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Back to FAQAccounting Reference Dates

Over what period must a limited company's first accounts cover?

For all new companies, the first accounting reference period is automatically set as the first anniversary of the last day in the month in which the company was incorporated. For example, if the company was incorporated on 10 June 1999 its ARD would be set at 30 June, and the first accounts would cover a period from 10 June 1999 to 30 June 2000 - or up to seven days either side of that date.

Although the ARD is set on incorporation, you can change it. This is done by completing Form AA01 and sending it to Companies House. But the change can only be made to the current or the immediately previous accounting reference period and you have to register the new ARD before the filing deadline of the accounts. In other words, if Companies House is expecting accounts for a particular accounting reference period and they become overdue, it is too late to say that you wanted to change the ARD. Private companies normally have 9 months and public companies 6 months to send their accounts to Companies House. The period allowed for sending a company's first accounts is calculated differently.

There are restrictions on changing the ARD. You may change an ARD by shortening an accounting reference period as often as you like and by as many months as you like. However, there are restrictions on extending accounting reference periods:
You may not extend a period so that it lasts more than 18 months from the start date of the accounting period.
You may not extend more than once in 5 years unless:

  • the company is subject to an administration order; or
  • the Secretary of State has directed this; or
  • the company is aligning its accounting reference date with that of a subsidiary or parent undertaking established within the European Economic Area.

Countries comprising the European Economic Area are as follows:

Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Ireland, United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Liechtenstein, Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania.

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