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COVID-19: Three month extensions to file accounts

25 March: Firms struggling to file their accounts due the coronavirus pandemic are to be granted a ‘fast-tracked’ three-month extension with Companies House. They could also look into lengthening their accounting period.

A joint statement from Companies House and Alok Sharma, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, has confirmed that businesses must apply for an extension to file, but those that are affected by COVI-19 will be ‘automatically and immediately granted’ a three month extension.

The ‘fast-track’ online extension application takes 15 minutes, according to Companies house, and business can apply from today.

The announcement is an extension of support from Companies House, which last week confirmed that businesses effected by COVID-19 the option to apply for a two month extension, with a further month to be considered if needed.

To apply for the automatic and immediate 3-month extension, companies will need:

  • their company number;
  • information on why more time is needed (cite COVID-19 or health reasons); and
  • documents to support the application (optional).

Speaking about the new measures, Companies House Chief Executive, Louise Smyth said: “We recognise that these are uncertain times for businesses and that’s why we’re doing all we can to help.

“I would encourage companies who believe they would benefit from this new flexibility to make an application in good time.”

Reacting to the news ICAEW CEO Michael Izza said: "We welcome today’s announcement allowing companies to apply for an additional three months to file accounts. Even more flexibility may be necessary in the weeks and months to come, but this is a very helpful first step."

Iain Wright, ICEAW's Director for Business and Industrial Strategy, urged businesses to make use of the scheme. He said: “This is a very positive and pro-active step from government and Companies House. As businesses grapple with the enormous risks posed by Coronavirus, with their attention rightly focused on cash flow and consideration of employees, customers and suppliers, this is one fewer thing to worry about.

"I would strongly encourage all businesses who are concerned about incurring penalties for late filing of accounts in these extraordinary times to apply for this extension.” 

Firms that have already extended their filing deadline, or shortened their accounting reference period, however, may be ineligible for an extension according to the announcement. However, if they haven't done this already, changing the year-end accounting date may also be an appropriate course of action for some companies in light of the current public health situation.

Lengthening accounting periods

An alternative approach to delay when accounts must be filed by would be to lengthen the company’s accounting period. Subsequent accounting period(s) could then be shortened to return the company’s year-end to its original date. However, there are certain restrictions and implications that should be considered carefully before selecting this option.

  • Companies may only change their year-end (their accounting reference date), be it to shorten or lengthen the accounting period, for their current financial year or the one immediately before. Year-ends cannot be changed when accounts are overdue.
  • Generally, companies can lengthen their accounting period to a maximum of 18 months and, unless certain criteria apply, the financial year can only be lengthened once every 5 years.
  • Companies may change their year-end by shortening their financial year (by a minimum of 1 day) as many times as they like.

Due to the COVID-19 situation, Companies House are encouraging to file their accounts or submit applications to extend filing deadlines or change year-ends online.

Charities

Charities needing an extension to their annual return filing deadline can apply for one to the Charity Commission. The commission assures charities that they will be as flexible and supportive as possible with regard to regulation during this period.

More information