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In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Companies House has announced a number of changes aimed at preserving its services for businesses as far as possible. HMRC has also announced changes to the way it processes Stamp Duty. This article summarises these changes and what they might mean for your business.
The London, Belfast and Edinburgh offices are now closed to the public. There may therefore be some delay in processing paper documents and payments.
Companies House has published guidance on postal delivery to its offices which can be accessed here: www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-guidance-for-companies-house-customers-employees-and-suppliers. To avoid delays, companies are encouraged to use the online filing services to file accounts, confirmation statements and update company information.
The telephone contact centre is now unavailable however you can still contact Companies House via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Companies should take appropriate measures to ensure accounts are filed on time if possible. Filing accounts online is the quickest and easiest way to do so.
However, Companies House has taken a sympathetic stance and understands that, in these turbulent times, companies may not be able to file accounts on time. Therefore, companies which are unable to file their annual accounts on time as a result of the Coronavirus can now apply for a three-month extension. You will need to apply for the extension as it is not automatically granted to each business.
Applications for an extension can be made via the online portal: https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/extensions and in the majority of cases will be granted immediately and automatically.
The application must be made before the company’s filing deadline. If you do not apply for an extension and file your accounts late, the usual penalty will be imposed.
Companies House guidance states that companies that have already extended their filing deadline, or shortened their accounting reference period, may not be eligible for an extension.
Companies House has also temporarily suspended its ordering service for older documents which are not available on Companies House / Companies House Direct, and orders for DVD archived documents.
All same day services are also unavailable until further notice.
HMRC has introduced a temporary online process for dealing with Stamp Duty.
Instead of posting Form SH03 (purchase of own shares) or stock transfer forms, you can now email an electronic version of the form to HMRC to: email@example.com. The form must be completed in the usual way and signed and dated. HMRC has advised that it will accept e-signatures whilst measures relating to COVID-19 are in place.
HMRC is unable to stamp stock transfer forms in the usual way. Instead, HMRC will email you a letter confirming receipt of Stamp Duty. You will then need to send the letter, along with the stock transfer form and share certificate or SH03, to Companies House. Companies House will accept and register the forms as long as it is accompanied by the letter from HMRC.
If you are asking for HMRC to adjudicate how much Stamp Duty is payable, you should also submit electronic versions of any agreement and supporting documents with your application.
Stamp Duty must be paid before HMRC can process the forms. You can pay Stamp Duty electronically using Faster Payment, Bacs or CHAPS. HMRC have advised against sending payment by cheque as it will not be banked until after the Coronavirus measures end.
For further guidance on payment of Stamp Duty, please see: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/pay-stamp-duty.
For advice on the matters discussed above, please get in touch with your usual contact at Warners for a free initial telephone consultation.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.