Companies House issued a notice last month announcing their ‘vision to become a fully electronic registry’.

The statement, issued on 23rd November 2010, outlined plans for the vast majority of Companies House services to become fully digital by March 2013. This move will make it mandatory to file annual returns and accounts and other company forms to be submitted electronically.

The planned timeline of digitalisation would mean that 98% of the entities on the public register and over 92% of total transactions would be fully electronic by March 2013.

The planned moves, if passed by Parliament and key stakeholders, will undoubtedly have a considerable impact on UK businesses as a whole.  On the positive side, the process of submitting accounts, filing annual returns etc will become easier – the percentage of electronic  transactions that are “right first time’ are quoted as less than one sixth of the rate for paper submissions, with faster processing and reduced fraud also cited as advantages of digital integration.

Becoming a fully electronic registry will also offer businesses substantial savings, in some cases up to 50% compared to paper-based submissions. Projected savings on a UK-wide basis would be in excess of £2 million.

Whilst this announcement must be viewed positively in terms of streamlining Companies House services and also from the point of view of businesses reducing their overheads, Companies House will need to ensure that their security systems are fully workable to enable both the company’s officers and their appointed professional advisors to be able to file documents on their behalf.

We often find that clients have registered for online filing only to have forgotten their password, which can only then be sent to the registered office of the company, which may well be their accountants.  This can result in delays in terms of having documents filed and further complications are involved where the company has registered for the proof scheme only for the officer or employee who has registered the company for the scheme to have left without leaving the passwords behind.