Everything you need to know about the Accounting Reference Date

How is it decided, can it be changed and what’s it for?

As soon as you form a limited company you’re notified of a few key dates; the confirmation statement due date, the annual account due date, and your company’s accounting reference date. Here we’re going to take a look at the latter of these and explain exactly what the accounting reference date means for you and your business.

Before we do this however, let’s take a quick look at annual accounts as they’re relevant to the accounting reference date.

Annual accounts are a filing obligation (delivered to Companies House and HMRC) that detail a company’s financial information. All limited companies must file annual accounts, whether they’re trading or not. A company’s first set of accounts should be filed no later than 21 months after the company formation. Following accounts are then due 9 months after the accounting reference date…

What is the accounting reference date?

It is effectively a marker, letting you know up to what period your accounts should cover. Your first accounts should cover from incorporation up to the accounting reference date (once a full year has passed) – the following accounts should cover up to the next accounting reference date, and so on.

How is the accounting reference date decided?

It is automatically the last day of the month that the company was incorporated in. For example, if a company were formed on 3rd September, its accounting reference date would be 30th September.

Can the accounting reference date be changed?

Yes, but there are some rules in regards to what you can and can’t do. For example, you can only lengthen the accounting reference date to a maximum of 18 months and once every 5 years (you can shorten it as many times as you wish). It’s also important to note that you can’t change the accounting reference date if you have accounts overdue. To change your company’s accounting reference date simply complete the form found here and post it to Companies House.

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