Companies House has announced some short-term changes to its strike off policy and late filing penalties to assist companies affected by the COVID-19 epidemic. The latest guidance published on 16 April 2020 is available here.
Late filing penalties
In recognition of companies struggling to meet their filing requirements during the coronavirus outbreak, Companies House has outlined the following steps to assist for a temporary period:
- Easing strike off activity in the event of failure to file on time (see further below)
- Treating late filing penalty appeals sympathetically if the late filing was caused by the coronavirus outbreak
- Providing more time and additional support with payment plans for companies to pay late filing penalties
Strike off action
Where companies fail to file their annual return or confirmation statements on time, they will ordinarily receive two reminder letters from Companies House before the registrar commences strike off action against them. A notice is then published in the Gazette to notify interested parties that the company will shortly be struck off. As a temporary measure, Companies House has agreed not to publish the Gazette notice (which effectively commences the strike off action) for failure to file outstanding documents on time.
Further, where companies apply themselves to be struck off, Companies House will publish a notice in the Gazette to advertise the strike off application. However, the application will then be suspended to allow creditors and other interested parties more time to object to the proposed strike off action (currently they have a period of just two months from the first advertisement before the company is dissolved). This is temporary suspension of applications is currently set for review on 1 May 2020.
The above measures, although temporary, are good news for companies and creditors alike. Although the usual filing deadlines still apply, companies who fail to meet their deadlines will be granted a period of grace before falling subject to the usual involuntary strike off action by the registrar and, where late filing penalties are applied, requests for time to pay will be treated sympathetically. By also delaying company applications for strike off, Companies House has provided an extra layer of protection for creditors who may need further time to raise an objection to the strike off application (although no doubt this will be a source of some frustration for companies seeking to strike off).
If your company is struggling to meet filing deadlines, is facing strike off action, or you require assistance objecting to a strike off application, our team of experts is on hand to help. Please get in touch if you require any assistance.