Limited companies are required to prepare annual accounts every year and deliver them to Companies House and HMRC within a certain time frame. However, it is possible to apply for more time to file your company accounts by changing your accounting reference date (ARD) or asking Companies House to extend your accounts filing deadline.
Changing your company’s accounting reference date (ARD)
An accounting reference date is the date on which a limited company’s financial year ends. Normally, a company’s financial year is 12 months long and the ARD falls on the same date every year.
A company’s financial year starts on:
- the date of company formation, then
- the day after the previous financial year ends
A company’s ARD is:
- the last day of the month on which the anniversary of company formation falls, then
- the same date every year, unless the ARD is changed
Changing your company’s ARD is easy and can be carried out online or by post. Using Companies House form AA01, you may either shorten or lengthen your company’s financial year.
However, you can only make such changes to your limited company’s current financial year, or the year immediately before. Furthermore, you cannot change your company’s accounting reference date if your annual accounts are already overdue.
Shorten your company’s financial year
You may apply to shorten the financial year of your company as often as you wish, and by however many days, weeks, or months you require.
Lengthen your company’s financial year
You may apply to lengthen your limited company’s financial year up to a maximum period of 18 months, but you can only do this once every 5 years. There are, however, exceptions to these rules.
If your company is in administration, you can extend the financial period beyond 18 months. You can also lengthen your company’s financial year more than once in a 5-year period if:
- the company is in administration
- you are aligning accounting dates with those of a parent company, or a subsidiary registered within the European Economic Area
- you have approval from Companies House
- you are filing the form on behalf of an overseas company
Impact on filing deadlines at HMRC
Changing your company’s accounting reference date will probably affect your accounting period for Corporation Tax. As a result, your deadlines for paying Corporation Tax and filing Company Tax Returns and accounts with HMRC will be different.
You can check your accounting period for Corporation Tax by signing in to your business tax account using HMRC’s online service. If your company’s accounting period and financial year are different as a result of changing your ARD, you may need to contact HMRC to update your accounting period before filing your next Company Tax Return.
Ask Companies House to extend your accounts filing deadline
If an exceptional and unforeseeable event (e.g,. fire, flood, theft, serious illness) prevents you from filing your company accounts on time, you can make an application to Companies House asking for more time to file your accounts. You can apply online or by post, but you must do so before your normal filing deadline.
To make an application to extend your company accounts filling deadline, you will need to provide the following details:
- company registration number
- an email address
- why an extension is required, giving as much information as possible
- documents to support your request (optional)
Given the likely time-sensitive nature of such a request, it is best to make an application online to ensure a quick and efficient resolution.
Companies House will contact you with a decision within 5 working days of receiving your application. Approved applications usually result in a 30-day extension. If the new deadline is not met, normal late filing penalties will apply.
The deadline for filing your next annual accounts the following year will remain unchanged, so be sure to remember this to avoid late filing penalties.
If Coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected your company and you need more time to file your company accounts, you should apply to extend your accounts filing deadline now. Further guidance is available from HMRC.
Deadlines for filing limited company annual accounts
All companies, including dormant companies, must prepare and file annual accounts with Companies House every year. Companies that are trading must also send accounts and Company Tax Returns to HMRC each year.
The normal deadline for filing annual accounts at Companies House is:
- 21 months after company incorporation for the first accounts, then
- 9 months after the ARD for all future accounts
The normal deadline for filing company accounts (with your Company Tax Return) at HMRC is 12 months after the end of your ‘accounting period’ for Corporation Tax.
In most companies, the accounting period for Corporation Tax is 12-months long and aligns with the company’s 12-month financial year covered in the accounts.