Limited companies are obliged by law to prepare a set of financial accounts each year and publish them by filing a copy with Companies House.
For accounting periods starting on or after 6 April 2008, business owners must file their accounts within 21 months (22 months if your accounting period started prior to this date) of starting a business, and within nine months of the end of each financial year thereafter.
Public companies must file accounts within 18 months of the business' formation (19 months prior to 6 April 2008), and within six months of the end of each financial year thereafter,
An annual return must contain the following information:
- the name of your company
- the registered number
- the date to which the annual return is made-up (usually the company anniversary, or a year since the previous filing)
- the principal business activities of the company
- the type of company: private or public, for example
- the registered office address of the company
- the address (single alternate inspection location - SAIL) where the company keeps certain company records if not at the registered office, and those records held there;
- the details of the company secretary (corporate or individual), where applicable
- the details of all the company's directors (corporate or individual)
Small companies with an annual turnover less than £6.5m, a balance sheet total less than £3.26 million and fewer than 50 employees can file abbreviated accounts with Companies House.
Small firms filing abbreviated accounts do not have to deliver a copy of the directors' report or the profit and loss account and can deliver an abbreviated balance sheet.
The easiest and cheapest way to complete and file your annual return is to use the Companies House Software Filing or WebFiling services.
You can also download a blank Form AR01 of the annual return from the Companies House website or order a blank paper copy form via the Contact Centre on 0303 1234 500.
There is an annual document-processing fee of £30 for paper documents or £15 for users of the Software Filing or WebFiling services which is payable when you file the annual return. Companies that file a paper annual return should make the cheque payable to 'Companies House' and write the company number on the reverse.
There are statutory penalties for late or incorrect filing, for which the directors are liable.