Companies House announced last week that it will temporarily pause the strike off process, whereby companies can be dissolved, to give businesses affected by COVID-19 time to update their records for filing and avoid being struck off the Register for late filing.
It has been further announced that companies issued with a penalty for the late filing of their accounts as a result of COVID-19 will have their appeals treated in a sympathetic manner.
It is estimated that there are 4.3 million companies registered at Companies House so this will go a long way to helping those businesses who would otherwise be issued with an automatic penalty. These announcements build on the existing measures whereby companies have been given the temporary ability to apply for a 3 month extension to file their accounts.
Companies House retains the right to strike off a company if the documents are not eventually filed.
The Secretary of State has said that the Government will need to continue to monitor the filing of accounts and will provide further extensions, if needed. He further confirmed that the Government will introduce legislation to ensure companies who are required by law to hold Annual General Meetings (AGMs) will be able to do so safely, in line with social distancing guidelines, . This is likely to include the flexibility to hold AGMs online or postpone meetings.
Martin Swain, Director of Strategy, Policy and Communications at Companies House commented, “We know that many businesses are finding it difficult to keep up with their filing requirements at the moment. We’re committed to helping them meet their legal responsibilities while keeping the register as up to date as possible.”
The changes noted above will not apply to any company which is being dissolved under an insolvency procedure (i.e. administration or liquidation) and dissolution in those circumstances will continue to operate under the Insolvency Act.
It is worth noting that any applications by companies for voluntary dissolution will be registered at Companies House and a notice published in the Gazette, but no further action will be taken to strike off the company.
Companies House have confirmed that their policies will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and amended accordingly as the pandemic progresses.