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Companies House and sensitive words

When you are forming a company it’s important to be aware that there are some words you aren’t allowed to use as part of your company name. For lots of reasons, some terms are considered “sensitive” by Companies House.

For instance, if you enter your company as something like “The Royal Trust”, you’ll most likely find that Companies House will ask you to change it. So what exactly are the rules for Companies House considering “sensitive words”, and how does this ultimately affect you when you’re forming a company? After all, your name says a lot about your company, so it’s important to know how you might be restricted.

What are “sensitive words”?

Sensitive words are nouns which are considered either misleading, contentious or politically offensive. They are expressions which pertain to a certain special status.

For example:

When forming a company, words such as “trust”, “association” or “royal” could be deemed sensitive by Companies House. That said, it’s important to note that Companies House has recently delisted certain words from the sensitive criteria. The Red Tape Challenge Consultation resulted in a number of new changes in 2015.

The result of this is that words which were previously considered a problem are now accepted by Companies House. These include words such as “Group”, “Holding”, “European”, “International”, “Human Rights” and others. So if you’re looking to use any of those phrases, that won’t be an issue.

But even sensitive words can be used – under some conditions

Before you start to panic and think you won’t be able to secure the name you want, don’t worry. Fortunately, Companies House isn’t totally rigid. There are some sensitive words which can be used if you do so under the right conditions. All you’ll need to do is provide some supporting documentation from the relevant government body.

What names can I provide supporting documentation for?

Luckily there are a number of sensitive words Companies House will actually allow you to use. As long as you give the right documentation, you shouldn’t have issues getting your company formed with the name that you want. There are too many names to list all of them. However, here are a few sensitive words along with the government department you’ll need to get approval from to use them:

“Audit Commission” – National Audit Office, Cabinet Office, Financial Reporting Council, Public Sector Audit Appointments.

“Chamber of Commerce/Business/Enterprise” –  British Chamber of Commerce

“Charity/Charitable” – Charity commission

“Dentistry” – General Dental Council  

“Co-operative” – Financial Conduct Authority

“Britain/British” – a prominent independent body or trade association showing your prominence in your field for use of this word.

You can visit the sensitive words and expressions section over on gov.uk for the complete list.

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