UK Cos. Get 3-Month Extension To File Annual Accounts

Law360, London (March 25, 2020, 9:04 AM GMT) -- Businesses in Britain will be given an extra three months to file their annual accounts to help them avoid penalties as they deal with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, the government said Wednesday.

British businesses will be able to apply for a three-month extension to the deadline for filing accounts as coronavirus bring much of Britain to a halt. (AP)

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced that British institutions will be able to apply for a three-month extension to the deadline for filing accounts to Companies House, the government’s registrar of businesses.

There are approximately 4.3 million businesses on the Companies House register, the government department said. All companies must submit their accounts and reports within nine months after their financial year ends or face an automatic penalty.

The government’s measure will allow companies to apply for an extension. Those that claim they face difficulties because of COVID-19 will be automatically and immediately granted a three-month extension.

“We are determined to help businesses in any way we can, so that they can focus all their efforts on dealing with the impact of coronavirus,” Business Secretary Alok Sharma said in a statement on Wednesday. “This new offer of a three-month extension for filing accounts is part of that.”

Companies can apply using a fast-tracked online system, which takes 15 minutes to complete, the business department said.

The government said that it is consulting with bodies representing companies, as well as legal professionals, as it seeks ways to help companies weather the crisis. This may include measures to help businesses hold their annual general meetings.

The Institute of Directors, which represents and sets standards for business leaders, backed the measure and said it will be welcomed by companies struggling with the impact of COVID-19.

“Our members will be pleased to see government taking proactive steps to support them through this difficult time,” Roger Baker, head of corporate governance at the Institute of Directors, said. “By easing the administrative burden that comes with running a business, the government is supporting businesses to focus on the fundamentals during this exceptional period.”

The administration has also granted British companies struggling with coronavirus-related losses access to government-backed loans from retail banks through a £330 billion ($392 billion) program.

The Financial Conduct Authority wrote on Saturday wrote to companies listed on the London Stock Exchange to request that they postpone publishing their preliminary financial statements for at least two weeks.

Listed companies were due to publish the results this week but the financial watchdog wants them to fully assess how the outbreak will damage their business beforehand.

--Editing by Ed Harris.

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