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Basic Accounting Requirements for Companies

All companies must keep accounting records and annual accounts must be sent to the Registrar. The period reported on in the accounts is called the financial year.

What Period Should the Accounts Cover?
A company's first accounts should cover the period starting from the date of incorporation and ending on the accounting reference date, or up to 7 days either side of that date.

Subsequent accounts should start on the day after the end of the period covered by the previous accounts and end on the accounting reference date or up to 7 days either side of that date.

What is the Accounting Reference Date?
A new company's initial accounting reference date will be the last day of the month in which the anniversary of incorporation falls.

However, a company can choose its own accounting reference date by filing Form AA01 to the Registrar, either during the accounting year in question or during the period allowed for delivering accounts to the Registrar. A company can shorten an accounting period as often as it chooses. But, it cannot extend an accounting period within five years of the end of a period it has previously extended except in very limited circumstances. An accounting period cannot be extended to last more than 18 months unless the company is subject to an administration order.

When Must Accounts be Delivered to the Registrar?
Private companies have nine months from the end of the accounting period to deliver their accounts to the Registrar.

Where there is a special reason for doing so (e.g. an unforeseen event which is outside the control of the company and its auditors), the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry may extend the time for laying and delivering the accounts. This cannot be done if the period normally allowed for delivery of accounts has already passed. The application for the extension, which should be made to the Registrar, must contain full reasons for the need for the extension and an indication of how much additional time is being applied for.

A company with overseas interests can claim a three month extension to the time limit by delivering Form 244 to the Registrar before the end of the normal period for delivering the accounts.

What if the Accounts are Delivered Late?
There is an automatic penalty for late delivery of 150 for up to 1 months delay; 375 for 1-3 months; 750 for 3-6 months; and 1500 for over 6 months.

Failing to deliver the accounts on time is also a criminal offence for which the directors may be prosecuted.

What Must the Accounts Include?
Small companies may deliver abbreviated accounts to the Registrar. A "small" company is defined as one which meets at least two out of three of the following conditions with effect from 6th April 2008:

Annual turnover not more that 6,500,000

Balance sheet total (i.e. total fixed and current assets) not more than 3,260,000

Average number of employees not more than 50.

The format of the accounts must follow that laid down in the Companies Act. The provisions relating to small companies are in Part 15 of the Companies Act 2006.

As a minimum, accounts for a small company must include an abbreviated balance sheet and notes. The balance sheet must contain a statement (in the required format) that the accounts are prepared in accordance with the special provisions in Part 15 of the Companies Act 2006 relating to small companies.

Do the Accounts Have to be Audited?
If the company's annual turnover is not more than 6.5M and the balance sheet total is not more than 3.26million then the company accounts do not have to be audited. However if the turnover is more than 6.5M an audit is required.

Who Can Approve and Sign Accounts?
The accounts must be approved by the company's Board of Directors and signed by a director on behalf of the Board.

The directors' report, if required, should be signed by a director or the secretary.

You do not have to lay the accounts before a general meeting, or get them agreed by the Inland Revenue, before sending them to the Registrar.


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10-12 Lawn Lane, Hemel Hempstead, Herts HP3 9HH
Tel 01442 347850; Fax 01442 347801

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