I am very pleased to bring this short technical Bill before the Seanad. The purpose of the Bill is to complete a series of amendments to current legislation that will enable simplified procedures for all companies meeting their annual filing obligations.
Companies can have a maximum of nine months after the financial year end to prepare an annual return and the associated financial information. Currently, there is a two-step procedure for a company in filing an annual return with the Companies Registration Office. First, the company files the annual return 28 days after its filing deadline. Second, a further 28 days are allowed to complete its filing by uploading its financial statements and submitting a completed signature page.
The Bill will amend sections 343(2) and 343(3) of the Companies Act 2014 to amalgamate the two-step process and provide companies with a one-step 56 day period to complete the process of filing an annual return. This amendment will allow more time for filing the annual return and removes an administrative burden on companies by simplifying procedures in filing, making it easier for companies to meet their filing deadlines.
It is important to remember the purpose of asking companies to file annual reports. This is done because public filing by companies is an essential protection for other companies, suppliers and employees who rely on meaningful financial information. The quid pro quo is that when it comes to filing annual returns and financial statements, we must make it as straightforward as possible for companies. The law already allows companies up to 11 months to prepare and file financial statements. In 2017 we legislated to simplify and reduce the content of those financial statements for small and micro-sized companies. This year the Companies Registration Office is upgrading its IT system to make it even easier for all companies to file on time by moving to a process that can be done in a single step and entirely online.
The amendment contained in the Bill is the last piece of the legislative framework to support this simplified process. It will deliver a more efficient system for all companies in filing annual returns. The early enactment of the Bill will allow time for the CRO to make all companies aware in advance of the new procedures and the IT upgrade.
I commend the Bill to the House.