A GUIDE TO ACCOUNTING REFERENCE DATES AND PERIODS

I am sometimes asked, “What date should my company accounts be made up to?”. It’s a very important question because there are deadlines connected to the filing of accounts with both Companies House and HM Revenue and Customs.  Automatic penalties are issued to companies where their accounts have been filed late.  Being aware of your accounting period will help you to organise your accounting records in a timely manner and give you a chance to avoid missing these very important deadlines.

How to determine an accounting period

Every company must prepare accounts that report on the performance and activities of the company during the financial year. The financial year starts on the day after the previous financial year ended or, in the case of a new company, on the day of incorporation. Financial years are determined by reference to an Accounting Reference Period (ARP). The financial period ends on the accounting reference date.

For all new companies, the first accounting reference date is set as the last day in the month in which its first anniversary falls.  For example, if a company was incorporated on 7 January 2017 the first accounting reference date would be 31 January 2018.  The subsequent accounting reference dates will automatically be on the same date each year.  It is worth bearing in mind that a company may make its accounts up to 7 days either side of their accounting reference date which will be of interest to companies that organise their accounting records weekly, such as bars and restaurants.

Can the accounting reference date be changed?

The accounting reference date can be changed by using the appropriate form AA01. You can change the current or previous accounting period; periods can be shortened as many times as you like, but you can only extend once in five years (with exception in certain circumstances).  The minimum you can shorten a period by is 1 day and you can lengthen a period to a maximum of 18 months (or longer if your company is in administration).

The form AA01 must be received at Companies House within the delivery time of the accounting period if you wish to change the date and you cannot change it if the accounts are already overdue.

Basic delivery times for filing accounts:

 Deadline for first accounts (if covering a period of 12 months or more)
Private company/Limited Liability Partnership 21 months from the date of incorporation*
Public Limited Company 18 months from the date of incorporation*
 Normal deadline (after your first year)
Private company/Limited Liability Partnership 9 months after the end of the accounting period*
Public Limited Company 6 months after the end of the accounting period*
*or 3 months from the accounting reference date (ARD), whichever is longer.

 

It is important to note that changing the accounting reference date will also change the filing deadline date, unless the first financial year is being lengthened.  This can be particularly noticeable for shortened accounting periods where the deadline may be unexpectedly brought forward because the filing date becomes 9 months after the end of the new accounting period, or 3 months after the date the change was made, whichever comes later.

We always recommend that you send your accounting records to us well before the company accounts delivery date as this enables us to prepare your accounts in time to meet the filing deadline and avoid penalties. 

What should I do if I am unsure?

The above guide is only a summary, so please contact us on 0116 2423400 if you would like any further advice and remember, you can always check your accounting reference.

Beth Judd, Accounts & Tax 

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