Preparing and Filing Company Accounts

Preparing and filing
This information explains the main rules on how to file company accounts. It applies equally to all, irrespective of whether any filing exemptions apply to the content.

1. Do accounting records need to be kept by all uk companies ?
Yes. All limited, sole traders and partnerships, whether they are trading or not, must keep accounting records.

2. Do all uk limited companies have to deliver to Companies House?
Yes, all uk limited and PLC's have to deliver their accounts. If they are eligible and wish to, medium-sized, small and dormant ones, may prepare and file 'abbreviated accounts'.

Non limited businesses need only deliver if, during the period covered, the business was:

(a) a parent or subsidiary of a limited undertaking; or
(b) an insurance business or bank (or the parent of); or
(c) a 'qualifying company' within the meaning of the Partnerships and Unlimited Companies Regulations 1993
(d) operating under a trading stamp scheme

3. What is included?
Typically, they have to include:

(a) a profit and loss account (or income and expenditure account if it is non-profit);
(b) a balance sheet signed by a director;
(c) an auditors' report signed by the auditor (if relevant);
(d) a directors' report signed by a director or the secretary;
(e) notes; and
(f) group (if relevant).

This explanation does not go into the detailed information that these documents should contain. Certain information may be omitted for medium-sized and small (including dormant) prepared under the special provisions of part VII of the Act. These may abbreviate further. Very small and dormant may also be fully exempt from any audit.

4. What period must the accounts cover?
The first accounts cover the period starting on the date of incorporation and not the first day of trading. The must end on the accounting reference date (ARD) or up to seven days either side of this date. Subsequent filings then start on the day after the previous ones ended. They finish on the accounting reference date or up to seven days either side of it.

5. How long have I got to file my first set?
If you are filing your first annual accounts and they cover a period of more than 12 months, they should be delivered to within 21 months of the date of incorporation and 18 months for public companies or 3 months from the accounting reference date, whichever is longer. The definition of a period of months in relation to filing also applies to the first set.

For example, a business incorporated on 1 January with an Accounting Reference Date of 31 January has until midnight on 1 October (21 months from the date of incorporation) to deliver, not 30 October.

6. How long have I got to file subsequent documents?
Unless you are filing your first set, the time normally allowed for delivering them is:

(a) 9 months from the accounting reference date;
(b) for a PLC, 6 months from the accounting reference date.

However, if the accounting reference period has been shortened for whatever reason, the time allowed for filing the accounts is the longer of:

(a)  for a private limited company, 9 months (or for a PLC 6 months) from the accounting reference date; or    
(b) 3 months from the date of the notice (Form 225).

A period of months after a given date ends on the corresponding date in the appropriate month. For example, with an accounting reference date of 30 September has until midnight on 30 June of the following year to deliver. If there is no corresponding date, the last day of the month will therefore apply. For example, an accounting reference date of 31 May has until midnight on 28 February the following year to deliver.

7. Can the time allowed for submitting be extended?
If a business carries on business or has an overseas interest, a 3-month extension to the normal filing period can be claimed by delivering Form 244. This form will be be delivered before the normal filing deadline and this must be done for every year that it wishes to claim its filing extension. It does not automatically apply from one year to the next.

An application can also be made to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to extend the time for laying and delivering if there is a very special reason for doing so. For example, if there has been an unforeseen event or circumstance which was outside the control of the business and its auditors. This application is made in writing, be delivered before the normal filing deadline and contain a full explanation of the reasons for the extension and the length of the extension required.

8. What happens if they are delivered late?
There is an automatic civil penalty for late filing. The amount depends on how late they are and whether it is private or public. The latest fixed penalties are as follows:

Length of delay - private/(public)
(a) 1 month - £150 (£750)
(b) 3 months - £ 375 (£1,500)
(c) 6 months - £750 (£3,000)
(d) 6 months plus - £1,500 (£7,500)

Please note that failing to deliver on time is also a criminal offence for which the directors may be prosecuted. Please note if a filing deadline expires on a Sunday or a Bank Holiday, the law still requires them to be filed by that date. You should therefore ensure that they are posted in time to arrive before such a deadline.

9. Who should approve and sign?
They must be approved by the board of directors and signed before they are sent. The balance sheet is signed by a director, with any statements about accounting or filing exemptions appearing above the director's signature.

The directors' report, if required, is signed by a director or the secretary. If an auditors' report, special auditors' report or accountants' report is attached, then it should state the names of the auditors or accountants and be signed by them. You do not have to publish them before a general meeting or have them agreed by the Inland Revenue before sending them off.

10. What happens to documents when they arrive at the Registrar?
The documents and forms you deliver are initially scanned to produce an electronic image. The original documents are stored and the electronic image is then used as the official working document. When anyone views the offical record, they will see the electronic image reproduced on-line or on microfilm. It is therefore important not only that the original is legible, but that it can also produce a clear further copy.

11. What happens if my documents does not meet the guidelines?
Section 706 of the Act allows the registrar to simply reject documents that cannot be captured electronically, giving a notice explaining why they are unacceptable. An acceptable copy should be then be delivered within fourteen days of the notice (otherwise the original is treated as not having been delivered).

12. How should the documents be set out?

Every document delivered must state clearly the registered number and must comply with any requirements specified relating to the legibility of that document. In summary, documents should be on A4 size, white, plain paper between a weight of 80gsm and 100gsm with a matt finish. Text should be black, legible, clear and of a uniform density.

When you prepare a document:
(a) use black type or ink;
(b) use bold lettering if possible;
(c) don't use a carbon copy;
(d) don't use a dot matrix printer;

Please note that photocopies can result in a grey shade that will not always scan well; use A4 sized paper with an appropriate margin; and include the co number in the top right-hand corner of the first page.

Glossy Document - If you are producing glossy colour-printed documents , a typed, unbound black and white version of a printer's proof is ideal, provided it has all the necessary signatures.