Gone are the days when filling in your statutory forms involved several items of stationery and one big headache. The development of electronic filing is revolutionising the way the public interact with Companies House, and this is proving especially valuable for professional advisors who manage a large portfolio of companies.
What is Electronic Filing?
Electronic Filing, or e-filing, is the transmission of information to Companies House via email. Many documents can be e-filed including incorporation documents (forms 10 and 12), changes to the registered office (form 287), director and secretary changes (forms 288a, 288b and 288c) and share capital changes (forms 88(2) and 123). You can also e-file the Annual Return (form 363) and you will shortly be able to e-file Annual Accounts.
Two ways to e-file: WebFiling vs specialist software
WebFiling is a new service provided by Companies House, which you can access via their website www.companieshouse.gov.uk. It is more suited for individuals filing for their own companies and involves registering for a security code. Each time you wish to file a document using WebFiling you must visit the website and log in using the security code for that company. This, however, could prove problematic and time consuming if you act for a large number of companies with different security codes for each company.
Specialist software packages allow you to use one code to file documents for all your companies. In addition to the ability to electronically file documents, software packages usually offer many added functions such as bulk annual return filing, automatic production of forms, minutes and resolutions, a central database for company management, pro-active reminders and compliance details.
Using a software package will also allow you to take advantage of a Companies House credit account, centralising payment of any fees you incur from e-filing a document such as the annual return.
Generally speaking, the more companies you represent the more attractive specialist software may be to you.
Paper vs electronic
Companies House is encouraging the take-up of e-filing by reducing fees for forms e-filed, and in some instances increasing fees for forms paper-filed. New fees approved by Parliament last year apply from 1 February 2005. It will now cost £30 to file your annual return on paper, while the price remains at £15 if you e-file.
Electronic incorporations, which accounted for 74% of all incorporations over the last 12 months, are now also cheaper. The fee for a same day incorporation has been reduced by over 60% and incorporating an LLP has been lowered from £95 to £20. These price changes reflect the difference in costs of providing electronic-based services.
How can it benefit you?
In addition to the monetary savings, e-filing facilitates a more efficient relationship between you, your client and Companies House. Documents e-filed are processed far quicker than their paper counterparts, some instantaneously. More than 99% of electronic incorporations, such as those offered by www.companyformations.co.uk, are processed within 24 hours. It also gives you peace of mind, as an email acknowledgement is sent to the originator to confirm delivery of any documents filed.
By the end of 2005, 90% of forms will be available for e-filing. As the cost of providing paper-based services increases compared to e-filing, should we expect paper-filed forms to incur fees in the future? Companies House has advised that its ‘future pricing policy is yet to be determined’.
Electronic filing is safer, simpler and more secure for everyone which is why more and more firms are switching from pen, paper and post to electronic filing.
For further details on e-filing software see www.cosec.co.uk
For Companies House prices changes and WebFiling see www.companieshouse.gov.uk
Martyn Chapman is business development executive at Waterlow Legal & Company Services.
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