Seanad debates

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Companies (Amendment) Bill 2019: Second and Subsequent Stages

 

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

10:30 am

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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I am very pleased to bring this short technical Bill before the Seanad today. The purpose of the Bill is to complete a series of amendments to current legislation that 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, file 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 quois 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 this Bill is the last piece of the legislative framework to support this simplified process. This will deliver a more efficient system for all companies filing annual returns. The early enactment of this 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.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Minister for an equally comprehensive opening statement on this relatively simple and straightforward legislation. Group spokespersons have eight minutes each and other Senators have five minutes each. Again, I must mention that the time allocation is a maximum rather than a target.

I call on Senator Aidan Davitt to commence.

Photo of Aidan DavittAidan Davitt (Fianna Fail)
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If the Acting Chairman, with his eminent accounting skills, is happy with the proposal then I am more than happy.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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As Chair, I am neutral on all matters. I thank the Senator for his brevity and call Senator Mac Lochlainn.

Photo of Pádraig MacLochlainnPádraig MacLochlainn (Sinn Fein)
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This is a one-line Bill that seeks to change the words "28 days" to "56 days" in the Companies Act. The provision extends the period that a company will have to file its annual returns with the Companies Registration Office. We welcome this change as it will give SMEs more time to conduct their administrative business, which we know can sometimes be an additional pressure on them. Therefore, we support this change.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Fine Gael)
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I congratulate the Minister on producing another piece of good common sense and updating legislation to make life more easy for people who are self-employed and SMEs. I commend her and the Bill to the House.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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Does the Minister have anything further to say following the conclusion of very comprehensive statements by three Senators?

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Senators for their support.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.

Sitting suspended at 1.15 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.