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Your accounting reference date (ARD) is the last day of your company’s financial year. Sometimes referred to as a company’s ‘year end’, the ARD is the date that your annual accounts should be made up to.
Your first accounting reference date will be set by Companies House. It will fall on the anniversary of the last day of the month of company formation. Your ARD will be the same date every year unless you choose to change it.
Below, we discuss where to find your accounting reference date, how to work out your company’s financial year, when to file your accounts, and what to do if you need to change your ARD.
Where to find your accounting reference date (ARD)
As soon as your company is incorporated (set up; registered), Companies House will work out your accounting reference date and send it to you by email.
You will also find your ARD online by looking up your company’s record via Companies House service. To do so, simply follow these steps:
- Visit Companies House service
- Enter your company name in the search bar
- Select your company from the list
- Under the ‘Overview’ tab, scroll down to ‘Accounts’
- Your ARD will be in bold text after ‘Next accounts made up to…’
The ‘due by’ date listed underneath the ARD is the deadline for filing your annual accounts at Companies House.
How to work out your company’s financial year
Your company’s financial year will begin on the date it is incorporated at Companies House. It will end the following year, on the last day of the month in which the anniversary of company formation falls.
- You incorporate a company on 14 June 2023
- Your company’s first accounting reference date is 30 June 2024
The ARD will be the same every year unless you shorten or extend your company’s financial year.
Normally, a financial year will be exactly 12 months long. However, as you may have noticed from the above example, your company’s first financial year might span a slightly longer period – it all depends on which day of the month you set up your company.
If you don’t make any changes to your financial year, your accounts will always cover a period of 12 months after the first year, ending on the same ARD.
What happens at the end of my company’s financial year?
After the end of your company’s financial year, you must prepare annual accounts and deliver them to Companies House and HMRC by certain deadlines.
Your accounts should be made up to the accounting reference date. This means that the financial information reported in the accounts should cover the entire financial year up to and including the ARD.
However, you have the option to make up your accounts to a date up to 7 days on either side of the accounting reference date.
The filing deadline for delivering annual accounts to Companies House is:
- 21 months after the date of company formation – the first set of annual accounts
- 9 months after the ARD – annual accounts after the first year
Accounts for HMRC will be sent as part of your Company Tax Return. The filing deadline is 12 months after the end of your accounting period for Corporation Tax. This may or may not be the same 12-month period covered by your accounts.
Can I change my accounting reference date?
It’s possible to change your accounting reference date by making your company’s financial year shorter or longer than 12 months – as long as your annual accounts are not already overdue.
You can only make such changes for the current financial year or the one immediately prior. Changing your ARD will also change your annual accounts filing deadline (unless you are lengthening your first financial year), and it will normally affect your accounting period for Corporation Tax.
You can shorten your financial year by any length of time, as often as you like. However, you may only lengthen your financial year:
- up to a maximum period of 18 months – unless the company is in administration
- no more than once in every 5 years – unless the company is in administration, you are aligning dates with a parent company or subsidiary, or you have permission from Companies House
To change your ARD, you will need to complete and file Companies House form AA01, either online or by post.
Alternatively, you can use Rapid Formations’ free Online Client Portal, where you can also view all of your company details, keep track of your filing deadlines, and update important information at Companies House.