Thousands of charities have appealed against late-filing penalties from Companies House

Thousands of charities have appealed against late-filing penalties from Companies House since the start of the pandemic. 

The arm’s-length body received 47,166 appeals against the 177,865 late filing penalties it imposed between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021, according to its latest annual report.

Not-for-profit, charity or community interest companies accounted for 12 per cent of all the appeals made, equating to about 6,000 cases. 

Private companies, including charities, typically have nine months from the end of their financial year to file their accounts with Companies House or face a fine. 

The report does not set out the total value of the fines that had been appealed against, but the sums range from £150 to £1,500, depending on how late the accounts are. 

Penalties are doubled if accounts are filed late in successive financial years. 

This means the total in fines appealed against by not-for-profit organisations is likely to be approaching £1m, if not higher. 

“Like dormant companies, these types of companies often fail to appreciate their responsibilities, or they are not foremost in the directors’ minds,” the report says. 

“Previously, there was a particular problem with CICs, which could not file their accounts online. Errors were often made in filing the accounts in paper form as another document and a payment had to be submitted in addition to the accounts. 

“CICs sometimes tried to file their accounts online close to the filing deadline, only to find that it was not possible and then missed the deadline.”

The report added that CICs filing their accounts for the first time were the most affected. 

The total number of appeals increased by almost 15,000 compared with the previous year as a result of the pandemic, the report says. 

The majority of appeals (38 per cent) came from those listed as dormant or not trading.

The report was produced by three independent adjudicators: Elizabeth Neville, Leslie Cuthbert and Jessica Pacey.

Their role is to deal with appeals against late filing penalties imposed on companies and to consider complaints made against Companies House.

The independent adjudicators acknowledged that there had been delays due to the pressures caused by Covid-19, but Companies House has since put improvements in place. They said they would continue to monitor the situation.

In conclusion, the independent adjudicators said: “Companies House has been under severe pressure over the last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the consequent restrictions.

“Rapid action was taken to ensure continuity of service while making the transition for many staff to work from home. 

“Companies House has been responsive to our recommendations which have all been actioned during the year. 

“We expect that the number of appeals reaching us will increase from this year’s low level but we do not doubt that everything will continue at its present high standard.”

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