The thought of registering a company can conjure up images of relentless paperwork, merciless filing, and an infinite number of business documents. While a professional formations company can help with the majority of these things, it’s still important to understand the key documents and certificates for your business, including the certificate of incorporation.

What Is a Certificate of Incorporation?

A certificate of incorporation is a legal paper that outlines key company information. It certifies and confirms that a company exists legally and is permitted to trade. All companies registered at Companies House are issued a certificate of incorporation.

A certificate of incorporation will contain the following company information:

  • Company’s registered name
  • Company registration number (CRN) (find out about your CRN and how to locate it through a Companies House search here)
  • Company registration location (England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland)
  • Incorporation date
  • Company Form (limited by shares, limited by guarantee etc.)
  • Issuing Registrar (Cardiff, Edinburgh or Belfast)
  • Legislation under which the incorporation has been formed
  • Registrar of Companies official seal (Companies House)
  • Royal Coat of Arms

When Will I Need to Use a Certificate of Incorporation?

There may be a number of instances when you’ll have to produce your certificate of incorporation, albeit it may not be a regular requirement.

Your certificate of incorporation could be requested when you initially open your business bank account, as the bank will require legal evidence of your company’s existence. Additionally, you may need to show the certificate when selling shares to investors, when you’re applying for different funding, acquiring a loan, creating an overseas business division, and/or if you are registering for overseas taxes.

Invariably, you won’t need to provide a certificate of incorporation for evidential purposes, as details of your company name and registration number will often suffice.

When Will I Receive My Certificate of Incorporation?

You will receive your certificate of incorporation once your company formation request has been approved by Companies House. When you submit an online application, either straight to Companies House or via a company formation agent, you’ll receive a direct email with your certificate of incorporation. If you send a postal application form to Companies House, your certificate will be posted out to you on the day your company is registered.

How Do I Retrieve a Lost Certificate of Incorporation?

Enlisting the help of a company formation agent can greatly reduce the risk of misplacing, or being unable to retrieve, important documents such as the certificate of incorporation. The online version of your certificate can be accessed by logging into the online account you have with your company formation agent or signing in to Companies House Web Filing. If you find it difficult to retrieve your digital certificate, simply phone or send a mail to Companies House and request a replacement. You will need to provide your company’s name and registration number.

A file copy of your certificate of incorporation can be downloaded through Companies House Service(formerly known as Companies House BETA). Simply follow these steps:

  • Visit Companies House Service:
  • Enter your company name into the search box
  • Select your company in the search results
  • Click “Filing history”
  • Scroll to the bottom and select “View PDF” next to Incorporation (you may have to navigate to the older pages to locate this)
  • Find your certificate of incorporation on page one of the PDF

What If I Change My Company Name?

 If your company name is changed, Companies House will provide you with an updated certificate of incorporation. Besides the new company name, all other information stated on the new certificate will remain the same as the original, such as the company registration number and incorporation date. You must keep copies of both your initial and new certificate at your company’s registered office address.


During your company formation, you’ll be inundated with a number of documents and numbers. Be sure to keep track of each by using an efficient filing system. It’s crucial that you familiarise yourself with the following numbers and documents and avoid confusion with your certificate of incorporation:

  • Unique taxpayer reference (UTR): issued by HMRC, this is comprised of 10 digits (e.g. 0123456789), and is used to identify a company for tax-related purposes.
  • Company Registration Number:issued by Companies House during registration (eight digits)
  • VAT number:issued by HMRC for companies registered for Value Added Tax. This number contains nine digits, with the “GB” prefix (e.g. GB123456789)
  • Employer reference number: issued by HMRC when employers register to implement PAYE (Pay As You Earn) for their employees. The first part of the reference consists of three digits, identifying the tax office that deals with the appropriate PAYE. The second part follows a forward slash, and identifies the tax office’s employer reference (e.g. 123/AB456).

Although the above are all independent numbers and documents, terms such as “certificate of incorporation”, “employment reference number”, and “company registration number” may often cause confusion. To avoid any errors, refer to the above points every now and again and be on your way to running a stress-free enterprise!

If you want help with retrieving or learning more about a certificate of incorporation, contact our dedicated company formations team now for fast, friendly, and professional support.