Understanding What is a Dormant Company: A Complete Guide

If you’re asking ‘what is a dormant company,’ you’re looking at a business that exists on paper but is silent in the marketplace—no trading, no commercial activity. It’s a resting state that carries particular rules and benefits, from simpler reporting to tax nuances. This article provides the essential roadmap to understanding the concept of dormancy for companies, its maintenance, and the related legal considerations.

Key Takeaways

  • A dormant company in the UK is defined as a business entity that does not engage in any trading activities or significant accounting transactions, which includes not generating income from investments.

  • Dormant companies must still comply with statutory filing requirements, such as submitting annual accounts and a confirmation statement to Companies House, with permissible expenses and activities strictly restricted to maintain their status.

  • Reviving a dormant company requires re-registering for Corporation Tax with HMRC, filing statutory accounts, and potentially managing tax liabilities associated with the transition from dormant to active status.

Unlocking the Basics: Defining a Dormant Company

Companies House building with logo

A dormant company is analogous to a dormant volcano; it exists but remains inactive. UK law defines a dormant company as a business entity that does not partake in any trading activities or generate income, such as from investments. The absence of significant transactions signifies a company’s dormant status.

The concept of a dormant company hinges on two key criteria: those under Corporation Tax and those defined by Companies House. Under Corporation Tax, a company is considered dormant if it has ceased trading and does not have any other sources of income, such as investments. Similarly, a new limited company that has not commenced trading can also be classified as dormant.

Companies House, on the other hand, classifies a company as dormant if it hasn’t engaged in any ‘significant’ transactions during the financial year, except for certain activities such as filing fees and funds paid for shares during the company’s incorporation.

Criteria Under Corporation Tax

What criteria must a company meet to be classified as dormant under corporation tax regulations? HMRC stipulates that a company is dormant under corporation tax regulations when it is not involved in any business activity (‘trading’) and does not generate any form of income, such as investments. It must also not have any significant accounting transactions during the accounting period.

HMRC takes into consideration factors such as:

  • Cessation of trading and absence of alternative income

  • Status as a newly established limited company without trading activity

Dormant companies must also be cognizant of potential Companies House penalties due to non-compliance with filing requirements.

A company is classified as dormant for corporation tax purposes if it remains inactive for the entire financial year. Dormant companies are required to file accounts with Companies House annually. It’s worth noting the contrast between the corporation tax and Companies House criteria for a dormant company. The former centres on the cessation of trading and the absence of other income, while the latter is based on the absence of ‘significant’ transactions in the financial year. But rest assured, dormant companies do not need to pay Corporation Tax.

Companies House Criteria

Diving into the criteria set by Companies House, a dormant company is defined as one that has not conducted any trading or received any income, such as from investments, and has not had any ‘significant accounting transactions’ during the accounting period. Filing dormant accounts is a requirement for such companies.

But what qualifies as a ‘significant’ transaction? Companies House considers significant transactions to exclude items such as filing fees paid to Companies House or penalties for late filing of accounts. Therefore, any transactions beyond these could compromise the dormant status of a company.

How does Companies House consider a company to have dormant status during the financial year? They do so if the company hasn’t engaged in any ‘significant’ transactions during the financial year. If a dormant company fails to maintain its dormant status, it may face penalties and additional reporting requirements.

The Financial Footprint: Transactions That Keep a Company Dormant

Dormant company financial transactions

In the realm of dormant companies, even the smallest financial activity can disrupt the status quo. A dormant company is characterised as a company that experiences no substantial accounting transactions within a designated period. Every year, dormant companies must submit their dormant company accounts to Companies House in compliance with regulations.

Dormant companies in the UK are restricted from engaging in financial activities to avoid becoming active for Corporation Tax. However, specific allowable expenses, such as incorporation fees or legal and professional fees, can be managed using a personal account without impacting the dormant status. But beware! Participating in any financial activities could compromise a company’s dormant status and necessitate filing complete statutory accounts.

To maintain a dormant state, a company should contemplate halting trading activities, closing business accounts, and processing necessary incidental payments through personal accounts.

Permissible Expenses

Allowable expenditures for a dormant company may encompass:

  • Incorporation fees

  • Legal and professional fees

  • Registered office service

It’s important to note that these permissible expenses for a dormant company are restricted to specific transactions, such as:

  • paying fees to Companies House

  • covering expenses such as incorporation fees or legal and professional fees using a personal account

  • ensuring the submission of accounts and a confirmation statement to Companies House annually

Expenses related to conducting business, such as contract work, are not considered permissible for a dormant company. These expenses do not have an impact on its dormant status.

