As a key customer of Companies House, and a registered company formations agent, we often get invited to attend customer forums for our feedback.
The latest forum was held in October and covered a wide range of challenges, issues and changes at Companies House. We wanted to share with you some of the key points from this meeting and our thoughts on the topics discussed.
What's happening with WebFiling
One of the points raised by CH was the adoption of WebFiling for company accounts and their plans for the future. Currently, 99% of accounts can be submitted electronically with plans increase this to 100%. The following accounts are not currently available via 3rd party Software or WebFiling enabled:
- Audited micro
- Audit Exempt Subsidiary
- -AS (5), section 506 (241)
- Overseas, SE, unregistered companies
While CH will continue to encourage companies to move to online filing, they confirmed there are no plans as yet to make it mandatory. CH also addressed the reason why they don't accept accounts as PDF documents is due to issues around searches compared with the iXBRL format.
Dissolution forms are going digital
Companies House is currently running a beta service to enable online filing of DS01 data. To date, over 150,000 Dissolution forms have been accepted via the electronic route. This service is cheaper than a paper filing at £8. Any filings made will be added to the live company record, and the same notices still go out. DS02 forms are already available online to close a limited liability partnership or limited companies.
Closure of WebCHeck/Companies House Direct (CHD)
Both services were earmarked for retirement when Companies House Services (CHS) was announced. With CHS now out of beta, a lot of attendees wanted to know what was planned for these platforms.
CH made it clear that there are no immediate plans to close CHD as there was still a lot of work to be done to migrate all the information and functionality over to CHS. Attendees were informed that CD/ DVD ordering, company certificates, Name Index and other features would be coming to CHS but no timescale was given. While CHS has many positives, the lack of complete migration of all CHD features and data can be frustrating. Hopefully, progress will be made in the near future, but in the meantime, our Companies House Complete service is available for free, which gather data from both sources into one easy to use platform.
Corporate Transparency and Register Reform
There was a brief discussion and presentation around the proposed reform, its objectives and current status. The opportunity to submit a formal response was the 5th of August, and all submissions are currently being analysed. We've written about the Company House Reform in more detail previously, the reason why and when it's happening as well as highlighting some key points we thought were important.
With only a week until the planned Brexit deadline, there was a lot of interest in this topic as you can imagine. The meeting took place prior to the issuing of the BEIS EU Exit and Company Law paper, so they were unable to comment until this was made public. As you're probably aware, they have been significant events since this paper was released with the deadline moved to the end of January and the announcement of a general election.
eReminders to replace direct mail
As part of CH's commitment to digitalisation, CH is considering the withdrawal of their paper reminder service. There are no planned timelines at this stage, and they wanted some earlier customer feedback. Some possible issues raised were the emails hitting spam filters or going to email addresses no longer in use. Companies would be responsible for ensuring the correct contacts for eReminders were maintained and adding CH to any 'safe sender' lists. Penalty letters would not be included in this scheme if it was to progress.
With their emphasis on digitisation and efiling, the usage and acceptance of Digital Signatures were raised by CH. Currently, they only accept digital signatures for paper filed accounts and the eDS01 forms. Their guidance on this subject was confirmed in a followup note and can be found below:
"At the moment, our policy on accepting digital signatures (for any paper document) is as follows:
- Where a person has used a stylus to sign his or her name on a touchscreen device such as an iPad (i.e. handwritten electronically rather than with wet ink).
- Where a person has pasted his or her signature into an electronic version of a document (i.e. a copy of a handwritten signature).
- Where a person has accessed a web-based e-signature platform and clicked to have a version of his or her signature which has been saved electronically on that platform inserted (i.e. a copy of a handwritten signature).
If we receive (via post) paper copy of any form which has been signed with any of the above methods, we will accept that for filing. With regards to accounts (and certified copies of deeds to accompany registration of charges), the law requires that we register a copy of the original. If the original document was executed or signed digitally (however it was signed), we will accept a copy for filing.
We have been asked to consider alternative types of digital signatures, such as printed names, or use of codes, but as yet haven't applied sufficient thinking to these."
A large section of the forum was dedicated to the implementation of the AML directive and the retention of information regarding the beneficial owners of companies. This was quite an extensive discussion which we will cover in a separate article.