This entry is part of a series, Companies House Problems»
I’ve been doing a fair amount of work over the years for a limited company formation agent and unfortunately, this has meant dealing with Companies House. I’ve not really had much other work where I’ve had to interact with government systems, but I think that, to put it politely, working with Companies House on a technical level has its own unique challenges.
Before I go into too much detail, why am I posting this? I guess mostly it is because this is my blog and it seems like a good place to vent frustration, but there is also an element that I hope it may help some other people, whether working on similar systems that integrate with Companies House, other government agencies or just other systems that might have similar issues.
If you don’t feel that it is useful then by all means, please feel free to ignore this series of posts – no one is forcing you to read it!
As a bit of background, Companies House is the government agency responsible for forming and maintaining the records for companies, including (and mostly) limited companies in various different forms. My client is a company formation agent, which means that they deal with forming companies, providing suitable documents for the constitution of the company called memorandum and articles or M&As for short (there are standard ones, but they have all sorts of legal problems) and providing advice about forming companies. They also have a list of “off the shelf”/”pre-made” company names – companies that they have already set up and are ready for someone to buy and trade with immediately.
As well as all this, they provide a number of other services, mostly targeted towards accountants. I’m not really going to go into much detail about these, because they don’t involve working with Companies House and that is the topic of this series of posts.
From a technical point of view, it all started quite a number of years back (I forget when exactly), when Companies House started accepting incorporations electronically. This was done via a rather bizarre system of us sending and receiving emails with numbered tags in to pass the data back and forwards. This was subject to all sorts of problems and was not very human readable (when the problems happened to try to debug them), so Companies House eventually decided to replace their quirky tag-by-email system with a more modern system of POSTing XML data to a gateway using HTTPS. They even elected to use the government standard GovTalk encapsulating envelope system to standardise the communications.
Anyway, that’s the brief background – I’ll post some more detail in future posts.