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Government to relax company Annual Return obligation

Following a public consultation, the Government is to relax the current statutory requirement for all companies to file an Annual Return with Companies House, replacing it with a more flexible system to ensure all registry details are accurate.

Currently all limited companies have to file an Annual Return with the registrar of companies, regardless of what state the company is in (live, or dormant) or whether or not any changes have been made to the company’s core administrative details or not (i.e. changes to personnel, the company’s registered address, or the share capital, etc.)

The consultation process

Following a consultation into company filing requirements, prompted by its ‘Red Tape Challenge’, which aims to reduce the amount of rules and regulations small businesses have to endure, the Government is to introduce ‘flexibility’ into the way companies keep Companies House updated.

During the consultation process, of a total of 139 respondents who took part, 70% said that companies should be simply allowed to ‘check and confirm’ that the current registry information is up-to-date. 64% said that the Annual Return should be retained in some form.

The Government says that it needs to balance the need to keep the public register accurate and as up-to-date as possible with the need to minimise the amount of ‘red tape’ companies have to deal with.

What changes will be made

According to the consultation response document, this new flexibility will enable firms to confirm whether the information stored at Companies House is ‘correct and complete’ at any point during a 12 month period, rather than at a fixed point during the year (as is the case now).

“This will remove a burden from those companies who make changes to some of their information within the year and then have to duplicate this  information when they additionally complete an annual return.”

For example, if you appoint a new director, you will be given the chance to ‘check, notify changes if necessary and confirm’ all your other company details at the same time you inform Companies House, rather than re-submitting the same information as part of an Annual Return.

Sadly, the document confirms that “companies will be required, as now, to pay an annual fee.”

Further Information

Find out more about this, and other changes planned by the Government in response to the consultation here (PDF).

This, and other changes, will be made via amendments to the Companies Act 2006, ‘when parliamentary time permits’.

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