TT61: Companies House Changes & Security

There have been changes at Companies House and to the Companies Act 1985. Here we deal with the aspects that will most commonly affect our clients.

End of extension to filing deadlines

Previously companies that carry on business or have interests outside the UK have relied upon Section 244(3) of the Companies Act 1985, under which they simply file Form 244 to obtain a 3 month extension to their accounts filing deadline (10 months to 13 for a limited company, or 7 months to 10 for a Plc).

For all accounting periods starting on or after 1 January 2005 this application process has been cancelled. Press comment has suggested that Companies House will consider any requirements for an extension on their merits, but experience shows any extension not previously covered by Section 244 is very hard to obtain.We advise that clients should no longer rely upon an extension being granted.

Fee revisions
From 1 February 2005 revised fees apply for companies and limited liability partnerships. Whilst many fees have been reduced, the most common fee paid has risen: the Annual Return (Form 363) filing fee has doubled to £30. However, if the form is filed electronically the fee is frozen at the previous level of £15.

Fees for on-line company searches with Companies House Direct have been reduced to £1 per item, making this a very cost-effective way to source information. If you are interested in using this service go to http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk for details.
Access to corporate data
As a useful extension to the service above, if you register as a customer of Companies House Direct then the new Monitor service will be available to you. This allows you, for 50p per company per year, to monitor filings made by companies you are interested in. When a filing is made you will be notified by e-mail and can choose whether to pay the £1 per item charge to view or download the information.

Company security issues
As well as monitoring competitors, customers or suppliers, Companies House has recently highlighted the issue of corporate fraud and the importance of monitoring your own company’s record for unauthorised filings.

Remember, anyone can submit a document to Companies House and these could alter your credit history. Companies House does not have the power or the resources to investigate documents filed. Identity theft can more easily happen to companies than individuals. “Company Hijacking” is where a fraudster files documents to alter the company directors’ names and the registered office of the company and uses the new “identity” to order goods that are never paid for.

This can cause a large headache for the true owners of the company concerned as they will need to correct the on-line company record and deal with the problem arising from those unpaid suppliers.

Barnes Roffe Topical Tips

  • Consider using the Monitoring service to safeguard your own records.
  • Consider registering for the new PROtected On-line Filing (“PROOF”) scheme that allows certain forms to be only filed by the WebFiling or the Electronic Filing service. This covers most of the common forms in use, including Annual Returns, changes to registered offices, changes to directors or the notifying of the issue of new shares. Using the WebFiling or Electronic Filing service documents can be filed electronically using a security code and authentication code. The PROOF service will restrict filing of any paper forms to prevent unauthorised filing of documents.
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