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Annual Return - late filing

In reality what happens if an Annual Return is filed late? Legally this is a criminal offence for which directors and secretary can be prosecuted, but surely this will happen only for long-overdue returns of large PLCs.
What if a small company is one, or even two months late? - just a warning letter first?
Are there diffetent regimes for private companies v. small PLCs? Thanks
Graham Pears

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No automatic penalty
Philip mentions automatic penalties for late filing but don't panic! These only apply to late accounts, but not a late annual return.

As you say Graham, late annual returns can, theoretically, result in prosecution, but it needs to have got pretty serious before Companies House will bother taking you to court.

But they have got much hotter on striking off - they assume that no filings mean the company is no longer in business or in operation. Two things though (1) You get plenty of letters from them before they strike off, and (2) if you are filing other stuff they will put the striking off on hold on the basis you must be in operation after all.

A final point - if your company becomes insolvent, failure to file docs at CH is one of the factors that is taken into account when deciding whether you should be disqualified as unfit to be a director under the Company Directors' Disqualification Act 1986. Again, though, occasional, inadvertant failure is unlikely to get you into trouble.

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Fines and strike off
I only have experience of small company late submissions of accounts and annual returns. Warning letters tend to be sent before the filing date. Once the filing date is passed, Companies House continue to send warning letters, but the late filing penalties are automatic without a very good excuse. Rather than prosecution, they appear to favour "striking off" the company when accounts and annual returns are very late. I have a couple of new clients who have come to me after their bank accounts were frozen after the company was struck off by Companies House for non-filing offences.

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