Thursday, 18 November 2021
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment
139. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the discussions he or his Department have had with the Companies Registration Office in relation to extending the deadline for the submission of company returns from 25 November 2021 in view of the recent upsurge in Covid-19 cases and the disruption this is causing to accountancy businesses; the result of these discussions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56726/21]
My Department is in ongoing communication with the Registrar. It is important to acknowledge that the Registrar of Companies is a statutory role and the Registrar has administrative independence in the exercise of her statutory functions. The Registrar has shown considerable flexibility throughout the COVID-19 period in relation to the arrangements for filing annual returns in recognition of the additional challenges facing companies as well as their professional advisers in meeting filing obligations. These include extending the filing deadlines in respect of annual returns due during 2020 and also earlier this year at the end of February and May, and suspending prosecutions and involuntary strike-offs for failure to file annual returns. There is limited discretion however as the Registrar cannot apply flexibility on a case-by-case basis so, when an extension to a deadline is put in place, it applies broadly.
Notably, the exceptional arrangements that were put in place by the Registrar previously were in light of the circumstances prevailing at points in time where many companies were obliged to pause activity. It is the case that the level of business activity has substantially increased since then. The necessity of having a transparent and up-to-date companies register continues notwithstanding the challenges being experienced by a small number of accountancy firms. There are over 250,000 companies on the register of which approximately 25% have an annual return filing deadline of the 25th of November. The filing of annual returns by this cohort is continuing and is currently in the region of 1,500 per day. Indeed, the CRO has implemented a queueing system on the CRO IT system to manage the heavy volumes of filing between now and the deadline.
I am informed the Registrar is mindful of the particular problems being raised by some small accountancy firms as well as the limitations on the Registrar in taking a case by case approach; the broad desire among the profession to not unduly delay the filing; and the need for the CRO to introduce much sought after improvements to its customer facing IT systems which an extension could delay. Therefore, the Registrar continues to keep the situation under review and is engaging with accountancy representatives to assess the situation.