Avoiding Significant Transactions

Let’s delve into the transactions a dormant company should avoid. A significant transaction that could revoke a company’s dormant status is one that needs to be entered into the accounting records, such as a substantial property transaction, especially involving assets being bought from or sold to a director of the company or a person connected with them.

Suppose a dormant company engages in a significant accounting transaction. In that case, it will forfeit its dormant status and will be required to prepare and submit detailed standard accounts, which are typically more intricate and may necessitate professional accounting support.

In the event of an inadvertent significant transaction, a dormant company should rectify the situation by filing normal accounts instead of dormant accounts to reflect the activity accurately.

Simplified Reporting: Filing Dormant Company Accounts

Filing dormant company accounts online

For dormant companies, simplicity is paramount. The process to file dormant company accounts includes verifying that no significant accounting transactions have taken place during the period. This service is free and can assist in avoiding late penalties. Online filing is recommended to minimise common errors.

The online service system, such as the Companies House online service, offers a user-friendly online template for filing dormant company accounts, allowing for efficient electronic submission and providing online guidance for assistance. Utilising an online service for filing dormant company accounts offers advantages such as simplifying the process, saving time, and being cost-effective. It completely eliminates the need for a physical presence or the services of an accountant.

Using the AA02 Form

With the right tools, like the AA02 form, filing dormant company accounts can be a straightforward process. This form serves the specific purpose of submitting dormant accounts for a company limited by shares.

A dormant company has the option to submit the AA02 form either online, using an authentication code issued by Companies House, or by post. In order to complete the AA02 form, a company is required to provide its name and details of the dormant accounts. The deadline for submitting the AA02 form for dormant companies is 21 months after the date of incorporation for first-time filers, or 9 months after the end of the accounting reference period for subsequent filings. However, submitting the AA02 form incorrectly may lead to the imposition of penalties.

Online Service Benefits

The advent of the digital age has ushered in numerous conveniences, including the filing of dormant company accounts. Online services streamline the filing process for dormant company accounts by providing:

  • A user-friendly online template for electronic submission

  • Validation checks to minimise errors

  • The ability to submit documentation via email, eliminating the necessity for in-person visits

  • Faster approvals, often within 24 hours

These services expedite the process and make it more efficient.

Submitting dormant company accounts online provides several benefits:

  • Cost savings: Online filing is generally free, eliminating expenses related to traditional posting or courier services.

  • Time-effective: Companies House typically approves submitted accounts within a significantly shorter timeframe compared to manual filing.

  • Tailored service: For the filing of AA02 forms for dormant accounts, Companies House offers a preferred online filing service specifically designed for this purpose.

Maintaining Dormancy: What Not to Do

Steps to maintain dormancy

Preserving a company’s dormant status can be a meticulous task. In order to maintain compliance with laws related to dormancy, a company can take the following steps: 1. Assess eligibility to become a dormant company. 2. Deliver annual accounts and a confirmation statement to Companies House each year.

However, it’s vital to understand the actions to avoid, such as certain accounts money paid transactions. Engaging in any form of payment or receiving payment, regardless of its size or significance, has the potential to breach the dormancy of a company and result in its removal from the register.

Ensuring Compliance

Compliance is paramount for preserving a company’s dormant status. In order to maintain a company’s dormant status, it is essential to comply with key regulations such as filing annual accounts and returns with Companies House, including a confirmation statement confirming key company details.

Despite the absence of business activity or income, a dormant company is still required to submit annual accounts and provide Companies House with confirmation statements on a yearly basis. A dormant company is required to submit a confirmation statement to Companies House on an annual basis, every 12 months.

Consequences of Breach

Non-adherence to dormancy regulations can result in penalties, including:

  • Increased charges for late filing of accounts

  • Failing to meet Companies House requirements

  • Late filing penalties, which will be doubled if accounts are filed late for two consecutive financial years.

Engaging in significant transactions may result in a dormant company losing its dormant status, as these transactions necessitate inclusion in its accounting records. Consequently, the company would be required to:

  • File full accounts

  • Adhere to standard reporting obligations, such as submitting a Corporation Tax return to HMRC

  • Risk facing penalties for non-compliance.

Moreover, breaching dormancy regulations can result in the company being at risk of being struck off the register and dissolved, especially if the company is no longer needed. This emphasises the critical importance of maintaining accurate dormant status for a company’s continued existence.

Transitioning from Dormant to Active Status

Transitioning from dormant to active status

Reviving a dormant company involves both anticipation and a significant amount of paperwork. In order to transition a company from dormant to active status, it is essential to:

  1. Inform HMRC within three months of commencing any business activity. This notification will result in a change of the company’s status to active.

