As UK companies continue to deal with the staggering implications of Coronavirus, one of the challenges which directors may face is the requirement to finalise and file statutory accounts at Companies House within the filing deadlines.
In the UK, private companies have 9 months, and public companies 6 months to file their accounts. This is usually strictly applied and automatic fines issued for late filing. However, there are circumstances in which a company may be able to apply for an extension to the deadline, if this is submitted before the accounts are actually due for filing. Companies House have confirmed that with effect from 25 March, all business will have an additional 3 months’ extension to file their accounts due the impact that Coronavirus is having on businesses.
Applications for the extension can be made through a fast tracked online system and Companies House have indicated that companies should simply cite COVID-19 or Health matters as the grounds for their application. Once the application has been made, a company will automatically and immediately be granted a 3 month extension. This however will not affect the due date for future filing of accounts i.e. it does not change the accounting reference date in respect of future filings.
It is important to note that any companies who have already extended their filing deadline, or shortened their accounting reference period may be ineligible for an extension.
If Coronavirus has affected a company and it becomes apparent that the accounts will not be ready before the filing deadline then we recommend an application is made sooner rather than later.
If a company does not apply for an extension and the accounts are filed late, an automatic fine is issued (which can be hefty – up to £7,500 for a public company more than 6 months late and £15,000 if it is the second year running), and it’s much harder to argue that this should be waived than to obtain an extension in advance.
Failure to file is also a criminal offence which can result in directors being fined personally in the criminal courts and the registrar may also take steps to strike the company off, so we recommend advance action is taken wherever possible.
If you have any concerns over filings, then our Company Secretarial Team are here to help.