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Reference Dates and Accounting Periods

Common questions among company owners are When should I submit my accounts?" or When should my accounts be made up to?" These are very important questions, but there's not always an easy answer. So this post should help you to understand what needs to be done and when.

This post will include the basics along with some examples, however it is only a summary and for further advice you should always refer to HRMC's guidance for Limited Companies, Partnerships and other company types or ask your accountant. Also, you can check your account reference period and filing date by using the Companies House Service.

The Basics

Every company must prepare accounts that report the performance and activities of the company during its financial year.

What is a financial year?

The financial year starts on the day after the previous financial year ended. Or, if you're a new company, on the day of incorporation.

Financial years are determined by the Accounting Reference Period (ARP). The financial period ends on the accounting reference date (ARD).

For all new companies the first accounting reference date is set as the last day of the month during which their first anniversary falls. All subsequent accounting reference dates will be on the same day each year. A company can make its accounts up to 7 days either side of this date.

Be prepared with reports

This sounds complicated, but it's actually quite simple. Look at the following examples:

A company incorporated on the 7th January 2016 will have the first accounting reference date of 31st January.

And a company incorporated 5thJune 2017 will have a first accounting reference date of 30th June.

Changing the Accounting Reference Period

It's easy to change your accounting reference period if you so wish to. All you have to do is use the appropriate online form or use the Company Wizard control panel. You can change the current period or a previous one and there is no limit to the amount of times you can shorten your period, however, you can only extend your period once every 5 years. For exact rules on what you can and cannot do, look at Chapter 2 of the Life of the Company : Annual requirements.

The request (whether online or as a form by post) must be received within the delivery time of the accounting period if you wish to change the date. You cannot change the date if your accounts are already overdue.

Delivery Times for filing accounts

Deadline for first accounts (if covering a period of 12 months or more)

If you're a private limited company or limited liability partnership (LLP), you have 21 months, or 3 months from the ARD, whichever is longer.

An example of this is a company incorporated on the 12th July 2017 will have an ARD of 31st July. Their accounting reference period for their first accounts is 12th July 2017 - 31st July 2018 with their last filing date being the 12th April 2019.

Normal Deadline (after the first year)

If you're a private limited company or a limited liability partnership (LLP), you have 9 months, or 3 months from the ARD, whichever is longer.

An example of this is a company who has the accounting reference date of 31st September, with the Account Reference Period of 1st October 2016 - 31st September 2017. Their last date for filing will be the 30th June 2017.

It is always recommended that you send your accounts in well within these times so that no late fees are incurred.

This post is for guidance only, and professional advice should be sought before submitting your accounts to ensure they are accurate and correct.

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