A guide to company annual accounts
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Annual Accounts

Annual accounts shouldn’t be confused with your annual return - although they both sound similar, the information that must be submitted is quite different.  

Your annual return discloses the non-financial details about your company, however the annual accounts contain information about your company’s financial activity during the last financial year.

The details that should be included in the annual accounts are:
  • A director’s report.
  • An auditor’s report.
  • A balance sheet detailing the value of all company assets and any monies outstanding/due.
  • A ‘profit and loss account’ showing the company’s income and outgoings (expenses).
  • Any notes about the accounts

Working out your annual account deadline

As a new company you must submit your first annual accounts within 21 months from the date that your company was incorporated.  This typically covers the financial period from the date that the company was set up to the anniversary of the last day of the month in which the company was incorporated.  The latter is known as the accounting reference date (ARD).

I.e. If your company was founded on 1st August 2014, your ARD will be 30th August 2015.  Your first annual accounts must be filed before 31st May 2016.

All subsequent annual accounts must be filed within 9 months of the end of your financial year.  Your financial year will usually cover a 12-month period which starts from the day after the your ARD i.e. 1st September - 30th August so as a general rule your annual accounts must always be filed by the end of May the following year.  

You should receive notification of your ARD from HM Revenues and Customs which will confirm your filing deadline.  


Although there are no fees to file your annual accounts, If you fail to return them before the date of your deadline, your company may face a significant financial penalty.

The details of the penalties are laid out below:
Up to 1 month        £150
1 to 3 months        £375
3 to 6 months        £750
6 months +        £1500

If your annual accounts are returned late two years in a row, the above penalty fines will be doubled.

You may be able to extend your deadline if an event beyond your control stops you from filing your annual accounts on time, however you will require permission from Companies House in order to do so.

Preparing your accounts

Company accounts, particularly those of a limited company, can be complex and should always adhere to strict standards and practices as set by the Financial Reporting Council.  Company directors are legally responsible for keeping accurate records and filing true and fair accounts.  If you have a fair knowledge of bookkeeping and accounting then it may be a task you are able to complete yourself, however many companies will choose to hire an accountant.  Of course, there are costs involved but these can be offset against your business and there are many other advantages to doing so, not least the time it is likely to save you.  

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