SIC codes and your business - what you need to know

Standard Industrial Codes, also known as SIC codes, are important but often misunderstood pieces of information.

SIC codes provide an easy way of describing what a business does. They are used by bodies like Companies House to provide an overview of a business’s activities. As a business owner you will need to know the relevant SIC code when you come to fill in your Annual return.

Companies House has recently rolled out a new series of SIC codes across its system. So what are SIC codes, when will you need one, and where can you find it?

What are SIC codes?

SIC codes are a system for categorising and defining business activities. They are the result of an ongoing attempt to develop as comprehensive a list as possible of the types of businesses that exist in the UK.

SIC codes are split into trade groups. More detailed classifications are given within each trade group. For example, trade group I refers to Transport, Storage and Communication businesses. Within that group individual codes are assigned to businesses depending on what they do. So, code 6210, which is within trade group I, refers to businesses involved in scheduled air transport. Code 8041, which is within trade group M, refers to businesses that carry out driving school activities.

When do I need a SIC code?

The fact that your business even has a SIC code might well be news to you. It is not a piece of information with which most business owners have to deal on a daily basis.

However, SIC codes have a number of important applications and uses – the most important of which arises during the Annual Return filing process.

You will need your SIC code if your business is required to file an Annual Return with Companies House. You will have to enter the code in order to complete the filing process.

How do I find my business's SIC code?

Most business owners don’t know their SIC code. In order to find it, you can use the Companies House list. This list is divided into trade groups, and is searchable by both code and by trade description. It might take some searching to find the most relevant code for your business, particularly if you work in a relatively obscure field.

SIC 2003 vs SIC 2007

It is important to understand that the SIC system has changed. The idea is to produce as comprehensive a list of classifications as possible – and, as such, the list is constantly growing.

Annual Returns with a made up date on or after 1 October 2011 will require a 2007 version of the code, as opposed to the 2003 version. The most obvious difference is that the 2007 codes have five digits, while the 2003 codes have four.

If you already know the relevant 2003 SIC code, you can use the conversion table on the Companies House website to help you find the 2007 version. You should use this version when you complete your Annual Return.