Private limited companies, whether they trade or not, must file annual accounts with Companies House each year, including dormant companies. A penalty is automatically imposed if the accounts are late.

Penalties range from £150 to £1,500 depending on how late accounts are filed.

Private companies have to file their first accounts within 21 months of the date of incorporation, or three months from the accounting reference date, whichever is longer.

In subsequent years, a private company has nine months from the end of the accounting reference period to deliver its accounts.

To file online, companies will need an authentication code. Companies House warns that if you need to request a new code, you should allow up to five days for this to arrive at the company’s registered office.

Currently 65% of companies file online accounts but legislation is changing so that all companies will have to file digitally. Accounts filed on paper must be submitted early to allow for manual checking and approval.

Companies House said: ‘You should only send paper accounts if your company cannot file online or by software. Accounts filed on paper need to be manually checked. We can only check them during office opening hours, and they can take over a week to process.

‘If you need to file your accounts on paper, you should send them to us well before the deadline. This will give you plenty of time to correct your accounts and resend them if they are rejected.’

Penalty regime:

Length of period (measured from date accounts are due)Penalty
Not more than 1 month£150
1 – 3 months£375
3 – 6 months£750
More than 6 months£1,500

Note: The penalty will be doubled if accounts are filed late in 2 successive financial years