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SIC codes and your business – what is a SIC code and when do you need one?

1-minute read

Sam Bromley

Sam Bromley

8 October 2020

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SIC codes, or standard industrial classification codes, are five-digit codes that group companies by their business activities.

SIC codes are designed to give Companies House a quick and easy way of understanding what your business does.

For example, Companies House uses SIC codes to track the number of businesses in different industries. You need to include a SIC code when you set up a limited company, and you also need to know your SIC code when you fill in your confirmation statement (annual return).

SIC codes are also used by other organisations like the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

What is a SIC code?

Standard industrial classification (SIC) is a system used by different countries to track industry activity.

SIC codes in the UK were established in 1948. There have been various revisions to the system over the years, as industries change and new ones develop. The current system is UK SIC 2007.

The SIC code system gives a standard way to group industries and to collect and analyse economic data.

It’s also international in scope – UK SIC 2007 was developed together with a revision of the European Union’s industrial classification system, NACE.

SIC codes are split into trade groups, designated A to U, and there are specific codes for particular lines of business under those groups.

For example, section R is for arts, entertainment and recreation and the SIC code 90010 is for performing arts.

You can use up to four SIC codes, because you might carry out a number of different business activities.

The performing arts business above might also provide support activities to performing arts, in which case it could add the SIC code 90020.

Companies House SIC codes

You need to know your SIC code when dealing with Companies House.

This means you need one when incorporating and when sending your confirmation statement, as mentioned. You also need one when registering for VAT.

  • when incorporating, you should give at least one SIC code, even if your company is dormant or not trading (SIC codes 99999 and 74990 respectively)
  • when sending your confirmation statement, you can update your business activities with Companies House by changing your SIC code

To find your SIC code for Companies House, use the condensed list of SIC codes, as opposed to the full list available from the ONS.

SIC codes – when do they change?

Every few years, the SIC code system changes to accommodate new (and changing) industries.

While SIC 2007 is the current system, and older codes are largely unused, you can go back and check previous SIC codes if you need to.

For example, the ONS has a document available here that lists SIC 2007 codes alongside SIC 2003 codes.

Read more guides for small businesses:

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Sam Bromley

Written by

Sam Bromley

Sam has more than 10 years of experience in writing for financial services. He specialises in illuminating complicated topics, from IR35 to ISAs, and identifying emerging trends that audiences want to know about. Sam spent five years at Simply Business, where he was Senior Copywriter.

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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