A company’s financial year is the period of time covered in its annual (‘statutory’) accounts. This is normally 12 months long, except in the first year when the period runs from the date of company formation until the end of the same month the following year.
The date on which a company’s financial year ends is known as the ‘accounting reference date’ (ARD). It normally falls on the same date every year, unless the company chooses to change its ARD.
What does ‘Accounting Reference Date’ (ARD) mean?
A company’s accounting reference date signifies the end of its financial year. It is the date that the company’s annual accounts should be made up to. Companies House provides an ARD to all limited companies shortly after incorporation. It usually falls on the anniversary of the last day of the month of company formation.
- If you register a company on 1 August 2023, your accounting reference date will be 31 August every year from 2024
- Your company’s financial year will run for a 12-month period from 1 September to 31 August each year
You must deliver annual accounts to Companies House every year. The deadline is 9 months after the end of your company’s financial year.
Can I change my company’s financial year-end?
Provided that your annual accounts are not overdue, you can change your company’s accounting reference date by shortening or lengthening your financial year.
You may shorten your ARD by as many months as you like, as often as you wish, provided that you are not filing the company’s first set of annual accounts.
You may also extend your company’s financial year up to a period of 18 months from the previous ARD. However, you can only do this once every 5 years, unless:
- the company is in administration
- Companies House provides special permission
- you are aligning the dates with the rest of a group that your company is part of
Once you have changed your ARD, you must notify Companies House on Form AA01. Alternatively, you can use Rapid Formations’ free Online Admin Portal. Simply log in to your client account and change the ARD in your customer area.
If you are not an existing client of Rapid Formations, you can easily create a free account, import your company details onto our system, and make the necessary changes to your ARD.
Informing HMRC about changes to your ARD
Any changes made to the ARD will affect your company’s Corporation Tax accounting period. If you shorten your financial year, you must inform HMRC when you file your Company Tax Return. If you extend the financial year beyond a 12-month period, you will be required to file two Company Tax Returns – one tax return for the first 12 months, and a second return for the additional period.