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Late filing penalties explained


1. What are late filing penalties?

Late filing penalties were introduced in 1992 to encourage directors of companies to file their accounts and reports on time, because this information is required for the public record. All companies - private or public, large or small, trading or non-trading must send their accounts and reports to Companies House every year. If you submit company accounts and reports late, the law imposes an automatic penalty.

The period allowed for filing your company’s accounts depends on whether you are filing your first accounts since incorporation or subsequent accounts:

Your first accounts

If your company’s first accounts cover a period of more than 12 months, you must deliver them to Companies House within 21 months of the date of incorporation for private companies and within 18 months for public companies, or 3 months from the accounting reference date, whichever is the longer.

Please see our 'Life of a Company Part 1 – Annual Requirements' guide for more information.

Subsequent Accounts

In subsequent years, a private company has 9 months from the end of the accounting reference period in which to deliver its accounts. A public company has 6 months. However if you change the accounting reference period the filing time may be reduced. Further information on accounting reference dates and the filing deadline is in our 'Life of a Company Part 1 – Annual Requirements' guide. If you are a director of the company you are personally responsible for ensuring you deliver your accounts before the time allowed runs out. Delivery means actual receipt at Companies House in the correct format. If the accounts are late a penalty is automatically imposed.

2. How much are late filing penalties?

The level of the penalty depends on how late the accounts reach Companies House and is shown in the following table.

Length of delay (measured from
the date the accounts are due) Penalty :
Private company Penalty :
Public company
Not more than 1 month £150 £750
More than 1 month but not more than 3 months £375 £1,500
More than 3 months but not more than 6 months £750 £3,000
More than 6 months £1,500 £7,500
For example a private company’s set of acceptable accounts for the accounting period ending 30 September 2009 would need to be delivered by 30 June 2010 to avoid a late filing penalty. If they were not delivered to Companies House until 15 July 2010 the company will incur a late filing penalty of £150.

The penalties will be doubled if a company files its accounts late in 2 successive financial years beginning on or after 6 April 2008. This means that if a private company has an accounting reference date of 30 September and the accounts for the period ending 30 September 2009 were delivered late, and you delivered accounts for the subsequent period ending 30 September 2010 late, then you would incur a £300 late filing penalty.

3. Are late filing penalties the same as fines imposed on company directors for non-filing of annual returns and accounts?

No. They are entirely different. Failure to file accounts or annual returns is a criminal offence which can result in directors being fined personally in the criminal courts. The registrar may also take steps to strike the company off the public record. Your company could receive a late filing penalty and as a director, you could incur a fine for the same set of accounts if you do not file them on time. Failure to pay a late filing penalty can result in enforcement proceedings.