

A range of other statistics are included in the tables that accompany this release, including:

  • Analysis of companies on the register by period of incorporation
  • Removals of companies from the register
  • Other corporate bodies administered at Companies House, including limited partnerships and limited liability partnerships

A range of management information tables are due to be published later in the summer, providing the following information:

  • Civil penalties for late filing of annual accounts
  • Disqualification orders notified to the Secretary of State in the United Kingdom
  • Prosecutions by the department under the Companies Act 2006
  • Number of documents filed at Companies House
  • Annual accounts registered at Companies House by accounts type

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