  2. File a Company Tax Return.

  3. Commence corporation tax payments.

In order to reestablish a dormant company, you need to:

  1. Re-register for Corporation Tax with HMRC and notify them about the company’s recommencement of trading.

  2. Submit accounts to Companies House within nine months of the company’s fiscal year-end.

  3. If the company was dissolved, you need to complete Form RT01 for administrative restoration at Companies House.

When a previously dormant company becomes active, it is necessary to register for Corporation Tax with HMRC and initiate regular financial reporting. While dormant companies only need to inform Companies House and submit annual accounts, active status entails thorough accounting practices to accurately represent all business activities.

Reactivation Process

Prepared to reactivate your dormant company? In order to reactivate a dormant company in the UK, it is essential to:

  • Notify HMRC if the company resumes trading within three months

  • Submit accounts to Companies House within 9 months of the company’s year end

  • Settle any Corporation Tax owed

  • File annual statutory accounts with Companies House as per the legal requirements.

The reactivation of a dormant company generally takes approximately three months from the date the company resumes trading or receives income. Reactivating a dormant company itself does not incur a fee, however, penalties may be imposed if dormant accounts are not filed punctually.

Impact on Accounting and Taxes

Reactivating a dormant company notably affects its accounting and tax obligations. During the transition from dormant to active, it is necessary to update the company’s accounting system to accurately record significant accounting transactions.

Reactivating a dormant company can lead to tax liabilities if the company engages in trading activities and generates taxable income during the fiscal year. Additionally, an active company is obligated to fulfill Corporation Tax payments and submit a Company Tax Return, unlike a dormant company which is exempt from these obligations unless specifically requested by HMRC.

Following the reactivation of a company, it is imperative to submit accounts to Companies House within 9 months of the company’s year-end and settle any outstanding Corporation Tax within 9 months and 1 day of the company’s year-end.

Special Cases: Dormant Company Variations

Dormant companies are not all alike. There are special cases and variations, such as non-trading companies, dormant subsidiaries, and new companies. A dormant company is a registered limited company that does not engage in any activity or transactions, whereas a non-trading company may still have minimal activity within the business.

Dormant subsidiaries may be eligible for exemptions from the obligation to prepare and submit financial statements, in accordance with Section 394A of the Companies Act 2006. Conversely, new companies are typically obligated to submit annual accounts and a confirmation statement to Companies House annually.

Non-Trading vs. Dormant

Discerning the difference between non-trading and dormant companies is vital for effective company management. A dormant company is a registered limited company that does not engage in any business activities or transactions, whereas a non-trading company may still have minimal activity within the business.

A non-trading company is defined as a company that has commenced trading activities but subsequently ceases them. This classification is primarily for tax purposes. Non-trading companies may still engage in transactions, while dormant companies are considered inactive for tax purposes.

In order to uphold the status of a non-trading company, it is essential to submit dormant accounts and returns to Companies House, even though tax returns are not mandatory. All limited companies, regardless of their trading activity, are required to submit annual accounts and a confirmation statement to Companies House annually.

Subsidiaries and New Companies

Subsidiaries and newly established entities also feature in the landscape of dormant companies. A newly established company can be classified as dormant if it has not initiated trading or generated any other form of income.

Dormant subsidiaries in the UK are eligible for exemption from preparing or filing financial statements if they satisfy specific conditions, including the absence of significant accounting transactions. Typically, a dormant subsidiary will not have any tax liabilities if it remains inactive for the entire financial year. This situation may offer opportunities for tax savings and could potentially lead to capital losses in the event of the subsidiary being wound up.


Navigating the world of dormant companies can be complex, but with the right knowledge, it’s a manageable journey. We’ve shed light on the criteria for a company to be deemed dormant, the types of transactions that are permissible, and the process of filing dormant company accounts. We’ve also delved into the steps to maintain dormancy, the consequences of breaching dormancy regulations, and the process of transitioning a dormant company to active status. And we’ve also explored special cases, distinguishing between non-trading and dormant companies, and examining the unique situations of subsidiaries and new companies.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does dormant mean for a company?

A dormant company is one that has been incorporated but is not currently carrying on any business activity or receiving any income. It is considered inactive for Corporation Tax purposes.

How long can a company stay dormant?

A company can stay dormant for an indefinite period, but it must fulfil certain obligations, such as filing annual accounts with Companies House.

What is a dormant company in HMRC?

A dormant company, according to HMRC, is one that has been registered at Companies House but is not undertaking any business activities or earning income. This status is recognised by HMRC for Corporation Tax purposes.

Is a dormant company a going concern?

Yes, a dormant company can still be considered a going concern if it is solvent and could potentially re-commence trading in the future.

About Graham

Accountant specialising in tax, property, and estate planning. A regular speaker at landlord, property Investor, and later life planning events.

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