When are my annual accounts due?

Every year, even if your company is non-trading or dormant, you must file annual accounts with Companies House.

 

Understanding when limited company accounts must be delivered to Companies House is essential. Late delivery will result in the issue of an automatic and substantial fine on the company. In addition, the company’s directors (and company secretary) could face prosecution in the criminal courts – resulting in large personal fines and possible disqualification from the role of director in future. In this guide we explain in simple terms how to determine when your annual accounts are due and look at some of the complexities that can cause the unwary to slip-up.

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Before we start: two areas that commonly cause confusion

Before we move onto the main focus of this article – which is to explain clearly the Companies House deadline that will apply to your annual accounts, we shall clear-up two issues that often cause confusion.

1 Annual accounts or confirmation statement?

People sometimes confuse annual accounts with the company confirmation statement. Both must be filed annually with Companies House, but they are very different in their content and the filing deadlines that apply:

 

What are the annual accounts?

A company’s annual accounts provide details of a company’s business activity over the accounting period (usually a year). Generally, a set of accounts would include:

 

What is the confirmation statement?

  • a profit and loss account;
  • a balance sheet;
  • notes explaining the accounts;
  • a director’s report; and
  • an auditor’s report.

The confirmation statement involves a declaration that all the details of the company are correct as at the date of review and that all necessary filings to Companies House have been made. If there are unreported changes to any of the following, they must be reported in the confirmation statement:

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In this guide we will consider the filing deadlines that apply to submission of your annual accounts. If you have questions regarding your confirmation statement you may wish to start by reading our guide to the confirmation statement.

2 What is an accounting reference date?

Limited company accounts provide information for the financial period (usually a year) ending on the accounting reference date. The deadline for submitting annual accounts to Companies House is also determined by the accounting reference date.

When you first register your company, the accounting reference date is automatically set as the first anniversary of the last day in the month in which the company was incorporated. Unless you change your accounting reference date – your annual accounts will be prepared to this same date every year.

Example:

Company A is formed on 8th January 2018. Its first accounting reference date is set by legislation as 31st January 2019.

The first set of company accounts will therefore be prepared for the financial period beginning 8th January 2018 (being the day of incorporation) to 31st January 2019 (the accounting reference date). You will note that the first financial period is therefore longer than 12 months. This will be important later when we calculate the date that these first set of accounts must actually be delivered to Companies House.

Unless an application to change the accounting reference date is accepted, every year annual accounts must be prepared for the financial period ending 31st January.

 

We are now ready to examine the factors that determine your annual accounts filing deadline. This is most easily explained visually, and the diagrams below show the decision process that should be followed to determine when your company’s annual accounts must be filed with Companies House. Select the relevant diagram (dependent upon your company type), answer the questions and follow the flow to work out the latest date that you can submit your accounts:

Annual accounts filing deadline diagram

When are your company’s first set of accounts due?

If you have glanced at the diagrams above, you will notice that when calculating your annual accounts filing deadline – you should begin by asking yourself “are these the first set of accounts prepared for my company since it was formed?” The filing deadlines that apply to first company accounts are different to those applying for subsequent submissions and can be summarised as follows:

If the first set of accounts cover a period of MORE THAN 12 MONTHS:

  • Private companies must file within 21 months of the date of incorporation.
  • Public companies must file within 18 months of the date of incorporation.
  • Or (for either company type) – no more than 3 months after the accounting reference date – if this period is longer.

If the first set of accounts cover a period of 12 MONTHS OR LESS:

  • Private companies must file within 9 months of their accounting reference date.
  • Public companies must file within 6 months of their accounting reference date.

Example:

In our example above, we showed that Company A formed on the 8th January 2018 would have a first accounting reference date of 31st January 2019. Assuming that Company A is a PRIVATE company, as the first set of accounts will cover a period of more than 12 months – it will have until midnight on 8th October 2019  (21 months from the date of incorporation) to deliver its accounts.

A common mistake which causes many sets of first company accounts to be filed late – is to file 21 months from the end of the month of incorporation. In this example, that date would be 31st October 2019. The accounts would be filed 23 days late and Company A would incur an automatic fine.

When are your company’s second and subsequent sets of accounts due?

Once you have filed your company’s first set of annual accounts, the deadlines that apply to second and subsequent filings are more straightforward:

  • Private companies must file within 9 months of their accounting reference date.
  • Public companies must file within 6 months of their accounting reference date.

 

Let Inform Direct help you manage all your filing deadlines

Inform Direct automatically calculates your company’s key filing deadlines. Both the annual accounts and confirmation statement filing deadlines, together with other key dates such as your company’s incorporation and accounting reference dates, are clearly displayed on the company dashboard. If you are managing multiple companies you can see all their important filing deadlines at a glance, on a single Portfolio screen. This, together with automatic email reminders, ensures that you are always well prepared for any approaching filing deadlines. No more nasty surprises. No more Companies House late filing penalties.

 

Now that you have determined when your company’s annual accounts must be filed with Companies House, you may wish to look at our related guide entitled Filing Company Accounts: Your Questions Answered. This guide looks at the questions which most commonly arise with regards to the filing of accounts and provides some straightforward answers. We also provide simple guides that explain how to calculate the size of your company and the different types of limited company accounts available (as determined by your company’s size).


All limited companies are required to file documents with Companies House. With Inform Direct, you'll get a headstart on managing deadlines and making filings to Companies House.


A previous version of this article was originally published on 29 June 2015.

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