How to file company accounts

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    Rachel Wait

    Page reviewed by, Rachel Wait, Expert financial copywriter, on April 21, 2023 3:47 pm

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      Filing company accounts is a crucial part of running a business, and can be drawn upon when seeking future financing through business loans or other types of funding. If you’ve never done it before or you’re unsure where to start, this guide takes you through the process of filing company accounts, the deadlines for filing them, and what you need to know about preparing your accounts.

      Who needs to file company accounts?

      All companies are required to file their company accounts with Companies House each year. This is a legal requirement, no matter whether you make a profit, loss, are not trading or are dormant.

      Company accounts must also be filed with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) when you submit your company tax return. There is an option to file jointly with Companies House and HMRC via the HMRC website. 

      What do company accounts contain?

      Company accounts show how a company has performed over a period of time (typically 12 months). They will usually contain:

      • Profit and loss account: this is an income statement that sets out the calculation of your profit or loss for the reporting year.
      • Balance sheet (statement of financial position): this shows the value of everything your business owns. It also shows any payments your business needs to make, as well as any money owed by debtors, that are due by the last day of the financial year covered by the accounts. 
      • Notes to the accounts: this is used to further explain and break down figures in the financial statements.
      • Director’s report: this contains the principle activity of the business, names of directors, details of any political and charitable donations and policies on employees. It must be dated and signed by one of the directors.

      How to prepare company accounts for a small company

      Smaller companies and micro-entities can choose to file a simplified version of their accounts

      and do not need a directors’ report or a profit and loss account. They can also use an exemption so that their accounts don’t need to be audited.

      Your company will be classed as small if any two of the following apply:

      • Your turnover is less than £10.2 million
      • Your balance sheet is less than £5.1 million
      • You have fewer than 50 employees.

      Micro-entities can prepare even simpler accounts than small companies that just meet statutory minimum requirements and need only send their balance sheet to Companies House. 

      Your company will be a micro-entity if any two of the following apply:

      • Your turnover does not exceed £632,000
      • Your balance sheet does not exceed £316,000
      • You have no more than 10 employees.

      Can I prepare my own limited company accounts?

      Yes, you can prepare your own limited company accounts if you wish to. There’s plenty of accounting software out there to help you do this. However, most limited companies choose to hire an accountant to manage and file their accounts on their behalf. 

      Limited companies have more complex structures and obligations which makes it harder to do everything yourself – and even if you do manage it, there’s a risk of making mistakes (penalties for this can be high). Hiring an accountant can help ensure you meet all the legal requirements and avoid mistakes.

      Company accounts deadlines

      The date by which you need to file your accounts to Companies House will be determined by the date you registered your business. 

      If your business is new, you will need to file your first accounts within 21 months after registering with Companies House. 

      For existing companies, you will need to file within nine months after your company’s financial year ends. 

      There are different deadlines for filing accounts with HMRC. You will need to file your accounts when you submit your corporation tax return, with the deadline being 12 months after the end of your accounting period. 

      Are there penalties for filing late?

      Yes, there are penalties for filing late – the amount you pay will depend on how far past the deadline you are. The penalties are as follows:

      • Less than one month late – £150
      • One to three months late – £375
      • Three to six months late – £750
      • More than six months late – £1,500

      If you file your accounts late for two years running, your penalty will be doubled. 

      Is it best to ask an accountant to compile my accounts?

      This will ultimately depend on how confident you feel about compiling your own accounts and the type of business structure you have. However, generally speaking it can be safer to ask an accountant to do it for you.

      Accountants are experts in business finance and will take the stress out of filing your own accounts. They can also offer business and financial advice to help you make the right decisions. Just keep in mind that even if you use an accountant, it’s still the responsibility of the directors to make sure the accounts are filed on time and that they are accurate.

      How can I file my company accounts?

      You can file your accounts with Companies House online. Before you start, you’ll need the email address and password you used to sign up for the Companies House service, plus the authentication code you were sent by Companies House.

      If you’re filing for the first time, you’ll need to register online, create a password and request an authentication code. This will be posted to your registered office within five days. 

      Alternatively, you can post your company’s accounts directly to Companies House

      Most businesses should use the gov.uk online service to file their company’s tax return and accounts with HMRC. To do so, you’ll need your Government Gateway ID and password – if you do not have one, you can create one when you first use the service. You can also choose to file your accounts with Companies House at the same time – if you do, you will need your Companies House password and authentication code. 
      You can only use a paper form (CT600) to file your corporation tax return if you are unable to file online because you have a ‘reasonable excuse’ (such as having a serious illness), or if you want to file in Welsh.

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      Written by

      Rachel Wait

      Rachel has been writing about finance and consumer affairs for over a decade, helping people to get to grips with their finances and cut through the jargon. She's written for a range of websites and national newspapers including MoneySuperMarket, Money to the Masses, Forbes UK, and Mail on Sunday. Rachel has covered almost every financial topic, from car insurance and credit cards, to business bank accounts and mortgages.

      To read our editorial policy, please click here.

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