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What is the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill?

The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill is designed to improve transparency by making more financial information available and accessible to the public. By doing this, the Bill aims to tackle economic crime. To do so, the Bill proposes various measures which include, but are not limited to:

  • reforms to Companies House

  • reforms to limited partnerships to prevent abuse

  • new powers to seize and recover cryptoassets suspected to be criminal

  • general reforms to empower businesses to share information to tackle economic crimes like money laundering and fraud

For more information, read the government’s factsheet on the Bill.

What does the Bill mean for small companies?

The current situation

Currently, under the Companies Act 2006, small companies and micro-companies can file either full or abridged accounts. Abridged accounts are accounts that omit certain balance sheet items (eg the profit and loss account and/or directors’ report). 

For more information, read Annual accounts and tax returns and Accounting and bookkeeping.

The proposed changes

Under the changes proposed by the Bill, the option to file abridged accounts will be fully removed for small companies. While micro-companies won’t have to prepare a directors’ report, they will have to provide a profit and loss account. It is hoped that doing this will help the companies by reducing the complexity of the system, which can be confusing and can lead to costly mistakes. It is also expected that these changes will prevent fraudsters from abusing the abridged accounting exemptions to defraud others (eg potential investors).

Requiring small and micro-companies to file full accounts will mean that they have to file their full profit and loss accounts. By making this information publicly available, the government hopes to enable creditors and consumers to make better-informed decisions. Previously, the lack of financial details from small- and micro-companies may have deterred lenders and creditors from investing in those businesses, as it would have been more difficult to determine their creditworthiness. This in turn would have hindered the growth of such small companies. 

More details of profit and loss account filings for small- and micro-companies (eg what format they should be in) will be announced by the government in due course. For more information, read the government’s factsheet.

Does the Bill introduce other changes relevant to small companies?

The Bill introduces various other changes. The most notable ones for companies include:

  • requiring accounts to be filed digitally (ie online and not by post)

  • requiring accounts to be fully tagged using iXBRL

  • removing the option of paper filing for most companies (ie printing the accounts and sending them by post)

  • requiring companies relying on an audit exemption to provide an additional statement by the directors on the balance sheet. This should set out and confirm that the exemption is being relied on and that the company meets the exception criteria

  • limiting the number of times a company may shorten its accounting reference date

When will these changes come into effect?

The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill is currently making its way through Parliament. As a result, there is no clear date for when these changes will come into effect. However, more information is expected in the coming months.

 

If you have any questions or concerns about these changes, read the government’s guidance and do not hesitate to Ask a lawyer.

 

Update: The Bill successfully passed through Parliament and has become law as the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023. It’s likely that the measures it contains will come into effect at various times throughout 2024.


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