UK companies can delay submitting their accounts to Companies House without penalty for up to three months, the government has announced.

The measure, the latest issued in the response to the Covid19 coronavirus outbreak, is aimed at reducing pressure on businesses already dealing with concerns around demand, employees and cashflow.

Companies House Chief Executive Louise Smyth said the institution recognised these were uncertain times.

“By easing the burden, we can help businesses through this period and enable them to thrive in the future,” said Smyth. “I would encourage companies who believe they would benefit from this new flexibility to make an application in good time.”

There are approximately 4.3 million businesses on the Companies House register, and they must submit their accounts and reports each year. Under normal circumstances, those failing to file on time are issued with an automatic penalty.

Thanks to this new measure, companies will still have to apply for a three-month extension to be granted, but those citing issues around COVID-19 will be automatically and immediately granted an extension. Applications can be made through a fast-tracked online system, which Companies House says will take just 15 minutes to complete.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the business support package, announced by the Chancellor last week, was “on an unprecedented scale, backing companies and their employees through these challenging times”.

“But it is important that our support is not limited to financial assistance,” said Sharma. “We are determined to help businesses in any way we can, so that they can focus all their efforts on dealing with the impact of coronavirus, and this new offer of a three-month extension for filing accounts is part of that.”

Roger Barker, head of corporate governance at the Institute of Directors, said its members would be pleased to see government taking proactive steps.

“By easing the administrative burden that comes with running a business, the government is supporting businesses to focus on the fundamentals during this exceptional period,” said Barker.

Additionally, the Financial Conduct Authority announced a two-month extension for listed companies to publish audited accounts.

Currently, under the Transparency Directive, companies have four months from their financial year end in which to publish audited financial statements. Under the temporary relief the FCA, and related regulators, said it would, among other things, forbear from suspending the listing of companies if they publish financial statements within six months of their year-end.

The government is also consulting with business lobby groups, legal practitioners and others, on solutions for the impact the pandemic may have on companies’ ability to hold annual general meetings.

Last Updated: 26 March 2020
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