Many UK companies have an accounting period which ends on the last day of the year, which means September is one of the peak months for filing accounts at Companies House.
During this period last year more than 25,000 accounts were filed late: something which incurs an automatic late filing penalty (the size of which depends on the size of company submitting and the lateness of submission).
Every company must prepare accounts, even if they’re dormant, and as the 30 September deadline rolls around the Companies House hotline has been lighting up with queries.
The agency has been in touch with AccountingWEB to flag a number of these frequently asked questions and offer a number of potentially time-saving filing tips.
According to a Companies House spokesperson, the agency has received many calls from people who think they need a new authentication code each time they file.
While those filing their accounts electronically do need an authentication code, they do not need a new code for every submission. Companies are required to use the same authentication code each time they file.
The authentication code is a six-digit alphanumeric code issued to each company. The code is used to authorise information filed online and is the equivalent of a company officer’s signature.
If new to online filing, the person making the submission needs to register an email address and password. To do this select ‘request an authentication code’, enter the company registration number and select ‘request code’. Users are able to change this to something more memorable if they wish.
A new code (or a reminder of an existing one) will be sent to the company’s registered address and could take at least five days to arrive.
Companies House has just introduced the capability to file full accounts on its CHS system. You can file full accounts on CHS if:
- You don't need to include a directors' report or profit and loss account
- You don't need to change the date the accounts are made up to
- The balance sheet doesn’t have revaluation reserve or intangible assets
- You only need to add notes (if applicable) for accounting policies, employees, tangible assets, fixed assets investments, stocks, debtors, current assets investments, creditors - amounts falling due within one year, or creditors - amounts falling due after one year.
Before filing small full accounts online, you'll need:
- your accounts approved by the company directors
- the email address and password you used to sign up for the Companies House service
- the authentication code Companies House sent you
- your company number.
This is an initial release and Companies House plans to develop the service, adding further functionality and features over the next few months.
Limited liability partnerships cannot use this service and are asked to send annual accounts directly to Companies House.
From 2016, small companies have no longer been able to file abbreviated accounts. To find accounts filing options for small companies click here.
The online service has inbuilt checks to ensure all relevant information is provided before a submission is made. It also provides an automatic email to confirm that Companies House has received the accounts, and the agency will send another email once they've been accepted for filing.
You can still file on paper
While Companies House has made its ambitions to be a ‘digital-first platform’ very plain, for the time being, accounts can still be submitted on paper. While it is a little tricky to locate, there is information on filing accounts on paper here (section 9.3).
According to the agency’s guidelines, accounts filed on paper need to be manually checked, and Companies House staff can only check them during office opening hours.
Paper accounts can take over a week to process, with the current processing dates for paper accounts available here.
Companies House suggested that those filing paper accounts may want to use a guaranteed next day delivery service. The agency also reminded filers to leave plenty of time in case they are rejected and need to be resubmitted. Postal delays are not deemed an excuse for late filing.
Those who want to make a start planning for next year can sign to be reminded by email of a company’s filing date. The email reminder service is free and users can:
- Choose up to four people to receive a reminder (including an agent)
- File documents immediately from a link within the reminder
- Use less paper
Companies House has signalled its intention to withdraw paper reminders in the future.
If there is a reason, such as an unforeseen event, why accounts might be filed late, the filer may make an application to extend the period allowed for filing. An extension is only likely to be granted in exceptional circumstances.