The Industrial and Provident Societies Acts 1893-2018 provide the statutory regulatory basis in Ireland for the formation and general operation of co-operative societies. The current provisions on the deadlines for filing annual returns by co-operative societies are set out in section 14(2)(c) of the Industrial and Provident Societies Act, 1893 which requires that the annual return be submitted no later than:
- 31 October, where the date of its last published balance sheet falls between 1 January and 30 June, and
- 30 April, where the date of its last published balance sheet falls between 1 July and 31 December (of the preceding year).
These provisions date from 2014 when the Friendly Societies and Industrial and Provident Societies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014, which amended the 1893 Act, came into force and were introduced on foot of a public consultation held in 2009. It was considered at the time that the pre-2014 system was quite restrictive in that returns had to be made up to a date falling within the five-month period from September to January and all annual returns had to be submitted by the following 31 March to the Registrar of Friendly Societies. These statutory timing requirements, introduced in 1893 and 1913, caused difficulties for societies whose annual business cycles did not accord with those requirements such as dairy societies, which wished to bring their reporting year into line with the dairy production year ending March or April, depending the part of the country.
The current system allows annual returns to the registrar to be submitted by one of two dates during the year, depending on the date of a society's financial year, which gives societies freedom regarding their choice of year end and extends the timeframe for the submission of the return to between 4 to 10 months depending on the date the last balance sheet was published.
My Department is currently undertaking a root and branch review of the co-operative legislation. The purpose of the comprehensive review is to consolidate into one statute all existing industrial and provident societies legislation and modernise it to eliminate outdated provisions and align it with the realities of the 21st century business and regulatory environment. In this regard the Department conducted a public consultation on the operation and implementation of the co-operative legislation the results of which were published in 2018.
As part of the review the Department will consider, among many others, the annual filing obligations of societies. On foot of the review, I intend to bring forward a General Scheme of Bill consolidating and modernising the co-operative statutory code later this year. When published, stakeholders will have the opportunity to provide further comments on the General Scheme.